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Salute to the champs 2020: Indoor boys track

Naquan Frazier of Westbury competes in the boys

Naquan Frazier of Westbury competes in the boys 4x200 relay during the U.S. Air Force Hispanic Games at the Armory in Manhattan on Jan. 4. Credit: James Escher

Cavel Campbell, Hempstead, 300

They call him the finisher, and for good reason, too. A race is never over until Campbell has his say, and usually his is the final word. Coming down the final straightaway of the state championship 300, Campbell turned it on like only he could and won in 34.54 seconds.

“I knew that no one in the building could finish like I could,” he said. “Since the beginning of the season, I’ve been walking down kids in the last 50 meters. I just kick into the second gear. I always have next gears. No matter how tired I am, I’m always going to have something left in me.”

Campbell continued: “I was just trailing [Holy Trinity’s Chris Holt] until I was like ‘oh, wait. There’s 50 meters left. What am I doing behind?’ I kicked in the Campbell finish and I passed him.”

Holt was third in 34.74 seconds.

Michael Danzi, Smithtown West, 1,000 meters

Sometimes it’s worth the wait. No doubt Danzi was frustrated with second-place finishes in three state championship events last year, but that only made the two minute, 29.96 second victory in the 1,000 meters this year that much sweeter.

“…I always looked at first place and said ‘wow, I want to be that one day,” said Danzi, a senior committed to Columbia. “It kept making me work harder throughout the year, doing all the extras. It made that victory that much better…It feels so good to finally do it.”

Danzi led the race wire-to-wire, taking it out hard and having both the speed and stamina to bring home the gold.

Andre Leslie, Farmingdale, 55 meters

While living in Jamaica, Leslie fell just short of winning a high school track and field championship, finishing third twice. At his first such championship in the United States, he won. Leslie, who is from Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to Farmingdale last summer, won the public school 55 meter championship in 6.39 seconds.

“In the finals, I came out focused, kept my goal, kept my race plan, stayed aggressive and surged to the line,” said Leslie, a junior.

Leslie ran a 6.49 in the trials, second behind Brooklyn South Shore's Brandon Smith, who was tops in 6.44 – a prelude to his later victory.

“This is nothing new for me, but it’s the first time in America at winter states,” Leslie said. “It’s wonderful. I like [Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex]. It’s nice.”

Kal Lewis, Shelter Island, 1,600 meters

At least of late, the high school career triple crown – that is, winning state championships in cross country, indoor, and outdoor track – is a somewhat rare feat for Long Islanders. But when has that ever stopped Lewis?  After all, this is the three-time Class D public school cross country champion.

Lewis, who won the outdoor Division II 1,600 meter state championship in 2018, completed his triple crown quest by capturing the public school indoor 1,600 in four minutes, 17.24 seconds last month.

“I got [championships] in cross country and outdoors and I thought ‘I got to make it in indoors now. That’s the one I’m missing,” Lewis said.

Lewis was second in the Federation. Pedro Bravo of Iona Prep won in 4:14.40.

Nick Pisciotta, Commack, Weight Throw

Pisciotta was the obvious favorite entering the still fairly new state event. Before championship Saturday kicked off, the senior had the four farthest throws in the state, according to Still, with all those numbers behind him, Pisciotta refused to rest on his laurels.

“Seeds don’t really mean anything to me,” he said. “I could come in here and not do as well as my [personal best]. So, I came in just looking to make it to finals and hopefully win.”

Not surprisingly, he did win – throwing 75 feet, six inches., the farthest throw in the state this winter.

“I pushed the ball out and I put my feet down quick,” he said.

Christian Quinn, Freeport, Long Jump

Quinn didn’t have to do much to get warm for his jumping event, he had a relay take care of that.  After running in the 4x200 trials earlier in the meet, the junior was already revved up and ready to go.

“My legs were warm,” said Quinn, who moved from Massachusetts to Freeport last summer.  “The distance wasn’t there like I expected, but I’m just happy to get a win. State champion, you can’t be mad about that.”

No, you can’t. Quinn jumped 22 feet, 11 inches to walk away with the gold. He said that his first New York meet was very similar to what he experienced in Massachusetts.

“The competition is about the same,” he said. “The jumpers in both states were pretty good.”

Quinn Smith, Hampton Bays, Shot Put

Those gathered around the throwing cage at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island saw a different Smith this year. The senior switched up his technique last spring, going from the glide to the spin, and is a whole new thrower….and a state champion.

“You can really get some whip that, I feel, you can’t really get from the glide,” said Smith, who tossed 60 feet to win the state title.

Quinn’s championship throw came on his final offering.

“I just let it rip,” he said. “I knew it was my last one and just went as hard as I could.”

4x200 meter relay, Westbury: Jean Love, Naquan Frazier, Jarvis Kuunifaa, and Kevens Leger

Anchor leg Kuuniffa crossed the line and saw Leger screaming. He wasn’t sure what about, but he quickly found out.

“It’s unreal,” said Leger, who ran third. “We argue and it’s like blood, sweat, and tears at practice, but we did it.”

What they did was clock 1:29.94 to win the state 4x200 meter championship.

“This is a dream come true,” Frazier said. “We thought we could run fast, but this just came out of nowhere.”

Especially after the preliminaries. The quartet was less than pleased with the 1:30.73 that they ran earlier in the meet. It was the second fastest time of the round, but they didn’t think it would be good enough to win the big race later in the day.

“In the prelims, I took out too early,” Kuunifaa said. “…We said, we’re going to win if we just correct everything. So I took that into the finals. I took out better, got a good handoff, and just pushed through the line.”

The victory capped a whirlwind year for Leger, who hurt his hamstring last spring and said it bothered him off and on for the first few weeks of the indoor season.

“I came back and thought ‘I want to win this. I want to be a state champ,’” Leger said. “I put [the team] together, spoke to them, and said this is what we need to do. We came out here and we executed and now we’re state champs.”

Certainly worthy of screams.

4x400 meter relay, Huntington: Tyriek Mays-McKoy, C.J. Kiviat, Justin Stevens, and Anthony Joseph

As he sat on the top step of the championship podium, Mays-McKoy began to speak about how he wished he had run a faster leadoff leg. His teammates would have none of it.

“This guy has to give himself more credit,” Stevens interrupted. “This is an incredibly tough atmosphere to perform in for your first time. I remember last year, our first time being here, we were all just over there sweating bullets. We barely had the guts to go out there and perform. This guy did it in his first time and put a great leg in.”

That leg helped Huntington win its second consecutive indoor state championship, and third straight if outdoor is counted, in 3:19.91, breaking Newburgh’s meet record of 3:20.1, coach Ron Wilson said.

Once Mays-McKoy handed off to Kiviat and a close race quickly turned into a rout.

“I [thought] I have to pick it up or I’m going to fall behind’,” Kiviat said. “I had to get us a nice lead because I know that Smithtown [West's] anchor leg was really good. So, I wanted to put as big a gap as I possibly could.”

Long Island took the top three places in the race. Uniondale was second in 3:23.20 and Smithtown West was third in 3:23.90.

4x800 meter relay, Syosset: Alex Rangell, Kevin Mohtadi, Hunter Pick, and Justin DePinto

DePinto did not feel well when he got the baton from Pick and took the first few steps of his anchor leg. The senior had been battling slight hip and back woes down the final stretch of the season, but he wasn’t going to let any of that get in the way of a championship.

“It didn’t matter, DePinto said. “I wanted this for us. I wanted this for myself, my coach, and my family. None of that is going to get in the way.”

DePinto crossed the finish line, finally a champion after he and his three teammates ran toward triumph in 7:55.53. Bay Shore was second in 7:57.41.

“I knew that I had to get out hard and make them chase me,” DePinto said. That’s what I did and no one caught me, so I’m pretty happy about that.”

Pick’s third leg, one in which he overtook upstate Frontier, set up DePinto’s closing laps.

“Going into it, we knew Frontier were the guys to beat,” Pick said. “We knew that we had to stick on them. During this race, I did what I always try to do. I kept a positive mindset and I knew that if I got a lead on them and handed off to [DiPinto], then I’d be set.”

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