H.S. Roundup: Far Rock Track Jumps Hurdles In Return
The cupboard was bare. The Far Rockaway High School track and field program, especially the girls' indoor track team which was the lynchpin of a successful program was terminated a few years ago.
Eric Stein arrived to teach at the Frederick Douglass Academy in 2004. The high school is in its third year of existence and located inside of the Far Rockaway campus. Stein, who previously coached cross country to youngsters in Brooklyn, had heard that the school had competed well against other Queens progeams.
But the program, which includes cross country, indoor and outdoor track for boys and girls was shutdown. Michael Gliner had coached the indoor girls track team to win many individual and team titles from the late 1990's to 2003 when he retired.
Knowing a tall task was in order, Stein had to recruit from both Far Rockaway and Frederick Douglass to assemble a team. His first order was to bring together a cross country boys team.
"It was incredibly hard. We had to start out as a club, which meant we could not compete in the PSAL. We had to compete in other races like the New York Roadrunners Club and the Police Athletic League," Stein said.
Keeping the athletes together before reentering the PSAL was another hard task. Transportation issues and finding races to enter have taken a lot of free time away from the head coach.
When there's a will, there's a way and his runners showed the commitment needed. Once those issues were at least able to be handled, the foundation was set and in 2005, Far Rockaway was allowed to compete. "It takes a lot of work for them to be committed to a sport that at times is not glamorous. You have to run in the rain, the mud and when it gets hot in the summertime. They've stuck with it," Stein said.
Stein has a junior varsity and varsity team competing in the 1.5 K and 5k races. In this fall's PSAL cross country season, he has been delighted at the results of his runners, which includes 15 on the roster and no seniors.
Teodulo Celya has been one of the brightest spots as the freshman, who Stein describes as 5 foot 4 and 100 pounds soaking wet. He's finished third in the freshman Grand Prix 1.5 K cross country races at Cunningham Park on September 26 and October 3.
"Teddy didn't know how to race when he got here but he knew how to run. He's learned so fast. Teddy has become the cog who can make the team go. If he does well, then I know the rest can also do well," Stein said.
Ahmad Sharhan finished fourth in the varsity in the 5K varsity race, placing behind the acclaimed top runner in Queens, Newtown's Alex Medina. Walter Diaz, and Steve Burnett have done so well that they were invited to the Empire State Games this past summer. Diaz competed in the javelin and Burnett participated in the hammer throw.
The goal in sight is for the team to finish and claim a top three spot in the PSAL Queens borough city championships. Francis Lewis's much heralded program has locked down the top spot. There will be a dogfight Stein says between Grover Cleveland, William Bryant and his team to fill the last two spots. Over the weekend, the Seahorses, along with Beach Channel and 170 public, private and independent schools will compete in the Mayor's Cup. The largest high school cross country event in the city will occur at Van Cortland Park on Saturday starting at 10 a.m.
Though Stein thought his team was one year away from competing in the top three, the success has led the school to bring back the indoor girls track team for the winter. Stein says he will be an assistant coach and hand the reins over to someone else to be a head coach.
All in all, there have been enough positive signs that track and field may be all right and well back at Far Rockaway High.
"It's taken three years to see the light and do something well as a team. What we might lack in the number of runners compared the other teams is that we have the work ethic and the toughness to compete," Stein said.
Seahorses Get Bad Break
The Far Rockaway- Beach Channel soccer matchup was halted last Friday afternoon when Seahorses player Darwin Castillo fell and broke his right wrist just as the first half was about to be competed.
The Dolphins were leading 2-0 on goals by birthday boy Marlon Velasquez and Eduardo Flores. On a scramble for a loose ball, Castillo, a midfielder fell and immediately broke his right wrist. The game was halted and last Tuesday, the PSAL ruled that Beach Channel had won the game because almost half the game had been completed.
Seahorses coach William Neylon said that Castillo would miss the rest of the season but is on the road to recovery. Neylon says Castillo will get full range of motion in plenty of time before the sophomore returns for next year's squad.
"Surgery is the best route for him to recover. He broke both bones in the forearm which led to wrist. He is a nice kid and he'll be alright," Neylon said.
It was another injury that Neylon did not want to squad to as a depleted squad, who has only two substitutes, fought hard but lost to Queens BI second place Franklin K. Lane 3-2 last Wednesday.
Beach Channel (5-0-1, 16 points) will host John Adams (4-0-2, 14 points) today at 4 p.m. in a matchup which might decide the fate of the #1 and #2 teams in the Queens B1 division.