The Elmont boys 4x400 meter relay team know that they have what others want. That’s just what happens in late March when you hold the indoor state championship. They are the team to beat in the state, by virtue of both pure talent and a litany of results. You simply cannot enter the spring season ‘under the radar’ after capturing gold at the Millrose Games and state championships, and placing sixth at New Balance Indoor Nationals.
But, for Elmont, it’s never been about those standing beside them on the track. It’s about the four wearing the green jerseys, and no one else. So, when the topic of being ‘the hunted’ came up last week, the top team in the state wanted nothing to do with that premise.
“That’s not really my focus,” Malik Johnson said of the competition that will, no doubt, be looking to knock off Elmont this spring. “Our focus is going out on the track and taking care of business. We walk into this spring season with our minds set on going for another one.”
The first one was won in pretty impressive fashion. Johnson, along with Lucas Mathieu, Damahya Coeur, and Demoni Gilkes, won the indoor state championship in three minutes, 22.85 seconds at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island on March 4. The time was almost a full two seconds ahead of second place finisher Newburgh Free Academy — a wide margin for a race of that caliber.
“I knew we had the talent and I knew that we had the work ethic to come out, do the best that we could do, and work hard every time we stepped on the track,” Johnson said. “I knew that we were special enough to win a state championship.”
Now, the question quickly becomes — what will it take to win two? If desire has anything to do with it, Elmont has nothing to worry about.
“Now that we have the winter championship, we just want to go out and get another one,” Coeur said. “We just have to be just as aggressive and hungry as we were in the winter.”
There was no rest for the weary — not with a championship to win and a new season to prepare for. Spring practice began less than 24 hours after the winter season officially ended.
“Right after nationals, we had practice the next day,” Mathieu said. “We don’t really have time to focus on the past. We just have to prepare for the future.”
That future, they say, has nothing to do with anyone else and everything to do with the work they put in practice.
“We know that, because of the winter, everyone is going to be coming after us,” Coeur said. “But, we just have to worry about ourselves and do what we do and we’ll be good . . . We feel strong. We have all our rest, so we can go back to the next days practice. We’ve had no injuries or anything.”
Elmont isn’t skipping past anything or assuming a berth in the state championship. Sometimes, the challenge of the spring season lies in the patience of cooling off after a hotly contested winter postseason. They may have just won a state championship, but a shot at a second one is a long two-and-a-half months away. Spring states are scheduled for June 9-10 at Union-Endicott High School.
“It would feel good, but that’s a long way away,” Mathieu said of a potential spring state championship. “We have a lot to prepare for.”