Blue Devil track star Kyree Johnson and Huntington High School assistant coach Eli Acosta were honored last Sunday by the Long Island chapter of the USA Track & Field Association at the organization’s 18th annual awards brunch at the Hofstra University Club in Hempstead.
Johnson was named the Male Junior (High School) Athlete of the Year and Acosta received special recognition as an exceptional coach before a crowd of about 150, including national champions and Olympians.
Huntington head coach Ronald Wilson and superstar senior Lawrence Leake were also on hand along with family members of the two award recipients.
The crowd dined on eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, potatoes, bagels and an assortment of pastries. A slide show highlighting some of the top athletes and performances on Long Island played throughout the three-hour long affair.
Johnson was praised as one of the top young athletes in the country. The senior was dressed in a snazzy looking outfit, including a vest and tie. He towered over officials and appeared slightly embarrassed when some of his sensational achievements were announced. He has many of the best times in the nation in multiple events this winter and also anchors the Blue Devils’ highly regarded 4x400m relay team.
“We’re very proud of Kyree and all of his accomplishments,” said Wilson about his star. “This award is a testament to what he has given to Huntington these past five years. We brought him up as an eighth grader and it has paid big dividends. If he finishes off the year on top in both the athletic arena and in the classroom, he will have his choice of schools; Texas A&M, LSU, Ohio State or North Carolina A&T. He has been doing a great job in the classroom this year. He has great teachers who are pushing him very hard. They support him and makes sure that he does his work to the best of his abilities.”
The shy senior spoke to the crowd after being presented with Long Island high school track’s biggest award. “I couldn’t have gotten to this point without Lawrence [Leake] and the coaching staff,” Johnson said. “Being able to accept such a valuable award makes me want to try harder in every aspect of life to be better for everyone and for myself.”
The crowd was later told how Acosta has developed many Long Island athletes over the years. When the veteran teacher and coach came to the microphone he got choked up talking about how much it has meant to him to coach the Huntington boys’ winter and spring track and field teams the past few years as the Blue Devils rose to national prominence.
Acosta also thanked his family for supporting him and tipped his hat to Wilson and the athletes who have helped make him look like a genius.