Friday’s New York State Track and Field Championships in Caledonia will mark the end of a banner year for Syosset Braves sophomore Michael Wilkins.
Wilkins, an expert pole vaulter, is leading the youth movement begun by coach Bart Sessa this fall. With a low amount of seniors starting out the season, Sessa’s goal was less about championships and more about development. In the case of Wilkins, the strategy has worked flawlessly.
Wilkins qualified for the State Championship last week with a victory in last week’s qualifying meet at Westbury High School. The achievement was hardly a surprise.
In January, Wilkins cleared 11 ½ feet in the pole vault, ranking second (at that time) in Nassau County. Winter track’s Long Island Challenge saw him finish third. The accolades continued into the spring as the sophomore finished fifth in the spring divisional championship.
Although Wilkins will only be competing in the pole vault in the State Championships, he has shown the ability to compete at a high level in other events as well. Wilkins was part of the 4X800 relay team that won the division championship.
His 400-meter intermediate hurdles team clocked a 3:48.28 in the Red Raider Relays at North Rockland High School in April. The time set a record for High School track and that specific event at the upstate New York event.
During the same meet, Wilkins was part of the 4X200 team that finished second and the 4X400 team that finished third- further proof that he is a very valuable member of the team.
His value extends beyond that. A trip to practice in April saw Wilkins teaching a group of fellow athletes how to pole vault. Teamwork like that is exactly what Sessa envisioned when his group on young runners was assembled in the fall. 35 of the 65 winter participants were freshmen, making Wilkins tutelage all that more important.
His success, capped by this weekend’s performance at states, is clearly only the beginning for the on-the-rise program.