There are dozens of recognizable high school track and field
athletes in the state of New York. Names and faces that stand out the second
they are seen or mentioned.
The two best athletes the New York high school track and
field community have never heard of are hiding on Staten Island.
Michael and Steven Feldman, fraternal twins, are seniors at
Tottenville High School. They compete unattached from the school and are
currently ranked United States 2 and 3 and New York 1 and 2
in the hammer throw. Michael has a personal best of 238-feet, 1-inch, while
Steven has a best of 222-9.
The two, who also throw the weight indoors, are looking to
have a big end to their spring seasons. On Saturday, the pair placed third and
fourth at New Balance Nationals. Michael placed third with a throw of 212-9,
with Steven just behind, throwing 211-8. The two look to follow up on that
performance this weekend when they travel west to compete at the USATF Junior
Nationals in Sacramento, California.
The season ending goals are pretty straightforward. They
wanted to achieve All-American status and aim to qualify for the Pan-American
Games in July, representing the United States. The top six athletes at New
Balance are named All-American and the top two athletes at Junior Nationals
qualify for the U.S. team. Goal number one was accomplished on Saturday.
The Feldman's have been around the throws since they were
young boys. Their father, Roman, competed in the hammer and coached the event
in his native Ukraine. The twins, who are American born, started to really
focus on the event and become more familiar with it in the eighth grade. While
they focus on the hammer in the spring, their focus is the weight throw in the
winter, where they finished this past indoor season ranked New York number
three and five.
"The hammer and the weight are more appealing because they
don't require the strength or size of a shot putter," Michael Feldman said. "We
don't have that size, but we have the strength and the speed, and the events
are more technique savvy, so that is why we like it a lot more."
Michael is 5-foot, 11-inches tall and 180 pounds, while
Steven is slightly larger at 6-foot, one-inch and 210 pounds.
The two have been mainly coached by their father and Paddy
McGrath. The latter represented his native Ireland in the 2000 Olympics in
Sydney. McGrath now uses his expertise in the event to help local throwers,
including Rudy Winkler. Winkler was the national high school record holder in
the hammer throw and has had a phenomenal last year, competing in Rio de
Janeiro in the Olympics last summer and winning the NCAA Championship last
weekend while competing for Cornell University.
Competing unattached can sometimes bring its share of
obstacles, mainly finding meets to compete in. The combination of few meets as
well as an event, the hammer, that is not available at every track and field
competition can create problems.
McGrath and Roman Feldman, both USATF certified officials,
have created meets where the Feldman brothers can compete and excel. It has
helped to create a community among hammer throwers in the region.
The boys had their first real interaction with Winkler when
they were sophomores in high school, training at West Point. They trained
together a bit at that point. Since then, their relationships have expanded,
including bringing in throwers from places as far as Rhode Island to compete in
these USATF sanctioned meets that McGrath helps set up.
Despite these obstacles, the Feldman's continue on an upward
path, improving each year to the point where they are All-American favorites
and legitimate contenders to make the Pan-American team.
Those are the short term goals, but the Feldman's have a
global perspective as well, looking well down the line.
"We would like to compete in the NCAA's and against other
elite athletes in the future," Michael Feldman said. "We look forward to some
of the formidable athletes waiting for us."
"Going into college, especially an Ivy League school, the
first goal will be to focus on my grades and assignments," Steven Feldman said.
"But in the meantime, for now, continue our training regimen, work hard, try to
finish our year off strong, and get ready for the next step."
"Next year, we will be getting adjusted to the heavier
weight, be adjusting to a team, and trying to achieve that balance between
athletics and school."
So how do two of the best throwers in the country deal with
competing with each other and living together at the same time?
"Maybe we don't always show the sibling rivalry, but there
is always that idea of trying to beat the other person," Steven Feldman said.
"But to be honest, we actually work off of each other and push each other to
our limits, both in training and in meets. We both want to see each other
"The mark is a number and we pay attention to that number,
but we just want to see each other succeed. It's about us supporting each
other. We are very positive and our coach and our dad try to teach that
positive mentality about getting better and being the best that we can be."