Big Apple Boys' Preview
The City is going to be a hotbed for cross country action this fall and while the New York State Championships are taking place in suburban Buffalo on Nov. 10, Van Cortlandt Park will be the site of three championships, each with teams harboring high aspirations. The top contenders might be Monsignor Farrell of Staten Island and Collegiate of the Upper West Side. And each has an intriguing story line.
Farrell is suffering a malady of many Catholic schools — under-enrollment — which caused a shake up with the Lions' cross country team when Coach Tom Cuffe's teaching position at the school eliminated this summer. The Staten Island Advance reported Farrell's enrollment had dipped to 800.
“When Tom had been dismissed, I was obviously as shocked as anyone," said Mike Proffitt, the coach at St. John Villa for 16 years. "They contacted me and asked if I would interview. The Farrell job is a plum job. It has rich tradition and a rich history."
Proffitt and John Sexton, known best as a field events' coach, took over the duties of the program in June and are looking to take the talented Lions, led by senior Dan Galford, last year's CHSAA individual champion to a top-five Feds finish and beyond.
The other contender for "Best in the City" will be the 222-student Collegiate School, coached by George Calano. The Dutchmen have been the clear powerhouse among New York's Association of Independent Schools and now have one of the most exciting young runners on the East Coast in sophomore Marco Pompilj. Last season he proved himself to be not just New York State's top freshmen, but among the top frosh in state history.
The New York State Championships versus the PSAL, CHSAA and NYSAIS championships at Van Cortlandt on the same day. That one will be too tough to call even for the experienced follower. Here are the picks:
New York City Boys' Pre-Season Top Five
1. Collegiate (Manhattan — AIS)Collegiate has had some amazing teams in the past and this could be another great team for Coach George Calano. The Dutchmen will be led by sophomore Marco Pompilj. Not only did Pompilj run 16:32 last year at Bowdoin Park, he also posted 4:17 and 9:28 on the track to go down as one of the best freshmen that New York State has ever seen. TullyRunners.com has him as the 10th-best runner overall in the state. Add in three more guys that each broke 10 minutes in the 3,200-meter last spring and a slew of talented underclassmen. This has all the makings of a team for the record books.
2. Monsignor Farrell (Staten Island — CHSAA)There are a lot of questions swirling around Farrell right now and most are related to the coaching staff change. Long time Farrell Coach Tom Cuffe — widely regarded as one of the best distance coaches in the area and known nationally — is no longer leading the Lions. His teaching position was cut because of low enrollment. Mike Proffitt and John Sexton — both formerly of St. John Villa on Staten Island — will head the storied program. There are always adjustment periods for athletes and coaches and there's a chance this could be true for Farrell. But with star runner Dan Galford back for his senior year along with three teammates who broke 10 minutes in the 3,200-meter run, you can bet this team will be heard from this fall.
3. Bronx Science (Bronx — PSAL)Bronx Science brings back six runners from last years — including junior Pier Berkmans, who ran 16:30 at Bowdoin. The Wolverines won the PSAL City Championships over a tough Stuyvesant squad which placed 1-2 in the race. How did they do it? They had a solid pack that spread only 62 seconds. They also had three runners break 4:31 for 1,600 meter this past spring. With good coaching and a strong tradition, they have a great opportunity to repeat as PSAL Champs.
4. Xavier (Manhattan — CHSAA)Xavier did lose top runner Dmitri Zuccarello to graduation but with four strong regulars back and other promising runners coming up — including sophomore John Rice — this team could move up the rankings. Rice is the son of former Midwood coach Sean Rice. The CHSAA has its customary depth so Xavier will have its hands full with St. Anthony's, Chaminade and Farrell. But the Knights should have a chance to make it back to the NYS Federation Championships yet again.
5. Thomas Jefferson (Brooklyn — PSAL)Fourth a year ago at the PSAL City Championships with a 18:00 average time at Van Cortlandt Park, the Orange Lightning was young and inexperienced. Just wait to see how it fares with an year under its belt. Look for Sidgie Green to be one of the City's best and for Tevin Aitken to run around 17:30. If it can get its pack in shortly thereafter, look for Jefferson to return to the NYS Federation Championships.
Boys' Top 10 Returners To The Boroughs• Dan Galford, Monsignor Farrell (CHSAA)
• Jack Stevenson, Stuyvesant (PSAL)
• Pier Berkmans, Bronx Science (PSAL)
• Marco Pompilj, Collegiate (AIS)
• John Bentivegna, Monsignor Farrell (CHSAA)
• Devin Rocks, Bishop Ford (CHSAA)
• Hugh Kenny, Poly Prep (AIS)
• Sidgie Green, Thomas Jefferson (PSAL)
• Kevin Trimmer, MSIT (PSAL)
• Sam Marchan, Trinity School (AIS)
Other Potential Stars• Felipe Yanez, Forest Hills (PSAL)
• Ronaldo Ball, Curtis (PSAL)
• Joseph Ledger, Bronx Science (PSAL)
• Saad Maig, Curtis (PSAL)
• Daniel Leon, Bronx Science (PSAL)
• Liam Buckley, Collegiate (AIS)
• J.P. Meredith, Collegiate (AIS)
• Brian Tress, Monsignor Farrell (CHSAA)