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Huntington's Isaiah James flies in winter track opener to help beat North Babylon

Isaiah James, Huntington senior, races to victory in

Isaiah James, Huntington senior, races to victory in the 600 meter run during a Suffolk boys winter track dual meet against North Babylon at Huntington High School on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. He posted a time of 1:28.3. Credit: James Escher

Isaiah James had every intention of running the 600 meters the ‘right’ way. He really did. The Huntington senior saw it in his head, clear as the air on the sunny, cold January Sunday morning. He would go out a little conservative, size up the competition a bit, and then explode toward the finish line.

But James just couldn’t take it anymore.

Maybe it was the pent-up energy from not running a school-sanctioned race in nearly a year, or maybe it was just excitement from finally getting a slice of normalcy back in his life, but when the gun went off Sunday morning, so did James.

James won the 600 in 1 minute, 28.3 seconds as host Huntington defeated North Babylon, 76-34, in the teams’ outdoor winter dual meet opener.

"I was planning just to sit back and strike at the end, but I just got so excited and hyped that I just powered through the whole thing," James said. "I was ready to go."

James was also on the 4 x 400-meter relay team that won in 3:31.

This weekend marked the opening of Suffolk’s outdoor duel meet schedule, put in as a safety measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For one season, perhaps, the sweaty confines of Suffolk Community College in Brentwood and The Armory in Manhattan will be replaced by whirling winds and freezing tracks.

While the temperature could have been worse — the air hovered in the low-40’s throughout the morning — the wind was a challenge for runners who aren’t used to having to contest with it until spring.

"Coming down the right straightway, the wind was right in your face," said Andrew McKenzie, who won the 1,000 in 2:56.4 and was on the 4 x 800-meter relay team that won in 8:48. "It hinders you a lot. It was pretty bad."

However, McKenzie said he was surprised at how well he ran in such unfamiliar-for-the-season conditions.

"I thought I was going to have a much worse time because of the wind and the cold," he said. "But, we’ve been practicing outside, so I guess I hardened up to it a little better than I expected."

Added Aidan Heller, who won the 1,600 in 5:01 and also was on the winning 4 x 800 relay: "It could have been way worse. With the year we’ve had, it wasn’t that bad."

In the field, Mekai Butts won the shot put, throwing 43 feet, 7 inches and Quincy Chery flew 19 feet, 10 inches to win the long jump.

"My arm was a little bit stiff because I’m not used to throwing outside in 40-degree weather," Butts said. "It affects how I finish through."

As veterans of spring track know, uncomfortable temperatures come with the territory. All things considered, Butts said that he’s competed in colder in late March and early April.

"Sometimes it would rain and be way windier than that," Butts said of spring seasons gone by. "I’ve faced colder meets than today. I wasn’t that uncomfortable. Today seemed like a good day."

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