How The PSAL Has Come To Rule The Longest Distance in Track

The rise has been quick, and unprecedented. What started as a one-off has exploded into a full blown takeover. It's uncharted territory, and the boys of the PSAL are forging their way swiftly.

For years, the Public School Athletic League, comprising each of the five Burroughs of New York City, has been known for one thing: Speed. On both the Boys and Girls 55m Dash All-Time lists, they hold three of the top five fastest times ever run by a New Yorker. Move up to the 100m dash, the 200m, the 300m, the 400m? You find the same thing. At one point, both male and female National Records for 500m and 600m were held by athletes of the PSAL. Even up to the 4x800m, we've had National Champions and National Record Holders.

But traditionally, that's where it had stopped.

That's not to say the PSAL had been totally devoid of distance runners. Look back to 1986, and Shola Lynch (Hunter HS) was dominating the ovals. Likewise for the boys, Bill Dabney (Boys HS) is still listed on the mile All-Time lists from 1973.

But those marks are now nearly 50 years old.

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Flash forward to 2023, and three of the top five runners over the 3200m distance all hail from the PSAL. Another is from the AIS, which operates within New York City under the same constrictions as the PSAL. Even more athletes from the two Sections are littered through the Top 25, and Top 50.

How did it happen?

It began in Cross Country, but it wasn't widely established just yet. Joseph Perazzo (Susan Wagner) had the highest PSAL finish at Feds since Kevin Jermyn (Tottenville) finished third in 1992. In addition to Perazzo, the PSAL also took 5th, 6th, and 9th and 15th, making the top finish by Section when scored as team.

Those five names, including Shane Murphy (Hunter College HS), Nate Boutin (John Jay Campus), Jonah Reisner (Brooklyn Tech), and Henry Koike-Sieira (Hunter College HS) all make up a strong nucleus of the PSAL distance takeover. Elijah Gentry (Brooklyn Tech) and Travis Wolfe-Thompson (Brooklyn Tech) were others looking to make big leaps on the track.

Also add Ronan Luff (Trinity School), who finished as the twelfth highest Speed Rated athlete of the XC Season. His school operates in the AIS, but resides on the Upper Westside of Manhattan. Also add Sebastian Margetts (United Nations International School) who's taken a big jump on the track, and attends an AIS School in lower Manhattan on the East River. 

The XC success was only the beginning.

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Once these athletes got on the track, the attack on the leaderboards seemed coordinated. Perrazzo and Boutin lined up together in the mile at the Hispanic Games, running well. One week later, they added Margetts and moved up to their first 2-Mile at the Army Hall Of Fame Invite. Pushing the pace, the trio dominated the race, and re-wrote the State Leaderboard. Perazzo won in 9:18.90, Boutin in second at 9:19, and Margetts in third at 9:21, and all would convert lower when adjusted for 3200m.

Not bad for January. But far from over.

Two weeks later, now in February, and the trio was entered in the event again, this time at Ocean Breeze. But a replay of the finish before was not to be. Perazzo, saving his legs for an anticipated Millrose Mile, scratched from the event. However, in his place popped Murphy, charging to the line with Boutin and Margetts in close proximity. The clock read 9:12.39. The 3200m split at 9:09.51.

It had been fast. Fast enough to break the PSAL Section Record. Konrad Surkont (Stuyvesant) had run 9:14.20 for 2-Miles in 2012. Murphy was under that. So was Boutin. Margetts, of the AIS, ran for the third fastest ever in that Section, trailing the record set only last year by Nikhil Denatale (Trinity School), a sign of things to come.

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All this effort done without the training venues of the vast open spaces found Upstate. Pound the pavement, and finding trails where you can, Central Park chief among them. New York City is not one known for the rolling hills meant to build strong distance runners. And yet, it is a distance mecca in it's own right, hosting one of the major marathons found around the World. Numerous Track Clubs are littered among the Burroughs, promoting speed at any age. Home to the NYAC (New York Athletic Club), home to the Armory and Ocean Breeze, home to Icahn Stadium. Track runs through it's streets, and the revitalization should be no surprise.

The rising tide doesn't include just the 3200m. The 1600m is finding new additions as well. Fernando Diaz (Susan Wagner) and Isaac Cohen (Hunter College HS) have both run 4:23 for the distance, competitive in any other Section in the State. Luke Noonan of the AIS School Collegiate also has a 4:26.73 to his name.

And this is definitely not to forget about all the Catholic High Schools based in New York City, who have had a long tradition of excellent distance running littered in the record books. Names from Fordham Prep of the Bronx, Xavier of Manhattan, and St. Peter's of Staten Island have deep roots managing the streets of the Big Apple.

But this truly is the age of the PSAL. New York City distance running has never been better.

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Tracking The Progression Of The 3200m In NYC

Note: The PSAL had no organized track during 2021

Shane Murphy - Hunter College Campus Schools9:09.519:52.65
Nate Boutin - John Jay Campus9:09.7410:18.48
Joseph Perazzo - Susan E. Wagner9:15.649:20.679:38.2610:32.46
Sebastian Margetts - United Nations International School (Manhattan)9:16.809:16.03
Jonah Reisner - Brooklyn Technical9:26.149:31.8610:42.30
Elijah Gentry - Brooklyn Technical9:32.53
Joey Wilson - St. Joseph by the Sea9:35.9410:00.3110:38.9911:21.18
Henry Koike-Sieira - Hunter College Campus Schools9:35.959:51.71
Jack Cote - St. Francis Prep9:36.9610:08.2512:45.04
Matthew McCabe - Xavier9:41.9510:10.3411:44.62
Ronan Luff - Trinity School9:46.719:56.37
Sean Reidy - Fordham Prep9:47.02
Luke Noonan - Collegiate School9:47.0410:06.49
Wyatt Flett - Xavier9:52.8310:45.2711:36.95
Owen Larson - Ethical Culture Fieldston School9:56.2410:08.12
Aaron Gill - Xavier9:56.7510:30.00
Michael Mason - Monsignor Farrell9:57.7710:50.26
Justin Schwartz - Xaverian9:58.9110:24.45
Dylan Doskocil - St. Joseph by the Sea10:02.079:35.089:57.7910:52.59