Since he was very young, limits were placed on Frankie Anzaldi, a 16-year-old Rocky Point High School student. When he was in kindergarten, doctors said Anzaldi would never be able to tie his own shoes, but each time he was told he couldn’t do something he has consistently proved the doubters wrong, all despite his epilepsy and seizures.
Anzaldi has no limits, and he’s ambitious — always looking for the next goal to tackle. With that attitude, he has become an accomplished trombone player and on this past St. Patrick’s Day March 17 he participated in the New York City Half Marathon representing Athletes Without Limits, an organization supporting athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Frankie’s journey to the NYC Half Marathon began simple enough, with a visit to the Stony Brook men’s soccer team after he was named its honorary captain three years ago. It was his interactions with the team in the gym, working out with them, that helped spur his decision to start running.
“I never thought it would be running,”
Anzaldi’s mother Michelle said. “Out of the blue he said he wanted to go running — so we brought him to the track.”
The 16-year-old’s mother said when they first brought him to the track in July 2016, her son could barely run a mile. But the persistent teenager kept at it, and later decided he wanted to run a race.
“We found a fun race, a 1K. He did the race and he loved it,” his mother said.
For that race, Anzaldi ran for the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Track Team. Three months later, he became a member of the team and represented it at the Suffolk County Half Marathon.
The co-founder of Athletes Without Limits, Barry Holman, happened to be at the race and met the Anzaldi family. The teenager saw one of the organization’s slogan of “No limits” and he adopted it as his own and has since lived by it. Many of his posts on Instagram, a social media platform, feature the hashtag, #nolimits.
Frank Anzaldi, the runner’s father, marveled at the progression his son has made in a short amount of time.
“He just worked at it — went from barely running one mile to thirteen miles,” Anzaldi’s father said.
The NYC Half Marathon was his fifth half marathon in three years, and despite how long he’s been at it, Anzaldi is still out on the track every week training.
“Training was really intense — he was running close to 40 miles a week,” he said.
In training for his first NYC Half Marathon, Anzaldi received virtual coaching from the Badger Track Club, a club based in Madison, Wisconsin, whose main focus is to teach, train and educate athletes in track and field, cross country and road racing.
“He’s was being virtually coached by Scott Brinen; he’s worked with special needs athletes before,” his father said. “I was put in touch with them through Athletes Without Limits.”
The young man told them he wanted to run another half marathon and his improve his run time, and soon the club helped Anzaldi with a workout plan which included speed and distance training as well as working out in the gym. According to young Anzaldi, it got him in the best shape he’s ever been.
At the marathon, Anzaldi was joined by his longtime trombone tutor and friend, Michel Nadeau, who is a music teacher in the Commack School District, who just so happened to be a runner himself.
Nadeau met him five years ago when the Anzaldis were looking for a trombone tutor for their son. The family called Nadeau a godsend, as he helped the teenager learn how to play the trombone by modifying music notes so he could read them. Nadeau taught their son how to read music even before he could read a book.
“Two years ago, Frankie started running and [his parents] didn’t know I was a runner as well, so it was kind of cool,” Nadeau said.
Because of Anzaldi, Nadeau was motivated to run in the Suffolk Half Marathon two years ago and ran it again with him this past November. Nadeau also trained with Anzaldi for his fifth half marathon. Training sessions consisted of running for eight miles, three times a week, according to the music teacher.
“Frankie doesn’t say no to anything, and he’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve met in my life,” Nadeau said. “It’s been really fun working and running with someone that has no quit in them.”
A little more than a month before the race, Anzaldi’s father received a call from Athletes Without Limits asking if the 16-year-old could represent the national team at the marathon. The teenager said absolutely, and he was excited for the race to run past NYU Hospital where his doctors and surgeons work. He would also be running past the windows of other patients he knew personally and was excited to show them what he has accomplished.
With five half marathons under his belt, the freshman in high school has already expressed his desire to do more. One of his goals is to represent the United States in an international competition.
A first chair trombone player in middle school last year and a member of the high school marching band, Anzaldi also has dreams of being a trombone player in the Disney Marching Band. According to his mother, that is the ultimate job he wants in life.
“It started from the get-go that limits were placed on him, and every time someone says he can’t do something, he proves them wrong,” the teenager’s mother said.
Anzaldi’s father agreed, saying even if someone has a disability, you shouldn’t limit them. When someone believes in them great things can happen.
“They said he was never going to be able to tie his shoes and now he is tying them and running marathons,” he said.
Matthew Chan, a Comsewogue High School senior and Boy Scout in Troop 354, has volunteered at the Long Island Explorium since seventh grade. Now in his last year of high school, he took his help one step further when he constructed a magnetic ball track for the Port Jefferson nonprofit.
Boy Scouts looking to gain their Eagle Scout recognition often provide a service to the community, whether it’s reconstructing fences, planting trees, building benches or painting old buildings.
The Comsewogue High School senior took it a step further and constructed a magnetic ball run at the Long Island Explorium. It allows children to create their own looping track where they can send a small marble careening down a path of their own design.
“I thought about how I could make my project very hands on,” Chan said.
In order for a Boy Scout to make the rank of Eagle Scout, he first has to perform a service project in the community. The Port Jefferson Station resident used his Eagle Scout project as an opportunity to aid the explorium even further. Three years ago, the explorium underwent renovations, including installing two large steel sheets on one of the walls. This was all part of an idea hatched by Angeline Judex, the executive director of the explorium, and Chan to create this ball run.
“The Explorium is always pleased to work with Boys and Girls Scouts to help them develop skills and experience to become leaders of the future,” said Judex. “Matt’s project added tremendous value to the Explorium. The giant magnetic ball run helps promote STEM learning in a fun and engaging manner that is enjoyed by visitors of all ages.”
The project took quite a bit of time to come about. While Chan proposed the project initially in November of 2017, it took until May 2018 for him to gather all the materials together. In June of that year, he gathered around 15 other Boy Scouts to help him construct the track. The Scouts drilled holes in planks of wood where they could affix the magnets, then drilled holes in PVC pipe, some pieces cut horizontally in half. When it was all installed by late 2018, Chan got to witness firsthand children using, playing and learning with his creation.
“I think it encourages a lot of creativity,” he said. “It trains kids to think for themselves and create their own solutions.”
Troopmaster of troop 354 Bob Pearsall said he was proud of what Chan was able to do at the Explorium.
“His eighteenth birthday is March 22, and he has to finish up his paperwork and hand it in before then to make the Eagle Scout rank official, and we will make sure he does that,” Pearsall said.
Chans court of honor will come up in the next few months, with a date and time still to be determined.
The senior is expecting to graduate come June. From there he is looking forward to attending The College at Brockport where he will enroll in its nursing program.
“The Boy Scouts has a lot to do with first aid and life saving,” the Eagle Scout said. “I was a lifeguard, and I used to be very interested in first aid and health. I thought helping people through nursing would be a very good career path for me.”
By Bill Landon
Huntington and Northport girls track members put their best feet forward at the Suffolk County track & field large school championships Feb. 2. held at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
Huntington sophomores Ella Siepel and Valerie Rogel finished 5th and 10th, respectively, in the finals at 3,000 meters clocking in at 11 minutes, 35.33 seconds and 11:51.66 respectively. Huntington junior Alicia Brooks tripped the clock at 7.55 seconds in the 55-meter dash for 6th place in the county. Huntington seniors Keily Rivas and Erica Varady finished the 1,500-meter race walk in 7th and 9th place crossing the line at 7:32.75 and 7:38.85, respectively. Rogel’s time of 5:30.69 in the 1500-meter race was good enough for 6th in Suffolk.
Northport senior Margaret Van Laer cleared 4 feet 8 inches in the high jump finals placing her in a four-way tie for 3rd place. Northport senior Sydnie Rohme traveled 17-4 1/2 in the long jump placing her in the top spot of the 2nd flight and her teammate Ashley Curcio leapt 15-5 1/2 to finish in 5th place in flight 1. Curcio finished 3rd in the triple jump with her best distance being 30-10 1/2.
Huntington’s Grace Mckenna earned top honors in flight No. 1 in the shot put by throwing 30-4.
Both the girls and boys track & field are back at the college Feb. 11 for the state qualifiers where the first gun sounds at 5 p.m.
By Karina Gerry
For the second time this season, Mount Sinai senior Kenneth Wei knows what it’s like to be No. 1 in the country for the long jump.
The Mount Sinai senior jumped 25 feet, the current record in the nation for this year, Feb. 3, at the Section XI Small School County Championship at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Brentwood. Earlier in the season, Wei held the long jump record with 24 feet when he competed at the Molloy Stanner Games at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York City.
“It was really adrenaline pumping,” Wei said about the experience of competing at such a
level. “Your heart’s racing, it’s really exciting.”
Eric Giorlando, the Mustangs head track & field coach, proudly pointed out Wei’s other accomplishments at the recent meet, including beating the No. 2 athlete in the country during the 55-meter hurdles head to head and was named Male Athlete of the Meet.
“It’s an experience that you hope to obtain sometime in your career,” Giorlando said. “It was a pretty big day overall, not just achieving the No. 1 spot in the long jump but to have that meet, in general, it was a pretty powerful moment.”
Giorlando, who has been coaching at Mount Sinai since 2002, has been working side by side with Wei since the beginning.
“Kenny has always done everything that we’ve asked him to do,” Giorlando said. “He probably runs more than the traditional long jumper or triple jumper — he’s kind of been easy to coach and understanding of my philosophy of how to get him to that point.”
Wei has been competing at the varsity level since eighth grade when an assistant coach saw him jump for a basketball in gym class. The long jumper got serious about winning titles last year where he started hitting the weight room. Last season Wei began to see the effects of his hard work with his multiple titles, but despite all the success this year, Giorlando doesn’t think the soon-to-graduate senior has come close to reaching his potential.
“I think he has a lot of room to go,” Giorlando said. “It’s about being patient and understanding that it’s a long road ahead of us — we’re not looking for county titles or state titles at this point, we’re looking for a national title.”
Wei’s goal is to place at Nationals in March where he hopes to compete in two events: the 55-meter hurdles and long jump. Despite the pressure of being a nationally recognized athlete, the nerves don’t really get to him anymore.
“Your heart’s racing, it’s really exciting.”
— Kenneth Wei
“Especially since last year I feel like the nerves have kind of calmed down a little bit, and I just really try to enjoy the run, enjoy the meet and enjoy the atmosphere,” Wei said.
His coach can’t think of a time that he has ever seen Wei frazzled, even under the most immense pressure.
“Always laser focused,” Giorlando said. “Always knows what needs to be done, and I’d say about 99 percent of the time he is able to achieve those things.”
Wei, who is headed to MIT in the fall, plans on competing for their track & field team because of his passion for the sport.
“My big thing is to encourage people to pursue their passions,” the star athlete said. “And this is one of mine. It’s a big part of my life now, and running with the team competing is a lot of fun, and I hope to keep doing it.”
Boys track and field team guarantees piece of second straight outdoor league title with win over Southampton. Junior Kenneth Wei breaks two school records.
By Bill Landon
These type of Mustangs like to be pushed.
The Mount Sinai track and field team feeds off the pressure in practice — touting it as one of the main reasons the boys have been able to stay undefeated.
“We just have guys that work hard every day,” Sean Higgins said. “The coaches push us, and push us hard. They push us until we’re great.”
The junior was off to the races in a 102-34 win over visiting Southampton May 2, coming first in the 800-meter run and 1,600, and placing second in the 3,200. He also competed in the 4×400 relay.
His top finish was 5 minutes, 20 seconds in the mile.
“It’s not my best,” he said. “So we’ve got to get back to work and train that much harder.”
Junior Kenneth Wei on the other hand had two bests. He broke the school record in the long jump with 21-10.75 jump and triple jump with a 43-10.5 leap. He also finished first in the 110 high hurdles.
Head coach Lee Markowitz said Wei, who is at the top of his class, is the most coachable athlete he’s ever worked with, and defines what a scholar athlete is.
“Like my coaches say, it’s who wants it more,” Wei said. “It’s the desire to compete — to go up against the best of the best. It’s what drives us to keep going.”
Markowitz said Ryan Wilson is another junior who helps round out a strong, dedicated All-County class. Wilson is noted by his coach for his versatility.
“Ryan is a gifted distance runner who is always willing to help the team,” the coach said. “He excels in both the 400 and 800 events and is always ready to jump into the 1,600 or relay event if it means securing a victory for the team.”
Jack Pilon, one of seven seniors on a roster of nearly 60, said his 5-0 Mustangs benefit greatly from having so many tools in the toolbox.
“We have the depth,” he said. “Our sixth, seventh and eighth milers, they’re the ones out here with us every day doing the same amount of work, so I think that when other teams compete with us it’s difficult to keep up. We’ve got 10 guys that can go under five minutes in the mile — it’s hard to [compete] with that.”
Wilson also flaunted his team’s dedication while backing up his coach’s claim of his thirst for competition.
“Everyone comes to work and they train hard every day — they’re coming for their own reasons, whether it’s to get ready for another sport or to improve their best times,” he said. “We’re all trying to build the best program we’ve ever had. We have a strong program, but we’re also building for the future.”
Mount Sinai, now 5-0, remains atop the League VII leaderboard with one meet remaining. With the win over Southampton, the Mustangs have repeated nabbing indoor and outdoor league titles for the second straight school year. Mount Sinai is currently one win ahead of Elwood-John Glenn (4-1) and faces its rival May 8 at 4 p.m. for sole possession of the crown.
Markowitz said the practice atmosphere is contagious, as old and young push one another to build the future Wilson was talking about.
“It’s the work ethic — there’s zero complaining,” he said. “When they’re successful, it confirms for them that when we work hard, we win. We have a group, particularly of juniors, who if we tell them ‘You’ve got to run through a brick wall,’ they’ll say, ‘Ok.’”
Greater Long Island Running Club, of Plainview, will be awarding at least one $5,000 grant to a Long Island public high school track and field program this year.
Selection of the winning high school(s) will be based on: the need of the school; the purpose for which the grant would be used; the benefit to the program and the student-athletes who are part of the program; and the benefit to the community of which the high school is a part.
In 2016, the running club awarded a $5,000 grant to Brentwood High School to help reinstitute and revitalize the school’s cross country program, which had not been offered since 2010 because of lack of funding. In 2017, to help Central Islip High School kids afford running shoes, the club brought the entire boys and girls teams into Sayville Running Company for shoes.
“High school runners represent the future of our sport,” said Linda Ottaviano, the running club’s executive director. “We are thrilled to be able to help deserving high school programs, high school athletes and the communities that they are a part of.”
Applications can be obtained by calling the running club office at 516-349-7646 or emailing [email protected]. Applications must be received by May 1.
When Huntington head coach Ron Wilson and his winter boys’ track and field team stepped into the Suffolk County state qualifier meet at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, they had one thing on their mind: redemption.
And that’s exactly what they felt when they went home.
In the last couple weeks, the Blue Devils had experienced their fair share of shortcomings, notably during its Armory Track Invitational Feb. 3, when senior Shane McGuire, a leg of the team’s 4×400-meter relay, tore his hamstring. The next day, at the large school county championship, the Blue Devils’ top sprinter Kyree Johnson felt a tweak in his own hamstring before competing in the long jump and, at the request of Wilson, sat out of competing altogether.
The team ended up losing the county championship 52-51. Had Johnson jumped that day, they would’ve won, the coach said, but it wasn’t worth the risk.
It was that tight loss that hurt them most, dropping from first to fourth in local published polls — only fueling the fire that would light up the track in Brentwood Feb. 13.
“Before we started, I said to the boys, ‘alright fellas, everyone thinks we’re not as good as we used to be, but we need to go out here and prove them wrong,’” Wilson said. “At the meet, we let everything take care of itself and when we finally started running, I was like ‘redemption at last.’”
That redemption came in the form of collaborative speed and agility.
Johnson, whose week of resting paid off, placed first in both the 55-meter dash, with a personal best time of 6.41 seconds, and 300 dash, with a meet-record time of 34.8, qualifying him to compete in the state championships March 4 at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island.
“After I won the 55-meter dash and saw my time of 6.41, that made me realize that I’m not hurt anymore,” Johnson said. “I just relaxed and stayed calm, and looked at it like every other meet … because if I didn’t, I’d start making myself nervous, so I just kept thinking ‘it’s just another regular meet.’”
Running the anchor leg, he also helped the Blue Devils take home gold in the 4×400 relay in a time of 3 minutes, 32.15 seconds, along with teammates Lawrence Leake, a senior, Mark Rafuse, an eighth-grader, and Anthony Joseph, a senior. The Huntington teammates will be joining Johnson at the state championship March 4.
Leake, who, according to Wilson, is one of the toughest and hardest working young men he’s ever coached, also placed first in a competition of his own. He took gold in the 600 run and broke the meet record with a time of 1:21.70. The record was previously held by Brentwood’s Greg Santiago, who finished in 1:21.99 in 2000.
“During the race, I figured everyone else was going to get out pretty hard the first two laps to make sure I wasn’t going to catch them, so I just stayed close and in striking distance until the last lap and put the pedal to the metal and let it go,” Leake said. “It feels pretty good to have a record beat all by myself.”
Smithtown West senior and state qualifier Michael Grabowski had a similar strategy on his dash to first place in the 3,200 run, which he finished in 9:29.19. Competing against Jack Ryan of Westhampton Beach and Jonathan Lauer of Sachem North, Grabowski knew he had to play it smart by feeling the race out for the first five laps, and push it for the final sixth.
“I was comfortable with my pace and stuck with Lauer, until Ryan made a move and went past him with about 300 meters to go, and opened the race up,” he said. “As soon as Ryan went past Lauer, I followed Ryan and waited until the last lap and kicked. Once I started my kick, there was no going back and he didn’t really have a chance.”
Marius Sidlauskas of Smithtown East placed third in boys’ 1,600 with a time of 4:29.40; Daniel Claxton of Smithtown East placed first in boys’ high jump with a jump of 6 feet, 10 inches; Elijah Claiborne, Isaiah Claiborne, Tyler Dollhausen and Dan O’Connor of Northport placed first in boys’ 4×800 relay in 8:09.76; and Ryann Gaffney of Huntington placed fourth in girls’ 55 hurdles with a time of 8.75.
By Bill Landon
The Ward Melville girls’ track and field team stretched its legs at a crossover meet Dec. 11 at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus, and distance delivered.
Patriots combine for a mix of talented youth and experienced veterans this season, and Ward Melville head coach Tom Youngs said despite clearing off the cobwebs, the girls put up solid performances.
“This year we’re talented, and we have depth in the middle distance events,” he said, referencing strong finishes in the 600-, 1,000-, 1,500- and 3,000-meter races.
In the 3,000, the Patriots had three Top 5 finishers in juniors Christina O’Brien and Amanda Dagnelli, and sophomore Allison Nemesure. O’Brien finished second in 12 minutes, 52.09 seconds, Dagnelli in fourth in 12:55.80 and Nemesure in fifth with a time of 12:14.70.
Showing both talent and bloom was freshman Elizabeth Radke who took first in the 1,500 with a time of 5:07.84 seconds.
Sophomores Kate Cochran, Shannon Ryan and Sina Maase finished fourth, sixth and seventh respectively, in 5:12.39, 5:21.39 and 5:23.52.
Juniors Samantha Sturgess and Allyson Gaedje crossed the finish line in a near tie for first place in the 1,000, but a review revealed Sturgess won by a nose, clocking in at 3:14.52 while Gaedje tripped the gun at 3:14.56.
Ward Melville’s middle distance runners continued to impress, as the Patriots swept the top three spots in the 600, which was another photo finish. Senior Hannah Hobbes stopped the clock at 1:45.66 for first place, junior Samantha Rutt came in second at 1:45.80 and Hannah’s twin sister Madison placed third with a time of 1:46.49. Senior Megan Raferty wasn’t far behind, finishing in 1:49.52 for fifth place.
Youngs said he also has a strong 4×400 relay team.
“We competed last year at the Millrose Games where we finished second with a time of 4:00.99,” he said, adding that the time qualified for his team to compete in the outdoor state championship, where it set a new school record.
On Sunday, the quartet finished third in 4:35.19.
The 55-meter hurdles fielded eight waves of six, and it was senior Marina Vostrova who claimed the top spot in 9.38 seconds.
Another freshman who made her presence known was Allison D’Angio. She cleared 4-feet, 8-inches in the high jump to earn second place, and claimed the same position in the long jump with a leap of 15-feet, 10.25 inches. Both performances were new personal bests.
“I thought I did pretty well,” D’Angio said. “I’ll be doing a lot of drills with [assistant] coach J.P. Dion, so I’ll look to do better next week.”
While Youngs said his team struggles in field events, he noted the Patriots are missing a top thrower he hopes to have back net week. He said he’s proud of the work being done on the track though, and believes he will only continue to see improvement.
“We had a good day,” he said. “We worked on a few things, we improved upon a couple of things from last week … the race is in their legs and as [we progress] the times will come.”
By Dan Aronson
Smithtown native Brendan Martin, 27, is set to make his debut in the New York City Marathon this November.
“It’s one [race] I feel like I have to do before I retire from competitive running,” Martin said. “It’s my hometown race.”
This 26.2 mile-marathon is one the most popular races in the United States. It draws runners and spectators from all over the world, and takes competitors through all five boroughs of New York City. The race was first held in 1970, with only 127 runners competing.
Martin did not find his passion for running until high school — he always thought he would be a big lacrosse player. The Smithtown resident played lacrosse competitively until the end of 10th grade and then decided to put it aside so he could focus on running.
His father Bill Martin said one of the reasons he made the switch from lacrosse to running was his size.
“The only thing that has hampered him, in pretty much anything he has done, is his size,” the father said.
Both of Martin’s parents will be attending the race in November and are very excited to see how he performs.
“I don’t think I can keep my wife away,” Bill Martin said. “[Brendan] has taken things to a whole new level. We are not surprised he has made it this far. He works very hard towards his goals and has done that since high school — he puts together a good plan and executes it.”
Len Carolan, Martin’s coach at Smithtown High School West, had a significant impact on the runner. He has now been retired for eight years, but still keeps in touch with Martin.
“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special” Carolan said. “His love of running and his desire to do well, plus his talent, is what really makes Brendan stand out. He was by far the most talented runner I ever coached.”
Martin led his cross-country team at Smithtown to three consecutive Suffolk County championships from 2003-06. He clearly set his team up well for future years, as without him the Bulls went on to win the title in 2007. The Bulls teams in 2007 and 2008 also won back-to-back divisional championships.
“He was instrumental in getting us to that competitive level,” Carolan said.
And Martin has similar feelings for his old coach.
“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special.”
— Len Carolan
“He gave me a good feeling about running,” Martin said of Carolan. “He made it really fun and team-oriented for us. That made it a blast. He was really good at coaching the fundamentals, working hard, being dedicated and working together with your teammates, and I think that really stuck with me.”
Each athlete prepares himself in a different way, and for Martin, that’s running year-round.
He said he spends eight to nine weeks preparing for the race. In the first five to six weeks, he runs about 120 to 130 miles a week. Once he gets closer to race day, Martin said he tries to run 20 to 22 miles per day, at marathon pace.
“I’m going to make sure I’m doing a lot of hills in my training, because New York is a notoriously difficult course, with lots of ups and downs,” Martin said.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not up to the task.
“I need to study on my own a little bit what to expect, and as long as I do that and I run patiently — very tough at the end — I expect to do pretty well,” he said.
The unique challenge that comes with running in the marathon is that you can’t run the course in preparation, because the only time the roads are closed is for the marathon.
He’s still ready to take on the course, and is looking forward to taking on New York City.
“A hilly race suits my strengths and as long as I run smart, have good confidence in myself,” he said, “[I could] be one of the top Americans and hopefully the top New Yorker.”