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Port Jefferson sophomore grabs gold in 100-yard backstroke, 200 individual medley for second season

Kyra Sommerstad represents Port Jefferson at the Suffolk County championships. Photo from Sommerstad

By Desirée Keegan

Coach Mark Anderson asked Port Jefferson swimmer Kyra Sommerstad what her goal was heading into the 200 individual medley race at the Suffolk County championships Nov. 4.

“I want to go 2:04,” she answered, which would be a career best for the sophomore.

By the time she touched the wall, Kyra had completed the 200 yards in 2 minutes, 4 seconds, which also earned her a first-place finish.

Kyra Sommerstad represents Port Jefferson at the Suffolk County championships. Photo from Sommerstad

“Watching her swim, she looked great,” said Anderson, her Three Village Swim Club coach for the last two years. “She had gone a 2:04, and I thought that spoke to the kind of person she is. She’s incredibly driven, very positive and she goes into every race knowing what she wants to do and how she wants to do it. It makes me proud to see someone grow the way she has over the last couple of years to someone that is capable of setting a goal in her mind and achieving it.”

On top of placing first in the individual medley, Kyra also grabbed gold in the 100 backstroke.

“I knew from last year that I could win,” said Kyra of the county meet at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus. “I really went into it determined and I really wanted to win the same events that I won the year before.”

Being the top seed gave her confidence going in that she could reclaim the county crown in both races, she said. She said Anderson and Port Jefferson head coach Mary Fleckenstein helped her work on her technique and mentality to get her ready to race. Prior to getting into the water, she stretched and listened to pop music to get in the zone.

“I swam some fast times before counties so I knew where I was going into it,” she said. “I get myself pumped up by listening to music. I just didn’t want to drop my spot.”

Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said seeing all that the swimmer has been able to accomplish at such a young age is inspiring.

Kyra Sommerstad represents Port Jefferson at the Suffolk County championships. Photo from Sommerstad

“Kyra is an outstanding student and an overall great person,” Turner said. “She never looks for recognition or praise, however her accomplishments and incredible ability should absolutely be highlighted. She has represented Port Jefferson in the most positive of ways and on many stages.  We could not be more proud of Kyra, and we are excited to see what the future holds for this young talent.”

Fleckenstein shared a similar sentiment, adding that she’s been a joy to work with.

“She’s very impressive,” the coach said of Kyra. “She’s such a sweet girl. She’s gracious, she’s easy to work with. She doesn’t go in with an ‘I’m going to win because I’m the best’ attitude. She gets in the pool and does her job.”

Anderson and Fleckenstein have seen the sophomore mature over the last year, and said they think bigger and better accomplishments are ahead.

“She challenges herself every day,” Fleckenstein said. “She doesn’t like to miss practice. They’re all signs she’s headed in the right direction. There’s some untapped talent in there, and her club coach has been doing a great job bringing her along. By the time she graduates she’ll be sought after by many colleges.”

Kyra Sommerstad placed first in the 100-yard breastroke and 200 individual medley at the Suffolk County championships. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

Her Three Village Swim Club coach has been focusing on underwater work with his swimmer, including off-the-block movements, hand speed, tempo and turns.

“I’ve been extremely happy with how she’s raced so far without having time to rest,” Anderson said. “In the next couple of weeks she has the state championship, the winter junior nationals down in Knoxville, Tennessee, and then she’s going to have our team’s travel meet in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There’s a lot of fine-tuning this week that goes into hopefully putting together the perfect race this weekend and it’s going to be a real test to see how she’s prepared over the last couple of months.”

He added, with her attitude, he knows she’ll succeed.

“She is incredibly positive, incredibly hard-working, dedicated, she’s a great student in the classroom and just getting to know her and getting to see her grow up and mature has been a real enjoyment for me,” he said. “She is a coaches dream.”

Kyra validated Anderson’s comments, saying she’s ready for what lies ahead.

“I’ll be working really hard in the pool and perfecting my technique,” she said. “I’m getting ready to swim fast.”

Infinite Tucker competes in the long jump. Photo by Darin Reed

The Huntington boys’ and girls’ track and field teams competed in the New York State Track and Field championship qualifier last weekend at Port Jefferson high school. Members of both squads excelled and even broke records, with multiple athletes on the boys’ squad qualifying to compete at the state level next weekend.

Boys’ track and field
In one of the most dominating performances ever, Huntington senior Infinite Tucker qualified for the championships in four different events and won gold medals in each of them.

One of the top high school athletes in the country, Tucker captured gold medals in the 110-meter high hurdles, 400 intermediate hurdles, long jump and the 4×400 relay, to pace the Blue Devils.

Infinite Tucker competes in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at the state qualifier. Photo by Darin Reed
Infinite Tucker competes in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at the state qualifier. Photo by Darin Reed

Tucker was on top of his game at the Section XI state qualifier, easily winning the long jump last Friday afternoon with a leap of 23 feet, 4.75 inches before sweeping to victory in three other events on Saturday.

The Huntington athlete won the 110 high hurdles in a time of 14.27 seconds; went on to set new school, meet and county marks in the 400 intermediate hurdles when he crossed the finish line in a stunning 51.23 seconds, which was 2.32 ahead of runner-up Spencer Payton of Longwood; and anchored the Blue Devils’ 4×400 relay team, which grabbed first place with a time of 3 minutes, 15.48 seconds, shattering the existing Suffolk record. Huntington finished about two seconds ahead of runner-up Half Hollow Hills West. Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake and Shane McGuire ran the first three legs of the race, respectively.

“Infinite’s performance speaks for itself,” said Huntington head coach Ron Wilson. “It was beyond dominating; it was simply amazing. He’s a gifted child who loves to compete and who strives to win every time he’s on the track.”

Johnson and McGuire also qualified for the state championships in their respective events. Johnson set new meet records in the 400 dash on both Friday and Saturday, capturing Saturday’s county final in a blazing fast time of 47.78.

McGuire notched an upset victory in the 800 run, coming out of nowhere to topple several heavily favored runners. The junior ran his fastest time ever in the event, circling the track twice in 1:53.64.

Kenny Charles hurls the discus. Photo by Darin Reed
Kenny Charles hurls the discus. Photo by Darin Reed

“Shane and Kyree were just great,” Wilson said. “They came to the meet with one thing in mind: winning. It was an incredible feeling to watch them win Suffolk titles and qualify for the state championships. They’ve both worked so hard and to see that payoff is a wonderful sight.”

Kenny Charles qualified for the state finals in discus, finishing second in Suffolk County with a long throw of 162 feet, 2 inches. It was about five feet off the senior’s best, but still far surpassed the state qualifying standard.

Charles is one of Suffolk’s best basketball players, but decided last year to give spring track a try and, in a short period of time, mastered the discus to the point where he will be advancing to the finals.

Girls’ track and field
Being a competitive athlete himself, girls’ track and field head coach Shawn Anderson knows only too well that not everything is going to go right on any given day.

So it was for the Blue Devils, which closed out its season last Saturday at the Suffolk state qualifier.

While he wishes a few more breaks came the Blue Devils’ way, Anderson also feels his athletes gave the team everything they had.

“The state qualifying meet always brings out the heat and the competition,” said Anderson. “Today was no exception.”

Alexandra Koumas leaps over the hurdle at a previous meet. Photo by Darin Reed
Alexandra Koumas leaps over the hurdle at a previous meet. Photo by Darin Reed

Senior Alexandra Koumas set a new school record in the 400 hurdles, breaking a mark she had previously set, when she crossed the finish line in 1:04.83 in the preliminary heat. The athlete went on to finish fourth in the finals and garner All-County honors.

“She went out super aggressive,” Anderson said. “She needed to in order to hang with the top three.”

All in all, Anderson said it was a great way to have the team end its season.

“As always, each year the group of girls that we have continues to impress me and defy even my expectations,” he said. “For the underclassmen, it just makes them hungrier for next year as they look to improve. As for the seniors, it is always bittersweet when the season ends, but we always look to the future to continue the tradition that’s been established and continuously raise the bar. They laid it all on the track and finished with very impressive times — a testament to their hard work over their careers at Huntington.”