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City HS track meet comes to Astoria Park

Astoria Park hosted the first citywide outdoor high school track meet Friday and Saturday, drawing more than 1,500 athletes from over 100 New York City...

By Matthew Monks

If northwest Queens does not get the 2012 Olympics, at least it will have the annual Mayor’s Cup.

Astoria Park hosted the first citywide outdoor high school track meet Friday and Saturday, drawing more than 1,500 athletes from over 100 New York City public, private, and parochial schools, according to city Parks and Recreation Department and Public School Athletic League officials.

It was the first formal meet on the park’s recently renovated track and field nested on the shore of the East River beneath the Triboro Bridge. It should be the first of many such events, said Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe, noting the field will stay open to the public.

“It’ll probably become one of the regular sites for meets,” Benepe said. “This may become sort of an epicenter for track and field in Queens.”

That would be just fine with James Greene, a senior at Curtis High School in Staten Island.

“This track is beautiful,” Greene said, looking west Friday evening just as sun began to set behind the Manhattan skyline. “It’s beautiful out here. It’s quiet.”

It was Greene’s first time competing on the track. He praised the quality of its new rubber surface and said its short turns and long straightaways made it ideal for sprinting.

In 2002, the track underwent $1 million in renovations, said Richard Murphy, Queens borough commissioner for the Parks Department. New lights were added; it was relandscaped; the field house was overhauled; new jumping pits were dug; and equipment was provided for events like the pole vault, discus throw, shot put, and hurdles, he said.

Athletes like Greene said the investment was worth it. He said he wished he could race on the track more often.

His coach, Ron Banks, agreed.

“I think its a wonderful experience,” Banks said, referring to both the Mayor’s Cup and Astoria Park field. “It’s great to be at a different place and at a nice facility.”

Unlike most other meets, the Mayor’s Cup is free, he said. It is fully funded by the PSAL and Parks Department. This incentive is sure to draw every program from around the city, Banks said, which will give his athletes stiffer competition, forcing them to push themselves harder.

“Everyone who has run today has gotten their personal best,” Banks said. The cup has “raised the level of their competitiveness.”

Generally, he said, the parochial, private, and public schools all hold separate competitions and rarely meet. The city has an indoor Mayor’s Cup, he said, which has become “kind of the unofficial city championship.”

Benepe said he hopes the outdoor Mayor’s Cup, which will take place annually in Astoria Park, takes that title.

“This way kids will be able to say: ‘I’m the fastest in New York. I’m the strongest. I can jump the highest,’” Benepe said.

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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