Shortly before the start of the winter season, Huntington coach Ron Wilson came to Tom Kopstein with a question: Why wasn’t he running indoor track?
It was a good question, Kopstein thought. A fall golfer, the senior had taken the previous three winters off, decompressing from a season on the links and getting mentally ready for the spring season on the track. But there was a problem. After a winter of inactivity, it would take a few weeks for Kopstein to start running optimal times. By then, the year was almost finished.
“[Wilson] pushed me into it,” Kopstein said. “He felt I had potential and he wanted me to reach that potential by putting in the work all year round instead of coming into March out of shape.”
So that’s exactly what Kopstein did, training all winter with a track team that featured some of the fastest runners in the country and a 4 x 400-meter relay team that won a national championship. Individually, he placed fourth in the 1,000 meters at January’s Small School Suffolk Championships.
And dividends have already shown. Kopstein braved rainy conditions and won the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 38.40 seconds Saturday morning at the Longwood Classic at Longwood High School.
Kopstein said that, in prior seasons, it would take him until mid-May to feel as good as he feels now, just two invitationals into the spring season.
“It’s the best shape I have ever been in,” he said. “It’s a big difference.
With 300 meters left, Northport’s Sean Inzerillo pushed past Kopstein, forcing him to kick it into high gear to regain the lead.
“He really pushed me there,” Kopstein said. “I saw him go by me and I just tried to find another gear. I didn’t know I had it, but I guess the training is paying off.”
Kopstein’s teammate Thomas Pandolfi was second in 4:39.21. Inzerillo was third in 4:40.37.
Miller Place’s Tom Schott also used a final-lap kick to win the 800 in 1:59.53. He flew past East Hampton’s Erik Engstrom, who finished second in 2:02.26, on the back straightaway.
“I knew I could stick with him. But he’s a very fast runner, so I was unsure” Schott said. “With 300 meters to go, I decided I still had something left and he was looking decently tired . . . I made the move when I thought it was right. I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was a leap of faith.”
Bellport’s T.J Brock won the 3,200 in 10:19.04. Half Hollow Hills West took the first three places in the 400. Denzel Hardy won in 50.86 seconds. Jovahn Williamson (50.97) was second and Ahmed Galal was third (52.25).
Riverhead’s relay unit broke two school records. Their distance medley team — Chjuvaughn Cameron, Noah Schoettle, Eric Cunha and Luke Coulter — won in 11:08.05, breaking the 2014 mark of 11:42. The sprint medley relay team — Coulter, Cameron, Cunha and Marcus Reid — won in 3:43.90, breaking the 2010 mark of 3:48, coach Steve Gevinski said.