Track teams race toward City Championship with Queens Championship Triumphs

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During the trophy ceremony at the conclusion of the Queens Championship meet last Saturday, both the Townsend Harris High School Boys’ and Girls’ Varsity track teams huddled together at the center of the track to await their final positions. To a large applause from both teams and the lively crowd in the stands above, the announcer declared the THHS Boys Track team the first place winners, and the Girls team second, subsequently making them the best and second best teams in Queens, respectively. 

It was the perfect ending to the indoor track journeys of Girls Varsity Track Team captain senior Chloé Muñoz and Boys Varsity Track Team captain senior Jake Chang, who accepted and lifted each of their winner’s plaques for their teams. While Chloé and Jake will continue competing for Townsend Harris in the outdoor season, this was their third and final Queens Championship meet, and testament to the legacy of their teams. 

Reflecting on the “surreal feeling” of leading the track team, Chloé emphasized her gratitude for the togetherness of the team. “I definitely think of just the small moments where I felt like a real team again. Specifically when we would all cheer for each other during our events, it is something I have missed for a while and that connection really can not be compared to anything else,” said Chloé.

Jake spoke to The Classic about his satisfaction with the result and collective effort of the team. Reflecting on the meet’s most memorable moment, he said, ”[when] everyone had their hands in and we shouted our chant in the infield all together. Just knowing that this was the last time during the Indoor season where we would all shout our chant together was very meaningful.”

The Biggest Takeaways from the Girls’ Team Performance

During the meet, the girls team won 17 medals against 26 Queens schools. Their medals scored them enough points to secure second place. 

For the boys team, their gold medal 4 by 800-meter relay win, capped off their team’s second place win and prolific history in the event. The team included Chloe, seniors captains Amelia Wiszowaty and Isabelle Borgstedt, and sophomore Carina Fucich. 

Chloé was also able to secure a silver in the 600-meter run and fourth place in the 1000-meter run, earning 22 points for the team. 

Captain and senior Amelia Wiszowaty, who was also on the 4 by 800-meter team that placed first, captured gold in the pole vault, sixth place in the 600-meter run, earning 21 points for the team. She spoke to The Classic about her nerves leading up to the meet, but finds relief and happiness in reflecting on the results of the meet and her performances. “I think I surprised myself during the meet, and even though I performed better in certain events over others, I feel good about leaving my last indoor champs like this,” said Amelia

Following the meet, she was quick to credit Coach Timothy Connor and the work-ethic of her team as catalysts to her success in the meet. “I think our success comes from a combination of factors; from the hard work each teammate puts in at practice to our coaches who make us repeat 400s and give great pep talks,” said Amelia.

Senior Maggie Zheng led the 1500-meter racewalk wire to wire, winning first place. 

Carina also added a gold in the 3000-meter run and silver in the 1500-meter event. 

The Biggest Takeaways from the Boys’ Team Performance

At the meet, 18 members of the team won a total of 24 medals against 23 Queens schools. Their podium finishes earned them a total of 94 points, which was enough to clinch first place. 

“I was very pleased with the team’s performance at the Queens Champs,” said Boys Head Coach George Rio. “[The] Townsend Boys [sent a message that they] are the best team in Queens and are ready to claim a top spot against the rest of the four boroughs.”

For the boys team, their surprise 4 by 200-meter relay win, in which the team upset Springfield Gardens to claim the gold medal, defined the team’s first place effort. During the race, the first two runners of the relay, seniors Filip Puskarczyk and Liam Dolphin, challenged Springfield Gardens for the first 400 meters of the race, trailing them by a short distance. But the turning point of the race came when Liam passed the stick to freshman and third leg runner Timothy Chan, who raced into first place. Junior Adam Hammond was then able to hold first place using the lead that Timothy had gained. 

Recalling the relay, boys team captain Henry Lin said, “[g]oing into the race, Springfield Gardens was the clear favorite. But when freshman Tim received the baton and overtook the leading team, it showed queens that Townsend was a real contender.”

Liam Dolphin and Ngawang Ghongwatsang added 26 points each. Ngawang won two gold medals in the triple and long jump and a bronze in the triple jump, while Liam won a gold in the 4 by 200-meter relay, and two silvers in the 55-meter hurdles and 4 by 800-meter relay.

While this season has had its positives and negatives for Ngawang, he was pleased by this meet, believing the key to his performance was persistence and a sense of trust in his training. In describing the moments before his events, he said, “I always try to visualize my jump before I do it. After letting it run through my mind a couple of times, I try to get as much adrenaline flowing through my body. My mind shuts off, and muscle memory takes over from that point on.” He was pleased with his performances and the team’s victory, but believes that he can still improve on his technique. 

Jake coasted the 3200-meter, 1600 meter, and 1000-meter events to gold medal finishes in each of them. The nature in which he had competed these long distance events in succession of each other, with just under an hour between the events, highlighted his growth on the team. The announcer summarized these performances as “chang-tastic,” a reference to his last name. 

“Ultimately, the goal was to win all three of my events and that was met,” said Jake. 

“The main story of the meet is the triple gold medal performances of team captain Jake Chang, winning the 3200, 1000 and 1600-meter races. But the defining moment of the meet was the come from behind, upset win by our 800-meter relay (Filip Puskarczyk, Liam Dolphin, Timothy Chan and Adam Hammond) over favored Springfield Gardens! It was a thrilling race,” said Mr. Rio. 

The result of the meet also held particular importance to both track teams as it concluded their comeback season on a high note. After losing their last indoor seasons due to the pandemic, the team was further hindered by the renovation of the Queens College track, the teams’ practice track. Subsequently, for the entirety of this year, the teams have been forced to run in hallways, pavements, and Kissena park to practice.

“Considering our team is significantly smaller this year compared to other seasons I am definitely proud of what we have been able to achieve thus far. I think the fact that we were able to place after coming back from almost two years of Covid is really something I’m proud of,” said Chloé.

Mr. Rio said, “[I]t was very gratifying to me to see the hard work the boys have put in come to fruition. I’m especially proud of our seniors (Jake, Liam, Dipon, Abiola, Ngawang, Henry, Keane, Afwan, Filip, Ryan, Sam and Tomoyoshi) because they endured the entire brunt of the pandemic. They never gave up and came through at the end.”

Boys Track team Assistant Coach Orlando Martinez also expressed his pride for his team’s resilience through the pandemic. “Coach Rio and I have a combined experience of 84 years of having coached athletes at the city, state and national level. Our athletes at THHS have raw talent and they’re dedicated and perseverant.”

“Without a track we found other ways to train. Supporting each other was the main way we got through our struggles and injuries. I hope that in the same way I was pushed as a freshman I can now push the newer track members,” said Liam.

While both teams have celebrated the results of the meet with great aplomb, they remain locked in and eager to build on this result. 

Jake, who has aspirations to carry the momentum of this meet to the upcoming City Championship and potentially state championships, said “transitioning to outdoor, winning Queens is definitely one of my and the team’s goals. Personally, my goals for outdoor are identical to indoor, but ultimately [I want to] end my high school career on a high note, hopefully cracking several school records along the way.”

“I’m thankful that I was able to meet/coach these gentlemen after hibernating for 1.6 years. I’m looking forward to this outdoor season,” said Mr. Martinez.

Although the meet consisted primarily of individual events, Amelia believes that this meet and the collective celebrations by the teams at the end emphasizes the togetherness of the team. “I think many perceive as track as definitely an individual sport, but I think here we have always emphasize[d] that we run together as a team,” said Amelia Wiszowaty. “Even though we each compete in different events, we see our improvements as a team. We motivate each other as a team.“

Reflecting back on his journey to Queens Championship, Liam pointed out the importance of enjoying the experience and trusting in teammates. He said, “to future indoor teams, enjoy the time you have on track. Go to practice and have fun despite whatever failures or successes you have. When you finish your journey, you will realize that the people you met along the way are the ones who got you through high school.”

Jake also discussed the experience of leading his team after representing it for four years. “It’s definitely a strange feeling, mainly due to the time passing by so quickly as I remember this exact meet during my freshman year. It’s really eye opening to look back and see the changes that I’ve made as both a runner and a person. Being able to stand as the face of the team is something I’m certainly proud of, as these are guys that I surround myself with everyday and guys who I know are going to constantly improve.”

After these statement wins at the Queens Championship meet, both indoor track teams have two remaining meets in their seasons. The teams will compete February 19, at the PSAL City Championship in the Armory, which will be the senior’s final indoor meet. The final meet is the PSAL Freshman/Sophomore City Championship, on March 6. The 2022 outdoor track season is expected to begin in late March.

Photos courtesy of Tracy Mou

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