During the Homecoming Weekend festivities earlier this month, two Brookers were inducted into the Stony Brook School Interscholastic Athletic Hall of Fame. Here is the text from the ceremony, delivered by Director of Communications, Dan Hickey ’04.
It is now my privilege to preside over the 27th induction ceremony of the Stony Brook School Athletic Hall of Fame. Today I have the honor of welcoming two new members into an exclusive club that represents the very best student-athletes from the 100-year history of Blue & White Athletics.
This summer, members of our Hall of Fame voted on a list of seven nominees, and Will Lingle, Class of 2002, and Taylor Colucci, Class of 2012, received the highest number of votes. I was excited about both selections as I had the privilege of running cross country and track with Will under the tutelage of Will’s father, Robin, and the joy of coaching Taylor in basketball and a little bit in track as an assistant coach. These men represent two of our school’s finest runners in a crowded history of outstanding track athletes.
Our first inductee is my teammate, Will Lingle. Though he is our Assistant Head of School here at Stony Brook, I can assure you there was no improper accounting in the votes. Our Hall of Famers clearly demonstrated their desire to include Will among their ranks. I’ve known Will for my entire life as our fathers were both teachers and coaches at The Brook for decades. Will and I grew up together, ran cross country and track together, and now we work together and get to raise our kids alongside one another–and I’m grateful for the blessing he has been in my life for many years.
The Lingles indeed have a long legacy at The Brook. The name Robin Lingle, Will’s father, is a monolith on the landscape of Stony Brook Athletics. A graduate of the Class of 1960, Robin became one of the greatest runners of his generation, an American record-holder, and a member of both the Stony Brook School and University of Missouri Halls of Fame. But despite the long shadow that mountain cast, Will carved out a legacy all his own.
While at The Brook, Will was an All-League and All-County recipient on the cross country course and earned All-League, County, and State honors on the track. He served as a captain for five seasons on those teams, earned 7 Class Night awards, including the Swanson Superior Performance Award, and was runner-up at both the Suffolk County Cross Country Championships and the 800-meter State Championship. Those are some impressive stats, but to fully appreciate Will’s legacy as a Bear, you have to know a few stories.
Will always displayed incredible heart in the biggest races, and two such races come to my mind. During Will’s senior year, my sophomore year, we were in the 4×400-meter championship at the ACSI Meet in Bangor, Pennsylvania. I was the third leg and promptly blew out my right hip flexor around the first curve when I caught sight of a girl I liked and overextended my stride. I was in pain and knew I wasn’t going to run a good split, but I also knew if I could finish my lap and just get the baton to Will, we had a shot. I gave Will the baton and collapsed on the ground. Prone on my back, I couldn’t see Will, but the sound of the crowd told me that he was making his move. Will blazed to a 49.3-second split that day, carrying our team to victory and a meet-record time.
The second story comes from later that season when we both earned places at the New York State Championships. Will ran to a 2nd place finish in the 800-meter title race in a time of 1:56.5. That mark earned him a slot in the Federation Championship which brought together the best of the best from the public, private, and Catholic schools into one overall championship event. The problem was, Will had a blister on his forefoot the size of a silver dollar. I watched as Mr. Lingle built him a makeshift cushion by cutting up padding and tape around the wound, but I could tell he was still in a lot of pain. Well, Will went out and finished 5th against the finest runners in New York, lowering his time by nearly a second to 1:55.8 in his final HS race. No one on the track was willing to give more than Will.
He went on to Wheaton College, where as a freshman he finished 5th at the Division III National Championships in a time of 1:51.94 to earn an All-American nod. The feat is an astonishing one when you consider that Will skipped 7th grade, so he finished 5th in the nation in D-III when he could have been running his senior high school track season. He was also a member of Wheaton’s school record-breaking 4×800 relay team that ran to a time of 7:39. Last year, he was inducted into Wheaton’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
I asked Will what stood out from his athletic career and he talked about the ACSI meet, saying, “Working as a group to compete with an equally talented opponent, achieving an individual goal of breaking 50 in the 400, and winning that meet worked together to make that a significant moment in my SBS career.”
When I asked Will to think about the most meaningful part of his time at The Brook, he talked about his dad. “I never had my dad as a teacher, but he was my primary coach throughout my athletic career. Most of my memories of him from that stage of my life are from our time together on the track, so I am grateful for that.” Will went on to say, “During my time at SBS, a major theme of my athletic and overall experience came from Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” My time at SBS taught me that I should work with my teammates, classmates, and even opponents to encourage one another toward improvement and excellence. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that our differences and disagreements are often our greatest sources of growth.”
Will certainly was iron that sharpened me as a runner and a person. In 2002, I profiled Will in our school newspaper writing, “I got to experience Will’s skill and leadership first-hand as his teammate, and those times when we ran together, sometimes in deep conversation as we pushed our bodies to the max, are times I will always look back on with fond memories.”
Thanks for always being such a great teammate and leader, Will. Please join me in honoring, Will Lingle.
Our second recipient is one of only two National Champions in the 100-year history of our athletic program, but we’ll get to that in a few moments.
Taylor joined the football team this senior year, having never played a down for the Bears, but his speed and athleticism made him an immediate threat for the silver domes. The first catch of his life was a 32-yard touchdown reception against Wyandanch. He followed that with a 77-yard strike with zeros on the clock to give the Bears a 14-6 halftime lead on the way to victory. He finished with 109 receiving yards in the first game of his life.
Taylor could have done anything thanks to his tremendous athleticism, but his focus was on the track where he was a 3-time All-State recipient in the winter and spring, one of only two SBS track & field athletes to ever earn Newsday All-Long Island Team distinction, the owner of school records in the indoor 55-meters (6.53 seconds) and outdoor 200 meters (21.80 seconds), and a member of the fastest 4×100-meter relay team in school history (42.96 seconds).
Taylor remembered that team fondly as he joined forces with Khoren Lawson, Jon Wentling, and Andrew White to form the only quartet in school history to go under 43 seconds. They were the second-fastest team in all of Suffolk County that season, finishing 2nd only to Hills West at the County Championships as they literally ran away with the Class B title.
Taylor is unequivocally a champion, who performed at his best when the lights were brightest. As a sophomore, he won the 100 and 200 at the Freshman/Sophomore Championships and the 100 at the Division Championships, before winning both the 1 and 200 at the Suffolk County Championships. As a junior, he repeated the feat. Then, as a senior, he won the 100 & 200 at the prestigious St. Anthony’s invitational to become the first Bear to earn meet MVP honors at one of New York’s top spring events.
Later that season he won the New York State Championship in the 200 to become the Bears’ first individual champion in 29 years. That same day he ran the second leg of the 4×100-meter relay to win another state crown, along with teammates Mark Brathwaite, Ed Kim, and Austin Sutton. But it was a week later that Taylor truly cemented his status as one of the best in Blue & White history.
At the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina, Taylor almost didn’t make it to the starting line. He woke up late, got to the event with only 10 minutes to warm up, and had only a bottle of water in his system. Despite the early setback, he ran his second-fastest time of the season in the 200 prelims to grab the 5th of eight spots in the final.
Coach Jake Morley, who was with Taylor that day, recalled the following: “We were in North Carolina in mid-June, and it was hot. Taylor was lying under the bleachers trying to recover in the shade. He was really wiped out by the race and even asked if he should run the finals.” Taylor was also slotted in the challenging position of lane 7. Running from that outer lane, Taylor would not be able to see six of his opponents for most of the race thanks to the staggered start. He said that when the starter raised his gun, “I almost chuckled to myself saying, ‘Imagine if I won this.’” I think Taylor can best tell the next part of this story.
Jake Morley went on to say, “After coaching Taylor for six years, he was still able to surprise me. When the race started, he ran one of the best curves I ever saw him run. He exploded out of the blocks and around the curve, came off the curve in first, and held on over the straightaway to win the national championship.” Using a lean at the finish, Taylor was able to edge Alabama’s Jaalen Jones by three-hundredths of a second to take the title and establish a school record that still stands. Taylor would say he simply “laughed at the impossible” that day.
While Taylor remains humble about his achievements, Coach Jake Morley can put Taylor’s legacy into some helpful context: “Taylor was the closest thing that SBS has had to a track prodigy in my time. Although he was overshadowed as a seventh grader by the many seniors who were fine sprinters that year like Pete Carmel, Mike Cox, Jon Bute, and Terrence Anderson, Taylor was already becoming something of a celebrity by the time he was in eighth grade. Because he competed with the varsity, Taylor was quickly “out there” for the county to see. His times rose up the rankings, and the fact that he was an eighth grader jumped out at people. Everyone knew who he was, and he was respected by the older sprinters from other schools as an exceptional up-and-coming talent.
Eventually, Taylor was part of his own “golden generation” of sprinters at SBS. During his junior year, his 400 relay team ran the fastest overall time in the state for a small school, then won the state championship a year later, but those teams were completely different apart from Taylor. He was surrounded by other great sprinters, and they helped give county-wide legitimacy to our track program during those years.”
Taylor was swift to give credit to others when I asked him to discuss what stood out to him from his Stony Brook career. The names of so many teammates came up, but particularly Khoren Lawson from the class of 2011, who is one of our greatest sprinters in his own right.
Khoren and Taylor had a truly beautiful rivalry as each had the ability to win the 100 or 200 on any given day, yet there was a mutual love and respect that elevated them both. “I am grateful that I was able to have Khoren to run with every day for 5 years,” Taylor remembers fondly. But he reserves the lion’s share of credit for his dad.
“The biggest contributor that led to my success was my father. He is also a school record-holder and was my biggest influence when it came to diet, strength training, and support. He knew when to be a coach and when to be a dad. We both fell in love with working together and with the sport of track and field. We really put our minds and hearts together, and that’s why our results were so substantial.”
Taylor leaves records and titles that any Brooker can look up to, but what makes him truly worthy of emulation is the joy that flowed from him during competition, his genuine love for his teammates, and a commitment to give everything he had.
Please join me in honoring, Taylor Colucci.