Huntington High School’s boys’ cross country team is running with a new varsity coach this fall. Robert Nill, Jr. has assumed leadership of the program after Shawn Anderson moved off Long Island to take a teaching position in Maine.
Nill is a graduate of Southern Connecticut State University with a BS degree in recreational leadership in 1976 and a MS degree in physical education in 1980. He has been coaching the J. Taylor Finley Middle School co-ed cross country team for many years.
The Blue Devil squad consists of 20 athletes. Nill previously coached a majority of them at Finley. “It’s a hardworking group that’s focused on bringing a cross country championship to Huntington,” Nill said. “They are a very enjoyable bunch to coach.”
Seniors Joey Dammers, Nicolas Sanin and Ryan Smith are providing the team with veteran leadership during the early weeks of the season. The roster also includes seven freshmen.
The Blue Devils compiled a 3-3 mark last fall, placing fourth in the league standings. Fifteen of the squad’s 18 runners enjoyed personal bests in the final meet.
Huntington lost two runners to graduation off last year’s team that competed in the Suffolk Division II Championships. Shane McGuire (Buffalo) and Danny Collins (Bucknell) have joined the college ranks after stellar Blue Devil careers.
Four of the runners from last fall’s divisional championship meet squad are back for Huntington. The group includes Jason Verville, John Segreti, Eddie Maleszewski and Danny Thompson.
Verville enjoyed a sub-20 minute performance over the 5000m course at Sunken Meadow State Park in the Suffolk Division II Championships, running the race in 19:57.
Huntington also enjoyed a good showing in the 2016 Suffolk Frosh/Soph Championships. The Blue Devils fielded a full freshman squad and took sixth place in the team standings with several runners notching personal bests.
Verville established himself as a top Suffolk freshman by turning in a huge career best of 16:23 on the 2.8 mile course to finish 15th overall. Segreti also ran to a best, dipping under the 18 minute threshold with a time of 17:15. Rory Dara went sub-20 minute with an effort timed at 19:25. Roller (17:21) and Robbie Caputi (18:44) also ran very well.
In the sophomore race, Thompson ran a huge best of 16:59 to place 31st overall, while Maleszewski (17:34) and Graham Young (17:44) also dropped their previous bests under the 18 minute mark.
Several of the runners who starred on Finley’s team during the past two years have now advanced to the high school program and they appear set to have an impact on the Blue Devils fortunes.
With Huntington’s top returning runners a year older and much stronger, Nill is expecting the Blue Devils to register solid times at the finish line.