E.M’s prompt is based on a certain topic which she asks five thought provoking questions. This week’s topic:
O.K, I’m a bit late again since Sunday past. Well let’s put it this way, at least I won’t have to get a late pass like they used to give students that arrived late to school.
- What is one thing you remember about your first day of high school?
I attended Alexander Hamilton Vocational & Technical High School, in Brooklyn, New York. Those who were admitted under the technical curriculum had to take and pass a written test and whoever was admitted was based on the test score. Those that came in under the vocational curriculum didn’t need to take a test to determine if they should be admitted. I was admitted under the vocational curriculum in the sheet metal program. But in the 10th grade I changed over to the electrical installation and practice program.
My first day in high school started before the regular school semester in September. There was a summer school program for freshmen. I decided to attend, it was ironic that during that summer, even though I was admitted under the vocational curriculum, I was put into the technical curriculum for the summer. My introduction to architectural and technical drawing, even though my drawings sucked.
- Did you participate in extracurricular activities or sports in high school?
Absolutely, when I was in the 10th grade, I was on the soccer team (varsity) and when I was in the 11th and 12th grade, I was on the track team. One-year junior varsity one year varsity.
After some years of not having a soccer team, the school reestablished a soccer team. I was on that first reestablished team. The coach Mr. Cooper was inexperienced, he was a math Teacher who volunteered to be the coach. He was being trained and mentored by another soccer coach from another high school.
Our season didn’t go to well. We only won five games and drew or lost the rest. We were ranked at the bottom of the New York City Public School Athletic League (PSAL) B soccer league.
The following year, that coach left and moved on to work at another school, leaving a pause in the soccer program. So I decided to join the track team. When the soccer program started back up with a new coach when I was in the 12th grade. I never tried out for the team; I was content to be on the track team instead.
When I joined the track team, in the 11th grade, it was during cross country season, we trained every day after school at Prospect Park. We ran around the that park’s drive on the runner’s path. The distance is 3 ½ miles of flats, and hills.
In the interior of the park there was one of the PSAL’s official cross-country racecourse. Sometimes practice would be in the interior to get used to the racecourse and build up stamina.
I wasn’t a good cross-country runner, especially when we would come up on the big hill part of the cross-country course called “monument hill,” my thighs would burn me while running up it, so I used to stop running and walk up to the top. When I got up to the top, I resumed running again. But sometimes I would be lazy and walk back down and only run on the flats. I was always one of the last ones to finish the course during competition.
Then there was indoor season. In the basement of the school building there was an elevated 110-meter track above the gym. This is where we trained for indoor season. We used to train every day.
The daily routine started with warming up by jogging two miles on the track. Then we’ll go down to the gym floor and stretch and do wind sprints. Then we’ll go back up to the track, the coach will break us up into two groups. The sprinters and long-distance runners. Then the coach, Orlando Martinez, who incidentally was an alumnus of the school, who attended college on a full ride track scholarship, he would work us out.
On some days we had to do stairs. We would run up the school building’s staircases, the school has four floors. Sometimes we would do stamina training running on the streets from the school building to Prospect Park. It was 2 ½ miles from the school building to Prospect Park, and we were supposed to run the additional 3 ½ miles around Prospect Park and back to the school building. But I would just run to prospect park and be too lazy to run the additional 3 ½ miles. In fact, only the strongest runners would do the additional 3 ½ miles. The others like myself would wait until those who ran the additional 3 ½ miles to finish. Then when we all started the run back to the school building. We made it a race.
The indoor track meets were held at the big Armory in upper Manhattan located at 168th street and Broadway. During my time, the Armory indoor track was a wooden floor and poor lighting. Then the City decided to make the Armory a men’s homeless shelter. So, during the time when there were indoor track meets at the Armory, they used to put the homeless people’s bed’s in the middle of the Armory’s floor, freeing up the track. The homeless people were kept away from the high school athletes, and spectators. The homeless people were moved to another area of the Armory until the track meet was over.
Today, the City has put some expense and made the armory’s indoor track and field, a state of the art facility.
For outdoor season, we trained at the campus of Wingate high school in East Flatbush. Then when that school’s athletic fields were under construction, we started to train at the famed Boys and Girls High School campus athletic field. Yes, we trained every day.
Every Fridays there would be a track meet for the local Brooklyn high schools. Plus, the citywide track meets at various high school campus around the city. Then the coach would sign us up to compete in track meets in New Jersey, and our state ranked runners would compete in invitational track meets.
At the end of the season each borough would have a champion track meet; and the borough champions will go on and compete in the City champion meet, and the city champs would go on to compete in the state championship.
My high school was the state 2-mile relay champions for three years straight. Imagine 16- and 17-year old’s who were already over 6 feet tall, and fully developed. Those guys were nationally ranked. Me on the other hand was only 5’10’’ and some of my physical attributes were still developing. I wasn’t an elite runner, but I gave competition, winning against me wasn’t easy, and if you did win, you deserved the victory.
- Was Freshman hazing or initiations at trend at your high school?
There were no freshman hazing or initiations that I remember. The only thing is that on the track team sometimes the elite runners would taunt someone if they were always losing a race. But it was never to the point of harassment, but rather to motivate the teammate to push harder.
- Did you attend your Senior Prom? If so, do you remember the theme?
Unfortunately, I did not attend my high school prom. This is because I had to do an additional six months of schooling because I lacked 2 classes. I was given a choice whether to graduation ceremonies with my graduating class or attending graduation ceremonies the following year.
- Is there a favorite memory from your high school days?
I’ve have so many memories from high school that were memorable. Some good, some bad, and some indifferent.
But by far an unforgettable day was my last race at the Brooklyn championship track meet.
I was the second leg on the mile relay; when the first leg gave me the baton, it was in last place with a gap of almost 100 meters. I ran my ass off and caught up with the other runners closing the gap on the straight away and handing off the baton to the third leg, who brought us up to fourth place when he handed the baton off to the anchor leg and he closed the gap between the race leaders passing a runner finishing in third place. We were given the third-place plaque.
On that day, I ran my fastest time for the quarter; 50 seconds. I was supposed to compete in the 100 meters, but after that performance on the mile relay, my leg muscles tightened up on me, and I felt a bit fatigued, so I declined to compete in the 100 meters, I was unable to do it.
It was bittersweet on that day. Because it was one of the happiest day in high school life, as an athlete, and I felt a bit sad because this was the last high school track meet that I would be competing in. I would never feel the same excitement or be in that type of atmosphere again.
But on June 27th another chapter in my life was opened, when the Army National Guard sent me to Fort Leonard wood, Missouri for Basic Combat Training.
Could you imagine what kind of physical shape I was in when I reported. By the time I finished basic training, my physical shape was at new heights, at that point in my life running 3 miles was like walking.