Joe Dombrowski began high jumping at Holy Cross H.S., Flushing, in the fall of 1970. Little did he know that 40 years later he would be pioneering the compilation of various championship teams and individual records.
Since 1927, the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) has served as more than a sports league to so many young men and women.
In his second edition of “The Sports History of the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association of Greater New York,” Dombrowski has chronicled the legendary student-athletes, coaches, teams and administrators.
The book’s purpose is to remember and rejoice in the historic feats of past CHSAA athletes and teams.
“Doing this research is fun,” said Dombrowski. “I try to pay homage to the people who came before me.”
The book includes sections on all the major sports and lists annual championship teams, future professionals and renown coaches. Additionally, portraits of CHSAA Hall of Famers adorn the book’s pages.
Associated Press National College Basketball Writer Jim O’Connell, who graduated from Bishop Reilly H.S. (now St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows) in 1974, wrote the foreword in which he describes how the athletes in the CHSAA built lifelong connections through both athletics and their faith.
Though this book provides the complete history of the CHSAA, Dombrowski has compiled other books – eight in total – focused on individual sports championships: Girls’ Track (2000), Cross-Country (1999), Basketball (1998), Outdoor Track and Field (1996) and Indoor Track and Field (1995). He also compiled two books solely on St. Ann’s/Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, athletics: “The Stanner Basketball History” (1997) and “The St. Ann’s/Archbishop Molloy Track & Field Record Book” (1994).
“I think these works help people understand the tradition of the league,” said Dombrowski.
After beginning his career as a track coach in 1978 at Mount St. Michael Academy, the Bronx, Dombrowski has spent the last 28 years coaching at Molloy. Not only does he teach the freshman computer applications course at the school, but he also serves as the assistant track chair for the B/Q CHSAA.
During his high school career, Dombrowski – a 2005 CHSAA Hall of Fame inductee – high jumped 6 feet 7 inches, which set the Holy Cross record that still stands today. He went on to set the school record at Fordham University, the Bronx, with a best jump of 6 feet 8 inches – a record broken two years later.
He recalls that the inspiration for these works came in 1983 – his first year at Molloy. He noticed that the school’s track records were seemingly unreachable, so he decided to put together top-10 lists to motivate his athletes to earn a spot.
Soon, his research evolved into a passion, as Dombrowski became enthralled in the history of the league. Each year, he added more records and championship teams to his archives, and before long he had enough material to publish his books.
“Every day when I was doing this, I didn’t know where the path would take me,” said Dombrowski.
He relied on the archives of the New York Times to research the championship game articles on every game since the league’s inception. Through this research, he was able to fill in the missing facts and names from the league’s earlier years.
By compiling these works, Dombrowski has provided the current CHSAA student-athletes with a look back into the historic organization to which they belong. Joe Paterno (Brooklyn Prep, Crown Heights), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Power Memorial Academy, Manhattan), Joe Torre (St. Francis Prep, Brooklyn), Vin Scully (Fordham Prep, the Bronx) and Vince Lombardi (Brooklyn Cathedral Prep, Fort Greene, and St. Francis Prep, Brooklyn) all participated in the CHSAA.
Through the combination of athletics and spirituality, the CHSAA has placed scores of young athletes along the path to leading a Christian life.
“I’m very proud to be part of the league,” said Dombrowski. “The more kids that can keep working hard and moving in the right direction, the better it is.”
With each successive league championship, Dombrowski realizes that he’s embarked on an ongoing project. His goal is that when someone else wants to compile CHSAA records in the distant future, that person will have a sound base to start the research.
However, for now, Dombrowski thoroughly enjoys what he’s doing as he discovers new pieces of information each day.
“The Catholic High School League is my family extended,” said Dombrowski. “I’m trying to keep the family history alive.”
He is currently focused on keeping his eight books updated and hopes to convert Molloy track video clips into an online format.
To purchase a copy of any of his books, contact Dombrowski by phone at 718-986-9880 or by e-mail at email@example.com. He welcomes any corrections and additions to his works.
Visit www.molloyhs.org/chsahistory.cfm for more information.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.