All professional athletes who’ve had the opportunity admit that playing in a championship, whether it’s the World Series, the Super Bowl, or the Stanley Cup, is the best experience of their careers, regardless of how many individual records they hold.
For junior Jack Stevenson and seniors Genghis Chau, Mark Schramm and Konrad Surkont of Stuyvesant’s outdoor track boys’ Greyducks, competing at the Penn Relays on Friday, April 27, in front of 45,000 spectators was equally transformative.
The Penn Relays, at Franklin Field on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the most prestigious outdoor track meets by any standard. It includes international, professional, collegiate and high school competitors.
Stevenson, Chau, Schramm and Surkont were invited to compete in the High School Boys’ Distance Medley Championship of America after placing fourth in the country at the New Balance Indoor Nationals on March 14 and setting an all-time PSAL record, with a time of 10:12.24. Unfortunately, the same relay team was unable to repeat this success at Penn Relays, by running 10:25.86 and placing 10th.
A distance medley relay consists of four athletes running 1200, 400, 800 and 1600 meters, in order. Stevenson, Chau, Schramm and Surkont ran 3:10.2, 54.1, 2:01.5 and 4:20.1, respectively.
Many factors caused this regress. Cold and windy weather conditions, which were not an issue at Indoor Nationals, made racing more difficult. Also, the nervousness that comes with any competition on the national scale led to a shaky baton pass between Stevenson and Chau. Instead of wearing their traditional uniforms of white tops with red shorts, the boys chose to wear white tops with black compression shorts. This made spotting one another to pass off the baton even more of a challenge, especially since Stevenson was amongst a tight pack of ten teams. Regardless, the Greyducks know they could have done better. “We don’t want to make excuses,” Surkont said.
The winner of the event, St. Benedict’s Prep, ran 10:07.76. Their success is due in large part to junior Edward Cheserek, an outstanding athlete brought from Kenya to the United States by a church-sponsored program. Although he was 15 seconds and 5 places behind first place when he received the baton, he took the lead after just 600 meters. By running his leg of 1600 meters in 4:06.2, Cheserek singlehandedly executed a surreal comeback that led his school to victory.
Unfortunately, the Penn Relays was likely the last time this Stuyvesant relay team will ever run together. Stevenson’s tendonitis has reappeared, sidelining him for the season, and the rest of the relay will be graduating. “The other guys are going to have to step up big to take up the slack,” coach Mark Mendes said.
Notwithstanding the Greyducks’ disappointment, it was an incredible achievement simply to qualify for this meet, a success that they added to by solidifying their place in the nation’s top ten. “I wish we could have done better than we did, but all in all, it was a fun trip,” Schramm said.