BRENTWOOD — Kashaun Boynton might have been the last person in the Suffolk County Community College West gym on Saturday to find out who finished first in the 55-meter hurdles in the Suffolk County individual championships/state qualifier. After all, the participants don’t have the luxury of time to look around during the furious dash down the track to see who is leading. So, it wasn’t until after the race, when Boynton saw the number 1 flashed next to his name on the scoreboard, that the Riverhead High School junior knew he was a county champion.
“When I saw that, I really want to tell you, I just wanted to cry tears of joy,” said Boynton.
The smile on his face and the excitement in his voice were evidence enough that Boynton was on cloud nine. And why shouldn’t he be? Along with his county title and championship plaque comes an invitation to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships that will be held at Cornell University in Ithaca on March 5.
For Boynton, who has never been to a state meet before, it is literally a dream come true. As the No. 4 seed, he said he didn’t expect to be headed upstate. “I didn’t look at it that way,” he said. “I looked at it more like a fantasy, a daydream.”
Now he knows that dreams come true sometimes.
Boynton will be joined in the state meet by two teammates, senior Treval Hatcher, who was second in the triple jump at 45 feet 9 inches on Saturday, and sophomore Jonah Spaeth, who took second in the pole vault by clearing 11-0 earlier in the week.
Boynton secured his place in the state meet by virtue of his triumph in a personal-best time of 7.85 seconds. The victory did not come without some bloodshed on Boynton’s part, though. Boynton’s right index and middle fingers were both bandaged after the race. He said they were cut when Tyriek Johnson of Huntington made contact with them with his fingernails during the race.
Although Boynton said he was nervous at the starting line, he shot out like a rocket and that quick start sent him on the way to the victory. Johnson was second, 2/100ths of a second behind Boynton, and Lucas Hoffmann of Northport was third in 7.96.
Boynton had equaled his previous personal-best time earlier in the day when he won his preliminary heat in 7.88.
“His technique over the hurdles has always been exemplary,” Riverhead Coach Sal Loverde said. “We fine-tuned that a little, but the most significant thing that allowed him to beat everybody … was his getting out of the blocks and having a quick step out of the blocks. I believe this race was over by the fourth step because he got out really good, and he’s fast.”
At 5-foot-8, Boynton doesn’t have height on his side, and he sometimes bangs a foot on the hurdles. What he does have in his favor, though, are speed and technique, not to mention a passion for hurdling.
“I’m in love with the hurdles,” said Boynton, who is in his fifth year competing in the event. “I think [the] hurdles is one of the hardest events there is. One mess-up, one slip, it’s done.”
The triple jump can be unforgiving in that way, too. Hatcher, the No. 2 seed, put a little more pressure on himself by fouling on his first attempt in the preliminaries. He did qualify for the finals, though, and recorded distances of 44-1 and 44-2, saving his best of the day for last, a 45-9.
“It was a little bit of pressure,” Hatcher said. “I got a jump [of] just enough to make finals, and my steps were still messed up, but I came in second.”
Hatcher will be making his second straight appearance in the state meet in as many years. He finished behind Ryan Satchell of Central Islip (45-10 1/4).
“It’s a phenomenal achievement,” Loverde said. “He’s a real powerful athlete. He’s a tremendous leader in our program.”
Hatcher qualified despite regularly leaping two to three feet behind the board, giving away distance that would have taken him closer to his personal-best mark of 47-1.
“So, he had big jumps,” Loverde said. “He just couldn’t get himself positioned correctly, and that’s O.K. That happens.”
So does controversy. Another Riverhead triple jumper, Kevin Williams, had to compete in running shoes he uses for training after he was told he couldn’t compete with his regular triple jumping shoes. Loverde said “track police” had ruled about 10 minutes before the competition that hard plastic on the bottom of Williams’ sneakers would damage the track.
Williams then changed to his running shoes and took about a dozen warmup run-throughs in an attempt to adjust to them. Loverde said the change in footwear altered Williams’ whole approach.
“It was just a rough deal,” the coach said. “It was really an injustice to him, and he needs to be recognized as the champion that he is. And he didn’t complain, he didn’t pout. He went and tried to do the best that he can.”
A somber Williams said the loss of his regular shoes probably cost him about four feet. “I went out there, and I know I gave it my all,” he said. “It just wasn’t enough.”