Mar 01 2018

Setting Records At 15

Few local athletes have separated themselves from the pack at such a young age as Katelyn Tuohy. She is a 15-year-old sophomore runner at North Rockland High School who performed incredibly at the Virginia Showcase during January.

A website that follows the country’s high school runners indicated that Katelyn “put the world on notice” with her performance. A video commentator at the event declared that people would remember where they were when they first heard Katelyn’s time.

Katelyn ran the indoor 5,000 meters (standard 5K) in 15 minutes 37.12 seconds. In a meet that attracted many of the country’s top prep runners, the second place runner finished more than two minutes later. Katelyn’s time broke the U.S. girls high school record and the U.S. record for girls under 20. She set a world record for 15-year-old girls.

This occurred indoors. During outdoor season last fall, Katelyn was ranked as the country’s top female cross country runner. That ranking appeared before she won the Nike Cross Nationals in Oregon with a record time for the course.

Katelyn has been running since third grade. She shrugged all of this off and indicated that her training hit sort of a speed bump this winter. She said that, with the constant snow, she frequently had to pick up a shovel.

Similar to snow, more records will fall at Katelyn’s feet in the months and years ahead. Remember that you first heard about her right here.

Dec 01 2017

A Great Running (Swimming, Cycling) Start For This Student Athlete

She finished ninth twice in the national ironman triathlon. Then, Olivia Curran surpassed her previous successes in a sport that is pursued by few 17-year-olds. She finished sixth out of 50 competitors in the 16-19-year-old girls division at the World Triathlon Grand Final in the Netherlands.

Olivia’s father got her involved in the sport. He, too, has completed multiple ironman triathlons, including the most famous World Championship in Hawaii. In the Netherlands, Olivia’s sprint race included a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer cycling race and a 5K run.

For her school, Olivia runs cross-country and outdoor track. She also swims for the school during the winter and competes with a swimming club during the summer. During July and August, Olivia has trained seven days a week and has incorporated track workouts into the program. She completes one long (seven to eight miles) run a week and bikes from 45 minutes to two hours each day.

Olivia is a strong runner and a very good open-water swimmer. She admits that her cycling is the weakest part of her game.

Her finish slot in the Netherlands, which was Olivia’s first international competition, was recognized by USA Triathlon, the sport’s governing body in the U.S. The organization ranked Olivia as the country’s top 16-17-year female athlete.

In her future, Olivia sees tackling the Olympic distances—1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run. That is about five years away. She also would like to follow her dad and participate in the ultimate triathlon ironman that incorporates the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.22-mile run. First, though, Olivia remains focused on graduating from high school.

Oct 02 2017

A Fast Track To Owning A Business

Phyllis Francis of Queens started as a distance runner. As her skills evolved, she found her comfort zone at shorter distances. She also became a champion.

Phyllis was a gold medalist in the women’s 1,600-meter relay at the 2016 Olympics. She also captured the 400-meter title and was part of Team USA’s winning 1,600-meter relay at the International Association of Athletics Federation’s World Championships in London earlier this year.

Phyllis became interested in running by following her sister, Claudia, to practice. Claudia was a national champion and All-American at the University of Florida. Phyllis, during her first year at the University of Oregon, started to run the 1,600-meter relay. Her coach saw that she had potential to excel in the race. Then, they made a deal. If she could run a certain time on a relay leg, the coach promised he would help her train to compete in the 400-meter race.

After winning three consecutive Pac-12 championships and a national championship in the 400 with Oregon, Phyllis climbed on the national and world stages. She recently won the U.S. Indoor Championship in the 300-meter run and the outdoor world title in the 400.

The speedster credits Catherine McAuley High School in Brooklyn, which recently closed, with preparing her for life after high school. The involved teachers helped her focus on her school work and her athletics. They prepared her for the world beyond school.

Phyllis plans to compete at the 202 Olympics in Tokyo. At the same time, she is preparing for life after track and field. She is thinking about owning her own business.

Aug 17 2017

Vaulting Leads To Career Trajectory

Armand Duplantis is known as Mondo. He is a vaulter and has cleared 19 feet at least twice this year. Most vaulters do not clear this height until they reach their prime compete level when they are in their mid-20s. Mondo is 17.

Mondo already has outgrown his home training facility in Louisiana. He jumps so high that the padding on a brick wall near the landing pit no longer provides him with a safety cushion should a practice vault move sideways. So, to continue his training, Mondo practices at his high school.

Mondo is committed to success, and he comes from good family stock. His father was an All-American vaulter who cleared 19 feet as a professional. His mother was a heptathlete and volleyball player. An older brother finished third at the Southeastern Conference indoor vaulting championships. Another brother played in the Little League World Series and now is a college outfielder.

Mondo has represented Sweden in several international competitions. Sweden is his mother’s home country and Mondo maintains dual citizenship. All the boys in the family have enjoyed summers in Sweden and they are comfortable with that country’s youth sports development programs.

Mondo began his training while still wearing diapers. He climbed a neighbor’s tree. Then, he used a skateboard to zoom off the roof with his brothers. His first vaults with a broomstick occurred in the living room. An ottoman served as his landing pit. When he was seven, he was a world age-group champion, preferring to jump barefoot until he was required to wear spiked shoes. Slightly more than a year ago, he vaulted 10 feet in the backyard by launching himself from a hoverboard.

Mondo hopes to vault 19 feet 81/4 inches this year. That is just six inches less than the world record. By the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, his aim is to be the best vaulter in the world and to compete for the gold medal.

For now, though, Mondo will stay close to home. He’s a good pole-vaulter, according to his father, but Mondo needs a little more formal and life education before he travels extensively around the world to compete in the vault.

But, the bar continues to rise for Mondo, who, in everyday life, does keep his feet planted firmly on the ground. That’s a good reminder for all of us as we strive to achieve new heights everyday in business.

Jun 16 2017

On The Way Up Mondo Reaches New Heights

Armand Duplantis is the only high school vaulter to clear 19 feet, and he has done it twice this year. Known as Mondo, he is 17 and a junior at a Louisiana high school. His chosen sport is one in which athletes reach their prime during their late 20s.

Mondo already has outgrown his home training facility. He jumps so high that the padding on the wall near the landing pit does not provide sufficient protection. He now trains at the high school.

Mondo comes from good sports stock. His father was an all-American pole-vaulter who cleared 19 feet as a professional. His mother, a native of Sweden, was a heptathlon athlete and volleyball player. Two older brothers have been a pole-vaulter and a Little League World Series veteran, respectively.

The boys have spent summers in Sweden, where they enjoyed a comfort level with that country’s youth sports program. They hold dual citizenships, and when Mondo competes internationally he represents Sweden.

It all started for Mondo when he climbed a neighbor’s tree while still in diapers. He then used a skateboard to veer off the roof. At a young age, he began vaulting with a broomstick in the living room, using an ottoman for his landing. He was a world age-group champion by seven and he preferred to jump barefoot until he was required to wear spikes. Last year, he vaulted 10 feet in the backyard while launching himself from a hoverboard.

Mondo hopes to vault 19.8 feet-plus later this year, which would be shy of the world record by six inches. He plans to become the best in the world and compete for the gold medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

His head, and the rest of his body, may be up in the clouds, but Mondo remains close to home base. His father indicated that Mondo is not ready to travel the world to compete in the sport. He may be a fabulous pole-vaulter, but even Mondo knows he still needs a little more formal and life education.

The bar continues to rise for Mondo, but he prefers to keep his feet planted firmly on the ground. That sounds familiar to each of us as we strive to achieve lofty goals in business.

Apr 15 2017

A Lifetime Of Track And Youth Achievements

Anyone from the New York City area who ran track in high school during the 1960s through the early 1980s will remember the old armory facility in northern Manhattan. It was located in a rough neighborhood that continued to decline along with the building. Before the armory closed during 1984, as runners and others continued to compete, the building also was used for housing homeless men.

During 1993, with the interior of the armory unusable, Dr. Norbert Sander, a runner, took over the building from the city. Through his non-profit Armory Foundation, he developed a modern sports mecca that now draws about 150,000 athletes a year. The participants include grade school runners to professionals. Most Section 1 high school winter track meets now are held at the armory. High school and collegiate championships also are held at the building, which also has hosted the Millrose Games.

Dr. Sander graduated from Fordham Prep during 1960. He ran on the school’s city champion cross-country team. He also went to Fordham University, where he was part of the relay team that broke the Penn Relays’ 4X100 relay record. A graduate of Albert Einstein School of Medicine, Dr. Sander was an internist with a specialty in sports medicine.

The work of Dr. Sander goes beyond the meets that continue to run within the old armory building.  About a dozen years ago, he started Armory Prep, a youth education service that serves disadvantaged kids in the building’s Washington Heights neighborhood and elsewhere. About 150 children are in the program today and thousands have passed through it over the years. Almost 40 of the children have attended college.

Dr. Sander passed away last month. As the news spread, the tributes for his passion and accomplishments also ran through the world of track and field and all local youth athletics. One area coach and track official summed up Dr. Sander’s commitment to the sport and to youth – “No one could ever have dreamed what he did. What an influence. What a man.”

Dec 01 2016

Coaches Who Helped Pave the Way

Two innovative coaches left us this year. Each leaves behind a wonderful legacy and valuable life lessons for all of us.

Forbes Carlile was from Australia. His innovative ideas about sports physiology made him one of the world’s best-known swimming coaches. Dating back to the 1940s, his career is credited with producing many Australian Olympians. He coaching methods, believing that swimmers should start high-level competition at a young age, sent shock waves through swimming traditionalists.

Carlile decided that two leg kicks for two arm strokes (verses the conventional six kicks) saved energy. He also believed, again unconventional, that hot baths or showers before a race improved finish times by 1.5 percent, shaving almost a second in a 100-meter race (the difference between first and second place). He introduced interval training (alternating between activities that required different rates of speed and various levels of exertion) and advocated for year-round training that emphasized long-distance workouts.

Carlile originally planned to become a doctor. He changed his mind when he became ill while watching a film about an operation. He then studied human physiology and became dedicated to the science of swimming.

Closer to home, Ed Temple produced 40 Olympians for women’s track and field at Tennessee State. His athletes won 13 gold medals, six silver medals and four bronze medals. His teams won 34 national titles.

In his first year as coach, with a budget of $300, Temple’s team participated in one meet. A few years later, to get his runners to a competition in New York, the coach piled the team into his old DeSoto station wagon.

Temple was the team coach, trainer, counselor and parent. “I was everything,” he said a few years ago, “but you had to be, because there was no other person there.”

Temple’s teams were composed of more than just athletes. He always told the girls that they were young ladies and should carry themselves properly. He always reminded them that they were ladies first and runners second.

Temple also told the ladies on each of his teams that they should use track as an exchange for an education. Track, according to the coach, was the means to walk across the stage to receive a degree.

“Athletics opens up doors for you,” said the coach, “but education keeps them open.”

Jun 01 2016

She Hated Sports, But Look At Her Now

Monae Cooper hated sports – with a capital “H.” She was the most un-athletic kid (her words) but then she ventured into modified volleyball on a whim during seventh grade.

The experience opened her eyes. Not just to volleyball but to all sports. That first season of volleyball also was her last season of volleyball. A senior at New Rochelle High School, she now is the proud owner of pounds of track and field medals.

Monae is a thrower of the shot and hammer. She is the most dominant high school girl thrower in Section 1 and one of the best in New York State. Hard work was required to reach the top. She made the commitment. She didn’t want any regrets or leave anything undone.

A significant portion of Monae’s success comes from her family. Her mother and father have instilled values and discipline, showing her how to remain dedicated and committed to her sports activities and her classwork. Monae’s achievements in both has led to a scholarship at Northeastern University, where she will study health sciences. Northeastern was just one of several schools that pursued her.

Cooper is leaving New Rochelle with more than medals. The positives are too many to mention. She does believe that the most important take-away is to maintain the determination to be successful.

Track has taught Monae to keep an open mind for all possibilities that come her way. She said that she is ready to face anything that life throws at her.

Jim

Jul 16 2015

Local Track Star Challenges The World

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