For many, the thought of becoming a professional in the Track and Field sphere starts and ends with "Professional Athlete." In a new monthly series, MileSplit NY will be shining light on the broad spectrum of possibilities our sport provides, outside of competing as an athlete. We'll be meeting New Yorkers who have made their way in the sport, utilizing their own unique strengths, to bring the sport to the high level it sits at in the Empire State. Check out prior entries here.
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Lauren Primerano got what she wanted. It took getting what she wanted, though, to know that there was something she wanted even more.
It sounds a bit jumbled and complex but the story behind the formation of Primerano's career foundation is really quite simple. The 39-year-old New Jersey native, who is the Ocean Breeze Park Administrator in Staten Island, spent most of her high school and collegiate track career hopeful, like any other athlete, of reaching an elite level. Her real desire was to someday be a coach, though, and Primerano achieved that goal following a successful career at Manhattan College, where she stayed on for two seasons as an assistant coach.
Her time as an assistant satiated her coaching desire and seemed to be laying the groundwork for what was shaping up to be a very successful career in that field. When Primerano was presented with the opportunity to serve as the meet director for the 2005 NCAA Track and Field East Regional Championships, however, everything changed.
"I fell in love with meet management," said Primerano, who still holds the Manhattan school record for the javelin and is third in the hammer. "And, my focus changed. I want to be more on the event side of track and field. Throughout high school and college I had my heart set on coaching; that was my first major focus. Once I was able to do event management, I fell in love with it and my focus changed pretty quickly."
The only thing, it seems, that matched the speed of Primerano's change in focus was the rapidness at which she climbed her new the career ladder. She became the Operations Manager at Chelsea Piers Sports Center then went to Aviator Sports, where she held the same position before becoming the assistant athletic director at Hunter College, where she was in charge of operations and facilities. Ultimately, she joined the New York City Parks Department (in 2012), becoming the Center Manager at McCarren Play Center in Brooklyn.
She moved on to two more Rec Centers before taking over as the Ocean Breeze Park Administrator in March of 2014, some 19 months before the facility officially opened. Primerano now runs one of the largest facilities of its kind in the country and is also in charge of the 140-acre Ocean Breeze Park. The unique complex became the first in the United States to be recognized as a certified IAAF Facility in 2015.
While the task of running such an operation seems daunting, she handles everything thrown at her with aplomb. Primerano is emphatic when praising her staff and the work they have done, citing their support and dedication as one of the biggest reasons why the facility has been so successful.
Still, it's difficult to ignore what she has accomplished. Primerano was named as the 2016 NYC Parks Manager of the Year and as the 2018 USATF East Region Volunteer of the Year. She was also named the 2018 USA Meet Director of the Year by the USATF Meet Director's Association. USATF New York presented her with the Inaugural Lauren F. Primerano Award, which was established for distinguished service to the association over many years, service that resulted in enhanced programs and services to the members of USATF New York. Primerano served as the president of USATF New York from 2011-2018 as the organization transitioned from the old MAC to what is now USATF New York.
While it all seemed to happen because she was in the right place at the right time 15 years ago, Primerano, who was recently inducted into the Notre Dame High School [N.J.] Hall of Fame recently, credits much of her success to her roots on the track.
"I wouldn't have been able to do this if I hadn't run track," said Primerano, who served as the head timer at The Armory in Manhattan and still works at Icahn Stadium's timer. "I have an advantage over a lot of people. I've been able to see track and field on multiple levels. High school, college, the Millrose Games, Olympic Trials (1994). I've seen it from all different aspects and it's been an interesting path for me. I see things in all different directions. I have a different vision that a lot of people.
"I also oversee the park and there is a lot more we'd like to develop. We're looking to add ball fields and a cross country course. I work on a lot of other projects, not just track and field all day long. Track and field is my thing but I also love working for the New York City Parks Department. I love being part of the community."
Primerano has been a driving force in making Ocean Breeze a vital part of the surrounding Staten Island neighborhoods. Ocean Breeze has countless programs that involve residents of all ages, including community track meets, more than 80 fitness classes and youth track initiatives. The facility now has 13,000 members.
"We do a lot of outreach," said Primerano, who also lives in Staten Island. "We knew that it was extremely important to engage the community. We wanted to make the community part of the facility and I think we have done a fantastic job at it, youth through adult and seniors. I couldn't have imagined how many members we have. It's exciting to see how we have created a tight-knit family with the Staten Island community."
Ocean Breeze's ability to reach youngsters and introduce them to track and field is something about which Primerano is most proud. She started a track team before the building even opened and made it a point to get out to schools throughout New York City and introduce kids to the sport. Her efforts blossomed into a program called Track and Field 101, where children learn the basics of running, jumping and throwing. It's open to all NYC schools.
"It's been great, too, seeing kids who were running as 8- and 9-year-olds now running in high school and college and seeing them develop into some of the best runners in the country when they didn't know what track and field was," said Primerano, who served as the USATF New York president from 2011-18. "The goal was to bring a world class facility to the kids of New York City, put on amazing events and give the kids the feeling that they are part of something special. When we first opened and the kids walked in and their eyes lit up and you could see how excited they were to be here, that was my favorite part, to see their expressions and the reactions of the kids running here."
While some of those young runners may not remember or know of Primerano as they get older, there's no doubt that she impacted their lives - by introducing them to track and caring for the building where they got their start. The influence she has had on the neighboring Staten Island communities can't be discounted, either.
Primerano isn't looking for a pat on the back, though. She's simply doing something she loves, something she expects to be doing for many more years.
"I don't think there will be a statue [of me here]," she joked. "But I see myself here for the long run."