Smithtown West's Laina Friedmann wins the 600-meter run in the...

Smithtown West's Laina Friedmann wins the 600-meter run in the Suffolk girls large school track and field championships on Saturday at Suffolk CCC-Brentwood. Credit: George A Faella

She did it for Uncle Mikey.

As Laina Friedmann booked her way down the home straight in the 1,000 meters during Saturday morning’s Suffolk Large School track and field championships, she couldn’t help but think of her uncle, Mikey James. James, of Calverton, passed away suddenly during the Christmas holiday, Friedmann said, and was a constant supporter of her track endeavors. He would watch races online whenever he could and constantly offered words of encouragement.

“He was very proud of me. He always pushed me to do better,” said Friedmann, who won the 1,000 in 2 minutes, 56.86 seconds at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. “He was one of my biggest supporters. So, I was thinking, ‘kick it for him.’ . . . I was thinking of him throughout the morning, just reminding myself of him and how he’s always there with me.”

Later in the meet, Friedmann won the 600 in 1:37.78. Both victorious times bested her own school records, Smithtown West coach David Stein said.

Thinking of Uncle Mikey was precisely the boost that Friedman needed as she separated herself from a competitive field in the 1,000, making a move at the 300 mark and carrying it home.

“For the first part of the race, I just wanted to maintain a good speed so I wouldn’t tire out in the last 300, because I knew that’s where I was going to kick it,” Friedmann said.

Friedmann was caught by Floyd’s Zariel Macchia, one of the top long distance runners in the country, about halfway through the race. The two were connected at the hip until Friedmann was finally able to separate.

“I was really nervous because I know how good of a kick she has,” Friedmann said. “I was just thinking ‘I can do this. I just need to push through this.’”

Later in the meet, Macchia won the 1,500 in 4:49.92.

North Babylon won the team championship with 66 points. Northport was second with 52. North Babylon’s Samara Lawrence won the 55 in a personal-best 7.30 seconds and the 300 in 41.17. Lawrence said that the permission of needle spikes, which are not allowed during the regular season at Suffolk County CC, but are permitted in the postseason, made a big difference.

“It felt like I was floating,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence was also on the 4 x 200-meter relay that, along with Marguel Allen, Djoonicka Buissereth and Mackayla Nerjuste, won in 1:48.53 after West Babylon was disqualified for cutting in too early.

Nerjuste also won the long jump, flying 17 feet, 10 ½ inches.

Elsewhere in the field, Whitman’s Lizzie Schreiber won the triple jump, leaping 38-2. It was her first time jumping off the 36-foot board, something she hopes will lead to better numbers at next month’s state championships. Schreiber currently has the third best jump in the state — 38-2 1/2 in mid-January — according to

“The 36-[foot] board makes me push my phases to be longer and jump farther,” Schreiber said.

Schreiber said the adjustment to the new board is still a bit of a work-in-progress, with two fouls frustrating her on the way to victory. But she feels confident she’ll get it.

“I haven’t really practiced from the 36 board,” she said. “I’ve been working from the 32. But I’ve been jumping well, so my coach decided to move me back.”

Commack’s Julie Thomas won the shot put at 44-1, besting her state-best throw of 42-3, marked in early January.

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