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New York City High Schools Bring Heat to 2014 Indoor Season

On the New York sports calendar, indoor track and field is listed as a winter event. However, New York City and surrounding areas high schools are supplying much heat as this sport gets underway in the middle of winter. Fans attending meets at the New Balance Armory Track and Field Center in Manhattan are in for a treat as student-athletes renew battle for supremacy in the New York tri-state area.

This year more than ever, when the entire North-East US is experiencing sub-freezing temperatures (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or zero degrees Celsius), fans will be in for a treat of epic duels and sometimes scintillating performances as the mercury rises in the Armory and cheers and excitement reach a crescendo at decibel levels.

At the beginning of every new indoor track and field season, the seemingly perennial question is always whether the city’s track and field program can survive the departure of many of its top senior athletes to colleges and other institutions of higher learning. Another question is if the remaining athletes, along with the influx of new student-athletes, are able to blossom, rise to expectations and grab the spotlight, and keep The Armory fans buzzing. The answers are always the same — a resounding YES.

Richard Rose, now a junior at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, is one such athlete who has risen to the occasion and seems to be relishing the spotlight. Running in the 60th edition of the Bishop Loughlin Games at The Armory in December 2013, Rose sent a clear message of his intentions to the track fraternity, when he crossed the finish line in the 600m race in a personal best (PB) time of 1:19.20 with a big smile.

That time is significant for three reasons: 1) it is only 200th of a second off the national high school record set by former Columbus High School star athlete Strymar Livingston (1:17:58); 2) it is early in the new season; and 3) this young athlete is only a junior.


Lundy. (A. Gayle photo)

However, the 2014 season in New York City, especially in the Public School Athletic League (PSAL), will be very different. According to Coach Ray James, one of the top coaches in the League, “this year there is more parity among teams, as several of the teams that dominated the PSAL over the past 10 years are now rebuilding.”

He noted that while there are quite a few good individual athletes on the girls side, Port Richmond of Staten Island should be the team to beat, even though he would not count out Medgar Evers College Prep High School of Brooklyn. On the individual side, James identified the athlete to watch as Nia Lundy, a tenacious and super-talented freshman from Benjamin Cardozo High School (Queens) with a 400m PR of 56secs.

While Medgar Evers’ coach Shaun Dietz tries to downplay the view that his girls’ team is the team to beat, he echoes the sentiments of Coach Ray James, agreeing that the High School Girls PSAL Championship is open this year. Dietz suggested that the teams from TAFT Educational Academy and Dewitt Clinton High School, both in the Bronx, and Port Richmond, all stand a very good chance of winning the PSAL Championship. His individual choices for athletes to watch are two members of his team, Brenessa Thompson, a junior and Ashley Tasher, a senior who is expected to clear 19 feet in the long jump this year.


Birch. (A Gayle photo)

Cardozo’s girls head coach Gail Emmanuel said her team, the back-to-back champions for six consecutive years within the last seven years, is in the rebuilding stage and is expected to rebound to its champion level performance very soon. She named Janelle Pottinger, a freshman high jumper who also has exceptional track abilities, as the field athlete to watch.

Emmanuel further noted that she has a group of freshman quarter-milers (Nia Lundy, Lauren Webster, Namara Carr and Delise Barnes) who will definitely be national contenders and formidable at the Penn Relays in another year or two.

Other girls to keep on the radar are Campus Magnet High School’s (Queens) sprinter Eboni Birch (junior), her sister Kiara Birch (freshman), and Thea General.

Boys Bragging Rights at Stake

It can be argued that over the last several years, the girls were the ones who have brought the heat and the excitement to track and field at the Armory. But that might not be the case this year. According head Coach Randal Joseph of Clara Barton High School (Brooklyn), the competition among the boys is much more fierce, and in many cases, more personal both from a team and individual standpoint. The main underlying force is that most of the top teams and top individuals are from Brooklyn and bragging rights are therefore at stake.

Randal suggested, however, that PSAL defending champions Thomas Jefferson High School (Brooklyn) will be the favorite to retain the title, though he suspected Paul Robeson Campus High School will not be running for second place.

“While some schools do not have the depth to be competitive as championship contender, they have talented individual athletes,” Randal said. From his standpoint, the boy to watch is Richard Rose, a junior at Boys and Girls. “Richard is clearly the cream of the crop of athletes in the PSAL this year among both male and female,” he said.

Others to watch are Kiambu Gall of Robeson, who ran an early season 34secs in the 300m and 1:23.54 in the 600m season opener; Kareem Joseph , (junior, Clara Barton), who ran 1:57 in the 800m at the recent 2014 Hispanic Games; and Eric Chen (junior, Stuyvesant High School), a 400m and 800m specialist.

The individual battle for supremacy and bragging rights have been in the making for some time, as several seniors seek to leave their mark on high school track and field and impress college recruiters, in pursuit of a college scholarship. New York area track and field fans will certainly have much to cheer about as they watch the rise of some of the next generation of excellent athletes showcasing their talent in competitions that will be at times blistering, sensational and downright hot.

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