Huntington High School's boys' cross country program dates to the fall of 1923 (2)

The Birth of Huntington Boys’ Cross Country

Huntington High School's boys' cross country program dates to the fall of 1923

January 12, 2021

The Huntington High School boys’ cross country program was first organized in the fall of 1923 by physical education director W.H. Grigson. That year he took several members of the team to the 11th Annual Columbia University Cross Country Race at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. They competed for the Gutavus T. Kirby Trophy.

The race course covered 2 ½ miles. Huntington’s entrants included Oliver Helffrich, Theodore Prime, John Robbins, William Henneborn and Sidney Perry.

“Sidney Perry lost a shoe after he had covered about one-fourth of the distance, but continued and finished the race with one foot bare,” according to the December 1923 edition of The Mirror, the high school’s monthly journal. “This caused him to lose considerable time and forced him to take a position lower than he would doubtless have taken otherwise.”

The new Huntington team finished in 17th place in a field of 22 squads. Pennsylvania’s Mercersburg Academy led by national high school one mile and cross country champion W.J. Cox captured first place.

“While the local team did not finish high in the list of entries, they did fully as well as could be expected of a group of lads who had never before run in a cross country race and Coach Grigson is satisfied that they gain experience, which will be invaluable to them in the runs which they have scheduled for next month,” stated The Mirror.

Huntington finished above Jamaica High School, George Washington High School, St. John’s Preparatory School, Mount Vernon High School and White Plains High School.

The new program was formed to benefit Huntington High School’s spring track team. “Last June all of our distance runners were graduated,” stated The Mirror. “In order to develop some men for the half mile and mile, Mr. Grigson suggested that we start a cross country team. About 15 fellows started, but due to many reasons the number decreased. At present, we have seven men who are ‘making good.’”

The Blue Devil cross country program enjoyed staying power. In 1949 and 1950, Huntington was second in Suffolk. Doug Sweezy was 21st in the state in 1952. Ken Baker, John Carlson and Pete Sears all advanced to the state championships in 1954. Allan Chapman placed 16th in the state as a sophomore in 1956 and then won state championships in 1957 and 1958, Mike Schuster placed fifth in the state in both 1958 and 1959. Al Vandermass was eighth in the state in 1960 and second in 1961. Bob Zeph was 14th in 1960 and fifth in 1961. Huntington won state team titles in 1959 and 1961 and was third in 1960.