The Stuyvesant boys’ cross country team enters this season ranked fifth in the preseason rankings. It is trying to reach the top four in order to be eligible for the state meet. The team is also focusing on improving after a disappointing season last year. “Overall it was our weakest year in the last five. We won the city championships in 2004 and 2005, we were second in 2006, won it again in 2007,” Coach Mark Mendes said. “This year we should be stronger.”
The team is lead by Mendes as well as senior and captain Daniel Hyman-Cohen. The other eight returning seniors will also play a large role in the team’s ability to compete for another city title. “We lost three of our top four runners and five scorers, that’s a pretty big loss,” Hyman-Cohen said. “But we have four or five guys who should be able to replace them.” The scorers, runners who placed in at least one of the division tournaments, combined to make up four top-ten finishes, including a second and a third place finish.
Mendes is even more optimistic about the younger runners. “I see them as the favorites to win the sophomore championship, and they have a chance to be terrific,” said Mendes.
Mendes enters his eighth season with rather impressive accomplishments. He has experience coaching Olympian Track star Derrick Peynado, three Iron Horse winners and one Heisman winner. Furthermore, he has coached the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) Champion Stuyvesant Cross Country teams in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
An important piece of the Hitmen, Hyman-Cohen will be essential to the team’s success and is set to give Mendes his fourth Cross Country Championship. “He leads by example,” Mendes said. “He is an excellent leader. He is also one of the favorites to win the city championship.” Cohen certainly sets a great example, as he finished either first or second in all three of his races. This includes a second place finish in the November 8, 2008 PSAL City Championship with a time of 16 min 34.14 seconds. In this 5K race, he lost to East New York Transit Tech’s Kameron Georgea, who had a time of 16 min 30.37 seconds. This disappointing finish should motivate Cohen for another successful season. “I’d like to win it all this year,” said Hyman-Cohen.
An all-around solid team complements Hyman-Cohen’s strong individual performances this year, and athletes from all grades are contributing, such as sophomore Genghis Chau and juniors Oren Bukspan, James Chen, and Billy Barnes. “We’ve been practicing a lot harder than in the past with practices at the course at Van Cortlandt,” Barnes said. At the 5K Manhattan Borough Championship race in Van Cortlandt Park on November 25, 2008, Stuyvesant runners occupied all top-three places as well as seven of the top thirteen sports. “We have good team chemistry because we all did well at camp,” Barnes said. “Everyone pushes each other to do better.”
Mendes and Stuyvesant are confident that they can pass Bronx Science, ranked fourth, by the end of the season. The team could even break top three. “Four teams go to the state [championship] meet, that always our minimum goal. Top three would be better, and the championship the best,” said Mendes.