Gold. That’s what Huntington senior track star Lawrence Leake is after this Saturday as he and his teammates compete in the New York State championships at the Ocean Breeze Track & Field Complex at Staten Island.
Leake is among the favorites in the 600-meter run. At one point this season, the teenager had the fastest time in the country in the event.
“Lawrence is definitely after first place,” Huntington head coach Ron Wilson said. “When you step on that track you have to want to win a gold medal. That’s what motivates you all through training and the competition itself.”
Huntington has also qualified for the state championships in the 4x400-meter relay. It will have stiff competition in the event. The Blue Devils claimed county, state and national titles in the event last winter.
Blue Devils star Kyree Johnson pulled a muscle in the Long Island Elite meet at St. Anthony’s last Saturday and the injury will prevent the All-American from vying for gold medals in the 55-meter and 300-meter dashes and the 4x400-meter relay at the state championships.
“It’s a really tough break for Kyree, who has been working hard and who wanted to try to win three gold medals,” Wilson said. “We have to shut him down for the next two weeks so we don’t jeopardize the spring season or put his future at risk.”
Leake’s eyes are glued on the gold medal.
“He’s a special kid and a great athlete,” Wilson said. “He’s prepared himself well. That’s the most important thing. Lawrence is a tough competitor.”
Unlike many events, Leake’s 600-meter run is a final. There are no qualifying heats, so the senior has to be on top of his game.
“I feel pretty confident,” he said.
Johnson’s absence from the track at the state indoor championships is sure to send shock waves through the competitive field. He’s one of the country’s premier track stars and was looking forward to putting his talents on display for his fellow athletes and their coaches. But that will now have to wait for the spring championships.
“It breaks my heart to see Kyree sitting out of the state championships during his senior year, but unfortunately these things happen,” Wilson said. “We want to get him back to 100 percent and ready for the spring.”
Huntington’s 4x400m relay will consist of some combination of Leake, Mark Rafuse, Anthony Joseph, Brian Pierre and Jonathan Smith. Wilson isn’t sure of what combination he will use in the qualifying heat and the finals.
“We have to see how everyone is feeling before the races,” Wilson said. “We’ll make our decisions when we need to, not before.”
Johnson and Leake are being recruited by some of the top track colleges in the country. Neither has decided where he plans to attend school next fall.
Wilson added, “We’re hoping to have a very good showing on Saturday.”