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Boys Winter Track: Riverhead hurdler gets big-arena experience

This was anything but a breeze.

One can imagine Angelo Confort’s reaction when for the first time ever he entered the packed arena at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex’s state-of-the-art, 135,000-square-foot indoor track facility on Staten Island Saturday morning.

That alone had to be an eye-opening experience for the Riverhead High School junior, who had never competed with so many eyes on him in such a large venue before. It would be unusual for anyone in that situation not to feel butterflies.

And so it was for Confort at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Indoor Track and Field Championships.

“I felt pretty nervous, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I was pretty confident, but I was also like pretty nervous because that’s like the biggest sports thing I’ve ever done. It’s like one of the biggest things I’ve ever done. It’s pretty nerve-racking.”

Totally understandable.

Confort managed to put those nerves aside in his first state meet to run the 14th-fastest time among 26 competitors in the 55-meter hurdles. The top eight advanced to the final, which saw East Syracuse senior Rocky El prevail in 7.54 seconds.

Confort’s time was 8.10.

“I thought I did all right, you know,” said Confort, whose fastest time in the event is 7.85, which he clocked in the state qualifying meet prelims at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood Feb. 14. “I definitely could have done a lot better. I’ve gotten better times than that before a couple of times, and I probably could have done a lot better. It’s just, you know, sometimes it doesn’t go your way and that’s just kind of what happens.”

Confort said a lot was running through his mind before his race. “I’m thinking about trying to get my trail leg up, get my lead leg over and keep my arms in, try not to jump too high over the hurdles,” he said. “And then just thinking about trying to get a pr [personal record] and qualify for the next round.”

Confort believes he jumped too high over the hurdles, costing him precious time. All in all, though, he said: “That was probably like a good learning experience for me. If I use that in the other meets, it will help me in my spring season, too.”

Riverhead coach Steve Gevinski called it “a great learning experience for someone who went to the state meet for the first time. I think he’ll take this and kind of run with it. It was a big stage to come in on.

“That was the first time he ran in like a big-time arena. It’s the best kids in the state, so it was a great, great experience. I was proud of him. I thought he did a great job. I think he’s only going to learn from this and do better. I expect big things from him in the future.”

Confort had taken second place in both the state qualifying meet in 7.92 and the Long Island Elite Meet at St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington in 8.15.

Ocean Breeze hosted the previous five state meets, excluding 2021 when the meet wasn’t run because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Confort doesn’t have to wait long to make his second appearance at Ocean Breeze. He will compete in the 60-meter hurdles Sunday in the Nike Indoor Nationals, which will be held on Staten Island as well.

Apparently, Confort was eager to prepare for that meet, turning in on Monday what Gevinski called “one of the best practices of the year. So, I find that encouraging to see him back, ready to go to work. He wasn’t like, ‘Hey Coach, I need a day off.’ He was like, ‘Let’s get after it. I’m going to nationals this weekend.’ That’s what you want to see, someone hungry, a young kid that’s hungry that wants to keep on improving and get better.”