Packer Cross-Country Takes on the NXR New York Regional
November 24th, two days after Thanksgiving: while many of us were likely lost in a turkey-day-leftovers food coma, six of Packer’s cross-country runners were participating in the Nike sponsored NXR New York Regional 5k. Aidan Jelveh (20’), Zamien Allard (19’), Jordan Renville (20’), Alec Kyritsis (20’), Carter Weaver (20’), and Peter Cembalest (20’) all competed in the race as team RAWR XC, which managed to rank in 28th place, out of the 30 boy’s teams
The boys championship race consisted of 242 runners; Peter Cembalest came in 132nd place (18:00s), Carter Weaver came in 139th place (18:07s), Alec Kyritsis came in 194th place (19:03s), Aidan Jelveh came in 197th place (19:08s), Jordan Renville came in 239th place (21:18s), and Zamien Allard came in 242nd place (26:17s). The idea to participate in the event, which has been taking place for the past 15 years, was Aidan’s, and it was described by Carter as “the most elite competition in the country for high school runners.” Overall the race consisted of about 800 competitors, but various scouts and professional athletes were present as well. These scouts, “certainly [created] pressure to perform well,” Carter explained.
As for the professionals at the event, the 1,500 meter Olympic Gold Medalist Matt Centrowicz spoke at a dinner the night before the race, and held the tape at the finish line.
“He talked about his race in the Olympics, which was pretty helpful because we got an inside look on one of the biggest stages in running, and what went through his mind each step,” said Zamien. “Afterward, he had a question and answer session, but it wasn’t just him answering questions, it was him weaving in stories about his life and his career in running to answer questions, so I thought that was pretty cool.”
“He also talked to us about his whole high school story,” added Peter. “He gave us a lot of good advice on how he managed his high school season, and how he eventually became an elite runner.” The event did not only pose an opportunity for RAWR XC to meet a running icon, but also to engage with like-minded individuals from all over the Northeast.
“The dinner was a really cool way for runners to come together,” Carter said. “These are all people who work at the same things that we do and do the same stuff, so it was really cool to be able to converse with them.”
In terms of winning the competition itself, the stakes were high. If they won, RAWR XC would have gone “to nationals this coming weekend, and Nike would [have given] us a hotel, and we would maybe be on ESPN,” explained Peter. He added that, “the Nike cross nationals is the highest stage in high school running, and is probably the biggest stage that any Packer athletics team has been to.”
Winning the race would not only be beneficial for the team, but for Packer too, explained Alec Kyritsis (20’): “I think that winning it and going to that event would definitely attract a lot of new runners to the cross-country team, and it’s always great to have new talent coming on to the team, which would definitely be really helpful.” Participating in the NXR race in the future could open new doors, and create more opportunities for Packer’s athletic department and student-athletes. Furthermore, winning the race, or at least yearly participation, is a notable accomplishment, one that would certainly draw more new students to Packer.
RAWR XC is optimistic for the future and expects an even better turnout and success rate next year. Peter hopes that next year the team will make it to nationals, adding that “I don’t think any New York City school has ever been to nationals as a team, but if we were to do that, it would be a huge accomplishment.”