CICERO — Riverhead’s Luke Coulter had the juice. Usually, he would wait until the 100-meter mark to kick in an 800 race — but, with this being the first day of the state track and field championships, the Stony Brook-bound runner just couldn’t wait any longer.
Coulter zoomed past the field and crossed the finish line in 1 minute, 53.47 seconds at Cicero-North Syracuse High School Friday. Normally, a first-place finish in the final heat of an event likely would earn a victory. In fact, it’s rare when it doesn’t. But rare things sometimes happen at the state championships and Friday was no exception. Running out of the second-to-last heat, John Jay-Cross River’s Eion Nohilly ran almost a second faster, clocking a 1:52.77 and swiping the championship away from the top heat.
“I didn’t even look at the [other] times,” Coulter said. “. . . I thought the only race that mattered was mine and I would do enough to win. And I did.”
It was certainly bittersweet, especially considering Coulter’s time was a personal best.
“I felt very good in that race,” he said. “I raced very smart. My form stayed stable, for the most part, until the last 50 meters. I made sure my breathing was stable for the whole race. I think that’s why I ended up winning [the heat].”
Coulter said he found out immediately after finishing that he had fallen a hair short of the day’s standard.
“It’s sad that I didn’t win but, we weren’t even in the same race,” Coulter said. “I can’t be sad about doing everything I could. I still won my heat. I did everything in my power to win.”
St. Anthony’s Ryan Kutch finished fourth in the 3,200 in 9:09.35. Kutch flirted with the lead for the first 2,000 meters of the race until the top three racers, Liverpool’s Ben Petrella, Carthage’s Noah Affolder and Maine-Endwell’s Dan Schaffer accelerated past him. Petrella won in 8:52.42 and broke Clarke’s Dan Middleman’s 1987 meet record of 8:52.75.
“Since the pace wasn’t too fast, I thought I could stay with them,” Kutch said. “I felt comfortable. But, when they started to break away, I had nothing left in my legs. I couldn’t stay with them.”
Huntington’s Kyree Johnson won the Division I 400 in 48.53 seconds. Johnson will vie for a Federation championship Saturday.
Johnson’s teammate, Infinite Tucker, took the first step toward a Federation 400-hurdles title, winning the Division I championship in 52.74 seconds. Tucker also qualified for the Division I 110 hurdles championship, clocking a 14.18 in the trials.
Johnson, Tucker, Lawrence Leake, and Shane McGuire, made up the 4 x 400-relay team that won the Division I championship in 3:15.63. A Federation championship would make them the top indoor and outdoor team in the state.
In the field, Seaford’s Nick Kocienda won the Division II discus, tossing 160-feet, 8-inches. Southampton’s Jesse Scanlon won the Division II long jump, flying 22-8.
All divisional finals are Saturday morning, with the Federation finals following in the afternoon. Federation finals group athletes regardless of classification and are generally considered the most prestigious titles of the two-day event.
Scanlon also qualified for Saturday’s Division II 110 hurdles final, running a 15.06, the second-fastest time of the trials. Carey’s Gregory Matzelle ran a 10.82 in the Division I 100 trials, securing him a spot in the Division I final. Bay Shore’s Kaleb Mann earned the final qualifying bid for the Division I 200 by running a 22.48 in the trials.