Long-Awaited Return for the Greyducks

As PSAL sports resumed with a different format from prior years, Stuyvesant’s girls’ track team, the Greyducks, finally got the chance to bond and compete together again

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For Stuyvesant’s girls’ track team, the Greyducks, practices used to be held every day. Members would rush down the crowded staircases in the Stuyvesant building to get to the first floor, where they met as a team and stretched prior to going on runs. But last March, that all ended as COVID-19 raged around the world, and all PSAL practices and races were canceled, along with the closure of schools. Athletes on the team held out hope they would be able to return to track meets and cross country races promptly, but it took over 12 months before this return happened. However, this time was not wasted, as many of the Greyducks kept busy and performed other types of workouts on their own in order to keep fit. “After schools closed down in the spring of 2020, we started hosting virtual workouts over Zoom for us to safely exercise together. In the fall, we started hosting in-person group runs for those who were willing and able to meet up for easy runs, in addition to sending out a flexible training plan for our runners to follow,” senior and captain Julianne Yotov said. Furthermore, the team utilized the mobile app Strava during this time as a means of motivating each other to continue running by posting runs they did individually and giving each other “kudos” for their activities. Finally, PSAL announced on March 8, 2021 that sports would resume, with practices starting in April and competitions in May.

The team was able to start practicing together again once April arrived, in a return to some normalcy. While practices had been historically held either along the Hudson River or at the Armory, practices this year were held at Astoria Park in Queens. As these practices resumed, it was clear that different levels of activity over the past year had made a difference. “The transition of reintegrating athletes was difficult because everyone came back with different levels of conditioning and endurance, so it was difficult to strike a balance with regard to workouts,” head coach Carl DiSarno said in an e-mail interview. As it also became evident that this season would be like no other, the Greyducks adapted their goals to be centered around bonding, having fun, and getting ready for more intensive training over the summer in preparation for next year. “We focused more on making sure our team was a place where all interested runners, throwers, and jumpers could be part of a supportive family. We especially wanted to extend a warm welcome to freshmen (and other new members to the team) and help them be a part of a community at Stuy,” Yotov said.

Races started in May, but the structure of the whole track and field system for PSAL was greatly changed. In prior years, the Greyducks had competed against teams from across the city in various meets, culminating in the Manhattan Borough Championships and PSAL City Championships. However, this year, they were set to only compete in six meets, with all being part of the PSAL Spring Series for their division, the Brooklyn/Manhattan Girls I division. With only seven other teams in this division and just a few teams actually showing up to most races with multiple athletes, the sense of competition was not as great as in the past. Moreover, only some events were offered at each race, with the 100-meter dash, 800-meter run, 300-meter run, and 4x400-meter relay only offered at odd Spring Series races (one, three, and five) and the 400-meter dash, 400-meter hurdles, 1500-meter run, and 4x100-meter relay only offered at even races. This structure meant athletes were not always able to compete in their favorite or best events. Yet, it was still better than having no races as had been the case for the previous year. “This season was different because it never felt like a serious season. There were no championship meets, but it was great for the girls to get a chance to compete, even if it was only against three other schools,” DiSarno said.

Not only did the Greyducks get the chance to compete, but they also performed at a high level in the division. The Greyducks attended their first meet of the season on May 15, the second Spring Series race for the Brooklyn/Manhattan Girls I division. There, Yotov placed third in the 1500-meter run. Four days later, the team’s other captain, Agatha Edwards, placed first in the 3000-meter run, while freshman Amanda Cisse finished third in the 200-meter dash and fifth in the 100-meter dash. Freshman Anabella Castle also won the shot put event at this race, while the Greyducks’ 4x400-meter team finished over 30 seconds faster than second-placed Bard High School Early College. In the fourth spring series race of the season, Edwards and Yotov placed fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 1500-meter event, while junior Zuzi Liu earned third place in the 200-meter dash. In the shot put event, sophomore Ruby Lin and junior Charlotte Li finished first and second, respectively.

With the end of the season marked by the Greyducks’ last race on June 13, an emphasis has been placed on looking ahead to next year. With the hope that PSAL sports will return to full normalcy as schools fully reintegrate to in-person learning, the Greyducks will aim to compete with the top schools in the city, starting with the cross country season next fall. After finishing in the top four in the last cross country PSAL City Championships in 2019 and qualifying for the New York State Federation XC Championships, the expectations will be high for a mostly new set of runners to continue the legacy of past Greyducks teams. For senior Greyducks, this season was their last with the team, but they leave the track with fond memories. Caroline Ji, a senior who has been on the team since her freshman year, reflected on her time as a Greyduck. “My favorite aspect of this team is that our identity has always been and will forever be grounded in the idea that one’s impact on a team extends far beyond the stats sheet. Being a Greyduck is about doing the small things that no one will notice: scurrying around the track at the end of a hard workout to give out some much-needed high fives, bringing brownies to a meet in the scorching heat in hopes of spurring some last-minute team spirit, [and] sacrificing your own race so that your teammate can execute her race plan,” she said.