The Greyducks are Dashing to the Finish

Coming off of a strong finish at the Manhattan Borough Championships, the Greyducks are looking forward to the last couple meets of the season and what the future may hold for a new batch of talented underclassmen.

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By Ellen Wright

As the school year nears its conclusion, the outdoor track season is also coming to an end for the Greyducks, Stuyvesant’s girls’ track and field team. Led by captains Susan Zheng and Zuzi Liu, the Greyducks competed in seven track meets this season, having just raced at the Manhattan Borough Championships where they placed second. Overall, it’s been a fantastic season, and with the final meets coming up over the next few weeks, the Greyducks are ready to finish the year strong.

This year, the team gained many new runners, as underclassmen were unable to compete last year due to COVID-19. Head coach Carl DiSarno notes that the arrival of a new set of promising freshmen and sophomores this year has boosted the team’s spirit. “All of the newcomers, especially those who didn't do indoor [track], made huge strides,” DiSarno said. Among these athletes, he singled out Niamh Werner, Kikyo Makino-Siller, and Honora Muratori. Werner, a freshman who started out the season by competing in the 200-meter dash, has quickly developed as a hurdler. At borough championships, she contributed to the team’s second-place-finish by winning both the 100-meter hurdles and the 400-meter intermediate hurdles. In a meet that was a week prior to Boroughs, she improved her time in the 400 intermediate hurdles by an astonishing seven seconds to run 1:22.85. Sophomore Makino-Siller, another promising athlete, is making headway in the discus throwing event, also medalling at Boroughs with a throw of over 61 feet to get fourth place. Finally, Muratori, a freshman mid-distance runner, dropped 10 seconds off of her 800-meter time to come within 1.06 seconds of a podium finish at Boroughs in a competitive heat filled with many experienced upperclassmen. As these talented, young individuals hone in on their skills, the Greyducks will reap the benefits of developing promising freshmen and sophomores into ambitious athletes.

As DiSarno notes, these exciting newcomers would have not been able to hone in on their skills as they have without the tremendous leadership exhibited by the team’s captains. One of the team’s senior captains, Susan Zheng, has broadened her talents this season in order to set an example for newer athletes, competing in all fixtures from sprint events such as the 200 and 400-meter runs, mid-distance events like the 800-meter, and long distance events like the 2000-meter steeplechase and the 3000-meter run. She greatly contributed to the team’s placement at Boroughs by finishing second in the 400-meter and 800-meter runs. However, she hopes that her versatility will have a more lasting impact on her teammates: “Be brave and try events outside your comfort zone and events that seem even the slightest bit fun […] My favorite memory from this season was competing in the 2000-meter steeplechase at Icahn Stadium. It was the first time I tried the steeplechase and I had a memorable time jumping into the water pit.”

Zheng not only lead the team with her bravery and versatility, but she also excelled in meets throughout the season. In the steeplechase race at Icahn Stadium, which was the PSAL Day of Weights, she won the event in a time of 8:34.90, leaping over hurdles and trudging through the water on each lap even though the temperature was below 45ºF that morning. Sprinter Zuzi Liu, another senior captain, expressed many similar sentiments as Zheng. “When I first joined track, I was especially hesitant to try events that weren’t pure sprints like the triple jump. Track is a flexible sport in that there really is an event for everyone so I highly recommend trying a new event every season,” Liu said. In fact, the triple jump was one of the events that Liu stood out at during Boroughs, finishing third and just under two feet off of the Borough champion.

Despite having greatly improved from the same time last year, the Greyducks have been through a turbulent year. Back in January, Disarno was forced to hold all practices outdoors in the below freezing weather as COVID-19 cases were peaking. Nevertheless, members of the team continued to show up to practices, braving it out in the cold and ensuring that they would be ready when the important meets came around. This theme of fighting through adverse weather conditions continued throughout this season. The first two meets, the PSAL Season Opener and aforementioned PSAL Day of Weights, had temperatures in the low 40s, which were not ideal for running and certainly not ideal for standing around waiting at a meet. Then, at the Howard Richter Invitational at Dewitt Clinton High School on May 7, the team faced poor weather conditions again, running through puddles on the track as the rain poured down ferociously. Though the meet was almost canceled and throwers had their events called off, the team showed up regardless and ran their hardest. And finally, against the backdrop of being accustomed to cooler temperatures when training, the team endured nearly ten hours in the heat as the temperature reached 79 degrees on the day of Borough Championships.

In terms of challenges, Liu also noted that this year there were less than 20 girls competing at Boroughs because the date clashed with AP season and personal events. Many girls doubled, or even tripled up on events to overcome the small roster size, showcasing their tremendous flexibility and talents across disciplines. Despite these challenges, the team finished second in Manhattan and were proud of the personal records they set. “The effort the girls gave to finish runner up at boroughs was the best part of the season. We knew we had a little chance of beating Hunter, but [we] competed very hard and I was really proud,” Disarno said.

Spirits are high as the team rides the highs of their finishes at Boroughs and look to end the season with a fresh batch of personal records. For Zheng, Liu, and the other seniors who have been on the team for the last four years, it will mark the end of an era. “Looking back on my time as a Greyduck, I would say that being a part of this team was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had in my lifetime,” Zheng said. Nevertheless, they will be passing on the torch to a talented set of individuals who they have personally helped develop by instruction and being role models.

As the Greyducks transition into summer training for the fall cross country season, the girls will look to replicate their success from this year’s cross country season, when the team finished first place at Boroughs and second at Cities, qualifying for States in the process. Five of the team’s seven varsity cross country members, including junior Isabella Stenhouse who finished first individually at Boroughs and Cities, will be returning. Still, DiSarno and the team’s seniors will look into cultivating new talent in freshmen and sophomores to ensure the Greyducks’ strong legacy continues.