Greyducks Gearing up for Glory
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“Preseason is going great. I see all of the athletes feeding off of each other in a way that couldn’t happen last year. I’m looking forward to seeing if that translates into success in the meets.” —Tony Kunin, head coach of the Greyducks
The Greyducks, Stuyvesant’s girls’ cross country team, have seen a reasonable amount of success throughout their history and especially in recent years. The team competed on November 23, 2019 in the New York State Federation Cross Country Championships, an event they qualified for by placing in the top four at the PSAL City Championships. Heading into the first PSAL cross country season since then, just three out of the seven varsity members who competed at the State Championships are still on the team. Now, as races start up again, Coach Tony Kunin has been tasked with getting the group of both experienced and novice runners ready to race.
Kunin (’87) previously coached at elementary school P.S. 150. During the 2012 track and field season, his team won the District Two South Championship, and he subsequently won the Coach of the Year award. This season, he has teamed up with the Stuyvesant boys’ cross country head coach, Carl Disarno, who also coaches the girls’ indoor and outdoor track teams. This collaboration between coaches has promoted greater unity between the two teams, smoothed the transition between seasons, and allowed Kunin to have time to integrate his own ideas as a new coach without discarding the team’s established practices. “I personally feed off of the energy of all of these young athletes and particularly moving to see newcomers progress. I’m really looking to the captains and the seniors to be both recruiting and supporting the freshmen and sophomores, which I am seeing, and I am very encouraged by the mentoring that has occurred thus far,” Kunin said when asked about what he enjoys most as a coach and what goals he has for the team.
The energy and mentoring Kunin spoke of have clearly been present ever since the team resumed its normal practice schedule in late August. This return to full-time preseason training has brought more newcomers in and strengthened the bonds between members of the team. “I think the team bond has never been stronger. We’ve been able to talk a lot amongst each other now that we can see each other more,” senior and co-captain Alicia Yu said. “All of the captains have done a great job being inclusive [toward] every member of the team, so we really feel like a community. The energy is amazing, and I come to practice excited to see everyone and leave laughing from all the jokes.”
Along with the strong communal nature of the team, the talent of individual runners will allow the Greyducks to challenge on all frontiers. At the forefront of these talented individuals is junior Isabella “Bella” Stenhouse. As a freshman, Stenhouse placed first in both the PSAL Freshman Championships and the PSAL Manhattan Borough Championships and second in the PSAL City Championships. Along with senior and co-captain Susan Zheng and junior YuLin Zhen, Stenhouse competed at the State Championships two years ago. With Stenhouse’s exceptional running ability, the experience of other upperclassmen who have run at important meets in the past, and a batch of fast, new runners, the Greyducks could be in line for more success this season.
The first race of the season was on September 25, when the Greyducks competed in the PSAL Group Run at Van Cortlandt Park. After a couple of other meets, they will be back at Van Cortlandt for the PSAL Manhattan Borough Championships and PSAL City Championships. The stakes are always highest in these season-defining races, and based on the Greyducks’ past successes, nothing short of the borough title and making states will satisfy them.
Yu, who stated that many athletes have already vastly improved since the beginning of the summer, feels optimistic about the team’s chances this year. “We are definitely looking at being one of the top contenders to make the state meet this season. Pre-season practice has been great so far. It’s been tough, but that’s what is going to make us better come postseason,” she said.
Yu isn’t the only one excited about the team’s improvements and prospects in races. Kunin shares this sentiment. “Preseason is going great. I see all of the athletes feeding off of each other in a way that couldn’t happen last year. I’m looking forward to seeing if that translates into success in the meets,” he said. The talent, mentality, and collaboration of the Greyducks are all present, and now it will be down to training hard and racing harder for the team to achieve the lofty expectations placed upon them.