You can call it a youth movement. The Huntington High School boys’ cross country team has some of the best underclassmen in Suffolk. If the group continues its upward trajectory, the Blue Devils are destined to be a county power.
At last weekend’s Jim Smith Invitational at Sunken Meadow State Park, several of Huntington’s top runners shined. The performance was good enough to get Blue Devil fans excited about both the present and the future.
Aidan Heller placed ninth in a field of 162 freshman runners in the 1.5 mile race for ninth graders. Heller ran the challenging course in 8:15.95, averaging 5:30.7 per mile.
“I feel I ran pretty well, including a one minute personal best since last year,” Heller said. “Our team has been doing hard and long training and has also been trying to find the fun within it. Our new coach, Bob Nill was for most of us our coach in middle school, so it was pretty easy to adjust to how he wants things done. I think our team has a shot at counties and I can speak for our freshmen and say that the other teams should beware at the Frosh Championships.
Heller appears primed for a fabulous fall season and a great career with Huntington. As an eighth grader last year he ran on Finley’s cross country team and then on the Blue Devil varsity winter and spring track and field teams. “I feel like Coach Nill helps us run a lot better,” Heller said. “He’s an amazing coach.”
Freshman Isaiah James placed 33rd in the ninth grade race last weekend, completing the 1.5 mile course in 8:53.38 (5:55.6 mile average). The teenager was slowed by not feeling 100 percent, yet he still gave Huntington everything he could muster.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling so hot that morning,” James said. “I definitely could have ran a much better race. I believe our team gave their best effort and ran hard. Aidan Heller in particular ran a great race.”
James is pleased with how the team is coming together. “Coach Nill he is an amazing coach,” he said. “He is not new to a few of us as we were coached by him before. He pushes us to run to our full potential. He encourages us to challenge ourselves with rigorous training exercises; not just to train our bodies, but to condition our minds as well. He believes we can win a county title and I don’t doubt him.”
In the sophomore division 3.1 mile race, Jason Verville (19:56.15) placed 21st in a field of 155 runners. John Segreti (20.46.98) finished in 30th place. In the junior division 3.1 mile race, Graham Young (21.19.52) finished 47th out of 126 runners.
The Huntington roster includes 20 hardworking athletes. One of the finest Blue Devil runners didn’t compete last Saturday. Freshman Andrew McKenzie is sidelined while he recovers from an injury. He was undefeated in seven races with the J. Taylor Finley Middle School cross country team last year.
“I’m sure if Andrew was there last Saturday he would’ve done great,” James said. McKenzie helped Finley compile a 6-1 record in 2016. Now many of the top Falcon runners are on the Blue Devil varsity.
“The Blue Devil track and cross country programs have some amazing freshman coming up,” James said.