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The Townsend Harris girls indoor track team traveled to the New Balance Armory Track and Field to compete in the Queens Borough Championships. For many members, it was the climax of the indoor track season, a near four month stretch of tough practices and challenging meets. The girls hunted for a three-peat as Queens champions— winning first place in the borough three years in a row— but were ultimately outdone by Young Women’s Leadership High School and Benjamin Cardozo High School, who finished first and second overall, respectively. Nevertheless, it was a meet filled with gutsy performances and personal records.
The meet commenced with the 3000 meter run, in which the girls nabbed their first points of the day. Sophomore Noreen Mohsin finished 4th with a time of 12:22, notching a personal record by nine seconds, while senior captain Elaine Li finished eighth in 12:47.
The girls continued their hot start into the pole vault, the first field event of the day. Junior Kellie Zestanakis soared over the field, comfortably winning the event with a height of 8 feet and 4 inches, a personal record.
Junior Joanna Huo led the girls in the 1000 meter run, finishing seventh in 3:30. Reflecting on the race, she said, “My heat for the 1000 was super fast, and I was overwhelmed running with girls that had sub 2:30 800s (800 meter run times). I could’ve pushed myself harder, but I’m content with my time”.
After a long hiatus without scoring, juniors Hailey Lam and Yasmeen Ally tallied 3 points together for THHS in the 1500 meter run, placing fifth and sixth, respectively. Hailey finished in 5:42, a personal best, and Yasmeen in 5:43.
In trademark fashion, THHS swept the 1500 meter racewalk, claiming all six scoring spots for an additional 31 points. Despite a thigh injury, sophomore Dulce Cervantes took the title of borough champion with a time of 7:57. Juniors Hannah Yoo and Nancy Yone took the silver and bronze with times of 8:03 and 8:26, respectively. For Nancy, it was a huge improvement, shaving nearly 30 seconds off her previous best. Sophomore Maressa Cumbermack finished fourth in 8:48, a personal record of 33 seconds. In her indoor track swan song, senior racewalk captain Dayana Tavarez turned in her best performance yet, walking a time of 9:09.
Dayan reflected on the race, saying, “It didn’t really hit me that it was my last indoor race until I checked into my race and got really upset…As soon as the race finished I started crying because it was bittersweet; I was happy with the race, but it was my last time around the track with some of the best teammates I could ask for.”
THHS boosted their point total in the field events, particularly the triple jump and high jump. Sophomore Jilissa Drayton was the runner up in the triple jump, jumping 31 feet and 1 inch. Kellie took sixth in the high jump, clearing the bar with a height of 4 feet and 2 inches.
The 4 x 800 meter relay was auspicious for THHS, with both the “A” and “B” relays scoring points. The city-qualifying “A” team, consisting of Joanna, Yasmeen, senior Rythika Francis, and sophomore Nicole Moshel captured the gold, edging out Young Women’s Leadership, with a time of 11 minutes and 6 seconds. The “B” team, comprised of Noreen, Hannah, and Hailey, and junior Wendy Liu placed fifth with a time of 11 minutes and 58 seconds. For Yasmeen and Noreen, it was the third event of the day.
“Running three events drains you physically and mentally”, remarked Yasmeen. “Personally, I was mentally exhausted by the third event. You really have to dig deep and find it within yourself to give each race your all. It’s all about running each event with pride and passion”.
After all the points were totaled, PSAL track and field commissioner Dwayne Burnett announced that Townsend Harris had finished in third place, which was met with mixed reactions.
Coach Timothy Connor, took pride in the team’s 3rd place finish. “I think it was great. Why not? It doesn’t make a difference [that we’ve place higher the past few years]. The competition changes. I had us scheduled for fifth or sixth [place] going into the meet. We had a bunch of people perform a lot better than I thought.”
“I wasn’t really happy with the third place finish, but we had a rough season with lack of attendance and a lot of injuries,” said Dayana. “We did the best that we could do. I was more happy with the girls who improved their times than what place we finished in.”
Rythika echoed a similar thought. “I was honestly expecting us to get first or second. I could tell a lot of girls were disappointed that we didn’t place higher… [but] despite not getting a higher place I was really proud of my team.” She elaborated, saying, “It’s tough for our team because we’re not used to getting third in anything really. It’s also tough for a captain because you take it as a reflection of your captaincy, but now all we can do is train super hard and secure first place in outdoor.”
Albeit not first, the girls rejoiced in their valiant efforts and personal records, which were rewarded with a third place plaque. “You’ve got to remember, most other teams would love to be third place in Queens. We were third place out of over 25-30 schools and have been [in the top three] every year, for the past 12 years,” said Coach Connor.