Bunnell’s Christ N’Dabian, Jonathan Cineus, Ramsley Exantus and Elijah Henry won the 4×100-meter at the boys Class MM Outdoor Track championships last month. Their blistering time of 42.46 seconds qualified them for the New Balance Nationals Outdoor meet.
There was just one problem.
“We had to figure out how we were going to get there and how people were going to pay for it,” Cineus said Monday. “At first I didn’t think we were going to be able to go.”
Everything in life has a cost. For Cineus and his teammates, a trip to Greensboro, N.C., for the premiere event of high school track was one that seemed destined to be too expensive.
“We saw the cost,” said N’Dabian, who is the lone junior among a relay team of seniors. “We knew we needed to fundraise immediately. We didn’t think we’d be able to do it at first.”
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Not wanting to give up on their dream of competing, they sought help from the community. A GoFundMe page titled “Send the Bunnell Boys to Nationals” was created to help cover the costs of travel and lodging for four runners and two coaches this weekend.
The response they received was overwhelming. In 13 days, they’ve raised $3,365 — well over their original goal of $2,500 and enough to make the boys’ dream a reality.
Without the outpouring of support from the community, Bunnell boys outdoor track coach Maurice Scioletti said, “the trip would’ve never happened. The community, they reached into their pockets of generosity. It wasn’t from surplus wealth. It was from the heart.”
Added Henry: “We were astounded. We worked so hard for it.”
The plan is to begin the 600-mile drive on Friday, with preliminaries for the 4×100 scheduled for 5:50 p.m. the next day. If all goes well, N’Dabian, Cineus, Exantus and Henry hope to be running in the championship relay on Sunday.
“Nothing would surprise me with this group,” Scioletti said. “We’d have to shave off probably a good second to be in the top tier of relays.”
All four runners believe that’s a reachable goal. They’ve seen their time drop this postseason. With N’Dabian running the first leg of the 4×100, followed by Cineus, Exantus and Henry, they recorded a winning time of 42.79 at the South-West Conference championships. The quartet proceeded to slice that time by 0.33 in the Class MM championships one week later. Bunnell placed first and second, respectively, in those meets.
“They don’t like to lose,” Scioletti said. “They work hard and train hard every single day, and they reap the rewards. Every meet they’ve prepared for.”
Next came the State Open, in which N’Dabian, Cineus, Exanus and Henry took first with a time of 42.59. That was followed by the New England championships, where Elijah Alexandre stepped in for N’Dabian, who was nursing a hamstring injury. They finished eighth with a time of 43.04.
The relay team has made it a tradition to stop at McDonalds in Stratford following every meet. The order always goes something like this: Two McFlurries, one 10-piece chicken nuggets and one item off the dollar menu.
“After every single track meet we go,” Exanus said proudly, with a slight laugh. “It’s always the same McDonalds at the same place around the same time.”
Exanus admits it seems counter-productive for a star track athlete to be feasting on fast food following competitions, but it’s yet to slow him or any of his teammates down.
The New Balance Nationals are next on the menu.
“We’ve all been wanting to be at Nationals,” Exanus said. “We’ve been watching it on TV — live broadcasts. To have a chance to finally go and compete is pretty cool.”