The Huntington High School boys’ and girls’ indoor track and field teams turned in a great set of performances at the Section XI state qualifier at Suffolk-West in Brentwood.
The Blue Devils will be sending athletes to the state championships in at least five different events. Analisse Batista qualified in the 300m dash and the girls’ 4x200m relay will also be advancing.
Johnathan Smith and CJ Kiviat both qualified in the 600m run and the Huntington boys’ 4x200m and 4x400m relays are also moving on to the state finals. (Eric Sands will compete for a berth in weight throw on Wednesday afternoon in the state qualifier for that event.)
“This was a big meet,” Blue Devil boys’ head coach Ronald Wilson said. “All season long we’ve been talking about finishing. Last year we started out good, but faltered in the end. This year it is about perseverance, faith in one another and ultimately victory. We talked about victory and how it belongs to those who believe in it the most and believe in it the longest. This was a quote by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle when America went to war with Japan. I told them I choose to believe and that we have to believe in one another to get the job done. That was the talk all season long. How we are going to have to depend on the younger teammates to help make this season a success.”
The Huntington boys’ team’s performance in the relay races was nothing short of spectacular.
“Getting two relay teams to the state championship is unheard of, especially in rugged Section XI,” Wilson said. The 4x400m relay team consisting of seventh grader Jahmar Francis, sophomores CJ Kiviat and Isaiah James, junior, Justin Stevens and senior Johnathan Smith was unbeatable and is ranked among the best in the state and country.
“The trials are always tough, especially when you’re holding your thoroughbreds out because they have individual races,” Wilson said. “However, seventh grader Jahmar Francis stepped up his game and ran a great split for us, holding off runners from Longwood, West Babylon and North Babylon. He handed off to Smith, who coasted around the track with little to no effort to maintain the top 4x400m relay time in the trials.”
In the 4x200m relay trials, sophomores Nasir Youngblood, Jason Turner and Anthony Joseph and freshman Josiah Melendez were up to the task of qualifying Huntington for the finals. “This relay is the toughest of all,” Wilson said. “There was a lot of bumping, batons flying and athletes falling. Thank God we were able to stay upright and finish the trials in in first place.”
In the 4x400m relay finals, CJ Kiviat substituted for Francis and led off the race with a great split of 51.7 seconds. Kiviat handed off to James, who maintained a clear lead over the rest of the field. James passed the baton to Stevens, who was full of energy, extending the lead even more. Smith ran the anchor leg and coasted home, making sure to save a bit in the tank to run again just minutes later on the 4x200m relay team.
The 4x400m relay team finished first in a time of 3:26.73, which managed to beat the meet record set by members of Huntington’s Dream Team in 2015. Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake, Exzayvian Crowell and Infinite Tucker ran the race in 3:27.11 that year.
As the evening was coming to a close at the Section XI state qualifier, the 4x200m relay finals loomed large. Returning champion Brentwood finished first in 1:32.43. The second and final berth in the state championships was decided by a photo finish between Huntington and Central Islip.
Wilson substituted Smith for Melendez and adjusted the order of the legs and Huntington responded by circling the track in 1:33.47 with Joseph running as the anchor. “It took forever for the placing to come up on the screen, but after a few minutes I saw my kids break out in a celebration,” Wilson said. The Blue Devils had edged CI by 1/100th of a second to advance to the state championships.
In other action for the Huntington boys’ team:
- Smith won the 600m run in 1:21.73, just missing the meet record that was set in 2017 by former Huntington great Lawrence Leake who ran the race in 1:21.70. Infinite Tucker still owns the school and Suffolk records with a time of 1:20.26. Smith will have a shot at that record at the state championship at Staten Island.
- CJ Kiviat placed third in the 600m dash with a personal best time of 1:24.76 and Isaiah James placed fourth in 1:25.97.
- In high jump, senior Jaden Bholan cleared 6-02 feet to place fourth while teammates Joe Garetano and Trevan Meagher both cleared 5-10 feet to tie for seventh place.
- In shot put, senior Eric Sands was a foot shy of his personal best, but good enough to place fifth with a throw of 48-09 feet. Junior Gary Barash improved his personal best by tossing the weighted ball 47-08 to finish in seventh place.
- In the 55m hurdles, junior Jaylen Bush placed ninth in a time of 8.13 seconds.
- Jahmar Francis, Josiah Melendez, Jaden Bholan, Nasir Youngblood, Anthony Joseph, Jason Turner, Johnathan Smith, CJ Kiviat, Justin Stevens and Isaiah James all captured All-County honors.
Huntington Girls’ Make Statement
The Blue Devil girls’ relay team of junior Alicia Brooks, freshman Analisse Batista, sophomore Dejanae Linton and freshman anchor Olivia Conte were splendid, winning the 4x200m relay in a time of 1:45.19 to nip runner-up Half Hollow Hills West by 6/100ths of a second.
Huntington was remarkably consistent in the event, running a time only 2/100ths of a second slower in the qualifying heat. Blue Devil girls’ coaches Mark Jackson and Eric Santos were clearly happy with how their athletes ran and how the race unfolded, especially Conte’s determination down the stretch to hold off Hills West.
Batista also finished second in the 300m run in the fine time of 41.10 seconds. The short turnaround time between the 300m and 4x200m relay put the freshman to the test physically, but she came through in a big way for the Blue Devils.
Brooks, Batista, Linton and Conte will all compete in the state finals at Staten Island.