What happens when a group of athletes come together, work hard and compete for a conference championship? For the Valley Steam Central High School boys’ winter track team, the answer is simple: win.
The boys from Central ran, jumped and willed their school to its first Nassau Conference II championship in 10 years, led by nine all-conference athletes.
The boys and girls winter track teams share three coaches, each with their own specialty. Jason Nappy coaches running and hurdles, Brian Fraser works on jumping and Phillip Pepe is the throwing coach. Nappy, who has been a winter and spring track coach for two years, said although he was confident in his team, there was a “moment of disbelief” when the Eagles took home the conference crown in January at St. Anthony’s High School.
“It was surreal,” Nappy said as he watched his team take a victory lap. “We just didn’t want the moment to end because it was that special. Especially with the group of kids that we have.” What made the win even sweeter, Nappy added, was the fact that many coaches regard Nassau Conference II as the toughest conference in the county.
In the event’s early going, Central found itself in third place after three events behind last year’s champion Calhoun High School and East Meadow High School. But it was the fourth event, the 55-meter dash, that turned things around for the Eagles. Three Central runners, Garcelin Elisias, Delencio Blanco-Holstead and Chad Blaize, made it to the event’s finals as Blanco-Holstead then won the first event for Central.
“The kids worked hard and they really created a family atmosphere,” said Fraser. “The seniors really came together and they pushed each other every day at practice and they made it all possible.”
One of the seniors who paced the Eagles during the conference championship was Seth Williams who won the long jump, triple jump and high jump events. This year marked his first season on the winter track team although he has been on the spring track team since seventh grade. In years past, Williams played basketball in the winter, but this year he elected to run track.
Williams said he knew the team had a chance to win the conference this season because of the hard work everyone put in for months, whether it was running in Hendrickson Park or on the treadmill at the gym. “It was very relieving because it was something we were working for as team since the summer time,” he said of the championship, “not just myself, the sprinters, the 4x4’s, 4x2 team, everybody.”
Cesar Dieguez, Matthew Jones, Andrew Simon and Elisias won the 4x400 relay for Central. Jones, a junior, also won the 300-meter dash as the Eagles were on their way to victory.
Central had a five-point advantage over Calhoun heading into the final event, the 4x200 relay. In order to clinch the conference championship, the Eagles had to finish in the top four. Seniors Holstead-Blanco, Tylor-Wray Harvery, Devon Pascal-Seward and Davon Kearney finished second behind Elmont in the relay and sealed the win.
“It was an amazing experience,” Holstead-Blanco said of the win. “I worked hard all my life to get there and I finally accomplished my goal.” Both Holstead-Blanco and Williams qualified for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships last weekend at Cornell University. Holstead-Blanco did not place in his event while Williams could not participate due to an injury.
The Eagles boys’ winter track team has finished last in the conference in recent years and placed seventh out of nine teams last season. Now, they’re champions.
“It was unreal, it didn’t hit me for a week,” said Blaize, a member of the team since ninth grade. “We’ve been working hard in practice and hopefully win more championships in the spring.”