The Greyducks Are Molting Their Feathers

Following an injury-ridden winter season, the Greyducks are learning from their mistakes and striding towards a happier, healthier spring season.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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By Ifra Mahmud

The PSAL winter season has just wrapped up, and with that, the Greyducks’ indoor track season as well. While the season wasn’t monumental for the team, each member had their highlights. “Even after a bad season, we still managed to place at Boroughs,” junior and sprint captain Niamh Werner said. At the SophFrosh Championship, sophomores Emma Savonije, Jiya Patel, and Kanchanok Zhang placed second, third, and fourth, respectively, in the 1500-meter run. In addition, other achievements such as eighth and fifth place in the 3000-meter run at City Championships were made by Savonije and junior Emily Li respectively, and fourth place in the high jump was made by Werner at the MLK Games.

A common issue among most of the athletes on the team was injuries. Amongst the five Greyducks interviewed, each of them described an injury that they had at various times throughout the season. This was an issue because of the long runs the runners would go on without sufficient strength training. “I rolled my ankle, I think, like around 30 minutes [in], and then I ran 30 minutes after that… and ended up running Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday,” sophomore distance runner Clara Pallordet said. It was after all of this that Pallordet decided to take a look at her ankle and found it red and swollen. 

Although she originally boasted that she had no injuries, the truth was later revealed: “I just ignored my injuries,” sophomore sprinter Vanna Lei said. When Pallordet got injured, she felt similar to Lei, explaining that a major reason why she didn’t take time off was due to their upcoming SophFrosh Championship. Although she didn’t end up running, the Greyducks triumphed, earning second, third, and fourth place in both the Sophomore 3000-meter run and Sophomore 1500-meter run, by Savonije, Patel, and Zhang. This was accompanied by fourth place in the Freshman 3000-meter by Yuma Kono, and third place in the Sophomore and Freshman 4x400-meter relay.

Lei started the Sophomore 4x400-meter, climbing from the back of the pack to third before passing the baton to Ruxia Chen, who then passed to Patel. She powered through, speeding up during the last 100 meters: “My focus turn[ed] into relief as I finally pass[ed] the baton to Emma, almost too tired to cheer her on but still finding it in me,” Patel said. Savonije, a distance runner, began her leg pacing herself, but following Coach Disarno’s yell of reminder that it wasn’t an 800-meter relay, increased her pace, collectively winning Stuyvesant third place. 

In addition to training together, the team’s familiarity with each other helped them while racing. Patel shared that this was especially helpful during the relay. “As I was running the last 100 meter[s] straight, I saw Emma. Her eager face lit up when she saw me and cheered me on as I was running toward her. It gave me an extra push at the end to go a little faster and hand off the baton to Emma,” Patel said. 

Savonije agreed that the teamwork aspect of relays helps to motivate her while running: “In a relay, I am more motivated to keep my pace so that I don’t lose the place my teammates have earned,” Savonije said. In a regular race, despite wanting to do their best, both Patel and Savonije feel that it’s somewhat easier to slow down and lose momentum as opposed to when other teammates are counting on them. 

Attendance at practices is vital to the Greyducks’ success as a team. They typically run six days a week, with three of the days focused on mileage, and two more intense days consisting of a track workout at the Armory, with a focus on both time and mileage. On the sixth day, usually a weekend, runners are expected to do a long run independently. Training also varies with the type of events each Greyduck runs in. Sprinters usually ran for about ten minutes outside as a warm-up followed by training in the weight room, and hurdles or wickets. Distance runners prioritize getting mileage, thus, unfortunately for them, having to run outside for between 30 to 50 minutes daily. “The beginning of each indoor season is brutal,” Pallordet said, though the girls acknowledged that it does get easier as they build up their stamina. 

The Greyducks’ junior captains, Werner and Honora Muratori have decided to make running safety a major focus for the spring outdoor track season. “One of the things we’re focused on this outdoor season is strength and stretching, and not just running, and generally promoting like a healthier relationship with running in practice,” Muratori said. Muratori herself had a knee injury during indoor track last year, which was later rehashed by another medical issue. These injuries forced her to take time off during both instances, which taught her the importance of rest. For Werner, the date of this interview was her first day back after an injury she received during a 4x200-meter relay at Borough Championships back in February. 

The captains explained that finding a balance between running, health, and fun is important to them. By making practices more engaging through playing music, encouraging group activities, and cultivating a more friendly environment, they hope to encourage their less devoted members to come to practice more regularly, which was an issue during the indoor season. “No one really ran with their specific group for each workout, so that’s something we’re really trying to emphasize this season, by making practice more fun and enjoyable,” Werner said. Encouraging these groups aids in creating a more fun and personal environment, furthering the team spirit and motivation to prioritize track. She shared that even when some members were injured, they’d still come to meets to see their teammates perform. The Greyducks find ways to bond over successes, failures, and the occasional pains of practices. “We wipe the tears,” Muratori said. 

It seems to be working: “Previously, I feel like captains are more like passive, and we just kinda went off to do our own thing. Like I’m definitely more excited to come to practice,” Patel said. 

The Greyducks’ coach, Carl Disarno supports this new initiative: “One of the strategies in running is to run less and build the strength of the muscles…so just lessening the pounding on the pavement outside and increasing the exercises to strengthen the leg muscles. That’s injury prevention 101,” Coach Disarno said.

In talking with the team, it’s clear how much the team cares about their coach. Although he might not be a Stuy teacher, the athletes feel close with Disarno and are grateful that he considers their voices concerning the need for a healthier running lifestyle. “The good thing about the team is that he listened to that, and he heard us, and that we’re actually like instituting changes to try to be better this season,” Muratori said. 

The Greyducks are excited for the spring season and have high hopes, both for great achievements and significantly fewer injuries.