The indoor track season is underway and despite being stung by last June’s graduation, the Huntington High School boys’ squad seems poised to emerge as one of the top teams on Long Island.
Huntington returns three of New York’s finest in Shane McGuire, Lawrence Leake and Kyree Johnson. All three ran on the Blue Devils’ relay team that won state and national indoor championships and earned All-American honors. The trio expects to dominate several events this winter.
Last winter’s indoor season was memorable as the Blue Devils captured league, county, Long Island and Millrose Games titles among a lengthy list of achievements.
The Blue Devils boast a roster that has talent and depth in just about every event. “Our strength in terms of quality and balance lies in our sprinters and jumpers,” said head coach Ronald Wilson, who is assisted by Eli Acosta.
Johnson and Leake are two of the top 300m sprinters in the country. “They return ranked No. 1-2 in the state,” Wilson said. Johnson is the team’s premier short sprinter, including the 55m dash and is also the best long jumper. Leake is Huntington’s top middle distance runner and also an exceptional sprinter. McGuire is an outstanding distance runner. All three will also be running relays.
The Blue Devils will surely be counting on their returning veterans, but they also have some talented newcomers in their ranks, including junior Freddy Amador and senior Jared Leake.
“We graduated a great cast of throwers last year in Vernon Alexander and Amaru Jones,” Wilson said. “We have a few throwers that will definitely draw some attention this year.”
Juniors Clay Jamison and Sam Bergman placed 1-2, respectively in the Suffolk sophomore shot put championship last winter. Will Newton and Shateek Parler are also expected to do well in the shot put circle.
Huntington’s distance program has shown steady improvement. McGuire is expected to lead the way along with returning All-League seniors Mark Rafuse and Danny Collins.
The Blue Devil roster includes a talented bunch of newcomers to the school and sport. “With a bit of luck and good health, we should do well,” Wilson said. “We are a fairly balanced team this year with a pretty solid line up.”
Junior Brian Pierre will contest the 55m hurdles. Joining him will be freshmen Jaylen Bush, Justin Stevens and Rahliek Thomason and sophomore Jonathan Smith.
In the short sprints, eighth grade sensation Nasir Youngblood advanced to the Suffolk Division II championships last spring as a seventh grader. “He is going to be the one to watch in the upcoming years,” Wilson said.
Eighth graders Andrew McKenzie, Isaiah James and Aidan Heller all turned in strong cross country seasons and are looking to make a splash during Huntington’s indoor campaign..
“We will look to advance several of our athletes to the state championship this year.” Wilson said. “We will continue in Suffolk League III and we’ll be looking for our fourth straight conference crown. Due to enrollment, we have been bumped up to the large school county conference. We have dominated the Small School County Championships for the past three years. This year the pressure will be on. It’s always difficult to defend your championship title.”
Huntington will have to race past North Babylon, West Islip, Huntington, Deer Park, Bellport, Half Hollow Hills West, West Babylon, Kings Park, East Islip, Eastport-South Manor and Hauppauge for league supremacy.
“These teams boast some outstanding athletes,” Wilson said. “We battled with Hills West and Hauppauge during last year’s outdoor championship in just about every event. They are returning quite a few mid-distance sprinters as well. So with that in mind, we know and understand that our road to a championship is going to be a difficult one. However, our boys have never backed down to a challenge.”
The opening three weeks of the season have gone well with practices gradually increasing in their intensity. Wilson and Acosta are bringing along their veterans and newcomers is a slow, but steady process.
“Our top returning athletes are determined to compete at a high level and those who are joining us this season for the first time will look to make a name for themselves as well,” Wilson said. “We will again travel to some of the most prestigious and high quality meets in the country, including the Dartmouth Relays in New Hampshire, Rhode Island Classic and to the new facility in Staten Island. Staten Island is where the state championship will be held in March.”
While Huntington will undoubtedly feel the loss of national champion Infinite Tucker, who graduated last June and is now a freshman at Texas A&M, Wilson and the Blue Devils are aiming high and expecting to make a run at league, county state and national titles again this winter.