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Whitman pentathlete Jack Poplawski seeks another state title

Commack's Steve Vasile also looks to repeat state outdoor track title.

Whitman's John Poplawski wins the pentathlon 1,500 meters

Whitman's John Poplawski wins the pentathlon 1,500 meters for Division I during the Suffolk boys track and field division championships at Hampton Bays last May. Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

Jack Poplawski has no giveaway events, and maybe that’s why he’s the best pentathlete in the state.

Many pentathletes look to score a lot of points in four of the five events, so a poor performance in a fifth doesn’t really hurt them.

Not Poplawski. The Whitman senior, who is the defending state champion, is strong in all of them. In terms of defending his title, Poplawski feels this gives him a major advantage in the spring-only competition.

“I don’t feel like I’m weak in an event . . . If someone had one really strong event and they’re relying on it, that might put a lot of pressure on them to perform well in that specific event because they know it’s their best,” Poplawski said. “This season, I won’t feel as much pressure to get a [personal record] or blow away the field in a certain event.”

That’s not to say he still won’t do it. Poplawski won last year’s state pentathlon by 184 points and beat the next-best underclassman by 294 points. He won the long jump (21 feet, 11 inches), placed second in the shot put (43-5 ¾), third in the 1,500 meters (4:29.58), eighth in the 110-meter hurdles (15.76), and tied for eighth in the high jump (5-10 ¾).

The performance garnered Poplawski 3,555 points, a personal best. This year, he wants an even 4,000 points  — something that would give him the Suffolk County record, according the suffolkxctf.com.

“It just seemed like a good goal to try and achieve, something to motivate me to train a little harder and try to do my best,” Poplawski said. “I think I’m capable of doing it. It’s a good challenge to see whether or not I’ll get it.”

Five events are small potatoes compared to what he’ll be doing next season. Poplawski will be running track at the University of Chicago, where he intends to make his name as a decathlete. The decathlon consists of 10 events — the 100, 400, 110-meter hurdles, 1,500, long jump, high jump, shot put, discus, pole vault, and javelin.

“I’ve done all 10 events,” Poplawski said. “I’m not that intimidated by it. I think it will be fun and a good experience to do one.”

Poplawski, who was also a stand-out volleyball player at Whitman, decided to commit himself completely to track and field at the college level.

“I fell in love with track at the end of my sophomore year, then fell in love with it during my junior year even more so,” Poplawski said. “There’s so much to do.”

He fell in love with the University of Chicago almost right away.

“The University of Chicago really caught my interest,” Poplawski said. “It’s a great city and a great school, one of the best schools in the nation. I really loved the people there…There’s a lot to explore in the city. I met some people on the team and they were great, and the coach is great as well.”

Poplawski said he intends to study economics and computer science.

“I sat in on classes, which was very exciting,” he said. “They got you to think in ways that you don’t even know you could think. I went for an overnight and the guy I stayed with was great, [there’s] great hospitality there…There’s so much to explore in Chicago.”

But before he leaves for the windy city, Poplawski’s got one more championship to win in the Empire State.  While he doesn’t necessarily find himself dwelling on the finality of it all, he certainly wants to go out on top.

“I haven’t given it that much thought,” Poplawski said of leaving Whitman in June. “I just want to go out and make it my best season yet.”

VASILE DEFENDS DISCUS TITLE

Commack’s Steven Vasile turned a hot streak into a state championship. Now, he’s hoping to stay hot for the entire spring, something easier said than done during the chilly opening weeks of the school year’s final season.

Vasile won the state discus championship with a 177 foot, seven inch toss last June. He said he didn’t even see a state championship as an option until he threw 173-1 at the Suffolk outdoor state qualifier.

“I think it was just that better competitors push me,” Vasile said. “It definitely felt different. When it came out, I knew it was a good throw.”

The good vibes continued a week later and, if he can recapture the feeling of those two weeks, it’ll be a banner spring for the senior.

“Speed and explosion are really important in the throw,” Vasile said. “Last year, I definitely felt more speed and explosion in my legs when I was throwing farther.”

Last year’s state championship toss was Vasile’s personal best. This season, he wants to break the school record of 189-4 set by Mike Levine in 2009, Commack coach Steve Lurie said.

“Right now, I just want to get back to what I was throwing last year, hopefully PR in the first couple meets, and see where it goes,” Vasile said.

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