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Suffolk’s winter track teams head back indoors

High school boys and girls winter track in Suffolk County is back on track — indoors.

An insurance issue between Section XI, Suffolk’s interscholastic sports governing body, and Suffolk County Community College over the use of the college’s indoor track in Brentwood has been resolved, Section XI executive director Tom Combs said this week. Boys teams were set to run Saturday and girls teams Sunday at SCCC.

The start to Suffolk’s winter track season was delayed earlier this month when Section XI was notified by email days before the opening meets that the section had insufficient insurance, according to Combs. Combs said a $1 million increase in personal injury liability required a $2 million insurance certificate.

“We got the requisite insurance coverage that Suffolk threw on us two days before the first [meet] and it took us a little time, but we finally got it, and we settled everything with Suffolk and we’re running this week,” Combs told The Suffolk Times.

Because the SCCC track was unavailable, teams held outdoor dual meets, but the return of indoor meets ends a spell of uncertainty among athletes and coaches. Last season, COVID-19 restrictions forced winter track teams to run a compact season outdoors.

Combs said Section XI was not at fault over the insurance matter. “We signed a contract in the beginning of October with them and everything was fine and everything was good, so we didn’t think there were any issues,” he said. “To hear it that late is a disappointment because we had a great working relationship with Suffolk for a long time, but anyway, long story short, we got it and we’re very happy the kids will be competing.”

“Everybody was relieved and happy for their kids,” he continued, “but, you know, there were a lot of people who wrote emails and [made] phone calls. There was no malice in any shape or form by anybody. It wasn’t something that we let slip through the cracks. There was a change in the last minute and we took care of it as fast as we could.”

Drew Biondo, SCCC’s director of communications, said in an emailed statement to the News-Review Thursday that Section XI provided SCCC with the required liability coverage in “an amount, despite assertions otherwise, that has not changed from previous years.” That amount, he said, was $2 million.

Combs said: “That’s what they’re saying, but we’ve had the same policy for the last seven years. They’ve been saying that to everybody, but we haven’t changed our coverage and all of a sudden it’s not good.”

Fifty-one Suffolk schools, including 4,419 athletes, compete in winter track, according to Tony Toro, the Suffolk County boys and girls winter track coordinator. The county’s high schools have been running in Brentwood since the facility opened in 2000.

The cost of the insurance is shared by the schools, said Combs. He said collecting the money was “not the issue. The issue is not paying it, it was not knowing.”

Combs had spent 12 years himself as a track coach, having coached at Patchogue-Meford and Harborfields.

“I love track,” he said. “I understand the value of it for athletics and it helped a lot of kids that I coached get into college.”

Noting that Section XI oversees 34 sports, he said: “We want them all playing as much as possible. Thirty-four sports and we treat them all the same and we want every kid to have an opportunity. We have over 60,000 student-athletes participating in Suffolk County and I value each and every one of them the same way.”