He’s Mattituck’s Mr. Everything.
In the track and field world, where athletes can be clearly defined as jumpers, throwers, sprinters, middle-distance runners or long-distance runners, there is no easy way to classify Justin Lake. He can virtually do it all.
Ask the Mattituck High School senior what he considers himself to be first and foremost, and he’ll tell you he’s a long-distance runner. But he’s so much more than that. Ask Mattituck’s new coach, Kris Ocker, who Lake is, and the coach will tell you he’s the team’s everything man. Lake is assigned to different events at different meets, depending on the needs of the day.
“You ask him to do something and he does it as hard as he can do it,” said Ocker.
On Thursday Lake was asked to compete in the pole vault, 400-meter intermediate hurdles and triple jump as well as run the opening leg for the 4 x 400-meter relay team. He brought Mattituck 15 points with his victories in the three individual events, but it wasn’t enough as visiting Stony Brook (2-2, 2-2) pulled out the Suffolk County League VIII dual meet, 69-67.
“We didn’t see a lot of their times online, so we didn’t really know what to expect,” Lake said. “We were expecting the worst, but hoping [for] the best. We knew we had to show up and perform.”
Mattituck (1-3, 1-3) needed to sweep the three relays in order to prevail. That didn’t happen, although wins by Mattituck’s 4 x 800 relay team (Conner Smith, Eric Palencia, Peter Pugliese and Dennis O’Rourke in 10 minutes, 39 seconds) and 4 x 100 relay team (Matthew Schultz, Nikita Siracuano, Mauricio Moran and Liam Corbley in 51.7) made things interesting.
“I put the loss on myself as a coach,” Ocker said. “I shuffled the deck and tried to put kids in certain events to give ourselves the best chance to win and I think if I would have put certain runners in different events, we might have scratched out a couple more points and pulled out a victory, but that’s how it goes.”
Lake did what he could, pole vaulting 8-0, taking the 400 hurdles in 1:02.2 and triple jumping 36 feet, 4 3/4 inches. It was the first time he triple jumped this season.
“I was happy,” he said. “It was like a little last minute, figuring out what I’d do today, but with what I did, I was really happy with.”
“Justin’s amazing,” said Mattituck senior Christian Demchak, who was first in the 1,600 in 5:00.3 and the 3,200 in 11:29.1.
Another Mattituck senior, Stephen Nyilas, was first in the 110-meter high hurdles in 17.8, first in the shot put with a toss of 41-0 and second in the 400 in 56.9. Mattituck’s Michael Foote was first in the discus (93-2) and second in the shot put (34-9). The Tuckers also received second-place showings from O’Rourke in the 800 (2:23.7) and 3,200 (11:40.1) and Schultz in the high jump (5-2).
Lake, Demchak and Nyilas bring Mattituck versatility. “We try to spread each other out so we can get as many points as we can,” said Demchak.
Lake may be the most extreme example of that versatility. Over the course of his four years on the team, there isn’t much he hasn’t done at one point or another.
“Over the years I’ve done a lot of jumping, a lot of distance, a lot of mid-distance stuff,” he said. “Most events I’ve taken part in I’ve had to score in. It’s nice to be able to be that versatile and to help your coach and help your team get points where you need them.”
What events haven’t Lake done?
“I haven’t thrown ever, and for good reason,” he said. He hasn’t competed in the 100, 200 and high jump, either. “Really, everything else I’ve had a part in throughout my four years,” he said.
Lake said he wants to make his mark on the team. “I want to put down some good times and just be that guy who coaches talk about, like, ‘You guys need to be like that guy,’ when I graduate,” he said. “Although I’ll be out of school, I still want people to remember my name, remember my times.”
Ocker is not likely to forget Lake.
“I’ve coached in the past and you always get a few kids that are like that and it’s such a blessing,” he said. “He’s like an assistant coach. You can be honest with him, and he gives you an honest answer and that is the best thing about him.”
Photo caption: Justin Lake, a Mattituck senior known for his versatility, won three individual events for the Tuckers against Stony Brook. (Credit: Bob Liepa)