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The Staten Island Runner

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May 8, 2000

Let it Rip!

by Mike Weiner

Volume 4

ON St. Johns T&F Program
OK, beat me with a stick! Throw me in jail! People, I never confessed to anyone that I was a Track & Field expert. I am a working father who loves the sport. but has a real life which is not related to Track & Field. I only confess to express my opinions and views whether you like them or not. And believe me, I don't care either way. But I do enjoy talking out loud.. And if you don't enjoy reading them, you have the option.. OK, I admit I may not have juiced up the several performance marks I used as quick examples in my last column. The point I was trying to make (and if you read it again you'll see) was that a major Division 1 program usually is strong top to bottom. Numbers we're talking here, Numbers I say! I mentioned that St. Johns always has many good athletes, but not enough to score high at NCAA's like the MAJOR TEAMS! MAJOR as in ARKANSAS, TENNESSEE, FLORIDA, UCLA, LSU, etc. St. Johns has a MAJOR Division 1 Basketball Program!! So Pete A, I thank you for the concern, which I really respect coming from you (an athlete of the school), and I hope you understand that I actually appreciate/respect the St. Johns Track & Field Program. I have competed at St. Johns at least 20 times over the years, and it is clearly my favorite facility in NYC. The program has done so much for NYC Track & Field with their meets and facility. You don't have to worry about anyone thinking St. Johns is not an excellent Track & Field Program, because if they know the sport, they know that it's as good as any in this area.

As far as my knowledge of Track & Field ?? Recently someone stated I didn't know the sport at all. Maybe they were right ?? I have read every Track & Field News since 1983 (that's ~17 years), I have followed the results from USA, NCAA, HS during the same time. I have been to 4 USA T&F championships, 4 Millrose Games, and many others. I competed in about 10 Empire State Games, where I watched many national caliber T&F athletes. I competed at the National HS Decathlon Championships in Seattle, WA, where I watched many nationally ranked athletes. I started watching track & field in Ft. Lauderdale, back in 1982 when National HS Football stars Bennie + Brian Blades, Michael Irvin, and Lorenzo White (all NFL pros), and Slip Watkins were all breaking Florida Track records. When I started to compete in T&F in 1983, I had the pleasure of learning a great deal about the sport from my coach Bill Welsh, a longtime T&F coach. While in HS I learned everything there is to learn about the history of the decathlon, and the life of Daley Thompson. I have read 4 javelin books, 2 hurdle books, the throws Manual, Tony Naclerio's throwing book, Russian Pole Vault training manuals, Swedish Javelin Training Guides. I have studied many advanced T&F training Videos, from Miklos Nemeth, Brian Oldfield, Jan Zelezny, and Carl Lewis to name a few. I have also attended 2 National Coaching Sessions in Syracuse. Attended several throwing clinics at Rutgers with Tom Pukstys (American Record Holder). I also had the pleasure of training several months with a javelin thrower who was ranked 3rd in the USA in '95(250'). I coached the Field and Hurdle events at Monsignor Farrell for 4 years, where several athletes went on to scholarships. Lastly, I have learned priceless techniques, training methods, and ideas from all of the many talented T&F coaches and athletes I have had the pleasure to work with through the years. Though I don't have much knowledge of T&F as was mentioned, and even though I was an average athlete at best, I love the sport and have picked up a lot of good knowledge of the sport. My real gift is the ability to motivate younger T&F athletes.

I am learning something quickly about doing this, and that's people take what you say like its written in blood. I'm not a journalist by trade, shoot!, I cant even speak or write English properly. I'm a computer, Fire Protection geek! I'm doing this on the spur of the moment. I think about it, and then I type. That's it! People act like I'm going John Rocker on them or something. But from now on, I will try to be more precise when it comes to facts. Also, I have said, I am not into journalism or media. I am not here to write structured stories or articles. I am just running off at the keyboard in a quick manner. If it comes out right great, if not who cares. I am basically doing this as if I was speaking to someone, except that someone is the visitors of this site. I'll continue until I run out of things to say. To all you email-less posters, get a life! The forum will be upgraded soon to save all of the decent people on this site the embarrassment of your cowardly notations. One other thing, anyone using the forum to communicate, please take what is said with a grain of salt. If you know the person who your responding to, but their comments were not usual for them, it probably isn't them. Don't fight back in anger in disbelief of what they said, because it more than likely isn't them. As incredibly dynamic as the Internet has been for this planet, it can also teach us an important lesson, the only real trustworthy communication is of the face-to-face kind.

So it looks like St.Joseph by the Sea will be the pioneers in this neck of the woods !! That's great to hear. They have done a great job the last several years with their boys. The problem as Adam Risi was saying is that there aren't the meets for the girls to compete in! I think St. Joseph by the Sea is going to play a key role in this development. I think they will have to push for other area meets to include the girls vaulting in the list of events.

What a beautiful day! A little hot, but otherwise great. Some nice performances.. Unfortunately, more blinding than the sun was the obvious lack of attendance. It goes to show you the state of T&F. A championship football game brings thousands. Championship basketball packs any gym. Championship girls softball I've seen pack a whole field, because of the island dominance and rivalries. Besides the few caring parents, or some young girls who came to check out some of these good looking young men with their shirts off, there's just no turnout. We should start charging an entrance fee. Maybe people don't feel its worth going to unless you charge money to get in. :-) Maybe if we start charging to get in, we'll have standing room only. How about getting younger athletes involved. Communicate with the elementary schools to come out and watch. This would educate any of these kids in the sport, and possibly recruit some of them into the sport, when they might not otherwise do so. Lets market T&F a little more. Everyone can help.

How does a guy like Jan Mitchell (T&F coach @ Iona Prep HS) continue to rob Staten Island T&F community of respect? In the past, he might have had some reason to not hold meets here because of limited resources of T&F facilities and/or equipment. No more!! There are several facilities on SI that can hold a track meet. Coaches on SI have to stand up now and make some noise. Without the SI schools who compete in those meets, they wouldn't collect enough funds to run them. Take a stand now and demand to hold some of these meets on SI. For years SI athletes have been forced to get on the bus at 6am for the long bus trips over to Iona Prep to compete. Let them get on a bus and travel over to here for a change. Stop letting this guy control the world. I can fully understand someone with his tenure and experience getting some perks, etc. He is a respected coach in the NYC area, but he is also a guy who is probably on a lot of peoples most disliked list as well. Anyway enough is enough! Where's the equality?? Where's the fairness??

I use Jan Mitchell's name, because everyone knows he runs the show across the bridge. Even though Jim Scott is the head cheese, Jan Mitchell has the influence. Unfortunately, one way to really make some noise is to boycott the meets, but the athletes are the ones who will pay, so that is not realistic. SI Catholic/Parochial coaches pull together and stand up for some respect!!

So I see that arguably the best marathoner in the world will become a US citizen in time to represent the US in the Olympics. Although it will be great to have him represent us in the Olympics, its just not the same. We have been so weak in that event for so long, that you wished that we had some 22 year old from out in the country some where who could compete with the best of them from Kenya or the like. Why can't we compete with the best ?? Young people in this country have too many other material things to enjoy and do at a young age to be interested in distance running. On the other hand, take some Kenyan kids who see the great Kenyan runners in their country achieve great things or money, and they see running as a way out or a way to make it. Kind of like kids in the ghetto who see basketball as a way out.

I have been at both. Seen how both operate. But what is the real reasons why the private schools clearly have the edge over the public schools?? Is it just about money (families, schools)?? Is just about the volume of kids?? Is it about the type of kids (expectations, goals) ?? Is it about the location of the schools?? Is it about the type of coaches??
I think it's a mixture of all of these. I also think the key word in all of this talk is COMMITMENT. It has a snowball effect. The private schools have the greater commitment, because of the need to attract new athletes to the schools and maintain the schools reputation. Kind of like you need money to make money. So because of the lack of funding in the public schools, the private schools consistently win this one. Also, I think it's a consensus that families with greater income will more than likely send their children to private schools. Because they have the greater income, those kids might have better training equipment, gyms, shoes, etc. I don't think the numbers are a key element, with the exception of a few schools like the Monsignor Farrell's of the world. Does the type of kid who goes to either a private or public school play a big part ?? Definitely a factor, although something that can easily be equalized or overcome with the other key factors mentioned in this article. If a kid in a public school is coached and mentored in the same manor as the private school, I think the public school athlete will probably have the advantage. Problem is do they get the same, usually not. Locations of the school play a part. Is it going to be easier to get kids on the track when you have a nice track, you bet! Is it going to be harder to get kids out to the track when you don't have one or the one you have is horrible, you bet!! Is it easier to get kids interested in the Pole Vault when you have nice pits, which are easily accessible on the track, you bet! Coaching?? Is a school going to have a better team when the coach is actively recruiting throughout the school and working with the other sports, you bet! Is the school going to have a poor turnout when they wait for kids to come out or just do what they have to, you bet! I think if you made a list of all the private schools and a list of all the public schools, you could probably say that more often than not, the private schools had coaches that were there because of their desire to coach or their knowledge of the sport. Whereas, the public school list would reveal a lot of coaches who were filling the void or utilizing the spot to boost the salary. Again, I am not saying this is true for all, but for a lot. This is why the private school kids overall get better coaching. I think any school with a coach, manager, parent, principal, or athlete who has the commitment to the kids and the program can have a productive team. With the constant commitment and activity in the school, the school will have to meet the team half way and begin to find funding for the team. This will result in better equipment, etc. Forming a parents club can assist the team as well. Parents care! No matter what neighborhood they live in. When school leaders (principal, teachers, deans, etc) don't see the commitment in a program, they aren't going to go out of their way to contribute, however when there is a commitment, everyone will be willing to contribute. School spirit, although corny, is as real as anything.
SUMMARY: Overall, there's a greater commitment from the private system with regards to coaching, funding, support. This all stems from the competition between the private schools to attract kids. The only way the public system can match this is with individual(s) who make the commitment necessary to get to the next level. In the public schools it can be done. Bill Welsh brought this to New Dorp. Pete Whitehouse brought this to Tottenville. Bob Andrews brought this to Curtis. These are just a few public school coaches who come to mind during my time, and there are many others in the city. So regardless what people will say about the kids at a school, or the neighborhoods they come from, I believe any public school can have a successful program with the proper commitment. So, the final answer is yes, the private schools have the commitment by design, and this is why they consistently produce finer teams. On the other hand, the public schools with people who are committed in the program have shown that they can compete with these same private schools. So its all about commitment.

How incredible is Marion Jones to watch?? She is just awesome. She just might be the greatest US Womens T&F athlete since Wilma Rudolph. And she's married to CJ Hunter! (A very good Shot Putter) How cool is that??

Kudos to Jim Hughes! This man just goes on and on. Without him at the helm of Staten Island Track & Field, who knows where they'd be. He has worked tireless for so many years running so many meets and meetings for T&F. A lot of people don't even know who he is, because he is a quiet man. You wont hear him screaming any at any meets or meetings, and if it weren't for that funny looking hat he wears at the meets you'd probably never notice him. ;-) This man has been the cornerstone at Moore Catholic for centuries, all right it just seems like that! If I'm correct, he still holds some short sprinting records set back in the mid '60's. (Sorry to give his age away). He is just one of the nicest guys around, and a leader in this great sport. When you see him, thank him for all he has done to help this sport!!

So I hear that Wagner College has gotten a fine hurdles coach up on the hill. That's good news for local hurdlers wishing to stay close to home. Wagner now has a fine facility (something that killed that program for years). They also have a committed coach in Joe Stasi, also a fine hurdler I believe. Unfortunately, the biggest hurdle to overcome at the school is the price. Scholarship or grants are imperative at the school because of its steep price.

What's with all the bickering between people about old runners versus young runners? People you are all runners, all doing the same thing. You are all doing something that you love, running. You older runners remember that that used to be you, and the younger runners remember that this will be you in a few years. One of the dynamics of road racing is the age group category. Runners of any age can run in the race, and if you are an older runner not able to crack the overall list, you'll be recognized for your age group. That's the great thing about road racing, that it attracts runners of all sex or age. May the best man or women win. Who cares if it is a local high school runner or a visiting Kenyan, its open game. Who cares if the runner is from Brooklyn or Montana. Better competition will only push everyone in the race. If a younger athlete can win the overall, great! Commend him or her and be proud of them. And if you're mad that that person is winning the races over yourself, train harder! I think if we have younger athletes who are starting to dominate the road racing scene, great! I don't think it's a younger vs. older thing, because there are plenty of great young and older runners who can win any of these races. I think the problem is just a few bad apples who are past the prime or not willing to put the work that is required. If you can't run with the pack, go jog in the back!

Should HS runners be running hard in the summer ?? I am the last person to be answering this, but I will anyway. It's up to the athletes themselves whether or not they respect their coaches advice or suggestions regarding off-season running. I would think the more respect/confidence the athlete has in his coach based on their relationship and/or past experiences, the more he/she would take the advice. I personally think there's no set answer. Every runner or athlete is different. Factors to take into consideration are experience, age, health, goals. Is it an inexperienced runner who could benefit from more races in the off-season. Is it a young runner who had a long season and would benefit from some time off mentally ? Does the runner need this time to recuperate from nagging injuries, and be ready for the next season. What are the runners goals ?? Athletes have the right to run during the summer if that's what they like. But what are the long term goals ? CC Champion ? 2 mile champion ? I definitely think some rest is in order during these months. When I say rest, I mean rest from the everyday running on the track., etc. I think this is a great time to strengthen up with the weights(yes even the distance runners).
So while the athlete is not doing massive running workouts, they are strengthening their bodies. I don't think enough weight training is done with distance running at this level. Specific exercises to benefit the runners.
I think this decision has to be evaluated on a athlete to athlete basis. I think the athlete should take all important advice and facts from their coach and make the decision they feel good about. The athlete is the best person to decide their own future. If an athlete is healthy in the off season, I personally don't see the harm in competing in a handful of races.

---Just a great great piece of life was the turnout in the snow for the recent road race in memory of the firefighter. That's commitment!

---Can't we duplicate the success of the PENN RELAYS anywhere in T&F?? We need to look at PENN and try to use this model for more successful T&F competitions.