By Jerry Del Priore
It’s no wonder that Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology track stars Zhoey Starkey (200 m) and Tianna Cates (4×100) accepted athletic scholarships to Division I St. Francis College of Brooklyn.
St. Francis bills itself as the Small College of Big Dreams, and BHSLT has a student body of under 600.
Therefore, they will pretty much get the same type of small school attention at college as they did in high school, which helped them thrive on the track and in the classroom.
Cates, who plans on studying criminal justice, always had visions of attending school away from New York City. However, she changed her mind after visiting St. Francis and speaking to its Women’s Head Track and Field coach, Christopher Mills.
“I dreamt about going away since probably like I was 11. So, I was like, ‘I’m not staying here. I want to get out of NYC,” Cates recollected. “And then I spoke to the coach. He made me change my mind about everything. After we finished, I was like, ‘Zhoey, we’re going here?’ I don’t have nothing against the school anymore.’ After I spoke to him, I was like, ‘I’m doing what I love to do, track, and I got a whole scholarship for it. I might as well stay here. It’s really a great school.”’
Starkey—who’s undecided on what she wants to study, but said acting is something she might want to pursue—also had thoughts of going to college out of the city. But St. Francis’ hospitality won her over. Plus, she said, she loves the fact that the team’s uniforms are backed by Nike.
“I did want to go away, but not that bad,” she said. “Everybody was really nice (at St. Francis). They made me feel at home. The track team seemed really cool. Their uniforms, they’re sponsored by Nike, which is beautiful.”
Though both student-athletes have accomplishment so much up until this point, girls and boys track head coach Charles Felder believes they have high ceilings since they’re both relatively new to the sport. Plus, they haven’t been afforded top training faculties like the ones they’ll be experiencing at college.
“They just started this (track), and what’s also going to escalate them to the next level is being wild about all the new things they’re going to see (at college), said Felder, who was an accomplished high school athlete and martial artist in his own right. “Because when you’re running in a little hallway at this school, you can’t get a good distance; maybe 30 meters. And yet, they’re still able to do the things that they’re doing.”
Cates, who took up the sport as a nine-year-old, began getting serious about track in her freshman year, while Starkey joined the team in her junior year.
“I was serious back then, but not that much. I was just doing it,” explained Cates, who also participates in step and cheerleading. “But when I got to high school, Charles, my coach, he said, ‘I really think this is something you can really take somewhere.’ I started believing, and I put extra work into it.”
As for Starkey, she said she ignored Felder’s urging to run for the Lady Jets at first, but finally decided to give it a shot in her third year at BHSLT, to earn money for school.
“Mr. Charles, my coach, he always told me, since ninth grade, since I came to this school, ‘Come join the team.’ But I always ignored him,” Starkey elaborated. “I didn’t know what track was. I didn’t want to do it. But since the eleventh grade I started to think about college and getting a scholarship. So, I said, ‘Let me try track out.’ I started, and he saw how good I was. And here I am now.”
For now, both ladies are focused on performing well in the 4X100 meter race at the PSAL Championships at Randall’s Island’s Icahn Stadium on Sunday, May 27nd. Starkey is the starter on the relay team, while Cates is the anchor.
“That’s our last (city high school) meet, and we have to get busy,” Starkey said.
“We have to push at this meet,” Cates added. “The 4×100 is one we can, as a team, win a medal easily and move on to States.”
Starkey and Cates are two of the four student-athletes at BHSLT that have earned scholarships to D-I colleges this school year. Larry Moreno (basketball—St. Francis, Brooklyn) and Mads Pfeiffer (Soccer—Longwood University) are the other two.