Greyducks Hit Rough Waters

The Greyducks, Stuyvesant’s girls’ varsity indoor track team, are looking to overcome unfamiliar obstacles midway through the season.

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Nearly one week into winter break and only two days after Christmas, junior Angela Zhong proudly received her silver medal in the 1500-meter racewalk at the PSAL Holiday Classic track and field meet. With her time of eight minutes and 34 seconds, she became the third member of the Greyducks to qualify for the City Championships meet at the end of the season in February. Zhong is no stranger to finishing on the podium, as she has won first place in last year’s outdoor track season and has many other awards to her name. However, one thing is different from a year ago; despite placing second, Zhong said, “I slowed down from last year,” recognizing if the meet occurred one year ago, she would have easily taken the gold instead of silver. In the last month, Zhong and the rest of her teammates have surprisingly struggled to maintain their high level of performance from past years. The Greyducks have let previously attainable high placements slip from their grasp.

The Stuyvesant Greyducks, the girls’ varsity indoor track team, have historically been one of Stuyvesant’s highest performing teams. The team is in the midst of a long stretch of dominance over Manhattan, which it has accumulated by winning Borough Championships for the last four years in a row. Success has been in abundance in all three seasons for the Greyducks; the cross country and outdoor track teams have been equally outstanding. However, this season has told a different story. The Greyducks are approaching the halfway point of the indoor track season with many unfamiliar concerns. The girls are struggling to find the same form that established them as the borough’s top team in the last four years, and many athletes have fallen off from their previous personal records. There have been sparks of optimism, but there is cause for concern for a team so used to being at the top.

The team competed at the PSAL Holiday Classic during winter break at the Armory on December 27. They came away with eight hard fought top-10 finishes, with Zhong being the highlight of the night despite not meeting her own standards. Senior and co-captain Jeanette Cheung similarly did not live up to her previous performances and placed 10th in the same event with a time of 10 minutes—almost two minutes more than her personal record.

Besides the racewalk, junior Ester Suleymanov continued her season-long streak of strong performances by placing third in the 1500-meter run with a time only three seconds slower than her personal record (5:28). A few underclassmen put in strong showings at the meet, with sophomore Jessica Kwok and freshman Leah D’Silva respectively placing eighth and ninth in the 1000-meter run and freshman Charlotte Li earning sixth place in the shot put (17-10.5).

While the veterans of the team are working on a variety of things from qualifying for City Championships to simply practicing to regain last year’s success, the underclassmen are mainly focused on development and gaining more experience in their events. In the 25th Hispanic Games, their first meet of 2019, the Greyducks saw encouraging results from their younger runners. Sophomore Julianne Yotov placed 10th in the sophomore 1500-meter run (5:22.08), a new personal record. In addition, the soph-frosh 4x800-meter relay team finished seventh (11:19.38). While no individual placed better than 10th place, the team’s younger athletes used the meet to gain more valuable experience.

The team only sent a few athletes to the Armory for the NYRR Millrose Trials on January 9. Three of them ran the 55-meter dash, with junior Angelique Charles-Davis placing 22nd (7:71), senior Vivian Cribb placing 33rd (7:85), and freshman Zuzi Liu placing 48th (8:07) out of 76 runners. These performances “could have been better, but [were] not completely horrible,” Charles-Davis said. The 4x400-meter relay team also raced, placing 13th with a time of 4:27, which is over 10 seconds better than their performance at the Holiday Classic in December.

There is no doubt that the Greyducks are within range of being a great track and field team, as they are able to consistently appear in the top 15 spots of events that often have more than 50 athletes competing. However, podium finishes have declined in frequency. Some athletes attribute this to lower than usual attendance at practices and meets. “PSAL is doing this new thing where athletes have to be entered electronically the day before a meet and not in-person on race day. Some girls couldn’t race at meets because they were entered late or not at all,” junior Sherry Chen said. This has unfortunately been the reason for why the Greyducks haven’t had as many athletes compete despite the pressing need for experience at this time in the season. Furthermore, with a different coach from last year, practices have also been changed, as Charles-Davis said they are “smaller and slightly less organized than before.” These changes may have had effects on the team’s competitions as well.

The Greyducks have less than a month before Borough Championships, and the stakes are higher than ever. The girls are still focused on beating their personal records and improving as individual athletes. As for the team as a whole, though the last few meets didn’t end up how they wanted, the girls are still optimistic heading into the second half of the season, confident that they can win at Borough’s when the time comes. “Many girls still go to practice a lot, and the freshmen are really committed! The vibe is still really lovely and supportive,” Chen said. “We’re still a really close team even though there are grade, sprinter, and distance divisions!”

The Greyducks are also hoping to qualify more athletes for City Championships because they currently only have three athletes who made the cut. If the young runners can continue to improve and the veterans can find a way to get back on track, the team will be back on the path to domination. “Even if we might not be up to par with the people who have left us, I see high potential in this team, and we’re going to use that as our motivation to continue to improve and do our best,” Zhong said.