Some of Huntington’s greatest track athletes ever are seniors and they’ve competing in their final indoor season for the Blue Devils. What comes next for the winter program?
“They were a talented group of athletes that believed in one another,” head coach Ron Wilson said. “They gave their best efforts at every meet. I’m very proud of their accomplishments this season. They made coming to practice enjoyable for me.”
Huntington fell one point short in its quest for the large school Suffolk championship, ending up a single digit behind Smithtown West. The Blue Devils weren’t anywhere near full strength, with several of their top athletes nursing injuries on the sidelines.
“Next year will truly be a rebuilding year,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be difficult when you lose three of the top athletes you’ve ever had in the program. Clay Jamison and Sam Bergman were top throwers in the county and will return to throw shot put and weight. It will be tough to defend our League III championship title next season. We will look to our throwers to lead us in the field events. Hurdlers Brian Pierre and Justin Stevens showed growth and should be a factor for us. Jonathan Smith showed great improvement and will look to be our leader on the track in the short sprints and relays. He will be helped with middle school sensations Anthony Joseph, Nasir Youngblood and Isaiah James. These young men came in a played a vital role in our success this year. They are up and coming.”
While Wilson might sound slightly pessimistic, he typically underplays his hand. Huntington’s tradition cannot be discounted nor can the fact that younger athletes usually improve at a much faster rate than veterans. There’s more room for improvement and they are just starting to fully appreciate the training and the strategy that does with competition.
Despite an incredible array of ups and downs, Wilson was happy with the just completed season. “When you thought they couldn’t do any better, they did,” he said. “We out performed our competition at every meet. It showed with the number of individuals that won all-league honors. For the fourth year in a row, we won the League III championship and we weren’t finished yet. In the post-season, we were on our way to winning our third consecutive county championship, but injury prevented us from doing so. Kyree Johnson, one of the top long jumpers in the state felt a strain in his hamstring. He jumps, we win; it’s that simple. We decided not to take the chance and risk a more severe injury, thus handing the county crown to Smithtown West 52-51. Injuries truly hurt us this year.”
Huntington was No. 1 in the state and No. 3 in the U.S. in the 4x400m relay in early February and then Shane McGuire went down. The national champion took a bad step and pulled a tendon, essentially ending the Blue Devils’ chance of repeating as state champions in the event. The injury kept McGuire out of action for the rest of the season.
“Then when Kyree strained his hamstring later on that month, it pretty much ended us as three-peat for a state title in the 4x400m relay,” Wilson said. “However, it didn’t prevent us from winning our third county title in the event. “Last year was known as the “record-breaking year” while this year became known as the “hamstring-breaking year for us!” We started the season off hot as firecrackers, however the injuries were too great to overcome.”
Eighth grader Anthony Joseph filled in for McGuire in the 4x400m county finals and performed admirably as the Blue Devils crossed the line first. Wilson will be looking for Joseph to accomplish many more “big things” next winter.