When a teammate is in need, you do what you can to help them.
That’s an important value the local Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) instills in its young athletes every sports season. It’s even more meaningful when it’s put into practice amid a challenging pandemic.
Recently, the CYO was set to kick off its outdoor track season with a handful of meets. The cross-country and indoor seasons were canceled due to COVID-19, but there was hope as restrictions started to lift that a spring outdoor season would take place.
One issue though: The newly refurbished Astoria Park, where CYO track meets have been held for years, was unavailable. With other options limited, CYO set out to find a new venue to host the spring meets.
Pat Civitano, head boys’ and girls’ cross-country/track and field coach at Msgr. McClancy H.S., East Elmhurst, and head track coach at Holy Family Catholic Academy, Fresh Meadows, immediately offered the use of McClancy’s outdoor facilities.
For three weekends this spring, CYO track athletes ages 5-12 once again got to enjoy the events they love. McClancy’s track is only three lanes instead of the traditional six lanes, yet the CYO Track Committee was able to make it work.
“It turned out to be a very good solution,” said CYO sports coordinator Keith Goldberg. “We have a very strong relationship with McClancy. All throughout the pandemic, we’ve maintained that relationship with them. They go above and beyond to make themselves available to us for many of our events.”
Goldberg led the CYO Track Committee in reimagining the way a track meet is typically organized. Every detail of the meet — from the logistics around athletes checking in to guidelines for coaches, parents, and spectators to the positions of start and finish lines — was meticulously planned and executed efficiently. CYO coaches expressed their gratitude for the track committee’s dedication in finding a way to hold the meets.
Safety was of course a major concern in the planning process. When not competing, the athletes were required to wear face masks. Spectators were not allowed on school grounds but could instead watch the events from just beyond the fence on 32nd Avenue — which actually gave them an even better view of the track action.
With just three lanes, the individual heats were smaller, and the events themselves were split up, with the first meet consisting of sprint events, the second meet of middle-distance events, and the final meet of the relay events. Normally, all these events would take place at the same meet.
“It was a perfect match,” said Bob Corrigan, longtime CYO track coach at St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights, and a CYO Hall of Famer. “This has been a really difficult year for all these kids. They’re going to school in masks and being restricted in their activities.
“The outdoor season was a new dawn for them. You could tell the excitement at the meets. There was a sense that it almost doesn’t matter who wins. We were just so happy to be back together and participating again. It was refreshing after all this time to be back together.”
Not only did McClancy graciously offer its facilities, but the school’s track student-athletes also served as volunteer officials — and of course the most spirited cheering section — at the meets. Some of these students were former CYO athletes themselves.
“It was great to give back to help the kids of the Brooklyn-Queens CYO,” said Civitano, a McClancy graduate who has coached 19 seasons for the Crusaders. “That’s what our team is all about. It was great to show the CYO athletes what the experience is like at McClancy. Who knows? These could be potential students one day.”
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.