by Tom Pedulla
Irvington had overcome injuries to key performers Max Forte and Junnan Shimizu to easily outdistance runner-up Pawling and secure its first Section 1 Class C boys indoor track championship in 31 years.
The 35 members of the Bulldogs who qualified for sectionals had all searched within themselves to find something more to compensate for those injuries. They had truly embodied a team, relying on depth rather than star power to attain a maddeningly elusive goal.
Ryan Flanagan had known the anguish of defeat as much as anyone, having been part of the indoor team that placed second in the sectionals two years before. Even with the elusive plaque finally in Irvington’s grasp, the senior did not want to stop running at the Armory in New York City, one of the most iconic venues in all of track and field.
“Let’s do one more lap,” Flanagan said.
With coaches Scott Mosenthal, Jim Buckley and Chris Barry proudly looking on, with family and friends taking photographs, the Bulldogs took a jubilant victory lap, a fitting end to a memory that will last a lifetime.
“It felt good, especially because I wasn’t sprinting as hard as I could,” Flanagan said. “I was really soaking in the moment.”
It took a special group to withstand the adversity the team encountered. Forte, a junior ranked first in the high jump, long jump and hurdles, attempted to compete with a badly bruised knee only to strain his groin in warmups. Shimizu, who excels in pole vault and triple jump and anchors the 4×200-meter relay, battled a hamstring injury but still contributed in the triple jump.
“He finished fifth in the triple jump basically on one leg. He showed a lot of toughness,” Barry said. “Max did also, just trying to compete with a pretty painful injury.”
The rest of the Bulldogs found a way. Nick Papapanou stepped up by winning the triple jump. He also joined Paul Biaggi, Jaleel Moody and new anchorman Mo Ahmed as part of the second place 4×200-meter relay.
Flanagan prevailed at 3,200 meters, snagged second at 1,600 meters and came together with Henry Demarest, Alex Bjorgvinsson and Aidan McClure on the triumphant 4 x 800-meter relay.
Ryan Carron (pole vault) and Henry Demarest (1,000 meters) each contributed second-place finishes. Ahmed (triple jump), Mickey Sivere (pole vault), McClure (600 meters) and Brett Clinton (3,200 meters) all took third.
Will Herte (weight throw), Alex Yurzcak (55-meter high hurdles) and Isaac Turano (pole vault) all came in fourth. So did the 4×400-meter relay of Jake Ourman, Chris Meng-Killeen, Nick Levin and McClure.
The points kept coming.
Papapanou (long jump) and Yurczak (pole vault) took fifth. Lucas Turano (high jump) and Leo Mermelstein (pole vault) were sixth.
“Everybody had to step up and do their job and try to reach for a personal record,” Yurczak said.
The plaque meant more to Irvington because of the way in which it was accomplished. “It’s definitely a testament to the depth we have,” Papapanou said. “Irvington is not a large school by any means.”
Few, though, can match the Bulldogs’ spirit. “There are always people cheering for each other,” said Caleb Gilbert.
Before the sectionals, Irvington notched a sixth consecutive league title, a tribute to the can-do attitude established by outstanding coaches who are close friends.
“We don’t make excuses,” Barry said. “If somebody beats us that’s better, you tip your cap. But you do your best and compete right to the end. These guys are nice guys, but fierce competitors.”
And now a championship more than three decades in the making is theirs.