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Exzayvian Crowell

Huntington’s 4x400 relay state championship team of Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake, Infinite Tucker and Exzayvian Crowell continue to reach new heights. Photo by Darin Reed

Huntington boys’ track and field head coach Ron Wilson had an idea that he could have a strong team for the 2015-16 winter season, but the success they’ve enjoyed was beyond even his expectations.

“We knew that we had quite a few kids returning this season, which would put us at the forefront in Suffolk County,” Wilson said. “We didn’t know that we would be one of the top teams in the state of New York.”

That’s exactly what the Blue Devils were this winter: one of the most electrifying track and field squads in the state. The team is led by their “Fantastic Four,” the nickname given to Huntington’s state champion 4×400-meter relay team from last winter. All four members returned this year. Infinite Tucker, Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake and Exzayvian Crowell captured numerous state, county, league and Long Island accolades as a team and individually last year, and this year hasn’t been much different.

The team took the gold in the 4×400 relay at the Suffolk County Championships on Jan. 31 at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Brentwood. They also qualified for Nationals, which will take place on March 11 in New York City. Huntington’s 4×200 relay team also qualified, as did Tucker and Johnson in numerous individual events.

Wilson said it hit him how special this team was at a meet on Jan. 16 at the Molloy Stanner Games at the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory in Manhattan.

“We were grooving,” Wilson said with a hearty laugh. On that Saturday in Manhattan, Tucker ran the best time in the country for the winter season in the 600 dash, and Johnson set the mark nationally for the 300 dash, while Leake posted the fourth-best time of the year in the 300. The times were announced to a standing ovation, according to Wilson.

Wilson said one of the biggest surprises of the season was Leake’s performance.

“My time in the 300, I was very proud of,” Leake said.

Johnson indicated that he could tell fairly early on how special the Blue Devils might be.

“Around the first couple of meets, everybody started to show how good they are and the ability they had,” Johnson said.

Johnson credited advice from his older brother Tyreke, who also ran track at Huntington, as being helpful in keeping his competitive edge, despite enormous success.

“The number one thing is to remain humble and don’t look at anybody like they’re not as good as you,” Johnson said. “I have to work my hardest.”

Wilson has been a part of some special teams at Huntington in his nine years leading the high school squad. He coached in the district on the junior high level from 1998 to 2007, when he became an assistant for the high school team under Dennis Walker. Wilson was also a member of the team in 1993 and 1994, when he attended Huntington.

“I didn’t run; I was a thrower,” Wilson said. “I was too big to run.”

The head coach didn’t hesitate for a second when trying to compare this Blue Devils’ team to the numerous versions that he’d had a hand in previously.

“This is by far the best team that I’ve coached,” he said.

Assistant coach Eli Acosta, who said this is his 49th year in the Long Island track and field world, reiterated Wilson’s assessment of the team.

“I can say that this is the best track and field that I’ve ever coached in terms of talent,” Acosta said. “We have very talented athletes, that goes without saying. They also work quite hard.”

Wilson said his team is focused and driven, without being too uptight.

“It’s a well-rounded team,” he said. “They’re nice boys. They can be silly at times, but once they get on the track, it’s always business.”

Tucker and Johnson are undoubtedly the team’s most talented members, though the role of leadership is a shared duty among the entire roster, according to Wilson.

“It’s kind of fun,” Tucker said of his relationship with Johnson. “It’s like running with your brother.”

Acosta admitted that he and Wilson pit Johnson and Tucker against each other in certain events and in practice as a tactic to motivate the star athletes.

“They pick each other up,” Wilson said. “It’s more of the team that leads us, that drives our success, especially amongst our relay team.”

Despite their success, Wilson said he hasn’t seen any lull in the team’s drive or motivation.

“When these kids are able to stay humble and stay low, they’re always able to seek improvement,” Wilson said. “If the competition is not there, you have to compete against yourself.”

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Huntington's Douglas Taylor rushes through traffic. File photo by Darin Reed

The Huntington football team lost little time getting down to business on Sunday afternoon, scoring on the second play from scrimmage and going on to topple previously undefeated Deer Park on its home field, 26-6.

Infinite Tucker gains yards for Huntington. File photo by Darin Reed
Infinite Tucker gains yards for Huntington. File photo by Darin Reed

Infinite Tucker took the handoff from quarterback Will Wright and scooted 36 yards for the opening touchdown, setting the game’s tone. Tucker scored again on a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter after breaking a long run two plays earlier. A few minutes later, Wright hit Exzayvian Crowell on a slant pattern over the middle and the track star sprinted 68 yards to the corner of the end zone for Huntington’s third touchdown of the first half.

Sandwiched in between the Blue Devils’ second and third touchdowns was a 41-yard touchdown run by Deer Park, which helped keep the Falcons in the game until late in the fourth quarter. Douglas Taylor scored Huntington’s fourth and final touchdown of the day on a 6-yard run.

“We stepped up our level of play today and did a lot of things right,” Huntington head coach Steve Muller said. “Our guys played hard and with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They had their heads in the game.”

It was a productive day for Tucker, who rushed 13 times for 127 yards. The running back also recorded a team-high 11 tackles. Taylor tallied 50 yards on 11 carries. Wright completed two of four passes for 76 yards.

Huntington quarterback Will Wright passes the ball in a previous contest. File photo by Darin Reed
Huntington quarterback Will Wright passes the ball in a previous contest. File photo by Darin Reed

Huntington’s defense limited Deer Park to just 51 yards of total offense in the second half. Seven Blue Devils made tackles that resulted in a loss for the Falcons. Max Polster had nine tackles on the day, including one for a loss.

Playing a rare Sunday game after a fierce storm postponed Friday night’s contest, the Blue Devils needed a victory badly to stay in the hunt for a postseason berth.

Huntington led at halftime, 20-6 and was never seriously threatened, despite a few ill-timed penalties. The victory improved the Blue Devils’ record to 2-3, while the loss dropped Deer Park to 4-1.

Huntington plays at Centereach on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Blue Devils will look to even their record at 3-3. Centereach (3-2) fell on Saturday to West Islip, 41-0.

“We need a good practice week to get ready for Centereach,” Muller said. “There is always a lot of things to work on. We are looking to improve every aspect of our play.”

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Gorgeous weather and a huge crowd set the stage for a Homecoming Day at Huntington Saturday. The festivities capped off a week that included spirit days, a pep rally, float building and an evening dance in the school gym.

Hundreds of students of all ages turned out for a midday parade through the heart of the village and up New York Ave., accompanied by district trustees and administrators, parents, teachers, family members and alumni. The Blue Devils marching band played along the way, while its booming sounds drew folks out of shops.

“Homecoming in Huntington is a very special thing,” Principal Brenden Cusack said. “It’s a whole community event that brings everyone together. You can feel a true sense of Blue Devils pride throughout the week leading up to the big game. It’s a great experience.”

A crowd of nearly 2,000 watched the Huntington football team battle Suffolk County Division II top-seeded Half Hollow Hills West on Saturday following the parade. The Blue Devils scored first, when senior wide receiver Jahmik Curry received a 10-yard pass from senior quarterback Will Wright and the kick after failed, to raise the hopes of fans, and the teams were tied in the third, 14-14, before the Colts rallied for a 28-20 victory.

Halftime of the football game saw performances by the marching band and the Highsteppers. Royal Court members Vincent Fredericks, Spencer Pashkin, Infinite Tucker, Dan Mollitor, Sarah Fernandez, Cassandra Berwick, Holly LoTurco and Alexandra Berwick were introduced to the crowd before Mollitor and Alexandra Berwick were crowned homecoming king and queen.

“It’s an absolute honor to be named homecoming king by my class,” Mollitor said. “I’ve shared so many incredible moments with them and couldn’t ask to graduate with a better group of people. It will be sad to leave at the end of June. I’ve really enjoyed my time at Huntington High School.”

Senior running back Doug Taylor scored on a 50-yard run for the second touchdown of the day, and senior wide receiver Infinite Tucker received a pass from Wright to complete the 2-point conversion in the third. Half Hollow Hills West returned an interception 31 yards for the score, and senior wide receiver Exzayvian Crowell scored on a 1-yard run and the extra-point attempt was missed, bringing the final score to 28-20.

“It was just a beautiful day featuring a fantastic turnout for a spirited parade,” Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “Thank you to the many from all of our schools who participated. Our Blue Devils fought hard against a top county-ranked team and gained confidence in the process.”

All five runners medal at state championship

Infinite Tucker, a Huntington runner, leads the 400-meter hurdles pack at states. Photo from Huntington athletics

Infinite Tucker won a pair of gold medals to lead the Huntington boys’ track and field team to an impressive showing at the state championships in Albany last weekend.

Huntington's Infinite Tucker poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics
Huntington’s Infinite Tucker poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics

Tucker won a pair of 400-meter intermediate hurdles races to capture the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and State Federation titles.

“I thought that I was going to win because I didn’t see anyone in front of me the whole race,” the junior said after the first of his performances Friday afternoon. “It wasn’t my best race ever, but I thought that I ran well.”

Tucker’s time of 52.29 seconds in the federation finals ranks him No. 2 in the state and No. 3 in the country this spring.

He plans to compete in the event one more time this season at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina this week.

Huntington sophomore Kyree Johnson fared well in the 400 dash against a field filled with exceptional athletes. He ran against five seniors in the State Federation finals and finished third in 49.20 seconds. A day earlier, the runner earned a fourth place medal in the NYSPHSAA final. The State Federation races include the top public school, New York City/PSAL and private and parochial school athletes.

Huntington's Kyree Johnson, Scott Gulizio, Infinite Tucker and Shane McGuire won the silver medal in the federation’s 4x400 relay. Photo from Huntington athletics
Huntington’s Kyree Johnson, Scott Gulizio, Infinite Tucker and Shane McGuire won the silver medal in the federation’s 4×400 relay. Photo from Huntington athletics

Johnson’s best time of 48.5 seconds in the 400 dash this spring ranks him No. 1 among all New York sophomores. He too will be racing at nationals.

The long weekend ended on a high note when the Blue Devils’ 4×400 relay won a silver medal in the State Federation race, crossing the finish line in 3 minutes, 16.73 seconds, finishing behind Brooklyn’s Boys and Girls High School. Huntington outraced Newburgh, who had won the NYSPHSAA title only one day earlier.

“What an awesome race,” Huntington head coach Ron Wilson said of the relay. “You just had to be there to witness such excitement. The crowd of people gathered at their feet as the eight remaining young men grabbed the batons.”

Junior Exzayvian Crowell ran with the Blue Devils relay on Friday for the state title, where the team earned a fourth-place finish. Sophomore Shane McGuire took Crowell’s place for Saturday’s State Federation finals, joining Johnson, Tucker and senior Scott Gulizio on the track.

“Shane gave everything he had on the first leg and ran a personal best of 51.4,” Wilson said. “He almost collapsed trying to pass the baton to Scotty Gulizio, who split 49.2, which is good. Gulizio passed to Kyree Johnson who ran a 48.7 split and brought us to third. When our anchor, Infinite Tucker, got the baton, he took off like a jet. He passed the Newburgh anchor, who had won the state crown just the day before. He then set his eyes on the state leader, Boys and Girls, who was about 20 meters ahead of the rest of the field.”

Huntington's Kyree Johnson poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics
Huntington’s Kyree Johnson poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics

The Boys and Girls anchor, Richard Rose had just won the 400 dash in a sizzling 47.11 seconds, so it was a difficult assignment for Tucker to run him down, but the athlete gave it his all, splitting 47.435 seconds, falling just short of first place. Huntington’s time is a new school record and the second best in the state this spring. It’s also the second fastest in Suffolk, ever. Amityville set the record of 3:16.66 in 2002.

“We were just a bit shy of the Section XI record, but we will have one more crack at it at the nationals,” Wilson said.

All five Huntington athletes medaled at the state championships, with Crowell earning one in the NYSPHSAA 4×400 relay race and McGuire getting a silver medal in the State Federation finals. Gulizio won a pair of medals. Johnson and Tucker won four medals each.

“It was an exhausting weekend,” Wilson said, “but well worth it.”

Huntington's Infinite Tucker leaps over the hurdles. File photo by Darin Reed
Huntington’s Infinite Tucker leaps over the hurdles. File photo by Darin Reed

It wasn’t completely smooth sailing, but it all worked out in the end. The Huntington boys’ track and field team overcame several mishaps to qualify athletes in three different events for this week’s state championships in Albany.

Scott Gulizio got off to a slow start in the 800-meter run, falling far behind the leaders at last weekend’s Section XI state qualifier at Port Jefferson. Once the senior finally found his stride, he started passing competitors at a fast clip and managed to finish third in a new school record time of 1 minute, 53.83 seconds, 1.12 seconds behind first place finisher Shamar Powell of Walt Whitman and 49/100ths of a second off the second place pace of Bellport’s Tom Gassner.

Unfortunately for Gulizio, only the first place finisher and a second runner who has met the state-qualifying standard are eligible to advance to the state finals.

“It’s a real shame because Scott is one of the best in the state,” Huntington head coach Ron Wilson said. “Unfortunately, when you fall too far behind off the starting gun, it’s hard make up the deficit in a tough field.”

Kryee Johnson, Infinite Tucker and Exzayvian Crowell are members of the Huntington 4x400-meter relay team. File photo by Darin Reed
Kryee Johnson, Infinite Tucker and Exzayvian Crowell are members of the Huntington 4×400-meter relay team. File photo by Darin Reed

Another hard-to-take result came in the 110 high hurdles. Infinite Tucker struck the second hurdle and nearly came to a complete stop before recovering and speeding to the finish line, crossing third in 14.48 seconds.

The junior failed to qualify in one of his signature events, trailing Copiague’s Aaron McFadden (14.29) and Travon Duncan (14.36).

“Once it was over, all we could do is look ahead to the next race,” Wilson said.

The Blue Devils wouldn’t suffer another letdown.

Sophomore Kyree Johnson finished second in the 400 dash in a school record time of 48.50 seconds to qualify for the state finals in that event. Tucker came back to win the 400 hurdles in 53.14 seconds to also advance to the state championships.

Scott Gulizio leads the pack for Huntington in a previous race. File photo by Darin Reed
Scott Gulizio leads the pack for Huntington in a previous race. File photo by Darin Reed

“Kyree and Infinite both ran really well,” Wilson said. “There is always pressure in this type of meet. You have to be nearly perfect or you’re going to be disappointed in the state qualifier.”

Huntington and Half Hollow Hills West collided in the 4×400 relay, but in the highlight of the day, the Blue Devils won by less than a second to qualify for the state championships.

After running in Friday’s qualifying heat, Exzayvian Crowell stepped aside for alternate Shane McGuire, who ran the first leg in Saturday’s finals. Johnson, Gulizio and Tucker followed with blistering performances.

Huntington’s time of 3:19.17 nipped the Colts, who took second place in 3:19.87.

“It’s awesome,” Gulizio said. “It’s good to see all our hard work this season has paid off. Hopefully we can produce the same kind of results as winter.”

Joe Saginaw pole vaults. File photo by Darin Reed

A convincing victory at Rocky Point Tuesday, 102-34, kept the Huntington boys’ track and field team undefeated at 5-0, in first place in League V.

Scott Gulizio races in a previous contest. File photo by Darin Reed
Scott Gulizio races in a previous contest. File photo by Darin Reed

But first, the boys claimed a 93-48 win over visiting Hauppauge last Tuesday, April 28, where Huntington’s athletes turned in strong performances across the board, winning most of the contested events.

The Blue Devils throwers had the greatest day of all, sweeping both the shot put and discus. It started with junior Vernon Alexander, who, on his first attempt, tossed the shot put nearly 48 feet, but kept his eyes on the moving object too long and ended up fouling when he stepped over the toe board. He rebounded in his second attempt and threw 45’8 for third place, a personal best for the teenager.

Senior Matteo McNeil finished first in shot put after tossing the weighted ball 47 feet. Senior Jimmie Nelson took second place with a throw of 45’11. Junior Amaru Jones hit a personal best of 44’10 on his first attempt to finish fourth.

In the unseeded section of the shot put, senior Aubrey Brewster threw a personal best of 40’8 and junior Tasean Betts threw 43’9.

In the discus circle, the competition was even more exciting. Nelson and rookie Kenny Charles battled it out for top honors. Both athletes notched personal bests, with Nelson’s measuring 139’10 and Charles throwing 131’2. McNeil finished third with a throw of 118’2.

Infinite Tucker leaps over the hurdles. Photo by Jeannie Kopstein
Infinite Tucker leaps over the hurdles. Photo by Jeannie Kopstein

On the track, senior Scott Gulizio won the 3,200-meter and was second in the 1,600. Junior Kyle O’Brien finished second in the 3,200. Sophomore Shane McGuire continued to display his potential. He closed ground late in the 800 to take second place.

Sophomore Kyree Johnson and junior Infinite Tucker dazzled the crowd.

“Both athletes performed at the top of their game,” Huntington head coach Ron Wilson said.

Tucker won four events, including the long jump, with a leap of 22’6.5, the 110 high hurdles in 14.6 seconds, 400 intermediate hurdles in 55.2 seconds and the high jump with personal best leap of 6’6.

Exzayvian Crowell lands on the other side. Photo by Jeannie Kopstein
Exzayvian Crowell lands on the other side. Photo by Jeannie Kopstein

Johnson won the 100 dash in a personal best time of 10.6 seconds, took first place in the 200 dash in 22.2 seconds, finished second behind Tucker in the long jump with a leap of 21’1 and anchored the 4×400 relay team to a first place victory. That relay also included McGuire as the lead leg, Tom Kopstein as the second leg and Gulizio as the third leg.

Sophomore Alaa-el-dien Elfaham captured the triple jump. The teenager soared 38’10.5 on his first jump to lock-up the victory.

Senior Sondy Jean-Baptiste also had a good day, finishing second in the high jump at 6’2, the triple jump at 38’4 and third in the long jump, with a personal best leap of 20’1.

Senior Joe Saginaw won the pole vault with a height of 11 feet. Elfaham and junior Connor Grosso took second and third, respectively, with efforts that measured 9’6. Placings were decided by the fewest misses.

Huntington has a dual meet remaining against defending League V champion Eastport-South Manor. The Blue Devils will compete in the Chrissy Games at Bellport on Saturday May 9 and in the Suffolk Freshman and Sophomore Championships at Longwood on Tuesday, May 19. The division championships are set for Wednesday, May 27 and Friday, May 29.