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Liam Hendricks

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Daniel Claxton gets over the bar. Photo from Kathie Borbet

Junior high jumper Daniel Claxton’s track and field career has already come full circle.

As a freshman at Smithtown East, he qualified to compete in the state championship, where he finished fifth in Division I and eighth overall, which includes public, Catholic and city schools. Last weekend, he was back at the state championship for the third time, but found himself back at the same Cicero-North Syracuse High School track he competed on two years ago.

“It felt pretty good to come back to this meet two years later,” he said. “The end of the season couldn’t have gone more perfect. It was a whole different story.”

Claxton finished first in Division I and second in the federation.

“You put your time in as a coach and to have the athletes who buy into the sport and are of that quality and come through every week is pretty amazing to see,” Smithtown East head coach Kathie Borbet said. “It makes you feel good as a coach to have some succeed that well.”

Liam Hendricks winds up to hurl the discus. Photo from Kathie Borbet
Liam Hendricks winds up to hurl the discus. Photo from Kathie Borbet

Teammate Liam Hendricks, a shot put and discus thrower who placed first in every dual meet and invitational in discus, placed third in Division I and sixth overall. Although capable of throwing 178 feet, which is the new school record he set this season — breaking his own previous marks — he threw 168 at the state tournament.

“You don’t always throw your best at the opportune time,” Borbet said. “But he was pretty close to the 178-mark all season. He had one throw that was just foul that would’ve been like a 180 throw. It just missed the mark.”

But throwing coach Mike Schilling, who joined the team just for this season since retiring after 41 years with Half Hollow Hills, said Hendricks was a bit nervous, adding he’s a really good thrower when he can keep calm.

“My job was not really to get him to set records, although he did, but it was more to get him to be able to compete consistently,” he said. His reputation preceded him. I knew who I was going to be able to coach this year and it was really good. He was there every day, he’s a hard worker, and he does all the things he’s supposed to be doing to get to where he is. He’s very talented.”

His team of throwers, including Dominik Oramas, Chris Perrier, Shaun DeGennaro and Kevin Murphy also helped the Bulls excel this season. Especially shot-putter Oramas, who won every dual meet and just missed going to states. The group never lost a meet, according to Schilling, and didn’t give up more than 10 points total the entire season, when throwers can garner a total of 18 points at each meet.

Claxton also finished first in all but one meet this season. According to high jump coach Kurt Margraf, new plyometric training was introduced to help him reach his goal of seven feet.

“When he hits for higher heights, you have to get your hips up at a certain points and kick your legs over,” Margraf said. “Your head has to be positioned in a certain way and your shins have to hit your chest at a certain point. It’s really technical.”

Although he didn’t reach 7 feet, he reached 6 feet and 11 inches this season, to break his own school record. He finished the state meet with a 6-foot-8 mark, so while Margraf said he may be a little disappointed knowing he could do better, he’s adapted well to his new training and he’s focused on continuing to strive for greater success.

“He was that determined back in his freshman year, when he wanted to reach 6 feet and ended up with a 6 foot-4 mark during the state tournament,” the coach said. “And it’s carried over without a doubt. He’s still determined, and that’s huge. He’s focused on getting the higher heights.”

Claxton is hoping to reach his target his senior season, and said his coaches have been providing him with ways to strengthen his body and mind to do it.

“It’s an honor to see my hard work pay off,” he said. “I will continue to strive for goals — ones I have set, others I haven’t set yet, and others I will try to break. The sky’s the limit.”