Written by Zachary Englis
Racing feet, long strides, slim, fast. Running down the final straightaway, in the midst of the setting sun. Winning. For Mineola High School senior Jake Tavernite, running is his home away from home. It is what has come to define him over his time in high school and what he hopes will continue to define him in the future.
“It’s been my everything,” Tavernite said after finishing in the latest Section VIII meet at Bethpage State Park. “ It changed everything; how I look at my high school career. It’s really something that I know when I look back I am going to be like, ‘that’s what I did, I ran,’ and that is what defined me.”
Tavernite has been a part of Mineola’s cross country and track and field programs since his freshman year, making an immediate and lasting impact since he first laced up his cleats. For cross country, in the 5K, his personal record is 17:33.
“Jake has been really consistent his whole career,” school cross country and track and field coach Tom Leninger said. “He started scoring for us as a freshman, he was our number three [cross country] runner right out of the gate, and now he is our number one runner.”
Running has come to define Tavernite over the past four years and teammate Dylan Bestler describes his ability simply: “he is fantastic. He is carrying this team; definitely the heart and soul. He puts a lot of time into this team and he definitely deserves it. He works really hard.”
That work ethic has allowed Tavernite to receive various awards during his high school track and field career ranging from all-conferences and all-counties (1,600m, two-mile, 4 x 800m, etc.), to team championships and to trips to the New York State meets. But with all the achievements comes a very humble and reserved attitude that has allowed him to garner much respect.
“As a person, I think he has an amazing attitude,” said teammate Emily Martins. “He is the best runner on the team, but he is not cocky at all. He helps everyone and he supports everyone.”
According to coach Leninger, sets an example and his increased voice during this current cross country season.
“The most hands-off captain I’ve ever had in terms of assuming what he has to do and just doing it,” Leninger said. “He doesn’t wait to be told to do something, which is really great. Makes my job a lot easier and definitely helps his teammates as well.
But soon the finish line for high school will approach and Tavernite will have to step into collegiate starting blocks.
“Right now I am looking into a couple of different colleges to run at,” he said. “I definitely want to run in college, and after college; whether it be just on my own, out for runs, or competitive like marathons or half-marathons or anything along those lines. I just want to keep running.”
Tavernite is currently academically ranked ninth in the Class of 2014 and his top choice right now is Sacred Heart University.
“He is just a really great kid. He’s got really good instincts,” said Leninger. “He is almost like his own personal coach. He comes up to me and he tells me what he thinks and it is already what I’m thinking without telling him. So he is always one step ahead. He is a very intelligent athlete, probably the most intelligent athlete I’ve ever had here at Mineola. I see a bright future for him.”