Ron Wilson likes to travel and put the athletes on his team to the test. So the Huntington High School boys’ track and field coach loaded his squad on the bus and made an early Saturday morning trek to the Ocean Breeze Invitational at Staten Island, where some of the most talented teenagers in the northeast converged for an all-day competition.
Wilson believes that by having his athletes constantly challenging themselves they will train harder and learn to compete like champions. Put simply: they will rise to the occasion.
The Huntington High School boys’ track and field program is on the cusp of a new, successful era with an incredible array of young talent. So traveling to the Ocean Breeze Invitational, where the Blue Devils went head to head with exceptional athletes from a multi-state region came naturally for Wilson.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, our underclassmen won the Suffolk County freshman title in dominant fashion,” Wilson said. “We wanted to see just how good our freshmen were, so we entered this unique meet that featured other great freshmen from the northeast region.”
First on the track in the 55 dash was eight grade sensation Josiah Melendez and true freshmen Jason Turner and Nasir Youngblood. Youngblood won his heat in 7.01 seconds and Turner took his heat in 7.03. Melendez placed a photo-finish second in 7.25. While Youngblood and Turner both secured spots in the finals, Melendez just missed.
In the 55m dash finals, Turner finished in second place in a personal best of 6.91 and Youngblood was fifth in 6.94. “It was an exciting race to see,” Wilson said.
Freshman Mekai Butts was also impressive, shining in shot put. The teenager reached the finals in the event, placing third with a throw of 38-07.75 feet
Back on the track, Huntington’s freshmen runners continued to earn medals. In the 800m run, Isaiah James ran an impressive 2:08.59 to capture a bronze medal for a third place finish in a race that featured 64 runners.
Anthony Joseph was most impressive of all. Entered in the freshman 400m dash, the budding Blue Devil star faced off against many of the top ninth graders from New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. “It would be New York to reign supreme in this race,” Wilson said.
Joseph broke second behind Henry Miller of Conestego in Pennsylvania. Jahi Roberts of New York City’s Medgar Evers made a move while at the same time Joseph was making his.
Joseph passed both Roberts and Miller and outlasted them to the finish line, crossing the tape in a New York No. 1 freshman time and new freshman meet record of 51.76 seconds. (Joseph is No. 3 overall in Suffolk.)
Huntington junior Jonathan Smith also turned in a strong effort in the 400m dash at the Ocean Breeze Invitational, winning his heat in the varsity division and placing seventh overall.
Joseph would later earn another gold medal and etch his name in the record books again. He teamed up with Melendez, Turner and Youngblood in the 4x200m freshman relay to make history.
“What a race,” said Wilson about the relay. Leading off and giving the Blue Devils a clear lead, was Youngblood, who handed off to Turner, who increased Huntington’s advantage. Running the third leg was Melendez, who maintained a 60m lead over the rest of the field. Melendez had a perfect exchange to anchor leg, Joseph, who crossed the finish line in a time of 1:35.27. “This time beat out the record of Coatseville High School of Pennsylvania of 1:37.42 that was set last year,” an excited Wilson said. “The announcer said that their time would have beaten the sophomores, whose best time of the day was 1:35.93 by East Meadow.”
In other action for Huntington:
• Sophomore Gary Barash was welcomed into the over 40 club when he tossed the shot put 40-06 feet. The effort was good for third place and a bronze medal.
• In the varsity weight throw, Sam Bergman improved his personal best to 53-04 feet, which gave him second place and a silver medal. Junior Eric Sands finished in 10th place with a toss of 42-06.25 feet. Bergman’s weight throw ranks him No. 1 in Suffolk.
• Bergman later tossed the shot put 45-06.50 feet. Levi Leach threw the weighted ball 44-10 feet and Sands tossed it 43-05.25 feet.
• Freshman Aidan Heller competed in the freshman mile, running a personal best time of 5:01. “His goal is to break 5 minutes,” Wilson said. “He’s very close.”
• Sophomore Justin Stevens ran a personal best in the 800m run finishing in 2:06. The teenager placed seventh, narrowly missing a medal.
• Sophomore Jaylen Bush and senior Brian Pierre had a difficult start in the 55m varsity high hurdles. “This was the first event and we had just walked in the door,” Wilson said. “We were delayed due to an accident on the expressway. We were still pleased with their effort and their willingness to compete despite lack of time to warm up.”
• Senior Michael Drake and freshman Trevan Meagher contested the high jump. Meagher cleared the opening height, but didn’t get much further than that. Drake scaled 5-06 feet, but missed at 5-08 feet.
• Freshman Anthony Ortiz competed in the 400m dash along with Anthony Joseph, finishing in 58 seconds.
• Freshman Andrew McKenzie finished the 800m run in 2:15.77.
“It was a great meet and certainly worth going to,” Wilson said. “We are prepping for our County Championship (2/5) and The State Qualifier (2/12) which is coming up in the next couple of weeks. Both meets will be contested at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood.