The Scarsdale track and field team is making up for lost time. After losing multiple longtime coaches and valuable months of competing and training over multiple seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Raiders have assembled a new coaching staff and a new set of rising stars.
Look no further than the girls 4x400-meter relay team consisting of juniors Ari Sobel and Shannon Kelly, sophomore Eva Gibney and freshman Maria Roberts. That group qualified for the Millrose Games, a major feat for any team, while their counterparts on the boys side were a mere half second from achieving the same success.
“We’ve been doing a lot of good training at practice and I think our coaching staff is phenomenal right now and we kind of see how it’s playing out with the kids,” coach Vinny Modafferi said. “Millrose Trials was one of the best performances collectively by a team that I’ve seen here in a very long time. I don’t think one kid ran poorly and we were pretty close to a couple of school records, which was nice. It’s just really nice to see and we’re not even at the really good meets yet.”
The girls 4x400 team placed fifth in 4:08.92 in the invitational race.
Modafferi is confident Sobel, Kelly, Gibney and Roberts can run faster going forward. Due to a seeding issue they were in the slowest heat and they had some lane confusion that cost some time. In addition, advancing to the actual Millrose Games was a major boost to their confidence.
“I thought our girls could run a certain time and they came pretty darn close and were like .3 off the school record,” Modafferi said. “That group is only getting started and they will only run faster. I’m not going to be surprised when we get around the right group of girls if they don’t pop off time. It’s going to a lot of fun to watch.”
After having two seniors on the relay team last year, Rachel Doherty and Lizzie Fine, and a finite room for growth, this year’s group has this year and next to reach new heights.
“We get to work on our times and practice being more of a team,” Kelly said. “The more time together the better.”
Kelly is not only impressed by the talent of the underclassmen, but their mindset, too.
“They’re really determined,” Kelly said. “They’re very, very positive. Especially with me they’re keeping me going. I was so nervous before the trials. They gave me and Ari a whole talking to about how we can do this. They’re positive and excited and it’s nice to have that. They want to do well. They don’t care about how people do individually — just how we do as a team.”
Kelly didn’t take track and field seriously during the pandemic until last spring and wanted to do basketball with her friends last winter because she wasn’t a fan of winter track. This year she decided to give it a shot again to build off the spring, when the 4x400 team made Penn Relays.
“That opened up a new perspective for running and now I see it differently,” Kelly said. “It’s more of an opportunity.”
Gibney knows that progress as a runner can be “very sporadic” depending on the season and it requires “patience.” She’s enjoying the workouts, but said most of her growth has been on the mental side.
“Running is 70% mental,” she said. “It’s all about being in the right mindset, believing you can finish and believing in your own abilities and your training. We believed we could do it, but we also always knew getting into Millrose is a big deal and very few people have the opportunity. We were just happy to be there at trials and getting into the Games is a dream come true.”
Gibney also appreciates the makeup of the team.
“The 4x4 group is kind of a strange group because me and Maria ran cross-country and the other two are pure sprinters,” she said. “It’s an interesting mixture of talents, but we’ve all put in a ton of effort. We’re close with each other and we really believe in each other’s abilities, so when you know you have your team backing you up it’s easier to run a good time.”
Roberts, who won a pair of league titles prior to the trials, is seeing the sport from a new perspective. She was in middle school during the pandemic and was training on her own. She’s seeing it pay off “in a school setting.”
“I’ve never had the opportunity to run with other talented runners like this, especially in a relay,” she said. “It was always just me by myself. It’s so nice to see people who are better than me and being able to learn from them and being able to see myself succeed with them.”
The organized and targeted workouts have played a key role in her progress physically and mentally.
“Workouts with lots of reps strengthen my ability to have that mentality within a race because we do 12x200s and there are only three 200s in a 600, so with the amount of reps it makes the race seem like something more manageable to do in the moment,” Roberts said.
The 115th Millrose Games will be held Feb. 11 at the Armory.
“Just getting there has been such a huge deal to all of us,” Roberts said. “I just want to be there to have fun and put in a really, really good effort and hit some good times. We want to make some noise there.”
Scarsdale entered two other relays in the Jan. 11 Millrose Trials at the Armory. The girls 4x800 (Zoe Dichter, Sophia Garcia, Leia Patel, Alex Simon) placed fifth in 9:52.83 and the boys 4x400 (Toby Khang, Riaz Ahsan, Darius Toosi, Leo Khang) ninth in 3:35.11 in the suburban races.
“The boys sprinting group is really coming together nicely,” Modafferi said. “We’ve got four to six guys who keep dropping their times. Within that Millrose Trial we had three guys at 54, one guy at 51. That’s quite good. From my time here we might have had one or two teams of that caliber or a little bit faster, so we’re definitely trending in the right direction.”
Ahsan competed in track and field throughout high school, but committed to the sport for his final year. “I just have more friends on the team and more experience,” he said. “I’m faster now and older. I just enjoy running more now.”
He’s been focused on the sprints like the 200, 300 and 400 in the relay, his favorite event. “I like the process with these events,” Ahsan said. “I don’t like doing distance much. It’s definitely been the most rewarding putting in the work and seeing the team progress and get results. I like being able to contribute to the team more now that I’m a senior and more experienced. That’s the best part for me.”
Ahsan and his teammates are using their close call at Millrose Trials as motivation going forward, with sights set on making the New York State Championships. Fellow senior Toby Khang, who already has a New York State boys soccer championship under his belt from the fall, is also on board after four years of track and field.
“I feel like I’ve always been devoted to the sport, but kind of as each year has progressed I feel like I’ve gotten more serious about it and put in more training outside of practice on my own,” he said. “I’ve been going to more meets and I’ve just been enjoying it.”
The older Khang has run everything from 200s to 600s, though the 600 was more recent at the Jan. 15 Stanner Games, where he placed 16th in 1:29.22 against a large field.
“I had no idea how to run it in the first place because I’m used to running shorter events, but I know it’s not a long distance event where you can jog part of it,” he said. “I had to figure out what speed I had to run it at. I feel like it was like a 400 but on steroids. It took a lot out of me at the end. I had so much lactic acid. It was rewarding and fun to try something new and see what I could do.”
Still, the focus remains the 400 and bringing times down for the collective group.
“I think right now my fastest time is a 52, so I’m trying to get down to a 50,” Khang said. “Apart from that I want to qualify for as many competitive meets as possible, especially in the relays. We were a half second off Millrose Games, so that gives us motivation to do better, especially as a team.”
Khang wasn’t the only Raider to have success at the Stanner Games. Junior Sydney Geringer keeps setting personal records in the 600-meter every time she runs it, dropping large chunks of time. She’s another who has had a sporadic career due to the pandemic and the stress of school.
This is Geringer’s first full winter season and she was determined to experience running at the Armory as it was closed freshman year and last winter she left the team after a week. Now she’s seeing what training and competing at her full potential can lead to.
“It was stressful the first week, but over time it’s been getting a lot better,” Geringer said. “I’ve been able to be very productive after meets and get work done and not stress as much. I’ve been taking care of myself more than I was last year.”
Geringer missed about a month of cross-country due to injury, so the coaches eased her back into mid-distance for the 600 this winter. Her first 600 was a 2:05 and she’s already down to 1:53.28 at Stanner.
“I basically PRed four seconds every race,” Geringer said. “I’ve done four meets and I’ve done 600s every single time and I’ve gone down every single time. It’s sticking with the workouts and trying to push myself every time. I think for this race I was thinking I wanted to get in front of the person that was in front of me and that’s what happened.”
Stanner Games roundup
Girls: 55-meter dash prelims: Isabella Nwokeji 93rd in 8.47, Camryn Brosgol 117th in 8.79. 300-meter: Sofie Mirafzali 29th in 47.60. 600-meter: Gibney 15th in 1:47.05, Roberts 16th in 1:47.35, Geringer 37th in 1:53.28. 1,000-meter: Garcia 20th in 3:16.82, Camryn Culang 80th in 3:46.62. 1,600-meter: Dichter 11th in 5:36.73, Rachel Rakower 22nd in 5:43.48, Sara Bochner 39th in 5:59.00.
55-meter hurdles: Shayna Klingsberg 42nd in 11.88. 4x200-meter relay: Brosgol, Kelly, Gibney and Roberts 10th of 46 in 1:53.36. 4x400-meter relay: Garcia, Mirafzali, Sobel and Dichter 13th of 36 in 4:25.84. 4x800-meter relay: Taryn Casey, Arianna Feinstein, Savannah Rosen and Lilly Streicher 26th of 30 in 11:38.11. 300-meter dash invitational: Sobel 20th in 44.28, Kelly 29th in 45.11. 55-meter dash sophomore: Sienna Hosseinbukus 12th in 8.23, Charlotte Aldridge 33rd in 8.96.
Boys: 55-meter dash: Alexander Duvall 47th in 7.07, Etai Pollack 93rd in 7.32. 300-meter dash: Brandon Cascade 28th in 39.70. 600-meter: Toby Khang 16th in 1:29.22, Benjamin Siegel 43rd in 1:34.27. 1,000-meter: Spencer Goh 55th in 3:00.35, Faris Amin 92nd in 3:23.11, Jonah Bansal 94th in 3:26.52. 1,600-meter: Joning Wang 48th in 5:03.91, Benjamin Wiener 79th in 5:37.36.
4x200-meter relay: Pollock, Ahsan, Leo Khang and Toby Khang 16th of 51 in 1:38.10. 4x400-meter relay: Goh, Cascade, Toosi and Wang 20th of 36 in 3:53.13. 4x800-meter relay: Bansal, Oliver Bandsma, Teddy Bryson and Max Dinkin 31st in 34 in 10:14.69. Shot put: Raymond Donovan 26th at 34-2, Beck Landless 46th in 30-9, Cole Liebowitz 57th at 27-11.5. 300-meter dash invitational: Leo Khang 32nd in 38.21, Toosi 38th in 38.65. 55-meter dash freshman: Parker Lyn 14th in 7.64, Arjun Benderson 25th in 7.89.
“In spring when we get all the numbers out we’ll just continue to build the smaller guys’ program that way,” Modafferi said. “The way that the coaching staff sees this season is kind of like this is the foundation moving forward. We’re kind of teaching everybody how to do it the right way right now post-pandemic and once we get the numbers in the spring and certainly next year hopefully instead of four guys at 54 we have 10 guys at 54.”