High school track and field is a marathon and, when the spring season finally ends, only the strongest are left standing. So, it was fitting that, when New Balance Nationals closed shop last Sunday at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, the two most prominent names on the L.I. scene were boarding an airplane with national championships.
In the end, it was those who had been staples in the winner's circle throughout the winter and spring seasons -- and even the cross country campaign last fall. In the end, it was a name and a school, the definition of dominance in 2013-2014. In the end, it was Ben Bonhurst and Northport.
Bonhurst, the Smithtown West senior who will take his talents to Florida State this fall, won the national shot put championship, tossing 65 feet, 93/4 inches. It was his second national title of the season. He won the winter shot put crown, throwing 64-73/4, at winter nationals in March.
"It was very tiring," Bonhurst said of the long season. "I never stopped. Winter nationals was two weeks into the spring season. I was so shot at the end [of spring], but I had to keep focus and keep working hard. But, that was my goal at the beginning of the year, become a two-time national champion in the shot put and I did that . . . You always have to have dreams and my dream came true."
Then there was Northport, the distance powerhouse that made it all the way to the cross country national meet in the fall and continued to win the longer runs in winter and spring. Led by junior Mike Brannigan, the Tigers took first, third, and fourth in the two mile run.
Brannigan won in eight minutes, 53.59 seconds. Tim McGowan was third in 8:56.60. His twin brother, Jack, was fourth in 8:57.57. All three broke the Long Island two mile record of 9:00.4, set by Sayville's Brian Dalpiaz in 2002. It was also the first time in meet history that the same school has had three runners break nine minutes, coach Jason Strom said.
"My goal was to try and get my brother to break nine minutes," Tim McGowan said. "I do wish I had won, but I knew the day wasn't about me."
But Northport wasn't done. Brannigan, the McGowan twins, and Justin Leopold won the 4 x mile relay championship in 17:21.16.
"We were looking forward to it," McGowan said. "We're more milers than 800 meter guys, so we knew it would suit us better. I was on the third leg and wanted to take the lead and open it up a little . . . I handed off in first and Mike hung on."
McGowan said, despite the three long seasons, fatigue was not an issue.
"I was too excited to burn out," McGowan said. "We wanted to peak at this meet."
After nearly ten months of competition, Northport finished the year at the same place they started it.
On the girls side, North Babylon's Jessica Scheriff finished second in the 2,000-meter steeplechase in 6:52.71. Garden City's Emma Gallagher was second in the 400 meter hurdles in 58.87 seconds.