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Northport boys track a continuing powerhouse

Northport's Justin Leopold runs the second leg of

Northport's Justin Leopold runs the second leg of the 4x800-meter relay at the Suffolk Boys Large School Track Championships. (Feb. 2, 2013) Credit: Daniel De Mato

Success has become the norm for Northport. With each passing season, the Tigers' stake atop the Long Island track and field mountain deepens. This only makes them hungrier. They know what it feels like to be the best and they aren't about to let anyone else have a taste. It's a new season and a new goal for Northport. This winter, it's the drive for five.

A victory at the Suffolk large school meet in February would be the Tigers' fifth consecutive county championship, encompassing the cross country, winter, and spring track seasons.

"Five county championships in a row would be amazing," senior Tim McGowan said. "To win two consecutive winter county championships would show the depth we have on our team. Usually, teams lose five or six seniors and that destroys their team. It doesn't make them as powerful as they were. But this just shows the depth we have year after year."

McGowan is part of an outstanding distance unit that made it all the way to the Nike Cross Nationals in the fall. He excels in the 1,600 meters and the 3,200. Last season, McGowan finished second in the 3,200 at the county meet.

Junior Mike Brannigan's versatility will allow coach Jason Strom to place him in various events, looking to morph his head-turning fall season into another memorable winter season. Brannigan can run anything from the 600 to the 3,200, Strom said.

Justin Leopold, another cross-country standout, will concentrate on the 1,000 and 1,600, a distinct decrease in distance from the fall's 5ks. "I love cross country," Leopold said. "But I think I've developed more speed over the years."

Dominating exclusively distance events will make a quest for a winter track championship an uphill battle at best. Northport knows that and is primed to succeed in middle-distance and sprinting events, as well.

Devin Sullivan is the Tigers' top weapon in the 600. He placed second in the 600 at the first crossover meet of the season, in 1 minute, 26.44 seconds.

Chase Towse will hurdle his way toward valuable points. Towse won the 55 hurdles at the first crossover meet in 8.44 seconds. Dan Thorne will sprint and jump. He finished the 300 in 40.24 seconds at the first crossover meet. Thorne wants to break 37 seconds in the 300 and 20 feet in the long jump.

"I've come really close in recent seasons," Thorne said of the long jump goal. "But I've never quite reached that benchmark."

Dean Lupo is the Tigers' main throwing threat. He tossed the shot 41 feet, 101/2 inches at the opening crossover meet and hopes to break 50 feet by the end of the season.

Although a fifth straight championship isn't talked about on a daily basis, the Tigers know the stakes. The bar has been set high and they have every intention of reaching it.

"It's really important to this team," Thorne said of the drive for five. "Every year before the first practice, we sit down in a circle and [Strom] talks about how far this team has gone and how we need to push each other every year to achieve that goal."

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