Underclassmen take home title of best in Queens

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Boys XC freshmen and sophomores pose with their second and first place trophy respectively. Photo by Yash Sharma
Boys XC freshmen and sophomores pose with their second and first place trophy respectively.
Photo by Yash Sharma

Columbus Day weekend brought another major cross country boys meet. The Queens Freshman and Sophomore Borough Championships were held at Cunningham Park on Tuesday, October 15. Its importance lay in the fact that it determined the top freshmen and sophomore teams in Queens. This year, the THHS boys cross country team proved themselves as one of the best teams in Queens, with the freshmen taking home second place and the sophomores earning first place.

The mood of the boys team was tense and serious, especially for the freshmen, who had never competed in this race. This applied especially to freshman Benjamin Pulatov, brother of last year’s boys track captain Isaac Pulatov, who was running for the first time in a PSAL meet. When asked how he felt before the race, he expressed his anxiety because he had only started track recently.

With the freshmen, Assistant Coach Orlando Martinez and Coach George Rio were especially careful to emphasize the basics. Coach Martinez made sure runners were properly warmed up. He also gave the freshmen important tips. “Pace yourself,” he said, “Don’t go out so fast and get tired in the middle of the race.” The freshmen’s fastest runner, Muhamed Bicic, stepped up as leader, leading the freshmen in the warm up, giving them an overview of course, and gathering them together for a mini pep talk.

In the sophomore 2.5 mile race, the first Harrisite to finish was sophomore Abdoulaye Diallo, earned 4th place with a finish of 15:28. Sophomore Matthew McAndrew finished at 15:56 in 10th place. Sophomore Benjamin Chang was nearly outrun by sophomore Andre Cunalata of Francis Lewis High School, but managed to stay ahead after a sprint to the finish line, finishing at 17th place with a time of 16:44. After an intense run to the finish line, sophomores Fahim Nousad and Dysron Marshall both passed High School for Construction runner Jermy Budhram, both finishing with a time of 18:52. Fahim received 36th place while Dysron took home 37th place due to a difference of milliseconds.

While the sophomores were running, the freshman all gathered together again for their final pep talk. Matan summed up the their goal: “We need to see you dying at the finish line.” They finally decided to relax their nerves, gathering together for a Hebrew prayer led by Matan before their race.

When the freshman 1.5 mile race finally began, Muhamed took the lead towards the end, and achieved first place with a time of 8:28, beating the school record by 5 seconds. Matan finished in 7th place with his time of 10:00, despite his foot injury that he had had before the race. Benjamin did very well as well, getting 46th place with a time of 12:31.

During the race, however, many of the freshmen did not follow the path of the race course correctly. Freshman runner Justice Williams explained, “Towards the middle of the race, we reached a nearly 180 degree turn which involved us going around several trees to successfully complete it. I noticed a couple of runners cutting through the trees and bushes as opposed to completing the turn the way they should have.”

Muhamed claimed that the THHS boys all followed the path correctly, explaining that other teams like Francis Lewis High School were guilty of not following directions by saying, “The Francis Lewis coach talked about how there were some runners who cut parts of the course before the race and coincidentally his whole freshmen team cut the beginning part of the race. This frustrated many of the runners and despite not following the rules [the Francis Lewis runners] were not penalized.” The Francis Lewis freshman team took home first place.

Apparently, according to Assistant Coach Martinez, a “redo” does not exist in cross country races, unlike in indoor track races, so the officials in charge could not redo the race even though many runners had cheated. They also couldn’t disqualify anybody since they were unable to tell who cheated due to the large number of freshmen that ran for this race.

It was a job well done for all sophomores, who managed to get first place in Queens. The freshmen earned second place overall, losing out to Francis Lewis. The whole team gathered around afterwards, and chanted “Go Harris Hawks!” in celebration of this success.

Coach Rio reminded the runners, “This is a team sport.” At the end of the day, all the team members and coaches gathered together for a final discussion about the race, where they talked about how each runner was crucial to the race.

This experience increased the bond and connection between the runners and their teammates. Abdoulaye stated, “We’ve learned to have full confidence in our teammates.” He also quoted Joe Paterno, saying, “When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.”