Kyree Johnson thinks you can beat him. But he’s not going to let you. No way, no how. The Huntington senior is considered, in almost unanimous agreement, to be the best sprinter on Long Island, if not the state. His explosive speed is matched only by his humble nature, and his desire to outwork everyone he lines up against.
“In my eyes, everybody that I race against can beat me,” he said. “And I don’t want that to happen for anything. I have to try my hardest for that person not to beat me.”
Johnson is the top returner for Huntington — a team that made waves by winning the national championship in both the indoor and outdoor 4 x 400-meter relay races last season. In addition to being an integral part of those units, Johnson just missed an indoor state championship in the 55, falling by 0.01 seconds in the finals.
The lone sprinter to beat Johnson in that race, Rochester Wilson Magnet’s Kelly Brown, is out of high school (he was a senior last year), so Johnson is the prohibitive favorite in early season mock-ups of the state championship 55 field.
“I believe he is the top sprinter in New York State right now,” Huntington coach Ron Wilson said. “He knows that it’s going to be a long road, but he’s up for the challenge. All he’s been talking about the entire football season was getting back on the track. The desire is definitely there.”
Johnson, who plays wide receiver and cornerback for the Blue Devils football team, craves winning. It’s a feeling that, as he puts it, not many people get to have. And, one he just can’t get enough of.
“Once you win, you just have that feeling that you’re doing something good, something you’re supposed to do,” Johnson said. “That makes my teammates and the town of Huntington proud. I like to make people proud and have people look at me in a positive way. That’s the real motivation.”
That winning has already begun. Johnson won both the 55 (6.52 seconds) and the 300 (34.65) at the Nassau Coaches Invitational on Dec. 10 at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island, the site of this winter’s state championships.
“The first thing that was running in my head was just to get a good warmup before the race, so my body could react how I wanted it to react,” Johnson recalled of his victory in the 55. “The most important thing was to warm up. I warmed up, cleared my mind of everything and, once the race started, I just took off.”
“He hasn’t missed a beat,” Wilson said. “He still has to work on his starts, but he’s got a ton of speed that we’ve been glad to see in the first couple meets.”
Huntington captured last year’s Suffolk small schools championship in dominating fashion, winning by 30 points. This year, the Blue Devils have moved up to the large schools division and are excited for all the new competition that the reorganization will bring.
“[Johnson’s] the one that they have to watch out for,” Wilson said. “He’s a kid that doesn’t care who he goes against. He just goes out there and tries to win.”