Merber kicks into the Garden

 By Christopher Hunt  
all photos by


     It’s the simplest strategy in any race. When it happens everyone sees it coming and most of the time there’s very little that can be done to stop it. Kyle Merber executed it to perfection.            

     The Half Hollow Hills West senior, who orally committed to Columbia, sat and waited behind Danbury’s Willie Ahern, drafting like a Nascar driver.  Lap after lap Merber stalked Ahern until he decided he felt good enough to surge. When he did, he blew the race wide open.            

     Merber won the invitational mile at the Hispanic Games in 4 minutes, 15.13 seconds, earning a spot in the high school mile at the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden Feb. 1 in the fastest time in the nation this season.           

     “So much weight just came off my shoulders by doing that,” Merber said. “Now I can really just focus on the team and hopefully running some fast relays.”           

     Merber said that after he settled into the pace he felt relaxed and comfortable and only needed to bide his time. But when he pressed the accelerator, no one could follow. The senior closed the last 400 meters in 58.8 seconds. “I had another gear and I had a lot of adrenaline going and the crowd was just awesome.”           

     Bellport senior Dennis Scruggs continued to drag himself from anonymity. For the season time this season Scruggs ran a nation-leading time while stealing a race from the slower-seeded section. He won the invitational 400 meters in 48.56, a full second faster than his previous personal best. Scruggs performed a similar feat at the Bishop Loughlin Games last month when he won the 600 in 1:20.23 with a two-second personal record.           

     He knows he won’t be buried in the second heat much longer. “They kept putting me in the second heat,” he said. “I’ve got to get respect somehow.”Jermaine Lowery of Father Judge won the first section in 49.03 but finished second overall.Racing in the second section might have actually helped Scruggs. He didn’t have to jostle with anyone for position.  Scruggs later anchored his third-place 4x400 in 48.1. Even if he’s not doing it under the spotlight, Scruggs is doing the best running of his life.           

     “I love it,” he said. “I wasn’t hitting those times last year. I’m a man now.”           

     Foot Locker finalist Brian Leung of West Windsor Plainsboro South (N.J.) was just as dominant in the invitational  2-mile. He took the pace right from start, knowing that the top seed, Brandon Jarrett of St. Benedict’s didn’t show for the race.  He knocked back even 71-second laps while the rest of the field struggled to keep pace. Leung finished in 9:22.92, the second-fastest time in the country this season.           

     “I just got back training about a week ago,” he said. “I wanted to get through the mile at 4:35 but it didn’t happen. .. Mentality I tried to pick it up but it was tough.”           

     Leung said he had hoped to run 9:15 or better . “This is extremely humbling for me. I know there are guys out there that are destroying me right now but I know later on I’ll be ready.”             

     Brian McGovern of Mount St. Michael has remained undefeated at the Armory so far this season. He won the pole vault in a personal best 15-6 after no-heighting at the Brown Invitational last week. At 15-6, he skimmed the bar on the way down.            

     “I knew I hit it,” he said smiling brightly, “I just tried to get off the mat as fast as possible.”            

     He had clearly recovered from his struggles at Brown. But part of it came from forgetfulness. McGovern left one of his poles – his main pole – at the Armory after the Marine Corps Holiday Classic Dec. 27. He thought someone had taken it and didn’t have it at the Brown Invitational the following day. He found it next to the pole vault back at the Armory on Thursday.

     It was forced to use a bigger pole in Rhode Island at Brown and struggled. He used the same pole yesterday to win. “I was crushing it today. I feel like I got a lot more to go. I’m hoping it’ll come soon enough.”

            Reach Christopher Hunt at

all photos by

Boys 55m Dash Winners Faquen Green (New Bern, NC) 6.47

Bys 55m Hurdle Champion Devon Hill (Trenton Central, NJ) 7.39

all photos by


New Bern, NC

4x400m Champions - New Bern, NC 

Warwick Valley, NY - 4x800m Champs

200m Dash Finish 

400m Dash Invit Heat One 

boys Long Jump

Boys Mile Winner (unseeded)
Brendan Connell (Smithtown East, NY)

all photos by