At the Colgate Women’s Games’ preliminary trials at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn last month, Sandreka Bancroft charged the 55 meter hurdles with one thought in mind – to make good time and qualify for the next round.
She did all of that and more.
The 14-year-old from Springfield Gardens ran straight into the record books, breaking a 27-year-old hurdles record with a blistering 7.9 performance – good enough to surpass the 8.09 set by Monifa Taylor in 1984.
“I was shocked and surprised when the told me about the record,” said the eight-grader from J.H.S. 231 in Springfield Gardens. “I had tears coming out of my eyes.”
Besides shocking herself with a record-breaking performance, Bancroft’s principal was surprised to hear the soft-spoken teen was even involved in sports. Although, the fact that she excelled in something she put her mind to was no shock to him at all.
“I’m absolutely amazed that she did this, but I’ve always known we have the best kids here,” said Principal Emmanuel Lubin. “It’s an extremely proud moment for our school.”
That moment did not come easily for Bancroft, as track and field is a demanding sport and requires hours of intense practice and concentrated focus from its athletes. A disciplined attitude is an essential ingredient in the psyche of any athlete – if runners are lacking that core requirement, they shouldn’t even bother showing up at the track.
“There is a lot of practice. Sometimes it’s hard on all of us [runners], but you just have to do what the coach wants,” she said. “Without practice, you’re not going to win.”
The same goes for school work, as Bancroft continues to learn every day. She understands that no matter how much she likes a subject or thinks she knows about it, she still must work hard in each and every class to keep her grades from dropping.
She counts math, English and social studies as her favorite subjects and said that the teachers at her school keep learning interesting and fun. That is another key ingredient to success – a solid support system of family, teachers, friends and mentors.
A few of the biggest influences in Bancroft’s life are her fellow female track stars at the Colgate Games. Cardozo High School relay champions Chamique Francis, Lateisha Philson and Claudia Francis, all of whom seem to flirt with record-breaking numbers at each meet, are lightning-quick examples for Bancroft to model herself after.
“I really want to go to Cardozo,” said Bancroft with a beaming smile. “It’s one of the best high schools around for runners.”
For now, she is enjoying her time at J.H.S. 231 with its friendly student body, helpful teachers and enriching afterschool programs. Principal Lubin said that providing extracurricular activities, including sports, is a crucial part of keeping students engaged.
“Anything that keeps kids engaged in something other than video games is a good thing,” he said. “And the success they have in sports and other activities translates into success in school.”
Bancroft hopes that track success translates into even more track success as she moves forward in her academic career. After high school she hopes to grab a track scholarship, though she’s not sure at which school just yet. It will take hard work and outstanding performances akin to her display at the Colgate Games – and she will soon have the opportunity at the Junior Olympics in Florida this summer.
This will be her third time competing in the event, and she’s looking forward to spending time after the races with her friends in the Sunshine State. The friendships she’s built on-the-run are important to Bancroft, although she insists that their time together doesn’t always involve track and field.
“We go on trips to Splish-Splash, we go shopping – we do a lot together,” she said. “And I have friends from all different track teams, not just my own.”
And track isn’t her only passion – Bancroft also wants to dance and even has an eye toward a career in modeling. One thing is for certain, the record-breaking Bancroft has the skill set to hurdle any obstacle in her way.
“I started running just because my friend was doing it,” she said. “Now I want to run through high school, college and forever.”