Joan Rivers once said, “the first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.”
Evidently, Joan Rivers never encountered Alexis Namdar.
The Great Neck North track star is known to yell “Wooo!” while she is running, drowning out the sound of her beloved Israeli pop music.
But, don’t be fooled by Namdar’s gaiety during practice. When it comes to races and workouts, the athlete’s countenance displays nothing but the utmost concentration.
“I started running in seventh grade,” said Namdar. “I joined the middle school spring track team after getting cut from the volleyball and basketball teams in the winter season. I wanted to get involved in sports even though I wasn’t good at any, so my last option was track since it was a walk-on.”
Namdar’s feelings about track changed as she realized how much she enjoyed it and how much potential she had.
“When I began to compete at the high school level, I realized that track and cross country was more than just an after school activity,” she explained. “The high school athletes were so fast, motivated and serious. I wanted to be just like them.”
It’s no wonder Namdar was inspired by her older teammates. Little did the young runner know when she joined her high school cross country team in Fall 2015 that she was joining what would be the best girls’ cross country team Great Neck North High School had ever had. The team included the two fastest female long-distance runners in the school’s history, Maya Mualem (’17) and Samantha Law (’18).
Namdar would soon taste some success of her own, setting a school record in the 4x1500m relay that spring, alongside Mualem, Law and Ruby Paisner (’16).
“Toward the end of freshman year, my times were dropping tremendously, and I finally felt like I mattered to the team,” she said. “By sophomore year, I knew running was something I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life.”
But, her running career was not without a challenge. In cross country season of her junior year, Namdar was injured.
“I was racing at Van Cortlandt Park in the Manhattan Invitational, explained Namdar. “When I was running down a steep downhill, I tripped and I heard a crack in my foot, but I didn’t realize it was broken until about 1.5 miles later when I crossed the finish line. At first, I was very pessimistic about the whole situation, and I thought I would never be able to be the runner I was before. With the help of my teammates, coaches and my physical therapist, I was able to begin running again in January and have the best spring season of my life.”
Undoubtedly, Namdar’s patience to recover and build up her fitness after her injury paid off. Since recovering, she has run personal record times in the 800-meter race (2:38.60), 1,500-meter race (5:18.10), the cross country 4 kilometer/2.5 mile race (17:04.7) and the cross country 5 kilometer/3.1 mile race (20:57.3). In spring of her junior year, Namdar was also the 3000m division champion for the second year in a row.
“I don’t have specific race goals for this upcoming spring track season,” said Namdar, who only has one season of high school running to go. “I just want to be the best possible version of myself as a runner and a leader. I want to focus more on eating healthy and doing extra strength training on my own time, and I want to inspire others to do the same. I know this is the way I’m going to set my last personal records in high school.”
Namdar also understands that once she graduates, her team will undergo yet another transition. None of the athletes from the record-breaking 2015 cross country team or from Namdar’s 2016 school record–breaking relay team will remain.
“When some talented athletes graduated, I definitely felt like I had a huge space to fill in,” said Namdar. “Many of the underclassmen were able to help fill in the space.”
Her hope for the team after she graduates is that “more people will find a passion in the sport. Also, I hope the closeness of the team continues for many years to come. It is very sad leaving, but I think the team is in good hands. Some of the younger girls are so motivated and want the best for themselves and for each other.”
Catch Namdar and her team competing against Manhasset, Herricks and MacArthur on Monday afternoon, April 15, at the Great Neck North Middle School track.