This season, Long Island’s indoor boys track scene could have as much action inside the track as it’ll have on it. A pair of field athletes highlight the top state championship returnees from Suffolk County, making it all that much more important not to discount the jumpers and throwers.
Smithtown East’s Daniel Claxton is the returning state indoor high jump champion. Claxton cleared 6 feet, 8 inches in March to take home his first state title. Now that the first indoor medal is firmly placed in the trophy case, it now becomes about collecting.
“I’m just trying to go for that two-peat,” Claxton said. “I want to pick up where I left off — with a bang. My [personal best] is 6-11 right now. Everyone wants to go up by an inch. The next inch is the big seven-footer. That’s been my goal since last year. I wasn’t able to get it then. It makes me want to work harder to get it now.”
Claxton cleared 6-10 to break the state qualifier meet record last February and dominated the field to win the county large schools championship.
Kings Park’s Danny Byrne is the best returning finisher from last season’s state shot put event, tossing 54 feet, 63⁄4 inches. Byrne also won the county small schools championship with a 52-foot put.
Huntington, which won the county small schools championship in dominating fashion last season, has moved up to the large schools division and will be strong again. Sam Bergman is the only returner from the Blue Devils’ throwing trio that took the first three spots in the small schools weight throw.
The bulk of Huntington’s strength last season was on the track. Three out of the four members of their national champion 4 x 400-meter relay team return — Kyree Johnson, Shane McGuire and Lawrence Leake.
Last season’s county large schools championship, which did not include Huntington, was hotly contested. Three teams — Central Islip, Longwood and Bay Shore — finished within 10 points of each another. Of those three teams, not one returns an individual county champion.
Longwood’s Jahiem Dotson, a sophomore, was third in the Suffolk Division I pentathlon last spring. He can both hurdle and jump. Garrett Watkins also will stand out on the young team as a hurdler and 400 runner.
Amityville was second to Huntington in the county small schools championship last season. The Warriors also are strong in field events. Emmanuel Oguntoye long jumped 42-93/4 at the state championship last season and Kerron Gonzales is the second leading returner from the county small schools long jump championship. He’ll also run the 55 and the 300. Alijah Benymon is the second fastest returner from the Suffolk small schools 55-hurdle championship.
Farmingdale and East Meadow were separated by less than two points at last season’s county Class A championship, with the Dalers topping the Jets, 59-57.5. Neither squad return a county champion, so the class should be wide open again.
East Meadow’s Tim Euler, fresh off an impressive cross-country season, ran a 4:31.33 in the 1,600 meters and a 2:39.23 in the 1,000 at the county championships. Dan Amari is a pole vaulter who has cleared 12-6 and Pat Carlin and Umar Syed will both score in the high jump.
Valley Stream North has emerged as a dominant force in Class B. The Spartans will be looking for their fourth consecutive county championship. Tyler John returns after clearing 5-10 to win the county high jump championship in February. Brandon James, who finished third in the county triple jump championship in 41-2 1⁄4, and Nick Cason, who had a strong spring season, also return.
St. Anthony’s is looking for it’s eighth consecutive league title. Bryant Lewis cleared 6-3 to win the high jump at the CHSAA outdoor championships. Heron Maurisseau-O’Neal is the top returner from the 55 at the CHSAA indoor championships. Mason Gatewood and Sean Vierling will score in middle distance events, and Matt Payamps, Skip Morrell, and Brendan Dearie will handle the long distance duties.
St. John the Baptist returns Patrick Kain, one of the best distance runners on Long Island. Kain won the CHSAA cross-country title and was 18th at the state Federation cross-country meet. Jack White is the returning CHSAA indoor high jump champion, clearing 5-10 last year, and Liam Berrin is a strong pole vaulter.