The Huntington boys’ indoor track and field team sparkled against some of the top squads in the country late last week as the Blue Devils vied in the Ocean Breeze Holiday Classic in Staten Island.
Huntington head coach Ron Wilson likes to challenge his athletes and they love to go against the best, too. “For this reason, we decided to run our 4x400m relay team to see how we would fare among the elite,” Wilson said. “The MileSplit national track website almost had it right. They tweeted on Christmas that they will be there to close out the year with the battle of the sprints when Huntington takes on Newburgh at the North Shore Invitational at the Armory on Monday and then takes on South Shore at the Ocean Breeze Holiday Classic in Staten Island on Friday. But the battle wasn’t with South Shore, it was with Bullis of Maryland.”
South Shore had its own reasons for deciding to forego contesting the 4x400m relay, but national powerhouse Bullis was on the track and ready to go. The race that played out couldn’t have been any closer with the teams separated by a mere 1/100th of a second at the finish line.
“What an exciting day of racing,” Wilson said. “After our underclassmen performed well at this elite meet, Coach [Eli] Acosta looked at me and said, ‘The sun must be out because the future looks very bright here in Huntington.’”
Huntington’s freshman 4x200m relay team consisting of Nasir Youngblood, Anthony Joseph, Justin Stevens and Jaylen Bush won in classic Huntington style; at the wire. The Blue Devils’ sophomore 4x400m relay just missed a medal when it finished seventh. The freshman 4x800m relay hung on for fifth place in its race, earning medals for each of the runners.
One of the best races of the day was the 400m invitational, featuring the top 200m and 300m runners in the country, including Bullis’ Eric Allen, Ashton Allen and Austin Allen against Huntington’s Kyree Johnson and Lawrence Leake.
“What an exciting race,” Wilson said. “I told Johnson and Leake that these guys are the fastest in the country. They are going to get out fast. Go with them and hang back a bit. Johnson did exactly that.”
With about 100m to go, Johnson made an impressive move and passed Eric Allen and sprinted to the finish line. His time of 48.09 seconds was the fastest in the United States this winter and it set a new Suffolk record. (Incredibly, a short time later, Brian Herron of Lakeside High School in DeKalb, Georgia broke Johnson’s No. 1 mark by running 48.08 seconds at the USATF Hoover Alumni Invitational at Birmingham, Alabama.)
Johnson’s 400m time is the 13th fastest ever in New York. Former Huntington great Infinite Tucker held the previous Suffolk record of 48.48 seconds.
Leake finished third in the race in 49.12 seconds, which was faster than the 400m U.S. No. 1 time that existed prior to the race and is the second fastest in New York and No. 4 in the country this winter.
Bullis, a private school located in Potomac, Maryland, would get their revenge on Huntington by the end of the night.
The 4x400m relay race was the most exciting of the day. It featured the two top 4x200m teams in the country against the defending 4x400m national champions in Huntington.
“Everyone, and I mean everyone, was on their feet for this one,” Wilson said.
Junior Brian Pierre ran the first leg for the Blue Devils. The teenager got off to a good start, but struggled to keep pace with Bullis. Pierre handed off to Lawrence Leake, who made up some ground and passed Holy Trinity, running a 49 second split. But still Huntington trailed Bullis by a noticeable margin.
Leake handed off to Shane McGuire, who has been recovering from an illness. The senior turned in his fastest effort of the season, splitting 51 seconds. “However, we still trailed by a decent amount,” Wilson said.
McGuire handed off to anchor Kyree Johnson, who exploded down the lane once he got the baton. The teenager made a final attempt to pass Eric Allen at the wire, but missed by a 1/100th of a second.
“What a race and what a finish,” Wilson said. Bullis finished in 3:22.06 while Huntington was clocked at 3:22.07. They represent the top two times in the nation this winter.
“We’ll see them again coach,” said Johnson after the race to Wilson. “We’ll get better, stronger and faster!”