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Meet Long Island's boys track state and Federation champions for 2019

Whitman's John Poplawski signals victory after finishing first

Whitman's John Poplawski signals victory after finishing first in the 1500-meter run portion of the boys pentathalon on the second day of the Suffolk boys and girls state qualifier meet at Comsewogue on Saturday,. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Jack Poplawski, Whitman, Pentathlon

After a grueling two days, Poplawski needed every ounce of energy in the final event of the state pentathlon to defend his title. Poplawski used a gritty sprint down the home straightaway to win the 1,500 meters in 4:21.79.

“I just came off the turn hot and took that momentum to the finish line,” Poplawski said. “ . . . I wasn’t that nervous. I knew I was just going to run my race, stay behind him, hit my splits, and outkick him at the end.

Poplawski won his second straight state title — with 3,477 points.

Kenneth Wei, Mount Sinai, Long Jump, Triple Jump, 110m hurdles

Wei was so pumped for his opening jump that he was a little too aggressive going into the sand.

“The landing was a little funny, so my hand actually scraped the sand pit, so it should have been a 49 or 50-foot jump,” Wei said of his 48-foot, 3/4-inch Division II triple jump championship mark. “It was one of the last times I’d ever get to triple jump and, with the atmosphere, the adrenaline was just rushing. I said, ‘Let's just go for it.’ ”

It's safe to say Wei fixed the problem as he won two Federation championships and went home with five first-place medals. Wei won the 110 hurdles in 13.86 seconds, the long jump (23-3), the Division II 110 hurdles (14.05), the Division II long jump (24-3), and the Division II triple jump (48-3/4).

Jaheim Dotson, Longwood, 110m hurdles

The competition at the state championships was fierce. And maybe it could be a bit intimidating for some — but not Dotson. The senior spent the winter and spring running against some of the best the state has to offer – just in his own backyard. Suffolk is overloaded with talent in all three divisions, so when it came to running against state competition, it was a relative breeze. Dotson showed as much by clocking 14.17 to win the Division I 110 hurdles.

“Everybody’s good,” Dotson said. “To compete at a high level with everybody else makes it a lot more exciting. Like I always say, I like competition. Being able to battle out in a close race, it doesn’t get more exciting than that.”

Giordano Williams, Uniondale, 200m

Williams was the top sprinter on one of Long Island’s top teams, and he showed why at the state championships. Williams used his size and incredible speed to power down the home straightaway and take the Division I 200 in 21.38 seconds. Williams was the top sprinter on Long Island all season. He placed second in the Federation 200 final with a 21.21-second run — the fastest time on Long Island this season, according to milesplit.com.

Frank Grey, Brentwood, 400m

Grey went from fourth to first in the 400. The Brentwood senior ran a fourth-place 48.08 in the Division I race before coming back to win the Federation title in 47.88 seconds.

Grey was running out of the seventh lane in the Federation finals, forcing him to make up a pretty big stagger as he motored towards the final 100 meters.

“My strategy was to get out hard, then maintain and move my arms more,” Grey said. “At the 100-meter mark, I had my friend standing there and he was screaming at me to go and asking me how bad I wanted it. In that second, I knew that I really wanted it.”

Kevon O’Brien-Smith, Freeport, 400m

Make it two for O’Brien-Smith this school year. The senior followed his indoor 600-meter championship with an outdoor Division I 400 title. Smith ran a 47.67, only a few ticks off the 47.07 pace set by Anthony Brodie of the Christopher Columbus of the PSAL. O-Brien-Smith’s time was the fastest on Long Island this season, according to milesplit.com. He also placed third in the Federation 400, running 48.03.  

Sean Ryan, Northport, 1,600m

Count Ryan among the recent distance stars to come out of Northport. The top-flight distance program put another runner on the top of the state podium when Ryan came from behind to win the 1,600 in 4:10.78. Ryan tried to pass Bronxville’s Alex Rizzo on the back straightaway and was denied, but finally picked off Rizzo in the final 40 meters.

Now, Ryan’s name is up there with Northport greats.

“It’s great to be part of team history,” Ryan said. “I get to be on the wall now at school, get to take home two medals [he was fourth in the Division I 800], and I go down in the books.”

Nicholas DeFelice, Smithtown West, 3,000m steeplechase

DeFelice won the Division I 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:16.75. DeFelice stuck with the lead pack early with Federation winner Parker Stokes of Maine-Endwell, setting him up for a late-race battle with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s Tyler Berg.

DeFelice, using his supreme hurdling ability to his advantage, passed Berg with 375 meters left and held on for the win. 

“I know I’m more of a hurdler than [Berg] is,” DeFelice said. “So, approaching the last lap, every time we got near a hurdle I would make a little move to see if I could try and get by him.”

Matthew Payamps, St. Anthony’s, 3,200m

After reigning supreme in the 1,600 during the indoor season, Payamps turned his attention to the 3,200 in the outdoor season – albeit somewhat out of necessity – and achieved the same result. Payamps, who cut his outdoor state championship trip short to walk at St. Anthony’s graduation on June 8, ran a brilliant tactical 3,200 and won in 8:59.04 on June 7.

Payamps outlasted Saratoga Springs’ Shea Weilbaker  on the final lap, passing him with 200 meters left.

“It was definitely tough,” Payamps said. “Each lap just got harder and harder.”

Huntington’s 4x400m relay – CJ Kiviat, Anthony Joseph, Justin Stevens, Isaiah James, Johnathan Smith

Huntington, a veritable 4x400 factory in recent years, used two different lineups to win two different titles over championship weekend. First, Kiviat, Joseph, James and Smith won the Division I championship in 3:14.17 on June 7. The next day, Kiviat, Stevens, Joseph and Smith won the Federation title in 3:14.95.

The Blue Devils swept the 4x400 at the state level this year, winning both the indoor and outdoor championship.

“We wanted it bad,” Smith said of the two titles. “We’ve been working since November. We all wanted it, so we just dug into the ground, had quick feet to the ground, and came home.”

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