While there’s never a “sure thing” in sports, the Huntington High School boys’ indoor track and field team has enough highly regarded athletes on its roster that the Blue Devils should be among the best teams in Suffolk and the state this winter.
Huntington welcomed back five of the top runners in the country in senior Justin Stevens, juniors Anthony Joseph, Isaiah James and CJ Kiviat and eighth grade sensation Jahmar Francis. Those talented five along with Johnathan Smith, who graduated last June, won the 4x400m relay state championship last March and went on to place fourth in the national finals.
The Blue Devils won league and county team titles last winter along with the Long Island Millrose Games crown. The team is well-positioned to win even more this season.
Huntington boasts a roster that has talent and depth at just about every event. “Our strength in terms of quality and balance lies with our sprinters and throwers,” said head coach Ronald Wilson, who is assisted by Eli Acosta. “Kiviat, James and Stevens are among the best in the state in the 600m dash. Joseph has won multiple state and national medals since his debut in eighth grade and will be looking to add more individual titles and records to his already impressive resume.”
While Huntington graduated highly regarded Eric Sands last June, the Blue Devils are returning several quality throwers, including senior Gary Barash and junior Mekai Butts, who are both expected to be among Long Island’s elite this winter. Other notable throwers that should do well are juniors Kyle Green and Elijah Fresnel.
Distance runners on the rise
“Our distance program has shown a steady improvement,” Wilson said. “Senior Jason Verville and Craig Haas, juniors Aidan Heller, Andrew McKenzie and Carlos Martinez and freshman Matthew Armstrong all earned All-League honors last winter and should be a factor this year,” Wilson said.
The roster also includes a bunch of newcomers to the sport. New to indoor track, but certainly not new to track and field is junior Chad Rowe. “He brings some experience in sprinting and jumping,” Wilson said. “He was an alternate on our spring 4x400m relay team and was a solid member of our 4x100m relay team. He also has jumping pedigree and should be a factor in the triple and high jump for us.”
Senior Cole Pillion, sophomore Julio Martinez and freshman Jeison Blanco have also joined the fold following a league championship soccer season. “We will look to build off of that fall success,” Wilson said.
Huntington is not only a county and state power, it has a national reputation. “With a bit of luck and good health, we should do well,” Wilson said. “We are a fairly balanced team this year with a solid line up.”
Senior hurdler Jaylen Bush returns as one of the top seven hurdlers in Suffolk. Pushing him to the limit in hurdles will be seniors Justin Stevens and Rahliek Thomason, sophomore Quincy Chery and freshman Ryan Centeno.
Short sprinters among the best
In the short sprints, juniors Anthony Joseph and Nasir Youngblood are among the best in the county. They will be complimented by sophomore Josiah Melendez and senior Jahiem Nooks.
Several talented J. Taylor Finley Middle School athletes have been cleared to participate on the high school team, including sprinters Ramon Lyons, Navado Petro and Christian Delgado and distance runners Jackson Stollmack and Lars Galvin. Eighth grade weightmen, Damien Santos, Carmine Carusone and Anthony Molina will be join Barash and Butts in the circle to throw shot put.
“We will look to advance several of our athletes to the state and national championships this year,” Wilson said. We are the returning League III champions and large school county champions. However, due to enrollment we have been pushed up to League II. The pressure will be on with the loss of some talented seniors to graduation. It’s always difficult to defend your championship title.”
There are a number of great teams in in league, including Sachem North, Bay Shore, Walt Whitman, Connetquot, Lindenhurst, Northport, Copiague, Huntington, Half Hollow Hills East and Smithtown West. Each of the squads boasts many outstanding athletes. “We battled with Smithtown West and Northport during the outdoor championships in just about every event,” Wilson said. “They are returning quite a few mid-distance sprinters and distance runners 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.”
Huntington will strive to polish its national standing this winter. “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.”
The Blue Devils open the season in the North Shore Invitational on December 6 at the Armory in Manhattan.