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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Falcon's Nest Notes: Runners take your mark - set - GO! Track team has strong showing in MYHSAL debut

Eddie Farhi (2nd from left) leads the team through pre-meet warm-ups
With a brisk nip in the morning air, Coach Wielgus and 15 members of the Flatbush Track team alit from the bus and descended the stairs to the weathered track on the campus of Kushner Academy in Livingston, NJ. With great anticipation, the runners and jumpers gathered trackside, warming up under the lead of Junior Eddie Farhi, nervous energy running through the team; excited for the opportunity to test themselves against the rival yeshiva teams while equally unsure of the process as all were new to meet competition.
Shana Ravvin (front, right) prepares for the start of the girls 100m
With the racing numbers pinned on, and the teams all warmed up, it was time to compete! First up on the day were the girls running the 100m sprint, followed immediately by the boys running the same distance event. The shortest and most explosive of the races, the field was large and required a multiple number of heats. The meet format did not allow for finals; each runner would run only once. So, runners raced both against the others in their heat specifically and against the clock in general. With each team directed to place their top runners in the first heats, Shana Ravvin stepped up and would become the first Flatbush student-athlete ever to represent the school in head-to-head interscholastic track competition. Ravvin was slow off the blocks, but as the runners moved down the straightaway, she slowly began closing the gap on the leaders. While her competitors began to lose speed, Ravvin continued to accelerate, crossing the line just a small step behind her Ma’ayanot competitor. After the completion of six more heats with each of the six female Flatbush competitors giving it a try, it was final; Ravvin placed second in the 100m, taking home the first track medal for Flatbush in Yeshiva League competition!
Sam Zalta (far right) and Eddie Farhi (3rd from right) at the start of the boys 100m
The boys took center stage next, and not to be outdone, Junior Sam Zalta took the inside lane that was held by the Flatbush girls in their 100m heats. Like Ravvin, Zalta built up speed down the straightaway, just getting legged out by the runner from Frisch. When the ensuing heats were completed, Zalta equaled Ravvin’s feat, taking home “silver” in the boys 100m. But, this was just the start for Zalta and the Falcon Boys.
Natanel Nemet takes second in the Mile Run by a mere :01 seconds!
The next race contested would be the mile run (slightly shorter than the 1600m distance contested in international meets), four grueling laps around the Kushner oval in one of track’s signature events, and the longest race of this competition. With top runners Victor Zeitoune and Jack Sasson unavailable, the mantle fell to freshman Natanel Nemet to represent the Falcons. Nemet is an experienced distance runner, having placed 4th in his age group in the HODS 5K Race and having recently completed the Jerusalem half-marathon. But he had never raced this “short” a distance before. With the advance advice to stay with the leaders and then try to push past on the final turn, Nemet toed the line for the start of the race. He rapidly settled in behind the leaders, never letting them get more than ten to fifteen meters ahead, looking to stay within striking distance. By the end of the third lap, it was clear that this would be a two-man race, with all but his Frisch opponent fading back. As the two leaders entered the final turn, Nemet began to make his move. Coming down the final straightaway, Nemet methodically closed the gap. With each stride, the distance between the two leaders grew smaller and smaller. As they approached the finish line, the gap had nearly dissipated completely, and they appeared to cross in a dead heat! But, the clock would differ. In what was the closest finish of the day, Nemet’s final dash fell .01 hundredths of a second short. He took home second place for Flatbush - the winning time turned in by the runner from Frisch was 6:08:32;Nemet crossed the line in 6:08:33!
Addie Abihzer gathers speed as she moves towards the long jump pit
The next event was the long jump. Flatbush put a maximum number of competitors forth, and had a team member place in both the girls and boys competition. For the boys, the two Eddies looked to give a good showing with jumps in excess of 12 feet for both Farhi and Keda. But it was teammate Sam Zalta that led all Falcons with a jump of 13’2’’ and a surprise finish of third place, just 3 inches out of second (and a full 1’2” behind the winner from Frisch). The girls gave an equally impressive showing with Shana Ravvin and Addie Abihzer showing good form in their respective take-offs and landings. But like the boys, it was another teammate who surprised to place amongst the leaders. With her first-ever jump in either practice or competition, Michelle Harari turned in a leap of 10’10” to take the lead after the first round! In the second and final round, the top entrant from Ramaz eked past her with a jump of 10’11”, and she was later tied by Ma’ayanot’s best performer. Harari would have one final chance to eclipse them both. Building up speed down the runway, she maximized her distance, taking off right on the toe board and extending her legs out far in front. But as she landed, her arms reached back at the last instant and dragged the sand just behind her. With the jump being measured from the part of the body that hits the ground closest to the toe board, her second jump resulted in a mark equal to her first. Harari finished in an impressive, yet agonizing, tie for second place.
Michelle Harari tracks down the leader in her heat of the 200m
But, Harari was just getting heated up. The next event would be the 200m, a very long sprint that tests the staying power of the best sprinters. Flatbush’s scorers in the 100m both faded in the latter parts of the race. Harari would do just the opposite. With the inside lane, Harari would be able to see her competitors the entire race. Coming out of the turn, she was in the middle of the pack, but closing fast. Where the short-distance sprinters began to fade, Harari built up speed. She quickly reeled in one runner and closed fast on the leader. Matching Ramaz’s runner stride for stride, Harari inched ever closer, and by the time the two reached the finish line, Harari caught her! Michelle Harari won her heat by the slimmest of margins! Unfortunately, it was good enough only for fourth place, as her overall time could not best those who ran the earlier heat.
Eddie Keda (in an earlier race) ran the 1st leg for the winning Flatbush boys 4x100m relay team
Rounding out the competition on the day would be the only true team event of the meet – the 4x100m relay. Each school put forth its four best sprinters. Each would run 100m, then pass the baton to the next teammate in line. If the baton is dropped, or if the exchange is made outside the designated zone, the team could be disqualified. Prior to the meet, the Falcon tracksters had only ever practiced this exchange once, and that was in the confines of the high school gym! First up were the girls. With only two true sprinters, the Falcon girls were at a clear disadvantage. Distance runners filled out the team, but though they put forth a great effort, the team failed to place – however, they did finish the race! Next were the boys. Unsure of what would be, the Falcons took to the track with confidence, each runner in his designated place; lead-off man Eddie Keda awaiting the signal to go and each ensuing runner awaiting his turn to convey the baton. With the starter’s signal, Keda was off! He staked the Falcons to a slim lead that was extended slightly with each ensuing leg. Natanel Nemet took the baton from Keda, and passed it off to Eddie Farhi. When the baton finally reached the hand of Sam Zalta running the anchor leg, he took off like a rocket. Nearing the finish line with a narrow margin over his Kushner opponent, he exploded with a final burst to get separation and cross the line in victory! With a time of 1:00:72 seconds, the Falcon four moved the baton around the track :63 tenths of a second faster than second-place Kushner,claiming victory in the only true team event of the meet!

It was clearly a banner day for Flatbush’s newest team!
Members of the 2014 Flatbush Varsity Track Team with Coach Miriam Wielgus and Athletic Director Eric Amkraut (top row)

Nest Notes:
On the day, the 15 team members that came to compete for the Falcons took home one first place finish, four second-place finishes and one third place finish; a very impressive showing for the first time ever in competition. As a result, the boys finished the meet with a total of 12 points, good enough for second place overall (Frisch placed first with a total of 28 points; Kushner finished in third place with 9 points). The Flatbush girls tallied 6 points, finishing behind Ramaz, Ma’ayanot and Kushner (25, 19 and 12 points respectively).

The team will return to Kushner Academy on Sunday, 5/11, for the second, and final, MYHSAL Track Meet of the 2014 spring season. The team will look to improve on its quality showing from this first meet. The meet will start at 10:30 am at the Kushner Oval located behind the school complex in Livingston, NJ.