V845 Notebook: How a sport helped one athlete get on the right track

Track and field

The OCIAA Indoor championships took place Sunday at West Point. Monroe-Woodbury won the boys’ meet with a team score of 133. Washingtonville (64) came in second and Newburgh (50) placed third. The girls’ meet came down to three points, as Cornwall won with 112, followed closely by Monroe-Woodbury with 109. Warwick Valley (67) came in third.

At the meet, I wrote about Warwick pole vaulter Kaeli Thompson, who is going to Duke next year, and Jared Davidson, who returned from a couple years away from the sport to become one of the fastest sprinters in Section 9.

I also spoke with Pine Bush’s Jaelin Edwards, who was jubilant after his 3,200-meter race, in which he passed some runners near the end to place second with a 9:40.77. Edwards, a senior, said track has been more than just a sport for him. It’s kept him on the right path in life.

“Track has honestly shaped me into a better person,” Edwards said, “because I used to be in trouble a lot and doing hooligan things, but since I came to this track meet, it made me want to grow up faster so I could put my focus into this and do better and do something different.”

Edwards added: “I got into running by thinking I needed to do something else besides football because it wasn’t my love, so when I came into running, these guys for the last five years have taken me under their wing and shown me what hard work and dedication really looks like with the seniors my freshman and sophomore year. That really helped me get to where I am now.”

Standout performance

Livingston Manor basketball player Lindsey Rau scored her 1,000th point on Tuesday. What’s unique about her journey is that she had to play for Roscoe her sophomore and junior years because Livingston Manor didn’t have a varsity team. Said coach Kevin Clifford about Rau’s importance to this year’s team: “She showed something for the younger kids as we’re building our program back up.” Read more about Rau’s story here.

NYMA basketball

This week, I profiled the New York Military Academy basketball team, writing about their star player Zuzia Kulinska, the journey the international players on the team have taken and the challenges in starting a program from scratch. From my hours of interviews, I had plenty left over from my conversations that didn’t make the stories. Here is some of the extra material from my interviews:

Isabel Sanchez, a senior from Manresa, Spain, a city in the center of Catalonia, said the basketball player she looks up to most is Real Madrid’s Sergio Llull. Here’s some of what she had to say about him, including more from our talk:

On Llull:
“I like that he’s the kind of person that you can find him everywhere. He can be a pointer, he can shoot, he can take the team out of tough situations. He’s so confident in himself, and then he’s so humble.”

On wanting to come to America to play basketball:
“I’m in my city, and I’m watching basketball and I’m O.K., but I always have this adventurous soul that I want to go and do things. I wanted to see that the world is so big and that’s why I wanted to come. I was watching European basketball, and I watched NBA too and I said, I want to go there. There’s basketball there too, so if they tell me if that, I don’t know, in Alaska, there’s basketball, maybe one day I’m going to go there.”

On her bond with her teammates:
“It’s strange, when you are with a person a lot of time, you get tired or you discuss like stupid stuff. But none of this happens to us. We are so close all the time. We joke all the time. We have one thing when we have trouble. We go, we talk, and we sort it out together.”

Flera Vinerte, a junior from Latvia’s capital city of Riga, said she looks up to Latvian NBA players, most notably Kristaps Porzingis. Here’s some more from our conversation:

On when she decided to play basketball in America:
“When I saw Space Jam, I was like I have to go guys. There was talk about playing in Europe too but when you’re in a country that doesn’t have the big buildings and all that stuff, America seems like somewhere that I want to go. Doesn’t matter where.”

On comparing her team to her favorite NBA team, the Utah Jazz:
“It’s just such a low-key team. I think that they’re underrated. I feel like if more people saw us, there would be more interest in us.”

On the importance of having teammates from other countries experiencing the same thing she is:
“If I was here alone, I don’t think I would make it through. I honestly can say that, but with them it’s like a roller coaster.”

Saulė Kaupytė, or Sunny, as she’s better known in America, said she was apprehensive at first about going to a military school, but now she’s looking into opportunities to be a part of the U.S. Military.

“When I found out it was going to be military, I didn’t pay it a lot of attention because I’m going there for basketball, and I was like OK, military is not a big deal. I’m going there to play basketball. And then I came. It was sort of different every day they’re doing something with military formations every day and leadership education and eventually I really started to like that thing, all the military stuff, so I decided to live my life there, my future.”

Hailey Cascioli, from Chatham, was one of the most recent players to join the team. She described what it was like when she first arrived:

“They all hugged me the first game that I was there for. It was insane. I felt like I had been playing there for a long time because it was so natural. We didn’t have any problems playing together, so I jumped right in. It was great.”

Best sports journalism this week

Jessica Lutheran and Dan Solomon for Deadspin describe how the systemic problems at Baylor took place.

Mark Fainaru-Wada for ESPN: OTL talks to Bob Costas about why the broadcaster was dropped from the Super Bowl.

Daniel Duane for New York Times Magazine writes about the fight for gender equality in sports.

Zach Buchanan for The Athletic on Dominican winter ball.

Andrew Keh for New York Times on an international story that combines sport with climate change.

Mina Kimes for ESPN tackles the question we all want answered. Will Rob Gronkowski retire?

Mirin Fader for Bleacher Report profiles the Murray State star everyone’s falling for.

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