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Hills East's Sam Chimezie wins state qualifier

Half Hollw Hills East's Sam Chimezie beats Copiague's

Half Hollw Hills East's Sam Chimezie beats Copiague's Aaron McFadden in the boys 55m high hurdles at the Suffolk boys and girls state qualifiers track meet on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Sam Chimezie is on the bus. The Half Hollow Hills East junior extended his season Saturday, winning the 55-meter hurdles in 7.68 seconds at the Suffolk state qualifier at Suffolk Community College in Brentwood.

The victory qualified him for the New York State Championship meet, scheduled for March 1 at Cornell University.

Chimezie credited his victory with his ability to stay calm and loose in between the preliminary and final rounds.

"I wanted to do every single warm-up I could possibly think of," Chimezie said. "I wanted to make sure I was 100 percent ready to go."

The junior said he began his pre-finals warm-up with a 10-minute jog, followed by a vast array of drills. Chimezie ran a 7.89 in the preliminaries.

"I cruised," he said. "I knew I was going to make the finals. That's what I was thinking about before I came here."

Chimezie's ticket to states was one of many punched throughout the afternoon. Port Jefferson's James Burke, Eastport-South Manor's Tom Meehan, and Islip's Mike Watts all qualified for the state 1,600. Burke won in 4:20.43. Meehan ran a 4:24.54 and Watts clocked a 4:25.37.

"This race was more for place, rather than time," Burke said. "I already had the state standard, so I needed a top-three finish. I was looking for the win. Watts and Meehan are real good runners. I wanted to stay with them and give it my all at the end. That's what I did."

Burke said that running for place, instead of time, affects the opening 800 meters of the race.

"My first 800, I went 2:13 and my second 800 was 2:06," Burke said. "So I certainly didn't go out as fast as I would have otherwise. You sit back a little bit and kick hard at the end."

After Watts made a strong move forward, Burke and Meehan followed, speeding up the race.

"I was trying to stay behind Meehan and, once he caught up to Watts, I knew it was my time to go," Burke said.

Although Burke has been to winter states as a member of a relay team, it will be his first time running as an individual.

"Running the mile at winter states is something I've always wanted to do," Burke said. "I've been going up since eighth grade on relays. That's a nice track. I've watched that race since I was younger. I'm happy that I'll now be [running it]."

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