In any context, second is unacceptable for Long Beach's Josh Linster. So when he was handed a large number 2 to wear on his shoulder before Saturday's Nassau Coaches Invitational at MacArthur High School, he was predictably displeased.
The number, used to indicate seed time, may have been a non-issue for some, but not Linster. He used it as motivation.
"I never want to be second," Linster said. "I hate being second. Second is the first to lose. I want to be first in everything."
Despite the unwanted number on his shoulder, Linster proved to be number 1, winning the 100 meters in 11.13 seconds.
In a race as quick as the 100, a good start is essential. Linster credited his fast beginning with his decision to forego the use of starting blocks, choosing instead to push off the track. After not bringing his blocks to the starting line in the first few races of the season, Linster said he began to prefer the unencumbered feeling. As a result, he has sworn off blocks for good.
"I feel faster and start better without them," he said. "I've started getting used to running without them. I don't want to change anything."
The lack of blocks, Linster said, allows him to explode off the line at an even quicker rate, getting to his second phase faster. "My drive phase was way faster than anybody else's," Linster said. "I'm proud of that."
By the time Linster hit the 80 meter mark, the finish was all but decided, with the Long Beach senior winning by 0.34 seconds. "I kept my composure and my speed," Linster said. "I didn't look back. I kept my focus."
Island Trees' Eugene Lease won the 800 meters in 1:59.49, barely outpacing Roslyn's Scott Pourshalchi (2:00.44), whose final kick fell just short.
"I wasn't expecting that last 400 meters," Lease said. "I was keeping it comfortable on the first lap and, once we saw that we were sub-60 [seconds], everyone started going."
Once Lease realized that the pace was setting up for a sub-2:00 finish, it was time to look forward and push toward the line.
"You just have to mentally prepare yourself and go," Lease said. "At that point, I was toward the back. I had to get a really good sprint in to get up in front. I just tried to hold it."
Wheatley's Nicholas Vazquez won the 400 meter hurdles in 58.89 seconds. Baldwin's Ralph Cordeau won the 400 meters in 51.44 seconds. Massapequa's Jake Finkelstein won the shot put, tossing it 47 feet, three inches and the discus, throwing it 139 feet, three inches.
On the girls side, Freeport's Cameryn Miller won the 100 meter hurdles in 16.91 seconds.
"At the beginning of the race, I was really focusing on my three-step," Miller said. "Toward the end, I saw that [Calhoun's Cristin Rodriguez] was starting to catch up and I needed to pull away. I picked up my speed and finished the race strong."
Rodriguez finished second in 17.31 seconds. Locust Valley's Stephanie Reyes won the 400 meter hurdles in 72.72 seconds.
MacArthur's Nicolette Agostinacchio won the 1,500 meters in 5:14.05.