Olympic Hopefuls Train at Family YMCA at Tarrytown

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by Barbara Turk

Cecilia Barowski
Cecilia Barowski

The wind swirled the fallen snow into large drifts and plows were having difficulty keeping the roads clear, but nothing could stop two young Olympic hopefuls from finding a treadmill and some free weights to lift during a blizzard in Tarrytown in February. Practically the only doors open that day were those of the Family YMCA at Tarrytown, which has been continuously serving the rivertowns for more than 113 years.

Cecilia Barowski and Stephanie Schappert, roommates who are training for the Olympic Trials, opened the doors to the Y and were greeted by Sandra Wingate, Member Service Desk Manager and a friendly fixture at the Y for more than 15 years. Within moments they were working out in the Fitness Center, and soon joined the Y, participating in the 25/25 Membership Program, which guarantees them 25% off the current membership rate as long as they both remain members of the Y.

“We were so excited to find the Y open in the middle of the blizzard. The discount for life was an added bonus. We were in the gym working out in less than five minutes!” said Barowski. “We love the convenience of the location and the fact that it seems to be always open,”

On the day of that blizzard, Barowski was training for the Millrose Games that took place on February 11; she came in fifth in her 800-meter race with a new lifetime best time of 2:01.52.

“The Y is so proud to be participating in ‘history in the making’ with these incredible young women,” said Gerry Riera, CEO of the Y.

Barowski is one of almost 20 runners who recently moved to the Tarrytown area to train for the Olympics. She and nine others, most of whom are recent college graduates, joined the team in 2016.  Working with legendary coach Frank “Gag” or “Gags” Gagliano, the group trains at the Masters School during the week, and Barowski and Schappert fill out their exercise routines with runs in Rockefeller State Park and workouts at the Tarrytown Y. The team sponsor is Hoka One One, taken from a Native American phrase that translates to their motto, “Time to Fly.” Hoka One One supports the club providing the team with workout clothing and running shoes.

Barowski smiles as she speaks about the joy and rigor of working with “Gag.” Gagliano, 79, has led young runners to 10 Olympic trials (most recently in July 2016), and is credited with guiding 14 Olympians, multiple national champions, and a world championships medalist. A former professional football player in Canada, Gagliano made college track and field coaching stops earlier in his career at Manhattan College, Rutgers, and Georgetown. Then he moved on to professional teams like the Reebok Enclave, the Nike Farm Team, the Oregon Track Club, and his current group, the New Jersey-New York Track Club.

Barowski typically runs the 800, but also runs the 600 if that is what the meet offers. She is currently ranked third in the United States in the 600m, the event in which she competed earlier this month at the National Championship in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Barowski graduated last spring from Princeton, where she studied Molecular Biology and did an internship with the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).  She loves research, and plans to pursue a career in the biomedical field after the 2020 Olympics. The fifth of eight children in her family, Barowski is the only one to take her high school running career to the next level in college.

“In New Hampshire, every one of my older sisters and I were the State Champs at some point during high school,” she said, smiling.

She and her roommate, Schappert, who is also on the team, love to bake. “This time it was fun-fetti cookies – we bribed one of our teammates with cookies in exchange for a ride to the airport for the USA Track & Field (USATF) Indoor Championships, in Albuquerque, NM, held on March 4-5, 2017,” Barowksi said giggling, indicating the bribe worked.

Of the event, Barowski said, “Steph and I both made it past the first round in our respective events, and finished well! Stephanie ran her best time in the prelims, and bettered that time in the finals finishing in 6th place in the 1000 meter with a time of 2:41.76.  I finished fifth overall in the 600-meter final with a time of 1:27.07. Great way to wrap up my first season in the pro world!”

The Y will be watching these young women make their way toward the 2020 Olympics, and we are proud they chose our facility in which to train.

Barbara Turk is Vice President, Marketing and Community Development at Family YMCA at Tarrytown.

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