Now that the Cross County season is over, the focus has shifted to what many fans in New York regard as the most exciting time in track and field: the indoor season. Their justification for such perception is due, they say, to the fact that they can get much closer to the action as athletes battle for supremacy in the closeness of the space where they compete. The echoing sounds from the athletes' feet on the track, along with the reverberating sounds and cheers of the supporting fans and fellow athletes in the packed enclosed space of the New York City Armory Track, raise the noise level to an exciting crescendo.
Despite the yearly exit of several New York’s Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) top young athletes, who move on to elevate their athletic performance to college-level standard, the PSAL seem to always flourish with an influx of athletes and, of course, those who remain and seek to up their game and showcase their talent.
This year, Benjamin Cardozo and Medgar Evers College Prep High Schools, two of New York’s top perennials combatants, lead the way with scholarships to colleges for the 2011-2012 season. Cardozo which entered the year with four seniors on its roster had all four awarded scholarships, and three of the five seniors at Medgar Evers were awarded places.
So now that the 2011/2012 Season has started, we are about to witness another battle among the perennial top teams who are conditioned by their Caribbean coaches. Can these schools hold on to their ranks? Is this the year that five-time back-to-back defending champions Benjamin Cardozo (The Lady Judges) coached by Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympian Gail Emannuel will be dethrone? Or, will this be the year coaches Nicola Marshall (Guyana) and Shaun Dietz (Jamaica) with their Medgar Evers (Lady Cougars) team attain that seemingly elusive goal of being crowned PSAL Champions, especially after coming so close every year? Dewitt Clinton senior and star athlete Brittney Adams (Jamaica) thinks that this is the year for her school because they have retained several top athletes from last year, and Coach Cornell Johnson (Jamaica) has the girls training harder and smarter.
Like Dewitt Clinton, Taft Educational Campus represents The Bronx. Last season’s team showed the most promise and will be remembered for their 4x200m performance (1:42.70) that was second to Medgar Evers’ New York State 4 x200m record run (1:37.73). They boast a young array of rising stars, such as the efficacious Kimberly Bailey (Jamaica), a junior, who ran a blistering 40.35 300m 2011-2012 season opener. According to Jamaican head coach Marella Richardson, “Taft is a very young team, we presently have only two active seniors [at time of writing] on our team, but our talent is very deep and we are going to turn heads in this league."
Lady Judges vs. Lady Cougars
For at least the last five years, Cardozo (Judges) and Medgar Evers (Cougars) have produced some of the most memorable moments in New York City’s Indoor track and field history. Last indoor season, the Lady Cougars mauled the Lady Judges as they avenged the ruling handed to them the previous season by the Lady Judges, in the prestigious Millrose Games High School Girls 4x400m. The Lady Cougars will be contesting this year’s event not only as defending champions but also as favorites. Last season they were also ranked the # 1 High Schools Girls 4x200m team in the US with 1:37.73.
At the recently concluded 2011, Bishop Loughlin Games, Medgar Evers served notice that they are here to defend their title, with an entertaining 4x200 relay (1:42). Junior Paige Thompson-Charles (Grenada) set an early pace as she blew past other athletes in the race as if they were standing, and handed off to senior Kadecia Beard (Guyana) who ran a 24.86 split to set the pace for their other two team members, Junior Ashley Tasher (Guyana) and Ja’Nai Cameron (US). Their two freshmen Jamaicans Karimah Senior and Martina Brown look set for a bright future on the track.
Incidentally, Beard competed for her native country Guyana at the 2011 summer World Youth Track and Field Competition and made it to the semi-final round of the 200m with 24.53secs.
Nothwithstanding, Cardozo (Lady Judges) remains the team to beat this year with a formidable squad. Senior Alexis Panisse, who recently participated in the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships in San Diego, California, means business. She became the first athlete from New York City to compete in that completion in more than 23 years. Latisha Philson, a senior and strong, gifted competitor, still holds her rank as the USA number one Girls 55m hurdler; New York’s number two Girls 55m hurdler is Akayla Anderson. Another senior to watch on the Lady Judges team is the versatile Mishka Harrisingh, who took up long jump in the middle of the 2011 outdoor season, and after less than a cumulative eight hours of training jumped a personal record (PR) of 16’ 8” (PSAL City Championships).
Sabrina Southerland (Haiti), now a junior, remains the top miler in the city, while the ever-confident sprinter Ayele Townsend (Jamaica), now also a junior, is always ready to showcase her enormous talent. Cardozo’s future is illuminating as Sandreka Bancroft (Jamaica) leads a team of talented freshman and will be the athlete to watch.
After all is said and done, it is now open season in the New York City PSAL, and the hunt for top honors promises to be highly competitive. One thing is certain though, no one should relax because no standing is secure. Teams will be pumped up, ready and set to go. The Armory will be rocking, again. See Indoor Calendar
OFF TO COLLEGE: Chamique Francis, Cardozo, track scholarship to University of Texas; Claudia Francis, Cardozo, track scholarship to University of Oregon; Athyana Johnson, Cardozo, track scholarship to University of South Carolina; Ugonna Opala Cardozo, track scholarship to Pierre View A&M University; Shekel Seaton, Medgar Evers, academic scholarship to University of Pennsylvania; Nyanka Moise-Joseph, Medgar Evers, track scholarship to University of Connecticut; Camile Edwards, Medgar Evers, field (long jump) to University of Massachusetts; Tsian Heywood, DeWitt Clinton, field scholarship (triple jump) to Southern University; and Sheriann Ashman, Prospect Heights, track scholarship to St. Augustine University.