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Scholastic Roundup: Jay Rokeach is the voice of the South Heads North

August 13, 2021 Andy Furman
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Jay Rokeach never shied away from a microphone.

As basketball team manager at FDR High School – he served as PA announcer for the then Navigators – today they are the Cougars.

His next stop – the University of Miami – and this season Rokeach, who was a member of the very first graduating class at FDR, completed his 53rd consecutive year behind the microphone as PA voice at Miami’s Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

He’s also been the PA voice   for five collegiate national championships in football; and has called 58 consecutive home football wins – an NCAA record set September 3, 1994.

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Add to that list four collegiate national titles in baseball.

And when major league baseball arrived in South Florida – 1993 – Rokeach was there. “My goal,” he told Scholastic Roundup, “was to be the first PA announcer for the Marlins.”

He was – and had a five-year run as their stadium voice through their championship season of 1997 when they defeated the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

But there’s more.

He’s been the PA voice for Florida International University (basketball, men’s soccer and volleyball), Barry University and Johnson and Wales (basketball).

Throw in the press box announcer for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and stint with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, Jay Rokeach is truly the Mouth of the South.

Or, at least South Florida.

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But for the past 45-plus summers, the 70-year-old Rokeach has taken his talent upstate New York – to Timber Lake Camp, to be exact in Shandaken. He served as the Evening Activities Director as well as the (un)official “voice” – and perhaps “face” of the camp.

The beautiful upstate facility will celebrate its 60th anniversary the weekend of August 20th to August 22nd and Rokeach certainly will be right in the middle of the event – with a microphone, for sure.

“There’s no better way to enjoy a fun-filled camp weekend while reminiscing about summers past,” he said. “It’ll be a three-day, two-night action-packed overnight camp experience.”

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Cardozo High’s Dalilah Muhammad finished second in the women’s 400-meter hurdles at the Tokyo Olympic games.

But the real Olympic story was captured in a Scholastic Roundup email:

Barry Kipnis, who served as the radio voice for the City University of New York basketball on WNYC Radio (AM-830), sends this:

“I presume you saw or know about Sydney McLaughlin who won the gold medal and broke her own world record in the women’s 400 hurdles. My wife Janice knows Sydney and her family – all nice people. Sydney is from Dunellen, NJ, where her parents still live, and attended the elementary school where Janice taught second grade. Janice didn’t have Sydney in her close but our close friend, Nancy Sager had Sydney in Kindergarten and knew then Sydney would be something special, whether it be a great scientist or athlete. Nancy sent an e-mail to Sydney to wish her luck before the race and Sydney responded and recalled an incident from 15 years ago when she “misbehaved” in Mrs. Sager’s class and received a “yellow card” one day. Mrs. Sager didn’t even remember this as Sydney was always well behaved. Sydney added that she learned from her experience and vowed to always strive for perfection.”

She certainly did.

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When McLaughlin won that Olympic gold, she broke her own world record by nearly half a second outsprinting Muhammad – the reigning world champion and Olympic gold medalist.

The 21-year-old McLaughlin crossed the finish line in 51.46 seconds, setting a bar that everyone else will now try to clear. Muhammad, 31, also broke the previous world record.

As a freshman at Union Catholic High School in New Jersey, she broke a state record in the first race she ran, according to her high school coach, Mike McCabe. She qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics when she was just 16.

Even though she didn’t make it to the final, McLaughlin became a track celebrity upon her return, according to a USA Today account. She appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2017. At track meets during her senior year, she would often be approached by high-school students – some of whom were likely competing against her – and asked for autographs, McCabe told USA Today.

“We would bring an extra coach to make sure that, when we went to indoor meets and stuff, we could keep people away from her if we needed to,” he said.

After a stint at the University of Kentucky, McLaughlin turned pro and found herself continuing to climb the ranks, but often finishing second to Muhammad. They have long been not just the two fastest women in the 400-meter hurdles field, but also the two fastest in the history of the event.

“The four times that we competed,” Muhammad said on the Today Show last week, “we got four world records. It’s definitely iron sharpening iron.”

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From the Scholastic Roundup e-mail bag:

From Hank Lam: “Your article on Benny Distefano brought back great memories of long-time Lafayette HS baseball coach, Joe Gambuzza. Joe also played basketball at Lafayette (under Gil Fershtman) and played basketball with me at Staten Island Community College, where he started as a forward alongside me.

“In the 1964-65 season, we set a school mark with a 19-3 record and went to the Northeast Junior College playoffs where we lost to Montgomery JC from Maryland. They came in averaging 108 points-a-game, and we lost by 14, ‘holding’ them to 77 in the loss.

“Joe was one of the nicest guys I ever met whom everybody loved. He was a tremendous defensive player who always guarded me in practice. I never played anyone over the years at Pace University or in outside tournaments who made scoring so difficult for me. Seeing his name mentioned by Benny brought back great memories for me. I hope Joe (Gambuzza) is in good health and doing well.”

From Ira Levine, former Lafayette High basketball coach

“There was no nicer person than Benny (Distefano).”

And from Ken Lam (Hank’s younger brother):

“From my Brooklyn Eagle story, as a side note, the NYU game (my third game) in which I broke my foot, it was against City College (CCNY). I hit my first two jumpers, we’re up four nothing. I went up for a tip-in and came down on Ira Levine’s foot. (The same Ira Levine who coached Lafayette played for CCNY). You know him (Levine) he never could jump. It cost me a trip to the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii that Christmas – they wouldn’t take me on crutches.”

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR

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