Three members of the Nazareth H.S., East Flatbush, track team had the experience of a lifetime this summer.
Rising senior Emanuel Johnson and rising juniors Shemayah William and Nylah Capo-Chi Chi traveled to Australia to compete in the 18th annual Down Under International Games.
The competition featured young student-athletes from all over the U.S. as well as Australia and New Zealand. To qualify, a runner had to have placed in the top-three in the championship meet of their event throughout the school year.
Johnson was last season’s city champion in the 100-meter boys’ race, while William won the 100-meter girls’ city championship and was runner-up for the 200-meter girls’ race.
Capo-Chi Chi was also a top-three finisher in the girls’ 200-meter.
The 10-day trip kicked off July 7 and started with three flights: New York to Canada, Canada to another destination within Canada, and then finally onto Australia, which took 14 hours. The runners barely had any time to get settled and adjust to a different time zone before they began practicing for their meets, which took place later in the trip.
Each day, the runners awoke at 5 a.m. and were at the practice facility by 7 a.m. There was some time however to explore the cities of Brisbane and Gold Coast. The trio enjoyed time at the zoo, the local nightlife and the friendly people of Australia – all of whom agreed the three Kingsmen had thick Brooklyn accents!
“It was a pleasure; I had so much fun,” said Johnson, who along with his two teammates competed on the international stage for the first time. “I met so many new people. Honestly, I did not know what to expect at first, but once I got there, I realized it was a blessing for me to be there.”
The competition down under was as fierce as a kangaroo protecting its young. The trip taught the Nazareth runners that they need to spend ample time preparing – no matter where they run.
“I’m not only going to be competing with CHSAA people, so I have to get used to more people to compete against,” said William, who thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the Australian culture.
In speaking to other runners from around the world, these three gained some valuable tips that they plan to incorporate in races back on American soil.
“They (fellow competitors) told me and Shemayah to begin using starting blocks because it will help with our speed,” said Capo-Chi Chi, who only began running competitively as a freshman at Nazareth. “Also they said to stretch more, because the more flexible you are, the faster you’ll get.”
Funds from Friends
To make the trip possible, the runners raised funds among their families and friends. Nazareth head track coach Gary Gooden set up a GoFundMe page, and students and teachers at the school donated to the cause by spending a few dollars for dress-down days. The funds raised were then split evenly among the three runners.
One of the highlights of the journey was meeting student-athletes from around the globe. In what became a customary gesture, the Nazareth runners traded jerseys with their opponents to build up a nice collection.
“In Brooklyn everybody knows each other,” Johnson said. “It’s big, but it’s so small. Meeting so many new people was amazing, because in Brooklyn, you don’t really get to branch out like that.”
Competing on the world stage also gave these runners valuable experience that will be helpful as the school season begins.
“I won’t be as scared as I was when I was a freshman, since I now have more experience,” William said. “I know what to expect.”
With aspirations to run in plenty more international competitions, these runners are now motivated to take the next step in their development at student-athletes.
“This trip taught me how to be patient and understanding because international track is different from track here in the United States,” Capo-Chi Chi said. “There are different rules, and the track is set up very different.
“It was a good learning experience. Especially if I make it to the Olympics someday, I can compete internationally and know what’s going on.”
Australia was just the first step for these runners. Now with this valuable international experience behind them, they can continue taking strides toward both their athletic and academic goals.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.