Emmanuel Oguntoye loves the feeling of sand in his face. Usually, when the Amityville senior feels a sharp sensation, he’s coming down from an impressive jump, the sand greeting him as soon as the crowd begins to cheer.
“I know I’ve hit a good jump when I hear those slow three sounds [of my feet],” Oguntoye said. “It’s just a clap-clap-clap. Victory tastes good when you spit out the sand.”
That was certainly the case when Oguntoye flew out of the air and onto the awards podium after winning the triple jump with a 47 foot, 8 3⁄4 inch flight at the state indoor track and field championships, held at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island Saturday.
The victory came one year after Oguntoye finished 17th in the event, a state championship experience that refocused him and led to a season of unbreakable passion for the event. He needed to learn from last year, he said, for Saturday to be possible.
“I wasn’t mentally prepared,” Oguntoye said. “Having that experience last year showed me what I need to do . . . I learned what I needed to work on. My phases were one thing I needed to work on.”
Oguntoye said that his final phase, representing one last reach into the pit, carried him to victory. “It pushed me to that 47,” he said. “I was pretty happy with my first two phases, as well.”
The championship was no surprise. Ogyntoye was the jumper to beat in the event for most of the indoor season, even as he battled a midseason hamstring injury. He entered Saturday with the longest jump in the state, a 48-9 mark that won him the Suffolk Small Schools championship in February.
“Coming from placing [17th] last year to winning, it feels great,” he said.
Oguntoye was part of Long Island’s great field event renaissance. Smithtown East’s Daniel Claxton cleared 6-11 to win his second consecutive indoor high jump championship and Kings Park’s Dan Byrne tossed 58-10 1⁄4 to win the shot put.
“You really can’t ask for anything else,” Claxton said of his second-consecutive indoor title. “Winning one championship was definitely enough to suit my needs. Being able to do it again, especially as a repeat, just means that much more.”
Claxton is one of the best high jumpers in the country, his 7-foot clearance in January is only one quarter of an inch off the national best, entering Sunday. Claxton hit the 7-foot height on the Ocean Breeze surface, the first time a state jumper has achieved that since 2005, according to milesplit.com.
With that feet in the back of his mind, Claxton was comfortable as he entered the two-year-old facility. “It’s just the comfort of the facility,” he said. “I’ve competed here two other times and done amazing. Today, I had the confidence to do well and I knew that the crowd wanted me to do well in the end. I used that to my advantage to try and help me at the higher heights . . . I haven’t been here a lot. But the times I have, I savor them and I treasure them because of how great I ended up doing.”
Claxton echoed the sentiments of St. Anthony’s Halle Hazzard, who said she felt like she was ‘flying’ on the relatively brand-new surface en route to her 55 and 300 victories on the girls side.
“You run a lot faster here,” Claxton said. “Running faster helps you jump a lot higher.”
In the shot put, Byrne said he was focused and had an outstanding technical day.
“My technique clicked and I hit a big throw,” Byrne said.