New track teams at local schools were fast off the block this year. The first-ever elementary school track team at Battery Park City's P.S. 89 brought home two medals in the Department of Education (DOE) City-Wide Track Competition on June 4, at Icahn Stadium, on Randall's Island, while the neighborhood's first-ever middle-school team at P.S. 276 also took home two medals. Tribeca's P.S. 150 track team, now in its second year, brought home four medals and saw its coach, physical education teacher Tony Kunin, win the DOE's Manhattan Coach of the Year Award.
Competition became a focus at each school only toward the end of the track season, when the whole team attended the Developmental Track and Field Series Meet in March, at Verizon Field on the Lower East Side. It was their first experience with competition on a track and it was a large event. Hundreds of runners, jumpers and throwers competed from more than 100 schools.
After the Developmental competition, each school picked the top three track members in each event (75 or 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,600 meters, long jump and shot put), and advanced those students to the Manhattan South District 2 competition, on April 26. Students who placed in District Competition moved on to the Manhattan Borough Championship on May 26 at the Icahn Stadium, and from there, the top three finishers moved on to the City-wide round on June 4.
All three P.S. 89 fifth graders who went to the City-Wide Competition were new to their respective events, but placed in the top four positions. Spencer Kiehl threw 31 feet in shot put for first place and a City-wide record. Claire Glendening ran the 800 meters for second place. Katerina Coggeshall sprinted to a fourth place finish in the 200 meters.
|PS 150 track team and Coach Tony Kunin at the District Competition
James Herlihy, track coach and physical education teacher for P.S. 89 and I.S. 289 middle school, said he "started the program to promote physical activity because it's a great way to get fit." The track team attracted a huge response. Seventy-five members met twice per week before school to train in the P.S. 89 gym.
Although he had never thrown shot put, Spencer said his mother, Marci Kiehl, has always been an athlete. He pitches for the Athletics, a Downtown Little League Majors team, and Ms. Kiehl said his strong arm and athleticism caught the eye of coach Herlihy. "We had no idea he could be a shot putter. He didn't want to join track because he didn't want to run, but when the coach said he could throw shot put, we thought he should do it. Mr. Herlihy really knew his stuff and trained them well," said Ms. Kiehl, adding that her husband, Sam, bought a shot, learned about the event on YouTube and practiced at home with Spencer. Competition shots for ages 12 and under can weigh up to six pounds.
Claire and Katerina transferred their speed on the soccer field to the track. They both compete on the U11 Gotham Girls Soccer Team at Pier 40. Part of the energy and enthusiasm for this final competition came from their friendship, said Katerina's mother, Trienet del Valle. "The kids are extremely close friends, so it was so sweet to see them win together. They were extremely nervous beforehand. It was all so new to them. It was only a month and a half ago when they had their first competition," she explained.
P.S. 276, on Battery Place in Battery Park City, launched its first sixth-grade track team this year. First-time athlete Jonathan Wang broke the record in sixth grade shot put with a 44-foot throw in the City-Wide Competition. Arthur Perry placed second overall in the City-Wide 1,600 meters/one mile race. He has been in youth soccer and baseball for several years.
"It was a fun year for I.S. 176 in sports," said Frankie Alameda, sports director for P.S./I.S. 276 and a Manhattan Youth employee. Nick Tosh and Nate Andersen from Manhattan Youth coached I.S. 276 track.
In its second year, the P.S. 150 elementary school, on Greenwich Street in Tribeca, won first place in the Manhattan South District 2 Championship without even having a gym to practice in. Their team of third- through fifth-graders practiced on the plaza outside the school, as well as running along the Hudson River and on Pier 25.
Their performance did not go unnoticed. The DOE honored P.S. 150's physical education teacher, Tony Kunin, with the Manhattan Coach of the Year Award. "I tried to have all the children participate and keep the workout fun with an emphasis on conditioning," said coach Kunin, adding that "conditioning is important in the younger grades in track. As they get older, technique becomes more important. We place a high priority on outdoor recess in all weather at this school, which I think really helped, and I got some excellent training from the New York Road Runners Club."
In the City-Wide Championship, six of P.S. 150's eight competitors ended up in the top five places: third grader Rae Feiwel took second place in the 200 meters and 100 meters, third grader Michael Cheeseman brought home a second place in shot put, third grader Joshua Van Der Zwan took third place in the long jump, third grader Josse Hosmer won fourth place in the 800 meters, third grader Mavi Celebi ran fourth in the 800 meters, and fifth grader Ava Lawrence sprinted to fifth place in the 400 meters. Additionally, the third grade girls took home a third place medal in the relay.