While Maya Dorer always loved playing basketball, thoughts of moving away from the court began to creep into her head last spring. Though she wasn't necessarily looking for a reason to give up basketball she found one when she began running for the St. Joseph's of Brooklyn track team.
St. Joseph's of Brooklyn has been a quick success. The school's track team had only been in existence for three years, before it won a 4x400m State Title at the 2019 Indoor State Championships. Dorer was still on the basketball squad, while those girls were running their anchor leg at the Ocean Breeze Track and Field Facility. You can read more about that performance here.
Making A Change
The junior's experience in the spring, combined with a difficult decision she made over the summer, has transformed her from one of the biggest unknowns of the cross country season into one of its brightest and most interesting storylines. It's not every day you are representing a school that will cease to exist next year.
Dorer is finishing up a spectacular season, one that included several first-place finishes and was highlighted by a second-place finish at the CHSAA Intersectionals on Nov. 9. She ran the 2.5-mile Van Cortland Park course in a personal-best 15:27, a race that validated her decision to give up basketball in favor of running.
"At first, the decision was emotional," said Dorer, who took first place in the 800 and 1,500 at USTAF New York Outdoor Junior Olympic Championships in June. "But when I thought about it, I loved track a lot more and it was making me happier. I could see that I was successful in it. At the end of the day, it was not hard but in the moment it seemed hard.
"For so long, I had basketball in my head. I felt that's what was programmed in my mind. But as I started running, more and more I was able to visualize myself doing track year round and then going to college and running. I really liked that thought. I had to do what makes me happy and puts me in the best position to be successful."
Dorer, 16, has certainly had success this fall. She placed eighth in her first 5,000-meter race [Six Flags Wild Safari on Sept. 28] before picking up a victory in the 2.5 mile All Hallows Invitational [Oct. 11]. An eight-place finish in the NYCHSAA/BQCHSAA Championships [Oct. 26] followed. She picked up a victory in The Clipper Classic a week later, setting the stage for her impressive finish at the CHSAA Intersectionals.
"I didn't really know what to expect when I started [cross country]," she said. "I was just jumping right into it. It definitely took some time to get used to. The first couple of practices were hard and I was thinking why does anyone do this? What is appealing about this? I started getting it, though and the results of my training were starting to transfer to the races. And when I got it, I got addicted to it. I liked the direct correlation between training and the results of the race."
Her impressive effort has drawn interest from both Iona and Manhattan Colleges as well as some smaller schools. The Manhattan women's cross country team is coached by Kerri Gallagher, whose sister Mary Gallagher is the head coach at St. Joe's.
"Maya has had an outstanding season this year." Mary Gallagher said. "Maya has all the tools for success; she is disciplined, she wants to win no matter how painful and tough that can be, and she is talented. I'm very excited to see what the indoor and outdoor seasons hold for her."
The indoor season will be particularly interesting in that it will be Dorer's first winter without basketball. Leaving the basketball team wasn't easy, especially since she has such a good relationship with head coach Mike Toro, who is also the St. Joe's athletic director.
On The Move
What makes Dorer's situation a bit more intriguing is the fact that she will be running for St. Jean Baptiste High School in Manhattan next fall. St. Joseph's is closing following the 2019-20 academic year, which means that Dorer will be attending her third high school in four years. She started at Manhattan Hunter Science but transferred to St. Joe's to play basketball. Now, she will be moving on, as will Toro, who will become the AD at St. Jean.
"He [Toro] has always been very supportive of me and during the outdoor season he could see the times I was putting up," Dorer said. "He was very supportive and proud then and he could see that basketball wasn't making me happy anymore. I wasn't experiencing as much success as I was earlier in my life. He told me that he felt kind of guilty [about me giving up basketball] but I told him that my decision had nothing to do with him. It was about what's best for me."
Dorer says she is sad that St. Joe's is closing, pointing to the people and the atmosphere as part of what makes the school special. Still, she is looking forward to continue running throughout the winter, spring and next fall and then wherever her legs will take her.