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Boys Winter Track: Riverhead’s Parker hurdles to first at LI Elite Meet

Compared to the short time it took to complete the 55-meter hurdles final, the seconds spent immediately afterward waiting for the results to be posted on the St. Anthony’s High School scoreboard might have felt like an eternity.

Three seniors — Riverhead’s Tyreek Parker, Mount Sinai’s Justin Wei and Farmingdale’s Amir Cambridge — were so close as they lunged forward toward the finish line that it was virtually impossible to tell who had won by the naked eye.

So, unlike the five other finalists in the event at the Long Island Elite Indoor Meet Saturday, Parker veered to his left to get a closer look at the scoreboard. Then, he watched and waited.

It was his best race for the first, probably, 35 meters he’s ran, and he held on at the end and he looked really good.

Steve Gevinski

The first thing Parker saw was his name flashed on the screen as the first-place finisher. With that, he let out a yell, throwing an arm through the air.

“It’s a release,” he said.

Boy, that was a close race.

Those first three finished within 0.08 seconds of each other. Parker’s 7.70 seconds was a mere 0.01 seconds ahead of Wei, with Cambridge coming in at 7.78. They were followed by William Floyd senior Michael Muir (7.83), Comsewogue junior Ryan Bailey (7.85) and Smithtown West junior Ryan Tona (7.86).

Parker called the race “intense. I think that’s the definition of what a hurdle race should be. You don’t want it to be easy. You want competition. You want to improve.”

Riverhead’s hurdles coach, Steve Gevinski, watched the race from the stands and couldn’t immediately tell if Parker had won, but said he jumped up and down once he saw Parker’s jubilant reaction.

“That was exciting,” said Gevinski.

Gevinski said Parker shot off to an “outstanding start and he held on at the end. It was his best race for the first, probably, 35 meters he’s ran, and he held on at the end and he looked really good.”

Because of tightness in his left hamstring, there had been concern over Parker racing in the meet, a warmup for his first state meet, which he will compete in next Saturday at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island.

That hamstring was a worry after the preliminaries when Parker clocked 7.89, taking second in his heat.

“I felt like I hurt it again, so I felt like that was going to hold me back, but I didn’t want it to,” said Parker, wearing a large medal hanging from a blue ribbon, a perfect match to his blue uniform. “I wanted to keep pushing through it.”

Parker said the hamstring was on his mind during warmups and while settling into the starting blocks, but not the actual race. He already had another worry: Wei.

Parker is the Section XI large schools champion. Wei is the Section XI small schools champion. Wei had taken first place to Parker’s second in the state qualifying meet Feb. 10.

Although the 55 hurdles require tunnel vision, Parker was well aware of Wei’s presence, especially down the final stretch.

“By far, he’s definitely, if not one of the best here — I’ll give him that — he is the best,” Parker said. “When I saw him in that lineup, him right there, right next to me, as soon as I saw him right here, catching up on me, it’s that feeling that wanted me to push myself even more.”

Gevinski said: “These are the best of the best, really, Suffolk County and Nassau County. So, we’re really proud of [Parker]. He’s right there for the state championship next week. Anything can happen.”

Notes. Riverhead junior Michael Burns was 15th in the 1,600 meters. His time was 4:59.90.