Local Track Star Challenges The World
Jul 16, 2015Posted by james

One fan calls him “The Flash.” It is easy to understand the nickname.

Rai Benjamin attended Mount Vernon High School. This past school year, he recorded the top times in the country for 300-meter and 400-meter sprints. He also was a top 55-meter sprinter.

With this success, Rai was coveted by such schools as Michigan. He settled on a full track scholarship from UCLA. Rai indicated that his choice had a bit to do with turning his back on living, and running, in the cold. Rai prefers the warm weather. His parents are from Antiqua. His mother has a couple of master’s degrees and holds a passion for books. His father played professional cricket for the West Indies.

When he was a high school freshman, Rai was a wide receiver and free safety on the school’s junior varsity football team. He joined track after the football season to help him improve his football speed. He became such a successful sprinter that he never returned to the football field.

Rai realized that track offered him more opportunities than football. During that same freshman year, he competed for the school in a California meet. He also ran for Antiqua at the World Youth Championships in the Ukraine and then he competed in an Antiqua national meet.

These trips motivated him. He saw beyond Mount Vernon and realized that track could open doors for him around the world. He does, however, pay homage to his school.

“If I’d been at some other school, I don’t know I’d have been as successful,” he said when he was named the Westchester/Putnam indoor track athlete of the year. He acknowledged that he joined a team that consisted of talented athletes and smart coaches.

One of those coaches indicated that Rai has a lot of natural talent but also cited the young man’s “great work habit” and ability to set and reach goals as the main reasons for his success. So, keep your eyes open for Rai Benjamin at upcoming college track meets and possibly the Olympic Games. If you don’t, he likely will pass by you in a flash.

- Jim

Exciting Spring Sports News
Jul 01, 2015Posted by james

We’re now into summer, but before we travel too far into these crazy, hazy and lazy days, I wanted to share with you some exciting news that occurred during May that involved me and benefitted the high school student-athletes of Long Island.

On May 28, I was honored to receive “personal naming rights” to the new stadium that will be constructed for St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. While I didn’t play for St. Anthony’s, I was raised nearby and frequently played various sports in the parks and fields located in the shadows of the school. I always admired the education and athletic tradition that St. Anthony’s offered to its students, and it is this commitment that convinced me to contribute the lead gift for the construction of the new sports facility.

I also do have connections to the school through family and friends. My niece, Genevieve Pannell, and my nephew, Paul Dowd, are graduates. Another niece of mine, Julia Dowd, has just completed her first year at the school. As for friends, when I played basketball and tennis in nearby Wolf Hill Park my frequent companions were Kevin Hahn and John Hahn, Sr., the father and grandfather of Matt Hahn, a former St. Anthony’s football superstar. It was the Hahn family that introduced me to the insurance industry. These many years later, based on the success of The Whitmore Group, I now have traveled full circle and can lend my support to this great school.

Just two days earlier, at the Section VIII Nassau County high school boys’ lacrosse championship matches held at Hofstra University, I presented to Nassau’s leading players the second annual Leadership Awards named in my honor.

I was proud to meet and acknowledge the following outstanding athletes:

  • Cold Spring Harbor High School senior goalie Will Doyle, who maintained his starting position despite competition from three other capable goalies during the preseason.
  • Lynbrook High School senior defender Eddie Bouhall, who has committed to Lehigh University.
  • Manhasset High School senior midfielder James Thomas, who also received a school scholarship as the most dedicated player on the boy’s lacrosse team.
  • Massapequa High School senior defender Griffin Barnathan, who was expected to have an impact season (and did) after serving as a role player last year.
    Mineola High School senior midfielder James Gerstner, who recently signed a letter of intent to play lacrosse at SUNY Stony Brook.
  • Syosset High School senior defender Richard Prestegaard, who separately received a $200,000 scholarship from the U.S. Army ROTC for his attendance at Boston College this fall.

Each student reflected the tenacity, honesty, commitment and positive attitude required in Nassau lacrosse. Each player also possessed the ability to inspire others on and off the field.