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Running

Frankie Anzaldi runs in the NYC Half Marathon March 17. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

Since he was very young, limits were placed on Frankie Anzaldi, a 16-year-old Rocky Point High School student. When he was in kindergarten, doctors said Anzaldi would never be able to tie his own shoes, but each time he was told he couldn’t do something he has consistently proved the doubters wrong, all despite his epilepsy and seizures. 

Anzaldi has no limits, and he’s ambitious — always looking for the next goal to tackle. With that attitude, he has become an accomplished trombone player and on this past St. Patrick’s Day March 17 he participated in the New York City Half Marathon representing Athletes Without Limits, an organization supporting athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Frankie Anzaldi runs with his friend and trombone tutor Michel Nadeau. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

Frankie’s journey to the NYC Half Marathon began simple enough, with a visit to the Stony Brook men’s soccer team after he was named its honorary captain three years ago. It was his interactions with the team in the gym, working out with them, that helped spur his decision to start running. 

“I never thought it would be running,”
Anzaldi’s mother Michelle said. “Out of the blue he said he wanted to go running — so we brought him to the track.”

The 16-year-old’s mother said when they first brought him to the track in July 2016, her son could barely run a mile. But the persistent teenager kept at it, and later decided he wanted to run a race. 

“We found a fun race, a 1K. He did the race and he loved it,” his mother said. 

For that race, Anzaldi ran for the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Track Team. Three months later, he became a member of the team and represented it at the Suffolk County Half Marathon. 

The co-founder of Athletes Without Limits, Barry Holman, happened to be at the race and met the Anzaldi family. The teenager saw one of the organization’s slogan of “No limits” and he adopted it  as his own and has since lived by it. Many of his posts on Instagram, a social media platform, feature the hashtag, #nolimits.  

Frank Anzaldi, the runner’s father, marveled at the progression his son has made in a short amount of time.  

“He just worked at it — went from barely running one mile to thirteen miles,” Anzaldi’s father said.  

The NYC Half Marathon was his fifth half marathon in three years, and despite how long he’s been at it, Anzaldi is still out on the track every week training. 

“Training was really intense — he was running close to 40 miles a week,” he said. 

Frankie Anzaldi after receiving medal in NYC Half Marathon. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

In training for his first NYC Half Marathon, Anzaldi received virtual coaching from the Badger Track Club, a club based in Madison, Wisconsin, whose main focus is to teach, train and educate athletes in track and field, cross country and road racing.  

“He’s was being virtually coached by Scott Brinen; he’s worked with special needs athletes before,” his father said. “I was put in touch with them through Athletes Without Limits.”

The young man told them he wanted to run another half marathon and his improve his run time, and soon the club helped Anzaldi with a workout plan which included speed and distance training as well as working out in the gym. According to young Anzaldi, it got him in the best shape he’s ever been. 

At the marathon, Anzaldi was joined by his longtime trombone tutor and friend, Michel Nadeau, who is a music teacher in the Commack School District, who just so happened to be a runner himself. 

Nadeau met him five years ago when the Anzaldis were looking for a trombone tutor for their son. The family called Nadeau a godsend, as he helped the teenager learn how to play the trombone by modifying music notes so he could read them. Nadeau taught their son how to read music even before he could read a book. 

“Two years ago, Frankie started running and [his parents] didn’t know I was a runner as well, so it was kind of cool,” Nadeau said.   

Because of Anzaldi, Nadeau was motivated to run in the Suffolk Half Marathon two years ago and ran it again with him this past November. Nadeau also trained with Anzaldi for his fifth half marathon. Training sessions consisted of running for eight miles, three times a week, according to the music teacher. 

“Frankie doesn’t say no to anything, and he’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve met in my life,” Nadeau said. “It’s been really fun working and running with someone that has no quit in them.”

A little more than a month before the race, Anzaldi’s father received a call from Athletes Without Limits asking if the 16-year-old could represent the national team at the marathon. The teenager said absolutely, and he was excited for the race to run past NYU Hospital where his doctors and surgeons work. He would also be running past the windows of other patients he knew personally and was excited to show them what he has accomplished. 

Frankie Anzaldi and his friend and trombone teacher Michel Nadeau after receiving medal in NYC Half Marathon. Photo from Frank Anzaldi Sr.

With five half marathons under his belt, the freshman in high school has already expressed his desire to do more. One of his goals is to represent the United States in an international competition. 

A first chair trombone player in middle school last year and a member of the high school marching band, Anzaldi also has dreams of being a trombone player in the Disney Marching Band. According to his mother, that is the ultimate job he wants in life. 

“It started from the get-go that limits were placed on him, and every time someone says he can’t do something, he proves them wrong,” the teenager’s mother said. 

Anzaldi’s father agreed, saying even if someone has a disability, you shouldn’t limit them. When someone believes in them great things can happen.

“They said he was never going to be able to tie his shoes and now he is tying them and running marathons,” he said.

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Todd Aydelotte, a Manhattan native and ultrarunner, was more than winded as he crossed through the threshold of the Shoreham Wardenclyffe property Jan. 10. He was frozen solid from running 74 miles in subfreezing temperatures and whipping winds, and he was visibly exhausted by near-constant running across the length of Long Island over two days.

But once he arrived at the site of famous inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla’s last living laboratory, he still had the strength to embrace his wife and lay his hand on the century-old building’s facade.

“Tesla said energy was everywhere around us — it was all over the Earth, and we, as people, could actually harness that energy,” Aydelotte said to the small crowd gathered to welcome him at the Tesla Science Center. “I started seeing myself capturing that energy.”

‘I started seeing myself capturing that energy.’

— Todd Aydelotte

The Manhattanite is an ultrarunner, a person who commits to a form of long-distance running that goes far beyond something like a marathon. Whereas a typical marathon is 26.2 miles, an ultrarunner can run for 50, 70 or even more than 100 miles. Often these extreme athletes take treks through natural preserves such as the Grand Canyon, but for close to two years Aydelotte has taken a different approach, instead using his passion for history as the driving force for him to take these long-distance treks. 

“If you look at some of the world’s great ultrarunners … one tool they use is they’re mostly trail runners, when they get into it they lose themselves in the beauty all around them,” the runner said. “Being in Manhattan I don’t have that luxury, but I’m super into history. I started going off on these long runs after studying up on history, so it could be in my head, something that could carry me the long miles.”

Those working in the Tesla Science Center, which plans on turning the Shoreham Wardenclyffe site into a science museum and science startup incubator, learned of Aydelotte’s plan around two weeks before the run and were ecstatic to see him arrive.

“We’ve been waiting on you with bated breath,” the center’s board president, Jane Alcorn, said to the newly arrived runner.

Aydelotte’s route started at around 11 a.m. Jan. 9 and took him all over Manhattan, taking breaks in between running to visit and take pictures of sites such as the Waldorf Astoria in Midtown where Tesla lived for many years at the height of the Gilded Age, and the Gerlach Hotel on 27th Street where Tesla once resided and tested his transmission equipment on the roof. 

The runner’s route also took him to Chambers Street in Manhattan, a site made famous when a Western Union lineman John Feeks was electrocuted to death in 1889 while working on the electrical lines above the street. This occurred just as the famous “current wars,” a feud between the well-known Thomas Edison and Tesla over whether Edison’s direct current would propagate better than Tesla’s superior alternating current. Edison would use this event as well as other displays, such as when he publicly executed a living elephant in 1903 with alternating current, as a way to discredit Tesla and show how his form of electrical current was harmful or even dangerous.

Aydelotte’s wife, Tess Ghilaga, a yoga instructor in Manhattan, said her husband is training every single week, running two to three times a week and practicing yoga under her careful attention four to five times a week. She’s helped him through his constant training, and said she enjoys getting to be a part of learning of pieces of history like the Tesla Science Center.

‘People identify with someone who works very hard to achieve a goal without being recognized for it.’

— Jane Alcorn

“Depending on what hurts his body, I’ll help him with knee work, hip work, back core, the changes that happen when you run so far so often,” Ghilaga said. “I grew up in Garden City, so I know the East End, but I didn’t know anything about the science center until he read a book. It’s so cool that it’s being resurrected.”

This is the third, and longest, ultrarun Aydelotte has accomplished. Previous runs have taken him 49 miles from New York City to Long Island looking at the history of Teddy Roosevelt while another 64.5-mile run took him from the city through Connecticut tracing the history of famous American showman P.T .Barnum. While the ultrarunner said he felt accomplished to complete his longest run so far at 74 miles, this race held a raw, emotional tie to his person since he saw something of Tesla in himself, a sort of drive that pushes a person past the point of exhaustion and doubt.

“He was relentless in his work ethic, in his values,’ Aydelotte said. “He was a good man, a great man. There are so many reports of him working day upon day upon day upon day, not giving up on a vision.”

Alcorn could only nod at the notion that Tesla continues to inspire people 76 years after his death Jan. 7, 1943.

“People identify with someone who works very hard to achieve a goal without being recognized for it,” said the board president. “It’s what we try to do here, to put some focus on him and what he tried to do.”

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Stu Fisher will run in his first New York City Marathon Nov. 5. Photo from Stu Fisher

One runner in this year’s TCS New York City Marathon hopes meeting his running goal will help raise awareness about the plight of those who suffer from rare diseases.

After beginning to run nearly two years ago, Stu Fisher, 66, will compete in the marathon for the first time Nov. 5 after completing nine races this past year. The East Setauket resident will be a part of the Running for Rare Diseases marathon team, which runs in support of the National Organization for Rare Disorders. The nonprofit is a patient advocacy organization dedicated to individuals with rare diseases and the groups that serve them.

In the marathon, Fisher will be running for Shaylee Boger, who was assigned to him by NORD. Fisher also will be running in honor of his nieces Arielle Candace Fisher, who died of Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, which is also known as spinal muscular atrophy type 1, where children will sit but never walk, before she was 1 year old; and Navarin Aeon Viloria, who was diagnosed with cyclic vomiting syndrome, an increasingly recognized disorder with sudden, repeated attacks of severe nausea, vomiting and physical exhaustion that occur with no apparent cause.

Fisher’s daughter Stefanie will join him in running his first NYC Marathon. Photo from Stu Fisher

An operation engineer for Cumberland Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Brooklyn, Fisher said he began thinking about running 15 years ago when he cheered on his oldest daughter Donna in the Philadelphia Marathon. At the start of 2016, Fisher said he made the decision to start running, and his youngest daughter Stefanie, who will also participate in the marathon, encouraged him by taking him to West Meadow Beach, where they ran along Trustees Road.

“She helped me run a little bit, and rest, because I was winded after 15, 20 seconds,” Fisher said of his youngest daughter. “She kept moving me progressively farther distances until after a couple of weeks, I was able to not have to stop anymore.”

Recently, he has been working 80-hour weeks, but said he makes training a priority — something his wife Vivian Viloria Fisher, a former county legislator, has been supportive of. Stu Fisher said he joined an online coaching program, Jeff Galloway Training, to improve. He runs short runs Tuesdays and Thursdays, a long run on the weekend and takes a break from training the other days.

“Your body needs time to repair, especially when you’re older,” he said.

Fisher said his online coach Chris Twiggs, chief training officer with Jeff Galloway Training, has instructed him to take structured walks of 30 seconds between running. He can now complete 20 miles 15 minutes faster than if he ran continuously. Twiggs said Fisher, who has been training for the marathon since January, was wise by starting early, and has been building up his speed.

“His body is ready because of the work he has already put in,” Twiggs said.

Fisher, who is a member of the Long Island and New York City Road Runners clubs, said his last run was 25 miles. To train, sometimes after working a full day, he’ll run through the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Williamsburg area, then over the Brooklyn Bridge uptown on the west or east side all the way to Central Park.

He’s now lost more than 25 pounds running, and said he has advice for those who start the rigorous activity later in life.

“Once you start [running] you’ll see pounds will start to melt off, and then you feel a little better — that helps you with your stamina and motivation for running,” he said. “It’s not a regressive cycle like other things; it’s a progressive cycle.”

“He’s set on being a runner for life now.”

—Stefanie Fisher

His daughter Stefanie, who has been running for a few years and competed in the Philadelphia Half Marathon and other races, said she does it more for fun than to win. She said her father always stays positive, which motivates and inspires her.

“He’s set on being a runner for life now,” she said.

Stu Fisher said he’s hoping to run the marathon — which is more than 26 miles — in 4 hours, 59.59 minutes. Stefanie said the two of them made a pact to run together the whole race. If one slows down, the other one will slow their pace, too.

“I’m just excited that we’re going to cross the finish line together,” she said.

Twiggs said he believes his runner has a good shot completing the race in five hours due to the time he has put into training and being in good shape.

“My goal for him, honestly, is just for him to get to the finish line and have a smile on his face and be proud of himself,” Twiggs said. “Maybe [he’ll] want to do another one.”

Fisher is confident he will accomplish his goal for the nonprofit organization and those he’ll represent.

“It’s so unbelievably awesome,” he said of getting the opportunity to compete in the race. “This is a life experience. How many people could run a marathon with their daughter at my age?”

Fisher has already raised more than $1,000 for the National Organization for Rare Disorders. For more information about the group, visit www.rarediseases.org.

More than 4,000 runners raced through Northport streets Sept. 16 in the 40th annual Great Cow Harbor 10K. Competitors traveled from as far away as California and Washington state, to Lantau Island in Hong Kong to take on the rolling hills, and ranged in age from nine to 86.

The early morning fog with clouds threatened rain, but held off, making for a hot and humid day.

The weather didn’t appear to slow and runners down, and it was a downhill footrace for first place in the men’s division nearly ending in a photo finish. Donald Cabral, 27, of Hartford, won the men’s division finishing the 6.2-mile course in 29 minutes, 24 seconds. Following close on his heels were second-place finisher Craig Lutz, 24, of Flagstaff, Arizona in 29:28 and third-place finisher Timothy Ritchie, 30, of New Haven with a time of 29:32.

Natosha Rogers, 26, of Littleton, Colorado, took first place in the women’s division with a time of 33:23 for the same 6.2-mile course. Second place went to Kaitlin Goodman, 30, of Providence, who finished in 34:27, and third place was awarded to Oregon resident Renee Metevier, 35, with a time of 34:41.

Each and every finisher was cheered to the finish line by hundreds of local residents, friends and family who lined the sidewalks ringing cow bells, a part of the race’s tradition. Others held signs encouraging participants to “keep moo-ving” and stay “moo-tivated.”

The last to finish the course were a group of five firefighters who ran in dressed in full gear, including oxygen tanks, waving the American flag and others honoring firefighters and police.

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Brendan Martin will be taking part in his first New York City Marathon in November. Photo from Brendan Martin

By Dan Aronson

Smithtown native Brendan Martin, 27, is set to make his debut in the New York City Marathon this November.

“It’s one [race] I feel like I have to do before I retire from competitive running,” Martin said. “It’s my hometown race.”

This 26.2 mile-marathon is one the most popular races in the United States. It draws runners and spectators from all over the world, and takes competitors through all five boroughs of New York City. The race was first held in 1970, with only 127 runners competing.

Brendan Martin competes in a previous race. Photo from Brendan Martin
Brendan Martin competes in a previous race. Photo from Brendan Martin

Martin did not find his passion for running until high school — he always thought he would be a big lacrosse player. The Smithtown resident played lacrosse competitively until the end of 10th grade and then decided to put it aside so he could focus on running.

His father Bill Martin said one of the reasons he made the switch from lacrosse to running was his size.

“The only thing that has hampered him, in pretty much anything he has done, is his size,” the father said.

Both of Martin’s parents will be attending the race in November and are very excited to see how he performs.

“I don’t think I can keep my wife away,” Bill Martin said. “[Brendan] has taken things to a whole new level. We are not surprised he has made it this far. He works very hard towards his goals and has done that since high school — he puts together a good plan and executes it.”

Len Carolan, Martin’s coach at Smithtown High School West, had a significant impact on the runner. He has now been retired for eight years, but still keeps in touch with Martin.

“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special” Carolan said. “His love of running and his desire to do well, plus his talent, is what really makes Brendan stand out. He was by far the most talented runner I ever coached.”

Martin led his cross-country team at Smithtown to three consecutive Suffolk County championships from 2003-06. He clearly set his team up well for future years, as without him the Bulls went on to win the title in 2007. The Bulls teams in 2007 and 2008 also won back-to-back divisional championships.

“He was instrumental in getting us to that competitive level,” Carolan said.

And Martin has similar feelings for his old coach.

“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special.”

— Len Carolan

“He gave me a good feeling about running,” Martin said of Carolan. “He made it really fun and team-oriented for us. That made it a blast. He was really good at coaching the fundamentals, working hard, being dedicated and working together with your teammates, and I think that really stuck with me.”

Each athlete prepares himself in a different way, and for Martin, that’s running year-round.

He said he spends eight to nine weeks preparing for the race. In the first five to six weeks, he runs about 120 to 130 miles a week. Once he gets closer to race day, Martin said he tries to run 20 to 22 miles per day, at marathon pace.

“I’m going to make sure I’m doing a lot of hills in my training, because New York is a notoriously difficult course, with lots of ups and downs,” Martin said.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not up to the task.

“I need to study on my own a little bit what to expect, and as long as I do that and I run patiently — very tough at the end — I expect to do pretty well,” he said.

The unique challenge that comes with running in the marathon is that you can’t run the course in preparation, because the only time the roads are closed is for the marathon.

He’s still ready to take on the course, and is looking forward to taking on New York City.

“A hilly race suits my strengths and as long as I run smart, have good confidence in myself,” he said, “[I could] be one of the top Americans and hopefully the top New Yorker.”

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Alex Eletto crosses the finish line at the Lynn, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Sprint. Photo by Mike Polansky

By Joseph Wolkin

Alex Eletto has been running since he was in the seventh grade, and the speed within him only increased with age.

Eletto, now 19, graduated from Ward Melville High School in 2015. Competing on the track and field team throughout his high school career, the Stony Brook-native consistently worked on improving his form.

Come Aug. 10’s annual Lynn, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Sprint put on by the Greater Long Island Running Club, Eletto appeared as if he were the Energizer bunny. That Saturday was different than any other for him. Running the 5K course at Sands Point, he roared across the finish line in 18 minutes, four seconds for a first-place finish.

“It was pretty cool,” Eletto said of winning. “I just love running. It was really special for me to win that race.”

Eletto defeated veteran runner Keith Guilfoyle from Commack by four seconds, followed by 15-year-old Jake Meyers of Plainview.

Eletto is focused on completing the race while competing with the Northport Running Club. Photo by Tina Eletto
Eletto is focused on completing the race while competing with the Northport Running Club. Photo by Tina Eletto

“It was awesome to see him win — I saw the look on his face as he was coming to the finish line,” his mother Tina Eletto said. “I think he knew he had it. Somebody was on his tail, but he was not letting up and he was pushing through. As a mom, it’s great to see that.”

Among the 271 runners in the event, Eletto stood out by making it look like he was taking a casual weekend jog. According to one of his coaches from Ward Melville, Brian Schoen, Eletto is “doing really well” after graduating.

“Alex was very focused, determined and a very hard worker,” he said of his former athlete’s high school career. “The distance guys, because they put in so much time and effort, are an extremely tight-knit group. He did an amazing job when he was with us, and Alex has wonderfully represented Ward Melville in every way. He certainly did himself proud.”

In high school, Eletto’s best result was a third-place finish in his senior year during the St. Anthony’s Invitational in May 2015, when he set a personal record of 4:45.10 in the 1,600-meter run.

“He really developed in the 11th and 12th grade,” his mother said. “After he graduated high school, he started on a team called Rolling Thunder. From there, he is now working with coach Mitch Felced. He is running with the Greater Long Island Running Club.”

Entering this latest event, Eletto never expected to earn the victory. It’s his second first-place finish; the first coming in the Heart and Sole 5K in Plainview.

But what makes Eletto’s victory so special for his family is how he got there.

The athlete is on the autism spectrum. While it is not severe, his mother noticed he acted differently compared to others when he was a toddler, and he was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, the most common form of autism, at 5 years old.

“He’s definitely an athlete, and he’s very into staying in shape and eating correctly. He just has such a great passion for the sport.”
— Tina Eletto

“He is very high functioning,” Tina Eletto said. “He has a driver’s license and has his own car. He’s such a nice person that it never really affected him during school with his peers because he was always involved in sports and he was always really friendly, and everybody was the same back.”

The disability has ended up being one that has pushed him to succeed, whether it’s in the classroom or on the field.

“He works through everything,” she said. “His perseverance and determination are so strong that he bought his own car. He worked at Stop & Shop and at a bagel store; so it doesn’t really affect him too much.”

Training during the late evening in the summer, Eletto is constantly focused on improving his skills.

“It’s a great feeling,” Alex Eletto said of being able to overcome his disability to excel in the sport he cares so much about.

Eletto is now preparing for his next venture, as he begins an internship at a nursing home in Medford, working behind the scenes.

“He loves running races,” his mother said. “He’s definitely an athlete, and he’s very into staying in shape and eating correctly. He just has such a great passion for the sport.”

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Sean Ferguson crosses the finish line of the NEC Cross Country Championship. Photo by Bernadette Boyle

By Mary DeMaio

It’s a crisp Friday afternoon in mid-autumn at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. The clock reads 4 p.m. The weekend has finally arrived; an opportunity to take it easy. The cross-country team is off from practice, but the faint whispers of heavy breathing can still be heard from the track. The shadow of only one athlete is present.

Even on his off days, 21-year-old senior Sean Ferguson can be found going that extra mile.

It’s that work ethic which has enabled him to come back from what doctors labeled a career-ending injury two years ago, to becoming one of the top Division 1 runners in the nation this year.

At the end of his winter-season sophomore year, the Smithtown native ran at a championship conference meet and suffered detrimental complications to his heel. He had to stop running altogether and was sidelined for a year, causing him to miss one cross-country and two track seasons.

During his layoff, he visited four doctors, some of whom predicted he would never be able to run again. But Ferguson refused to give up. Finally, in October 2014, after receiving seven injections in his hobbled foot and getting lots of rest, the pain started to subside and he began rehabbing.

Sean Ferguson smiles for his Sacred Heart University head shot. Photo by Bernadette Boyle
Sean Ferguson smiles for his Sacred Heart University head shot. Photo by Bernadette Boyle

He spent a year working with athletic trainers, strengthening the muscles in his heel through rigid resistance exercises every day before he was able to start running competitively again.

“Finding the motivation to keep working despite not knowing if I would ever be able to return again was extremely difficult,” Ferguson said.

But thanks to his mental fortitude, Ferguson overcame his injury and is now better than ever. Most recently, on Oct. 31, Ferguson won the Northeast Conference championship 8,000-meter race, beating out 70 runners.

“Sean is determined, focused and is so humble,” said teammate Trevor Guerrera. “He has broken multiple meet records and still is the most down-to-earth person I know.”

Christian Morrison, Ferguson’s cross-country coach at Sacred Heart said, “Sean has progressed tremendously because he is single-minded about being the best runner he can possibly be, and he’s coachable and easy to work with. He’s tough and isn’t afraid to suffer and push himself during a race to run as fast as possible.”

When Ferguson steps on the line, he said he has four goals: to race well, to run fast, to be competitive and, most importantly, to have fun.

“I just really try to take in the moment and enjoy what I’m doing while I’m still able to do it,” he said.

Ferguson said his mental approach is what gives him an edge on other runners. Fixating on time tends to trip up many runners, he said. They are, what he calls, “slaves to the watch.” Ferguson, however, said he pays more attention to how his body is feeling and focusing on putting his best effort forward.

“Running is mostly a mental sport, you can train as well as anyone but if you don’t truly believe you are the best, you won’t be,” said David Wood, Ferguson’s cross-country coach at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip. “By senior year, Sean believed he could run with anyone even if in reality he couldn’t.”

What Ferguson has long believed has finally become reality.

At the start of his season on Sept. 5, he defeated 60 runners at the Stony Brook University Invitational en route to a first-place finish. He also set his school’s record for the 6K with a time of 18 minutes, 35 seconds; the previous school record was 18:52. It was the fastest that anyone has ever run on that course.

A week later, at the Rhode Island Invitational, he came in first place out of 100 runners, crushing his school’s 5K record, setting a course record and beating every runner on Providence College, highly ranked in the country. Ferguson finished the race in 14:50; the previous school record was 15:28.

Sean Ferguson rounds a corner. Photo by Bernadette Boyle
Sean Ferguson rounds a corner. Photo by Bernadette Boyle

The wins and records kept piling up. All together during this year’s cross-country season, Ferguson ran six races, won five of them and set four course records. At the New England championship in Boston he was injured during the middle of the race, but he pulled himself together and just focused on finishing, coming in 23rd place.

Unfortunately, Ferguson was not able to run in the trial race to qualify for the National Championships in Louisville, Ky., because he hurt his calf at practice.

But there’s always next season.

Although slated to graduate this May from Sacred Heart, where he’s studying history and maintains a 3.87 GPA during his first six semesters, finishing with a 4.0 in three of them, Ferguson has one year of college athletic eligibility remaining. Due to his heel injury, Ferguson received a medical waiver from the NCAA that allows him to compete if he chooses to enroll in graduate school. His decision to stay at Sacred Heart or go elsewhere is still up in the air.

For now, he’s focused on training for winter track when the season begins Saturday. He’s expected to be a top competitor in both the 3K and 5K races.

“I have high expectations for myself because I got hurt,” said Ferguson. “The cross-country season didn’t end the way I had hoped and that is something I want to rectify.”

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Huntington’s 4x400 relay state championship team. Photo from Huntington athletics

Head coach Ron Wilson knows he has a good squad, but is it good enough to successfully defend the Suffolk Division II title that the Blue Devil boys’ winter track and field team captured last year?

The winter campaign is now underway and knowing that Huntington has one of the top indoor track teams on Long Island brings a smile to the face of the veteran coach.

The Blue Devils feature returning 4×400-meter relay state champions Infinite Tucker, Exzayvian Crowell, Kyree Johnson and Lawrence Leake. The Fantastic Four also won league, county, Long Island and LI Millrose Games titles.

Huntington boasts a roster that has talent and depth in just about every event this winter.

“Our strength in terms of quality and balance, however, lies in that of our sprinters and jumpers,” Wilson said. Juniors Johnson and Leake are two of Suffolk’s best sprinters.

Newcomer Kei Ron Byrams is expected to make an immediate splash with his speed and athleticism. “He should definitely help,” Wilson said of the junior.

“We graduated a great cast of throwers last year in Matteo McNeil and Jimmie Nelson,” Wilson said. “But we have a few throwers that will definitely draw some attention this year. Seniors Michael Lonergan, Amaru Jones, Vernon Alexander and Tasean Betts earned All-League honors during the spring season and should really be competitive this year.”

Sophomore strongmen Clay Jamison and Sam Bergman are two more throwers expected to be competitive this winter. Bergman was runner-up in the Suffolk freshmen shot put championship.

“Our distance program has shown a steady improvement,” Wilson said. Seniors Kyle O’Brien and Tom Kopstein earned All-League honors last spring and should be a factor this year. Joining the distance crew during the indoor season is junior Shane McGuire, who exploded on the scene last spring with a string of sensational performances, including All-League, All-County and All-State honors.

“He just finished an exciting cross country season and should do well this winter,” Wilson said.

Senior Mitch Rudish and junior Mark Rafuse were alternates on last winter’s 4×400 relay team and are set to take a big step forward this season.

The roster includes a bunch of newcomers to the sport and the school.

“With a bit of luck and good health, we should do well,” Wilson said. “We are a fairly balanced team this year, with a pretty solid lineup.”

Seniors Tucker and Crowell will contend in the 55 hurdles, among other events. Joining them will be sophomores Brian Pierre and Luke Eidle. Pierre won the freshman class of the 400 intermediate hurdles and took second place in the 110 high hurdles last spring. Sophomores Nick Sanin and Will Vollack were competitive last winter and should improve this year.

“We will look to advance several of our athletes to the state championship this year,” Wilson said.

Huntington has won two consecutive league titles, but this year’s competition is expected to be especially fierce.

“This year the pressure will be on,” Wilson said. “It’s always difficult to defend your championship title. There are a number of great teams in our league, including Smithtown East, North Babylon, West Islip, Half Hollow Hills West, West Babylon, Deer Park, Bellport, Eastport-South Manor and East Islip. These teams boast some outstanding athletes.”

The Blue Devil have carved out a national reputation during recent winter and spring seasons.

“Our top returning athletes are determined to compete at a high level and those who are joining us this season for the first time will look to make a name for themselves as well,” Wilson said.

Huntington is again set to travel to some of the most prestigious high school meets in the country this winter, including the Dartmouth Relays in New Hampshire, the Rhode Island Classic and to the new facility on Staten Island for a showdown with some of the best athletes from New York City and New Jersey.

“We know and understand that our road to a championship is going to be a difficult one,” Wilson said. “However, our boys have never backed down to a challenge.”

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Earl L. Vandermeulen High School’s varsity cross country team took third place in the Peter Pan Division at the Disney Cross-Country Classic. Photo from the Port Jefferson school district

The Port Jefferson cross country team had a great run at the Disney Cross Country Classic, held on Oct. 9 in Disney World.

During the competition, Port Jefferson’s Justin Julich took first place overall in the Peter Pan Division, a varsity boys 5K race that featured 187 national runners. Julich, a senior, finished with a time of 16 minutes, 24.60 seconds.

Julich’s win, along with teammate Sam Walker placing third and Alex Rebec placing in the top 25, put the Port Jefferson team in third place in the Peter Pan Division.

“This team truly achieved greatness,” Port Jefferson’s athletic director Debra Ferry said. “We are very proud of them.”

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The Middle Country girls’ cross country team poses for a group photo at Sunken Meadow State Park. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Middle Country girls’ cross country squad were handed the victory by forfeit, as they took on Commack Tuesday afternoon at Sunken Meadow State Park. Both teams were released together as the pack disappeared over the wooden footbridge for the 2.7-mile event, but Commack ran the wrong course, leaving the Mad Dogs the victors by a score of 50-15.

It was a multischool meet with schools from all over Suffolk County pairing off in front of a large crowd of onlookers.

Camila McCusker runs for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon
Camila McCusker runs for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon

Middle Country head coach Bill King said both teams were evenly matched and knew the meet would be determined by a couple of points. Nearly 20 minutes after the start of the race, the best runners of the day turned the corner and headed down the home stretch. The only problem was, it was only Commack crossing the finish line, without a Middle Country runner in sight.

King said he couldn’t understand the disparity, and Middle Country senior Olivia Rogers said the Commack runners didn’t complete the same course that her team ran.

“The times are a little messed up because Commack ran a different course than we did,” the co-captain said. “We ran a different distance than they did —  they took a shortcut, so I don’t know if there’s even going to be a score.”

It turns out that King’s suspicion was right, and after a lengthy postrace investigation, the Commack runners were found to have turned off the official race route and ran a shorter distance. The Commack head coach admitted his team’s mistake and handed the victory to Middle Country.

“It should’ve been a very close meet, but I knew something was wrong when I saw them coming in one, two, three and four,” King said. “It should’ve been much closer, and the difference should have only been a couple of points [between us].”

But before the dust settled, the first across the finish line for Middle Country was senior Samantha Plunkett, who said she wasn’t happy with her performance because she had done better at her previous meet.

Samantha Plunkett runs for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon
Samantha Plunkett runs for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon

“I’ve run faster than I did today, so it wasn’t my best,” she said. “I ran faster two weeks ago when we versed Lindenhurst, but today, the conditions were OK.”

Crossing the line in second was sophomore Camila McCusker, who has similar feelings as Plunkett regarding her own performance.

“Today wasn’t my best — I was a couple of seconds off,” McCusker said. “It was a little hotter today than normal.”

Crossing the line for third was Rogers, followed by sophomore Kayla Juran, and finishing in the final points paying position was eighth-grader Nevaeh Kallon.

“We have a close group of girls — [myself], Camila McCusker, Kayla Juran and Samantha Plunkett,” Rogers said. “The team we versed last time was Sachem East, I think they’re the best in the county, so they pushed us really hard. We wanted to stay as close as we could with them; gain some respect.”

Middle Country competed with just nine girls, where most other teams field many more runners. King said that his team puts the emphasis on quality, not quantity.

With the win, Middle Country improves to 3-1 in League II and hits the road next for a tri-meet with Sachem North and Central Islip on Tuesday at Sunken Meadow State Park at 4 p.m.