‘Just wait ’til next year’ for Fontbonne
The future looks good — really good — for the runners at Fontbonne Hall Academy.
Their freshman cross country team won track’s first GCHSAA team championship plaque in school history last month at Van Cortlandt Park. The girls finished second in the GCHSAA Brooklyn-Queens Division behind St. Francis Prep of Queens.
And it was a long time coming, especially for fifth-year coach Paul Richter.
“My first year,” said the 71-year-old Richter, “We had five or six girls running. This year, 16 are on the roster – and five with real talent.”
Talent is what Richter seems to have as a coach. He pushes the right buttons for these kids.
But, if not for a neighbor, well, he might be on the sidelines today — and remain a retired man.
“Actually, a friend got me into this,” Richter said. “His daughter was a good runner. and I’d train with them. He suggested I go for the Fontbonne job when it opened.”
He did,, a bit later in life — just like his own running career.
“I started running after I got married,” said the CCNY graduate. “I watched the 1976 New York City Marathon when they ran through Bay Ridge. I was a fan of the sport, and said, ‘I wanna do this.’”
He not only said it, he did it.
He started serious training the following year. In 1977, he ran the 26.2-mile marathon course in four hours, 20 minutes.
He didn’t do much better the next year.
But in 1980 he broke four hours, and in 1983 he qualified for the Boston Marathon.
And just like his own career, he realizes many of his youngsters are new to the sport.
“None of them ever ran before,” he said. “So I sell the team as an opportunity to meet friends before school starts, since we have tryouts at the end of August.”
Richter says he tells his runners what running is all about. “It’s a lifestyle, not a sport,” he said.
That lifestyle has translated into some strong results for the Fontbonne ladies.
Ava DiMaggio ran her first 1.5-mile race in 15:32, according to Richter. Her final race this fall was a 12:54.
“That was her goal,” said the coach. “Her freshman championship time was 13:21.
“I told her mom it makes me feel happy to do this and to see how she improved. She set a goal, and she did it.”
Perhaps Richter knew something. When he took his aspiring runners to the Fort Hamilton track at the start of the season, they group was running eight-minute miles.
“They usually would run the mile in 10 minutes,” he said. “I knew we had some talent.”
And Fontbonne Hall Academy knew Paul Richter was the man to expose that talent.
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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