2006-11-17 / Sports

Far Rock X-Country Runner Advances To State Title

By Elio Velez

Eric Stein had a lot to worry about as he was preparing his Far Rockaway Cross Country boys team to run against the rest of the public schools in the City Championships. Working hard has never been a problem for Stein but this was a different challenge.

Admitting nervousness in participating in the first city championship in his three years as the head coach, Stein was feeling the same sentiments as his team. But with some rest and after a rainy week gave way to sunshine at Van Cortland Park last Saturday afternoon, Far Rockaway's cross country got a taste of competing in the PSAL championship.

The 5K individual Run at Van Cortland Park is a rough terrain to navigate. Steep hills and gravel surround the course and it can be hard to gain traction. Ahmad Sharhan may not have had his best time of the year but his finish stretched his season for another week.

Sharhan finished eleventh overall and his time of 17:53.09 seconds was good enough to advance the N.Y. State Cross Country Championships in Wappinger Falls. Alex Medina of Newtown finished fourth and was the only Queens high school runner to place ahead of Sharhan.

He'll face stiff competition against city schools and state powerhouses like Washingtonville, Valley Central and Bayshore. For now Stein will celebrate and be glad to train and travel with Sharhan for another week.

"I told him it was the states or bust. I said picture yourself if you don't get to the states. You'll have that feeling and disappointment and taste it for an entire year," Stein said.

"That motivated him."

The Seahorses have made great strides in being competitive and they were one of 24 teams to compete. It's a bourgeoning program but there are still strides to make as they finished 17th overall.

Curtis finished as the citywide boys champions by barely beating out defending title holders Stuyvesant.

Striving to reach the top has always been a goal for Stein but their qualification to the citywide playoffs is a valuable teaching tool. The Seahorses did not have a program three years ago and Stein says that it gave runners who did well such as Akeem Saleh and Teodulo Celaya, valuable experience going into next season.

With no seniors on the team, Stein will have all of his players return next season. The season was a success because there were a lot of positives gained.

"It was great to send someone to the state championships. I said to the team that we shouldn't have the attitude that it is good enough to just qualify for the city championships. We're supposed to beat the teams we did before and beat some others teams along the way," Stein said.

Far Rockaway placed ahead of Bryant, Transit Tech, Robeson, Columbus, Bayside and Telecommunications. Stein was more than happy to place ahead of his rivals. He hopes that the smiles and success will increase next fall.

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