By Sophia Ricco
The Huntington indoor track team have found victory this season and aren’t looking back as they race to the County and State Championships.
The Blue Devils will advance to the County Championship after winning the League III Championship on Jan. 19 with 97 points. Huntington’s athletes have had remarkable races and events at weekly tournaments.
Coach Ron Wilson has led his Blue Devils against schools from across Long Island, New York and the North East to prepare them for future meets within their area.
“You have to get them out there to get exposure and experience... The experience they get at meets is to push themselves, you push them hard at practice, but it’s nothing like the experience at a meet,” Wilson said.
The team’s 4x400m and 4x200m relays rank first on Long Island and second in New York State. At the recently Ocean Breeze Invitational on Staten Island, the 4x400 team placed first at 3:20.89 and the 4x200 was edged out by about one second for the championship with a time of 1:31.41.
Wilson also brought the team to the Dartmouth Relays in New Hampshire, the “height of competition” with over a hundred other schools vying to win.
“It’s a rugged meet and it’s tough to do well there because of the conditions and the competition is great up there… Placing in the top 10 means you’re gonna do well when you go back to your own section. We placed third,” Wilson said.
Senior captain Eric Sands dominates shot put and weight throw for the Blue Devils. Sands set a personal best at the Ocean Breeze Invitational with a shot put throw of 49-06.00 and placed ninth throwing weight a distance of 45-02.50 feet.
Senior Jaden Bholan is a top high jumper, reaching 6 feet 3 inches.
Senior captain Jonathan Smith is one of the best runners in the nation for the 300m, 500m and 600m races, and his efforts have shown on the 4x200m and 4x400m relay teams. Smith has been on the team since eighth grade and witnessed them win the National Championship in 2016.
“That’s why we have him in that leadership position, he’s seen that type of success,” Wilson said. “He knows the route that the team needs to take in order to receive those same accolades.”
This season the team has a majority of underclassmen who Wilson feels are “full of talent.” His relay teams are a rotation of runners, many of whom are underclassman, including captains Nasir Youngblood, Smith, Isaiah James and Justin Stevens.
CJ Kiviat, Anthony Joseph, Josiah Melendez, Jason Turner and Jahmar Francis also feature heavily in the Blue Devils relay teams.
James, a sophmore, has stood out in the 1000m run, winning first at the Suffolk Frosh/Soph championship and becoming runner-up in the league with a personal best of 2:40.
Kiviat, a sophmore, has proven to be one of the best middle distance runners in Suffolk County, capturing the League III 600m title with a time of 1:24.
At Suffolk’s Frosh/Soph Championship this year at Brentwood, Huntington’s freshmen and sophomore boys excelled, accumulating the most combined points of any team.
“If you do well at that meet, normally that brings good fortune, that you’ll have a shot at winning the County Championships in the future,” Wilson said. “Those kids are going to get older and you hope they will continue to improve at what they’re doing.”
In preparation for County Championships, the team will continue to compete in tournaments to stay sharp physically and mentally. In his years as a track and football coach, Wilson has found athletics are really “20 percent physical and 80 percent mental.”
“We will continue to train, run, do formal weight lifting and get our minds right, that’s the most important is getting your mind ready for this level of competition,” Wilson said. “That’s why we go those high level meets to work on the mental piece.”
The next challenge in the Blue Devils’ journey is to triumph at the Large School County Championship in February. From there, athletes will have the opportunity to qualify for the State Championship at a state qualifier meet.
“I have strong hopes for us,” Wilson said. “We can definitely qualify with our 4x400 relay, we’re one of the top relay teams in the state, now we just have to come in first or second.”