What can a coach with a prosthetic leg possibly know about running cross-country?
By Mitch Silver
What can a coach with a prosthetic leg possibly know about running cross-country? If the coach is Rye Neck’s Lori Penesis, the answer is … everything a high school runner will ever need.
Third-year Panther leader Penesis, a cancer survivor who began running as part of her rehab, has held ParaOlympic records in races as short as the sprints and as long as the mile. Now she’s imparting what she’s learned from all that training to her young charges.
“I’m originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania,” she said. “Once I received the prosthesis I hooked up with the Lehigh team to train for 10Ks and marathons. They gave me the discipline to build endurance to add to my natural speed. Now I’m hoping to pass what I learned on to our kids.”
With few losses to graduation and a squad comprised of mainly seniors and freshmen, the Panthers look to be building for the long run, pun intended.
“Last year was the first time we had more than six girls on the team. With almost everyone back this fall, I’m expecting some real competition within the squad. Cayla Vinzons just missed States last year, so we’re looking for big things.
“On the boys’ side, Ryan O’Day did make it to the State championships. I think we’re going to have several Sectional placements this year, so everyone is motivated to put in the work and lower their times.”
Her one regret? “Our campus is practically flat as a pancake, so we have to travel to get in work on the hills. But even if every one is an away meet, I think we’ll be okay.”
Kicking off the season with the Bear Mountain Invitational against much larger schools (White Plains, Scarsdale, Mahopac, et al.) September 6, Cayla Vinzons finished eighth for the three miles in 22:05.70, less than three minutes behind winner Selena Colon from Ardsley. Junior Kate Brennan was 43rd overall and sophomore Kiara O’Day was 45th.
On the boys’ side, another O’Day, Ryan, led Panther finishers in 17:53.97, good for 20th place. Connor Sexton was 18 seconds back in 25th, with Mikael Bucknavage 33rd in 19:09. With Bram Wollowitz and ninth grader Brendan Tuohy scoring as well, the Panther boys finished sixth behind winning North Rockland and just ahead of track power White Plains.
The season continued with a dual meet versus Hastings post-press time.