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Raider Track and Field Article Loucks Games 2009

Posted Thursday, May 21, 2009 by Justin Harris

          Most people consider golf the only sport with water hazards, but each spring Scarsdale runners Sam Kohn and Ilkyu Lee face their own version of a turf and surf experience, though at the track rather than the links.  It’s called the steeplechase, and it is one of the lesser-known events in track and field, offered only at certain meets.  The steeplechase requires runners to navigate 7.5 laps (3000m), each containing four hurdles, in addition to leaping over a pit of water. 

            Like in golf, runners chance a water landing at their peril.  This unique mixture of distance running and hurdling, together with the dangerous water crossing, has always tantalized the two seniors, who look forward to this event for the whole year, and throughout their track careers, both runners have achieved marked success in the event.

            Indeed, both Kohn and Lee ran the steeplechase at the 42nd annual Glenn D. Loucks invitational, one of the biggest meets in New York.  Kohn and Lee have been working on the event all season in practice, as Lee said, “We’ve been doing our 400m interval workouts – our speed workouts – with four high hurdles, so we can practice for the steeplechase.  It may not seem like adding a few hurdles would make a difference, but it is much harder with the hurdles than without.”

            By the time the race rolled around, it was clear that their training had paid off.  Kohn (captain) blazed over the course with apparent ease, with Lee right behind, clearing barriers and leaping over watery pits alike en route to a seventh and tenth place finish in times of 9 minutes, 59.8 seconds, and 10 minutes, 8.54 seconds, respectively.

            Lee and Kohn were not the only ones who have decided to take advantage of the unique race, as, for the first time ever, a female Raider has participated in the event last week.  Sophomore Kathryn Peruski, typically a 1500m runner, decided to make the switch to the steeplechase (at the League 1A meet, not the Loucks games), and despite its difficulty, Peruski has become enamored of the event, saying, “I was very nervous to try steeple for the first time at the League meet, but I just wanted to do my best and get the best place possible for the girls team.  It was an extremely hard event because it involves muscles and skills that aren’t usually used in track, but I think I want to try the steeplechase again because it was such a challenge.”

            Peruski, along with fellow sophomore Alexandra Cappello, juniors Ilana Balter and captain Katrina Ricks, also combined to form a formidable distance medley relay, another rare event that forces teams to dig deep into their rosters to find runners capable of filling the diverse legs: a 1200m, 400m, 800m, and 1600m leg.  However, the Raiders managed to easily satisfy these conditions, and ran their way to a time of 13 minutes, 22.36 seconds, a time that earned them twelfth place overall.

            Likewise, the boys were also able to put together a distance medley relay, full of such accomplished runners as senior captain Miles Kirwin, Kohn, senior Nikita Levin, and junior Matthew Usukumah.  The team placed tenth overall, in a time of 11 minutes, 2.25 seconds, prompting Usukumah to say, “The DMR was a great race.  For me personally, I felt like it was a very different experience from running the open 400m, and I was very nervous because I knew that [Coach] Clark considered it an extremely important relay, but my nerves also helped to teach me to calm down before races, and just think ‘whatever happens, happens,’ and not to tire myself out before the race even starts.”

            Indeed, Usukumah has run so many 400m races that he is a connoisseur of sorts, able to distinguish among the experiences of running different varieties of 400m.  In addition to the 400m leg of the distance medley relay, Usukumah also participated in the open 400m dash, in which he placed 57th overall, in a time of 53.4, despite feeling ill.

            To top it all off, Usukumah culminated his 400m events in the only 400m race left for him to run - the tri-state 4x400m relay, an extremely competitive event with 40 teams from all over the tri-state area competing.  The team, consisting of sophomore David Faust, junior Jack Balter, and senior Adam Rose, crossed the finish line in 27th place, less than two seconds away from 21st, in a time of 3 minutes, 40.95 seconds.  Said Usukumah, “The more that I run 400m races, the more used to it I get, and after this meet, I was very well acquainted with the event.”

            On the girls’ side, senior captain Sumire Takamtsu, freshman Allison Elliot, Balter, and junior Kristen O’Hara teamed up to form the girls’ corresponding 4x400m relay, and finished in impressive fashion, in a time of 4 minutes, 30.5 seconds, good enough for 34th place.

            Following the 4x400m relays were the respective girls’ and boys’ 800m relays, which consisted of many of the same runners who were featured in the distance medley relays.  For the girls, the relay, composed of Peruski, Ricks, sophomore Moriah Trenk, and senior sister Benita Trenk was a resounding success, placing 29th, and crossing the finish line in a time of 10 minutes, 48.61 seconds.  Said Peruski, “Since this was the first time this particular relay had run together, we were a little bit unsure of what to expect, but what we ultimately focused on was our training, and the race, not who we were running with and whether or not it was the normal team, and as a result, we ran a good time.”

            In addition to the girls’ relay, the boys’ team was also entered in the tri-state 4x800m relay.  The Raiders’ team was comprised of sophomores Cullen Cohane and Ari Kestenbaum, as well as juniors Johnathan Peruski and Neal Yousefian.  Yousefian, a recent transfer from the sprinting division, was running one of the first 800m races of his career, and kicked off the relay with an approximately 2 minute, 17 second split.  I thought I should give distance a try because I didn’t like sprinting that much, and a few people told me to give a try, so I went into it with an open mind, it worked out for the better.  Right now I just want to get a feel for the event and I hope to be able to get to 2:10, or possibly lower by the end of the season.”  Said Yousefian.

            Despite Yousefian’s departure from the sprinting team, Scarsdale was still able to put some elite runners in the shorter distance events, such as the 100m and the 200m dashes.  Senior Sadaatsu Kora was the lone Raider in both of those events, placing 45th in the 100m dash in 11.99 seconds and 78th in the 200m dash, with a fast time of 25.14 seconds.

            Another crucial short distance event, the 110m/100m high hurdles, also produced some of the best performances of the weekend, coming from junior captain Arthur Whyte and junior Jessy Lee.  As the event requires such intricate precision, it is difficult to excel, yet Whyte qualified for the finals of the event with a time of 15.48 seconds, and Lee placed 25th, in 17.95 seconds, both of which are remarkable performances.  Whyte also participated in the triple jump, and finished the day with a 42 foot, 5.75 inch leap, which earned him tenth place.

            Junior captain Roscoe Balter made his 2009 Loucks games debut in the long jump, earning Scarsdale’s only point in the meet with his sixth place finish, resulting from his jump of 21 feet, 9 inches, a new personal record.  Said Balter, “I’m really happy with my jump because its my new personal best, and I was only one inch away from placing in fifth and getting a medal.  Also, it was very pleasing to get a point for the team.”

            Like Balter, fellow junior Laura Lutzker has been one of the most consistent athletes on the team, and can always be counted on to perform well, even in large fields.  Lutzker, participating in her signature event, the high jump, placed seventh overall, and only missed fourth place because of the number of fouls she committed en route to clearing the five foot high bar.  As well as Lutzker, teammates Christie Civetta and Alex Capelin both had solid performances in the throwing events, as Civetta, in the shot put, placed 39th, with a 24 foot, 5.0 inch effort, while Capelin placed 21st in the discus throw, a direct result of her 79 foot, 3.0 inch hurl.

            The final event of the weekend was the 1600m run, the same distance for both the boys and the girls, an unusual occurrence as the girls typically run the 1500m race.  However, the extra hundred meters did little to discourage Cappello, who blazed around the track in 5 minutes, 22.20 seconds and placed 23rd in a field of 61.  Said Cappello, “I knew that I wasn't going to win the entire race because there was so much talent in the rest of the field.  However I did want to get a personal record. I went out in my race only thinking about a personal record, and unfortunately I didn't think ahead enough and got boxed in.  I'm slightly disappointed that I did not get my record, but at least I now know that I have to be more aggressive at the start and not let the other people close me in.”

            Senior captain Miles Kirwin was likewise aiming for a new personal record, which he had set at 4 minutes, 34.0 seconds less than two weeks ago at the League meet.  Despite Kirwin’s best efforts, however, a sub-4 minute, 34 second mile eluded him, although he did wind up running the second fastest time of his career, in 4 minutes, 36.70 seconds.  “Normally I would be disappointed that I didn’t set my personal best, but it took me a very long time to break 4:37, so anything under that mark has to be counted as a decent race.”  Said Kirwin.

            For head coach Richard Clark, however, the “decent” race seemed to be the rule, not the exception, as Clark was a little disappointed with his team’s overall performance.  Said Clark, “I feel like we just didn’t show up to race.  We went into the meet with a workout mentality in mind, and never shifted into race mode, and I’m a little bit concerned about that since it is getting towards the end of the season.”

            Fortunately for the Raiders, Clark has a solution planned to reverse this disturbing trend, as he said, “We need to run our workouts harder, and kick in each one so they translate when we have meets.  Our next meet is the County Championship meet, and if we can’t show up to race there, I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to at all – it may be too late.  We’re going to have to simply train harder and get focused if we want to have any shot at a Westchester County title.”  

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