12/23/12 5:00pm
12/23/2012 5:00 PM
BILL LANDON PHOTO | Pat Kelly has been calling Riverhead football games for 25 years. The voice of the Blue Waves was at West Islip for last Tuesday's boys' basketball game.

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Pat Kelly has been calling Riverhead football games for 25 years. The voice of the Blue Waves was at West Islip for last Tuesday’s boys’ basketball game.

Bruce Tria knew he needed to broadcast high school sports for WRIV to live up to its billing as Riverhead’s “hometown station.”

COURTESY PHOTO | Pat Kelly on the sidelines of Riverhead football game.

COURTESY PHOTO | Pat Kelly on the sidelines of a Riverhead High School football game.

After all, nothing says hometown like high school sports.

At first, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He and former morning deejay Lou Koulias traveled to Smithtown West High School one afternoon in the mid-1980s to deliver the very first broadcast of Riverhead Blue Waves football on 1390 AM.

“It was a total train wreck,” Mr. Tria recalled in an interview last week.

If he was going to do this right, he needed to seek out someone else who could do it. It was not an easy find. He was looking for someone who knew sports, could keep up with the tempo of the games and who had a voice people could stand to listen to for more than two hours at a time.

Pat Kelly knew he was all those things, he just needed someone to give him the chance to prove it. Decades later, Mr. Kelly, who earlier this month wrapped up his 25th season broadcasting Riverhead football games, is now known simply as the voice of the Blue Waves, but he’s done it all these years with almost no prior experience as a sports broadcaster.

While attending college at SUNY/Plattsburgh, Mr. Kelly recalls attending a college hockey game armed with a tape recorder. As he watched the action, he held the microphone to his mouth and replaced the names of the college players on the ice with the NHL players he knew so well.

“Esposito brings the puck to center ice, gives to Bucyk …”

He then went back to his dorm room and listened to his pseudo broadcast. Not too shabby, he thought.

After graduating, Mr. Kelly began a career in science — he currently works as a chemist for the Suffolk County Water Authority — and any dreams of becoming a broadcaster went on hold. It wasn’t until one day in 1986, when he was in attendance at a local softball game at Stotzky Park, that Mr. Kelly got his first chance to call a game on the air.

He had been moonlighting as an umpire in the league, but there were no games for him to call that day. He was hanging out with his late wife, Marisa, the official scorekeeper, when Hawk Woodson, a former WRIV sportscaster, approached him about broadcasting the game on the now defunct WPTZ radio station.

“He just stuck the mic in my face and said, ‘Here, you know these teams,’ ” Mr. Kelly recalls.

Later, after Mr. Woodson got word that Mr. Tria was looking for a broadcaster for high school sports games, he recommended Mr. Kelly.

“Pat had no real experience,” Mr. Tria said. “He was just a natural. He just always had it.”

That’s a statement that’s long echoed through Riverhead.

After a recent playoff game, Blue Waves football coach Leif Shay said of Mr. Kelly, “I don’t know how he does it. I’m a football coach and I couldn’t do that.”

Shooting the breeze with reporters before Riverhead football’s Long Island Championship game Dec. 1, Newsday high school sports historian Andy Slawson called Mr. Kelly “the best there is.”

In his first season of broadcasting games, Mr. Kelly was the No. 2 man behind legendary Riverhead sports figure Bob Burns. He’d sprinkle in color while Mr. Burns called out the play-by-play.

It wasn’t until Mr. Burns went on vacation one week that Mr. Kelly got his first shot at calling games on his own for WRIV. It’s been a love affair ever since.

“We’ve lasted longer together than most marriages,” Mr. Tria joked.

In his time as the voice of the Blue Waves, Mr. Kelly, 61, says he’s seen it all.

Among his favorite stories of football games past, Mr. Kelly, who has also been calling boys basketball games since 1990, recalls the tales of two games against Miller Place.

The story of the first game actually begins the night before the players took the field. As Mr. Kelly arrived at Miller Place High School to set up his equipment in the press box, he noticed a fire truck leaving the parking lot. When he walked the field, he saw it was soaking wet.

“I thought, ‘What do they have a drainage problem, I don’t recall it raining recently,’” he said.

Though he says the former Miller Place coach insists “to this day” it isn’t true, Mr. Kelly believes the team had the local fire department wet the field to neutralize Riverhead’s scrambling quarterback. The Waves won anyway, he says, 6-3.

The other old yarn Mr. Kelly likes to tell of a Riverhead-Miller Place game was a Halloween showdown where all sorts of bizarre occurrences happened. A shanked punt, a 12-men on the field penalty and a failed fourth-and-long when the Miller Place coaches thought it was third down all helped Riverhead to a victory that day.

“Spooky stuff was happening that Halloween,” Mr. Kelly said.

The broadcaster has become such a fixture at Riverhead sporting events — Mr. Tria estimates Mr. Kelly’s missed just six football games in 25 years — many folks consider him an honorary member of the teams.

He even wears a Riverhead football sweatshirt with his last name on the back when he calls football games from the chilly press box above Coach McKillop Field.

He freely admits that when he calls the games, he’s rooting for Riverhead to win.

“I definitely do,” he said. “But I’m also quick to point it out when Riverhead benefits from a bad call by the refs.”

He also says he’s questioned coaching decisions on the air over the years. There’s no doubt, though, that Mr. Kelly feels a part of the Riverhead football family, and at no time was that more important to him than in the years after his wife of 25 years died and he became a single father to his two daughters, Jennifer and Kimberly, and his young son, Michael.

Marisa Kelly was diagnosed with cancer in October 1998, and she died the following April, just two months after that year’s boys basketball season ended.

“I don’t know how I would have gotten through those winter months without being able to get away for a bit to do the games,” he recalled. “My son was just seven years old when she passed. I had to be the dad and the mom for a lot of years. It was very therapeutic to be able to go on the air.”

Mr. Tria said there was never a time where he thought Mr. Kelly might hang up his headphones in the years after his wife passed.

“He made it very clear that wasn’t going to happen,” Mr. Tria said.

In fact, it might be another 25 years before Mr. Kelly actually does call it quits. Now relocated to Manorville and remarried to his wife of 16 months, Joan Kelly, he says only moving out of state would prevent him from calling Blue Waves games.

And he points to two longtime sports figures as the best reason why he shouldn’t retire.

“Bear Bryant retired from coaching football and he was dead within a year,” Mr. Kelly said. “[Former Mets broadcaster] Bob Murphy was a similar story. When you give up something you love this much, it kills you … I’ll give it up when they pour dirt on me.”

[email protected]

12/07/12 4:24pm
12/07/2012 4:24 PM

Don’t walk by yourself.

And don’t go up to any strange cars — anytime, anywhere.

That’s the message a 17-year-old Riverhead High School student and her mother want to send out to other young people after the girl managed to avoid a potential abduction Wednesday morning as she walked to school.

“My shoulders hurt from my bags, and I was tired,” the girl told the News-Review Friday, recalling the ordeal. “If my parents didn’t raise me right and the man didn’t ask me those [strange] questions I might have gotten in that car.”

Had that happened, the mom said, the calls home from school “would have been quite different.”

The suspect, whom the girl described as a clean-cut man with a slight Spanish accent, pulled over in front of her on Osborn Avenue and rolled down his window. She said she took her earphones out and approached the car, thinking the man needed directions — like other people have in the past.

“Sometimes it’s the morning and people are looking for a place to get coffee. He first asked if I was in middle school and I said, no,” she said. “And then he asked if I was I was in the high school and I said yeah. And he asked me if I wanted a ride up.”

That’s when her suspicions kicked in.

“He had the window open and I was looking in the car [for weapons]. Making sure his hand was somewhere where I could see it,” she said.

She declined the ride and kept walking, only to see him drive off, but too fast for her to get a full license plate number.

He then pulled into the nearby Bagel Lovers parking lot.

She flagged down a sheriff’s deputy.

“I told him it was a black car and what he looked like and he went looking for him” while she went straight to school, she said.

School administrators and Riverhead police were soon notified, and took a statement from the teenager.

Being a young girl, she and her friends are used to cat-calls and comments, even from older men, she said.

“But this was very different; just odd. Someone in their pajamas asking teenagers if they need a ride? It’s just not normal,” she said.

She credited her parents for always making her wary of other people’s true intentions.

Mom said she was proud, yet still shaken up.

“I let my guard down and let her go to school alone,” she said. “And then this happened. Thank God she remembered everything we talked about.

[email protected]

08/31/12 10:00am
08/31/2012 10:00 AM
Darknight, batman, Alan Horn, Disney Studios

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO/CHRIS PIZZELLO | Alan Horn (from right), actor Michael Caine and director Christopher Nolan in a 2008 ceremony for Mr. Caine in Los Angeles.

1960 was the year childhood friends Alan Horn and Howard Gassert — who both lived in Aquebogue at the time — graduated from Riverhead High School.

Howard was your typical jock; Alan was into baseball, but his main focus was academics.

“I always admired Alan for his self-discipline, and he admired me for my athleticism, but you see how far athletics has gotten me,” Mr. Gassert said with a laugh.

Mr. Gassert owns a nice home on Sandalwood Lane in Riverhead with his wife, Nancy, a former Riverhead school board member, but he’s comparing himself to Alan Horn. Yes, film buffs. The Alan Horn.

For the uninitiated, Mr. Horn went on to become a film industry great, a man named a “Studio Titan” in The Hollywood Reporter’s 2011 “Legends” issue.

So, how did he get there?

Read the story

08/02/11 7:57am
08/02/2011 7:57 AM

UNIVERSITY OF MAINE COURTESY PHOTO | Carl Smith was featured in Sports Illustrated after more than a dozen scouts flocked to Maine to see him play football.

It’s no small irony that one of the greatest runners on a football field or a track that Riverhead High School has ever produced can no longer run.

Having undergone two surgeries on each of his knees, Carl Smith now has a plate and screws in both of them. The 43-year-old has arthritis and pain in both knees and ankles. They are reminders — along with trophies, medals and plaques, almost all of which are boxed up at his parents’ house — of a tremendous career as a football player and track athlete.

“To go from being the fastest person to not being able to run, it just eats at me right now,” he said.

In his day, though, Carl Smith could run. Oh boy, could he run.

Even Smith’s father, Ronnie Smith, marvels sometimes when he watches old videotapes of his son in action. “When you just see him running, it takes your breath away,” he said.

Sal Loverde, the Riverhead High School boys winter track coach and assistant football coach, said Smith had magic in his legs.

The 20 Greatest Athletes in area history is a Times/Review countdown series that will continue over the next 16 days. Each day, a different athlete will be unveiled leading up to the No. 1 athlete of all-time Aug. 17.

Those legs, powered by thick thighs, took Smith far. He used them to run for glory at Riverhead High School and then at the University of Maine. Speed and quickness were his game, and he made great use of them.

Rick Kopp took over as Riverhead’s football coach during Smith’s senior year in 1986 before going on to serve as an assistant coach at SUNY/Albany, where he also served as athletic administrator and director of training camp operations for the New York Giants. Speaking of Smith, Kopp said: “He was probably the best running back I ever coached in the high school and college levels. He was Mr. Smooth the way he ran.”

Perhaps some of it is in the genes. His family tree boasts some athletes. Ronnie Smith was himself a basketball player and track athlete for Riverhead High School. Although he was a good athlete, Ronnie Smith said he doesn’t compare with his two sons, Carl and Doc. He said, “I’m like regular fuel; they’re like super, super high test.”

Carl Smith’s football beginning was modest. He was 8 years old when he came home one day and told his parents he wanted to try out for a Pop Warner team. The future Riverhead and University of Maine star was the last player picked in the draft that day. “Nobody knew who he was,” said Ronnie Smith.

They soon learned.

In his first practice, the team was looking for someone to return kickoffs and punts. Smith was given a look. He caught the first ball kicked to him, ran around tacklers and then bolted away from them. The coach asked him to do it again.

“They kicked the ball three times, and three times he ran the ball back,” Ronnie Smith said. “From then on, as they say, the rest is history.”

The player nobody knew quickly became the player people were talking about.

When Carl Smith was 13 years old, he was diagnosed with asthma, something his high school teammates didn’t know, but with the aid of medication, it didn’t seem to hamper him.

Word may have spread that Riverhead had a real player moving up through the ranks. Dick Herzog, who coached Smith in football and track, remembers seeing Smith in his physical education class at Phillips Avenue Elementary School. “You knew right away,” he said. “You knew that there’s a blue-chipper coming up.”

Smith had an opportunity to play for the varsity team his freshman year, but opted to remain with the players he would graduate with. The two-time all-Suffolk County tailback spent the next three varsity seasons giving defensive players fits as they tried to grab hold of him. More than one defender looked like he had an angle on Smith, only to be left in the dust, flailing at air.

“His legs were just amazing,” Loverde said. “He ran with great power and strength, but he also was smart and had finesse. As soon as there was any kind of opening, he would be gone, I’m telling you, gone.”

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | While playing football at Riverhead Carl Smith developed into a fe

Having people like fullback Greg Polak, offensive tackle Robert Brown and guard Everett Gilliam blocking for him helped, but they didn’t need to hold their blocks for long. “All I told my linemen was, ‘All you have to do is stay in front of your guy for one second and I’ll do the rest,’ ” said Smith.

And if Smith got a step ahead of a defender, he was off to the races.

“Running in pads like that, he was just unbelievable,” said Don Owen, a longtime observer of the Riverhead sports scene whose son, Mike, played football for Riverhead and Syracuse University. “If he got to the outside, you weren’t going to catch him.”

All it would take would be one little hip shake, and then Smith would bolt to daylight.

Randy Kopp, the coach’s son who was Riverhead’s quarterback during Smith’s senior season, said, “He would make one move and he was back to full speed faster than anyone you ever saw.”

Smith’s senior year at Riverhead was a remarkable one, although not without challenges.

In the opening game of the football season against Amityville, he separated his left shoulder by landing hard on it from a tackle. It could have been a season-ending injury and devastating for a player looking for a football scholarship.

“I remember his exact words: ‘Who’s going to look at me now?’ ” said Randy Kopp.

After sitting out a couple of games, Smith returned to the field wearing a harness, which prevented him from raising his left arm. Although he didn’t show it often, he played in pain. Randy Kopp remembers seeing tears in Smith’s eyes.

“It hurt a lot,” Smith recalled. “I’d rather take a hit from a linebacker than have that pain.”

In his first game back, a homecoming game against visiting Miller Place, Smith’s touchdown run with 9 minutes, 15 seconds to go and Kopp’s two-point conversion run helped the Blue Waves to an 8-7 triumph. He gained 101 yards on eight carries that day.

Smith led the Blue Waves to the postseason. In his final game for Riverhead, he returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown in a 14-13 first-round loss to Islip. That loss sticks with Smith to this day. He talks about the four fumbles he made in that game. “It was probably my worst game ever in high school,” he said.

In Smith’s senior season, he ran the ball 40 times for 629 yards — a remarkable 15.7 yards per carry — caught six passes for 124 yards, scored nine touchdowns and returned two punts for 136 yards.

Smith wanted to be the first person in his family to go to college, and sports paved the way for him. Rick Kopp said Syracuse backed away from pursuing Smith after he separated his shoulder.

Maine didn’t.

Joe Ogeka, who was Riverhead’s boys track and field coach as well as the defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator for the football team at the time, said a Maine assistant coach he met at a Heisman Trophy function inquired about Smith. Ogeka guaranteed that Smith could clock a time of 4.5 seconds in three of four 40-yard dashes.

Not long after that, Smith was pulled out of class one day and asked by a Maine coach if he could run three 40-yard dashes in under 4.4 seconds.

“I said, ‘I guess so.’ I didn’t know why I was doing it,” Smith said. “I went outside and I did it, and the next thing you know I’m getting recruited by UMaine.”

But there was a holdup. Smith had trouble with his Scholastic Aptitude Test. He needed to score at least a 770 in order to receive a scholarship. He took the test four times and was awaiting the results of his latest test as the February national signing date approached. Then, finally, Smith received a call from Maine’s defensive coordinator, John Levitz, with some good news.

“He said, ‘Smitty, welcome to UMaine,’ ” Smith said. “I just broke down.”

Smith was headed to Orono, Maine.

Maine had met two of the stipulations that Smith had: that he be allowed to run track as well as play football, and that he wear No. 20 on his football jersey, the same number he wore for Riverhead.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Carl, left, and Doc Smith remain the closest of friends today. Here they are seen over the weekend visiting the Riverhead High football field.

One of Smith’s regrets is that he never got to play in the same backfield at Riverhead with his brother, Doc, who is three years younger. Despite the age difference, the brothers share the sort of closeness that is seen in twins, their father said.

Maurice Darnell Smith was given the nickname “Doc” because of his initials: M.D. Doc had a successful football career of his own. He was a three-time all-county player and quarterback for Riverhead’s Rutgers Trophy-winning team in 1988. He went on to play for the University of Buffalo as a wide receiver.

“There’s no jealousy among us,” Carl Smith said. “He made a name for himself. He’s not known as Carl’s little brother. He’s my best friend, he’s my brother and I’ll do anything for him, and he’ll do anything for me.”

Before heading off to Maine, though, Smith had some final business to attend to in his sixth and final season with Riverhead’s track team.

Smith was a standout sprinter and long jumper for the Blue Waves.

“He had phenomenal, phenomenal speed,” Ogeka said. “He ran so fast, it looked like he was running slow. It was just fluid. He ran with ease.”

One of Ogeka’s most memorable moments involving Smith came in a meet in Kingston, N.Y. At the start of a 100-meter race, Smith slipped out of the starting blocks, allowing his opponents a seven-yard lead. No problem. Smith caught up to them and won the race.

With Smith and fellow sprinter Kevin Braunskill making for a potent one-two punch, Riverhead won its first county title since 1972. In the 1987 Conference III meet, three Blue Waves — Smith, Dion Henderson and Jason Jackson — swept the top three places in the 100 meters. Later that season, Smith took first place in a county meet in the 200 in 21.5 seconds, which was a school record at the time. Braunskill was nipping at his heels, coming in second in 21.9.

From there Smith went on to bigger things. His 10.87 clocking in the Eastern States Championships was good enough to beat his rival, the highly ranked Sam Rice of Cardinal Hayes.

Then, at the state meet, Smith came up against Rice again in the 100-meter final. It was a close race, but Smith prevailed. “I outleaned him,” he said. “It was a photo finish.”

Not only that, but it was a new state record: 10.30 seconds. That was only 31/100ths of a second off a time Olympian Carl Lewis had run.

Smith, who also long jumped as far as 22 feet 11 inches, was surprised to learn during an interview on Saturday that his 100M state record still stands.

“That’s amazing,” he said. “I thought it was long gone.”

Smith, a two-time high school all-American sprinter, went on to compete against the best high school sprinters in the nation in the Golden West Invitational and finished fifth.

In Smith, Division I-AA Maine had an athlete it had never seen before. By the time he graduated high school, Smith was 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, which is considered undersized for a college football player. There was concern over the physical punishment he would take.

In his first season as a red-shirt freshman, the slender Smith came off the bench and put on a show, scoring four touchdowns against Massachusetts. He had 68- and 63-yard scoring runs on tosses to the outside, broke two tackles on a draw for a 50-yarder, and caught a screen pass with three defenders around him before outjuking them all to the end zone. “I just outran everybody to the corner,” said Smith, who finished the game with 254 yards on 13 carries.

Not bad for a debut.

After that game, Smith was bombarded by media. He was making a name for himself and taking a liking to his adopted state.

“If I could do it again, I would do it again,” Smith said. “I love Maine. The people took to me like I was one of their own. I can’t even describe the feeling I have for the school and the people. They let me be me. They let me grow.”

Smith’s best football season at Maine was during his sophomore year. The coaching staff wasn’t shy about calling his number. In one game he ran the ball 42 times. He led the nation in rushing yards (1,680) and touchdowns (20) that year, averaging 152.7 yards per game as he led the Black Bears to the Yankee Conference title. All three of those figures are school records. Smith posted a school-record eight consecutive games with 100 rushing yards and tied the school record with nine 100-yard rushing games in 1989. He also set a school mark for rushing yards in an NCAA playoff game that year, picking up 205 yards on 30 rushing attempts against Southwest Missouri State.

No wonder he was named an all-American that year.

Smith also gained notoriety. Sports Illustrated reported that 13 NFL scouts visited Orono that year to look at Maine’s glamour players, senior quarterback Mike Buck and Smith.

“This guy was great,” said Keith Brown, Smith’s cousin. “It was something that he was born to do.”

Smith led Maine in rushing in 1988, 1989 and 1990. He finished his college career third in all-time rushing yards with 3,820 and third with 34 touchdowns. He also holds the Maine record for the longest run from scrimmage (89 yards) in program history against Rutgers in 1991.

But Smith paid a price for those numbers.

“You take a beating,” he said. “I found out what ice baths are.”

UNIVERSITY OF MAINE COURTESY PHOTO | Carl Smith won the North Atlantic Conference championship in the 55 and 200 while a two-sport standout at Maine.

Smith also made his mark with Maine’s track team. He holds the school record in the outdoor 100 meters (10.58 set in 1990). He also won the North Atlantic Conference championship in the 55 and 200, and won the New England championship in the 100 in 1990.

In the back of Smith’s mind was the dream of playing professional football. Despite shoulders, feet and ankles that were hurting, and despite the fact that he had the flu, Smith did well at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and posting one of the highest vertical jumps.

The Philadelphia Eagles invited Smith to their minicamp, where he met players like Randall Cunningham and Reggie White. He was also hit by players like Seth Joyner and Andre Waters. “I’ve never been hit so hard in my life,” said Smith.

Smith later returned to the Eagles’ rookie camp. He said he didn’t have a good camp. After that, the Eagles made a move, picking up a big-name running back and saying goodbye to Smith.

“I lost my job to Herschel Walker,” he said.

Randy Kopp, who spent eight years on NFL coaching staffs, including a couple with the New York Giants and then the Atlanta Falcons, knows that making it to the professional ranks can be a hit-or-miss proposition. “You have to have just as much luck as talent,” he said, “and you have to be in the right place at the right time.”

Still, football wasn’t entirely out of Smith’s system. In 1993 he tried out for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, but tore a hamstring. He said he didn’t prepare well for that tryout.

“I was kind of burned out and I didn’t train,” he said. “I really wasn’t in love with the sport anymore.”

Finally, Smith came to a conclusion. He spoke with his wife, Lori, a former cross-country runner at Maine, and told her he was through with football. “I said: ‘Honey, I’m done. I’m finished. I don’t want to do this anymore.’ ”

Smith, who had played organized football from the time he was 8 years old to 26, stepped down from the game.

“I have no regrets whatsoever,” he said. “Football and track, they gave me a life that I can’t complain about.”

Smith loves Maine so much that he stayed there after college. He lives in Saco with his wife and their 14-year-old twin boys, Andrew and Dylan.

Smith has also retained a connection with track. He is an assistant coach for Thornton Academy.

Smith is a member of both the Riverhead and UMaine halls of fame. He was inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.

Ogeka said one word comes to mind when he thinks about Smith: “Greatness.”

But Smith left an impression that transcends statistics and championships. He was revered almost as much for his sportsmanship and work ethic as he was for his athleticism.

Loverde said Smith “is the model of what a young man should be like. So loaded with talent, but never took that talent for granted, worked diligently and he worked hard every single day, every single practice. This guy, he pushed himself. He was the perfect captain and leader.”

When the cheering stopped, Smith moved on to the next phase of his life, but the memories remain.

“I know what I did,” he said, “and I know it was good.”

[email protected]

What is this 20 Greatest Athletes list?

No. 20 Ryan Creighton and Al Edwards

No. 19 JoAnna Judge

No. 18 Alicia Conquest

No. 17 Keri Bettenhauser

08/02/11 7:55am
Riverhead High School, Adelphi University

GREG FLIPPEN COURTESY PHOTO | greg Flippen was a standout long jumper in high school, having set records and won state titles all four years.

Carl Smith’s state championship meet record in the 100 meter has stood for nearly 25 years since he set it in 1987.

Every year a group of eager high school sprinters heads to the meet in an effort not only to win first place but also to best Smith’s record of 10.3 seconds.

Every year, it takes them longer to cross the finish line than it took Smith.

“That’s amazing,” Smith recently told the News-Review. “I thought it was long gone.”

But remarkable as it is that Smith’s record has held up for as long as it has, it’s not the longest standing local track and field state championship record.

That distinction belongs to fellow Riverhead graduate Greg Flippen’s record in the long jump.

Flippen’s state championship record of 24 feet 7 inches was set in 1971 and he’s still No. 1 on the list more than 40 years later. He first set the state long jump record as a freshman in 1968, before breaking it again as a sophomore, jumping 24 feet 4 inches — beating Olympic world record-setter Bob Beaman’s national high school record of 23 feet 5 inches.

When asked about the record in 2009, Flippen shared the following with the News-Review:

“My dad was up at the meet. I saw him coming around on the other side of the fence. I thought, ‘Well, maybe Dad came give me some words of wisdom.’ ”

“My father said, ‘How do you feel?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, the guy just jumped 23 feet 9.’ He said, ‘What do you mean, you don’t know? You’re a Flippen — get your a– out there and do it!’

“He turned and instantly walked away from me. Wouldn’t even look back at me.

“When I jumped, I used every bit of the board without fouling. I landed in the pit and the officials said, ‘Good jump.’

“Next thing I knew, they announced a new state record, 24 feet, 4 inches. My father was on the sidelines, saying, ‘I told you!’

Two years later, Flippen broke his own record with the current standard.

“You got to be kidding me,” said Riverhead track coach Sal Loverde. “In this age of athletes and supplemnents and all that you have.

“To hold a record for [more than 40] years, it’s just crazy.”

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Greg Flippen poses with plaques commemorating his historic jumps at the Riverhead High track in 2009.

Flippen was such a talent in high school, he won the state championship in the long jump all four years.

Flippen’s actual longest jump came in at 25 feet in the Junior National Championships held in Wantagh. It is not recognized as the state record because it did not occur during a state championship meet.

Mike Strockbine, program director of Parisi Speed School at World Gym in East Setauket, estimated in a 2009 interview that out of the 400 high schools in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, about 2,000 athletes try to beat Mr. Flippen’s record each year.

“Multiply that by 40 years, and 80,000 athletes have tried,” he told The News-Review in 2009. “None have come close.”

Mr. Flippen competed at the 1968 National Junior Olympics and he would later jump for Adelphi University.

In 2009, Flippen’s sophomore record was recognized at the state meet on its 40th anniversary.

Flippen and Smith are among four athletes from the 11 high schools considered for our 20 Greatest Athletes list that currently hold state championship records.

Lynette Wigington, a graduate of Mattituck High School, is the only one to hold two records, both set in 1997.

“She was such a talent,” said longtime running coach Cliff Clark of Shelter Island, himself an Olympic Trials qualifier.

Wigington shares the record of 20 feet 10 3/4 inches in the long jump with Keyon Soley of Uniondale, who tied her mark in 1998.

Wigington also holds the triple jump record of 42 feet and 1/2 inch.

Heather Zimmerman of Miller Place High School has held the 5,000 meter indoor state championship record with a time of 17:26.54 since 1983.

Sports Editor Bob Liepa contributed reporting for this story.