Special race headlines card

Jontai Williams and Dikembe Mutombo at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon participating in the NBA Relay.
Photo courtesy of New York Road Runners

While most of the attention was focused on the Kenyans and the Ethiopians in the 44th edition of the New York City Marathon, the New York Road Runners staged an event for the school children. Every autumn this organization puts on an annual running spectacular by getting many international runners into New York City and at the same time it tries to build for the future with the youngsters involved.

This latter event was part of all-day festivities that took the runners from Staten Island into the five boroughs and finished within Manhattan’s Central Park.

To highlight the importance of physical activity and to promote healthy living for kids and families, the National Basketball Association teamed up with the New York Road Runners for what was termed the first ever Marathon relay.

Set up by Adam Silver, commissioner of the National Bsketball Association, and President and CEO of the New York Road Runners Mary Wittenberg and other committee members staged a NBA Kids-all-star relay.

This event at the TCS New York City Marathon featured NBA and WNBA personalities teaming up with students from the free year-round youth running program conducted by the New York Road Runners.

Dikembe Mutombo, who played for the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets at different times during his professional career, was the team’s anchor in the relay and had a partner in Jontai Williams, whose father Delroy Williams was a runner and cricket player in Jamaica, West Indies.

Jontai was born in New York while Delray was born in Jamaica.

Now 15 years of age, the younger Williams took up track at the age of seven and attends Cardinal Hayes High School in The Bronx. Hayes has a very strong track team competing in the Catholic Schools system.

The boys on the track team want to go to the Penn Relays and are training very hard to be able to qualify for the short trip during the spring.

Jontai’s specialties on the track are the 200, 400 and 800 meters. His favorite distance is 800 meters. At the moment, he does not run cross country, but expects to do so next year, because he is only a freshman at Hayes.

“During the football season I train hard, eat a lot and stay fit,” he said.

“I came here to the marathon to show the youth runners that they can always run and even jog. It doesn’t have to be in a race, just to get out of bed and run.”

Williams is the New York Road Runners Ambassador and is in his first year of running.

“My parents are the reason I am doing sports,” he explained. “My mother played netball and ran while in England while my father played cricket while he was in Jamaica.”

“We (and my father) still talk and he gives me pointers about running,” the student athlete said. “He tells me to run hard, play hard or go home. “He taught me how to be a gentleman and always keep my head up.”

Delroy taught his son a little about cricket. He used to play cricket for about seven years in Jamaica.

“Jontai is on a full scholarship at Cardinal Hayes High,” said Williams’ mother Christine Francis. “I’m a very proud mom because he’s a student athlete and doing wonderful things.”

Jontai told his mother that he wants to run in the 2020 Olympics.

In other youth news pertaining to the marathon, Wittenberg along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio honored Teianna Reed of the Bronx and Miles Bernstein of Brooklyn as youth running ambassadors of the year at the marathon because of their participation, enthusiasm, and dedication to the sport.

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