2009-12-11 / Sports

Far Rockaway/FDA VI Boys Cross Country Wrap Up

When Far Rockaway cross country boys and girls coach Eric Stein met transfer student Darryl Will iams in late August, he knew he had his team set. Darryl had run track before, but never cross country. It didn't seem to matter, because he had a natural ability, and just took off from there.

With a core of returning athletes, Stein sensed this was going to be a good season. Led by sophomore Jonathan Celaya and his senior brother Teddy, this team was destined for big things.

"I knew we had prepared well all summer. The kids finished off their summer training by attending Winged Foot Cross Country Camp," Stein said.

"With my five scorers set, and no one needing to get in shape, I was really looking forward to the season." Stein had the confidence in this group to challenge them with two early season races in Sunken Meadow Park in Long Island. The famed Cardiac Hill wasn't going to stand in the way of these young men.

At the Jim Smith Invitational, Jonathan Celaya made his presence felt while running 19:28 in the sophomore 5K race. Brother Teddy just outdid his younger sibling in the senior race, running an im - pressive 19:26. "We had four personal records set that day, including another by sophomore Albert Reid," said Stein. "I was just really glad to see my young guys stepping up."

The Bob Pratt Invitational was to be the team's last tune-up before the PSAL season began. Coach Stein saw that Susan Wagner, a Staten Island PSAL team, was also running in the meet. He told his kids to focus on running against another PSAL team in the race, and let the chips fall where they may.

Wagner edged out Far Rockaway in the standings by one place, leaving Stein with the impression that this team was able to run with the big boys of the PSAL. "I thought if we could run with a team from Staten Island," Stein said, "That was a good thing."

The talk about the Championship season began to creep in. On the way there, during local competitions, Jonathan Celaya improved his time to one of the best in Queens, running a 17:58 at Cunningham Park in the 5K. It all came together at the Queens Cross Country Championship race on October 27, where Teddy Cel aya ran his personal best of the season with an 18:42 followed by yet another PR from Darryl Williams who produced a 19:20.

With Jonathan just off his PR, and Sophomore Albert Reid and Senior Keith Watson setting records of their own, the team finished fifth in the borough.

According to Stein, "Teams three through five were only separated by ten points. That was tough, but I knew we had qualified for the City Championship Team race, and that was our goal. It was still a good day."

One item of business on the agenda before the big race was the sophomore city championships at Van Cortland Park in the Bronx on November 7. In the 2.5-mile event, Jonathan Celaya finished in 14:48, good enough for an eighth place finish overall. A continually improving Darryl Williams finished in 15:39 on his way to 32nd, still good enough for a top 40 medal. With some personal business out of the way, all eyes were on the main event set for the next Saturday.

The City Championship at Van Cortland Park on November 14 proved to be a daunting task. Led by Jonathan in 18:46 followed by Darryl in 19:31, Stein knew his team was off. They had run several meets as well as practiced there throughout the season, yet the big race had the team a little off center. Stein says the team finishing 20th place overall stings a little. Though he says when you compare that to the 200 high school cross country programs that exists,

puts the team in a decent position percentage wise.

The season was capped off with a trip to the Foot Locker Cross Country Championship at Sunken Meadow Park. "I figured we knew the course well, and the experience would benefit us," Stein said.

At the November 28 meet, Jonathan Celaya led the way improving his course record while running a 19:04, placing him near the top of all sophomores in the Northeast regional race. Albert Reid followed behind in the same race to improve upon his course record as well.

"Foot Locker is such a big stage, yet the kids were more relaxed here than at City's. I know learning to run under pressure is something you have to get used to. I am just glad this young team is doing just that."

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