Athletic trifecta: Finkelstein excels beyond the field

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Courtesy of Cady

Matthew Finkelstein, number 317 for this race, is a leader of the pack on and off the course.

Jake Pizzi, Sports Coordinator

In his first year of cross country, Matthew Finkelstein is considered a “first-year star athlete” as the fastest sophomore in the District, ranking 10th overall.   

Starting his running career off strong, Finkelstein won Central’s home opener with a time of 17:21.90 in late September. Although he initially joined cross country to get in shape for soccer, he’s garnered a lot of success as a runner. Throughout the season, he has been nominated twice for athlete of the week by The Palm Beach Post and, in mid-October, he earned another first-place finish at the South Fork XC Invite with a run time of 16:57.91. In total, Finkelstein has finished first in four races and has achieved several top 10 medals from various other competitions.

To achieve such a record, Finkelstein has had to dedicate much of his time to training and practice.

“I trained on school days after school with my team and we would do progression runs for 3 miles, long runs for 4-6 miles, hills at Okeeheelee Park, and pre races which are 200 meters sprints and the other 200 meters a light jog two times,” explained Finkelstein. “Finally we do 8 striders for 100 meters each. But when we don’t have practice I’ll do a 5k by myself around Olympia’’

Although cross country consists of the athlete being a lone runner, the team does depend on each other. It’s the individual effort that results in a combined success. For example, at John I. Leonard’s 5th Annual Perseverance race, Finkelstein finished first with a run time of 18:02.20 – 17.4 seconds quicker than the next racer. However, it was the combined stellar performance of all Bronco runners that gave Palm Beach Central the edge in the end. Seniors David Usher, Dylan Haas, Chase Roussel, and freshman Tito Terrones all finished within the top 15 places. Together, their teamwork resulted in Palm Beach Central’s overall win against competing schools.

Running as a team has helped Finkelstein and his teammates form a strong bond and look out for each other.

“The cross country team for this school does feel like a family to me compared to the other team sports in the school,” Finkelstein said.

When Finkelstein is not dashing for the finish line, he exchanges his running shoes for his soccer cleats.

‘‘Matthew is a standout player on the J.V. team. Matthew was on the Varsity team, but I noticed the J.V. team needed help with on-field leadership,” said Central’s soccer coach Tom Dawkins. “I sent Matthew down to be the field general. He has thrived in that role. He also has become the leading scorer after only a few games.”

Off the field, Finkelstein stays on top of his academics and challenges himself by taking rigorous courses such as AICE Business AS.

He is always extremely polite,” said AICE Business instructor Mr. McGriff. “He always completes his assignments at a high level, he always contributes to our class conversations, and he shows high levels of work and understanding.”

Despite his success in both cross country and soccer, Finkelstein plans on continuing to expand his athletic abilities by competing in track and field later in the year. After high school, he hopes to become a D1 athlete and eventually play professional soccer in Europe.

“Coaching high school has numerous challenges, but having the opportunity to be around someone with a contagious positive attitude like the one Mr. Finkelstein possesses makes it all worthwhile.”