Schenectady

HERE FOR GOOD: Guyanese student-athletes make an impact up and down rosters

Left: Schenectady’s Shazim Permaul in 2019; Right: Schenectady's Ganesh Govindan in 2018
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Left: Schenectady’s Shazim Permaul in 2019; Right: Schenectady's Ganesh Govindan in 2018

SCHENECTADY — The influence that Guyanese student-athletes have had on Schenectady High School sports teams over the past two decades is undeniable.

“Probably every program has been impacted in some way,” high school athletic director Steve Boynton said. “Schenectady welcomed them. The high school welcomed them. They have definitely been an asset to the athletic department.”

Many Guyanese student-athletes have helped fill out high school team rosters and provided needed depth, and some have played key starting roles. Others have stepped ahead to lead their respective teams, and a select few, such as distance runner Shazim Permaul, have left a lasting mark.

“Every week he had a good race,” Schenectady cross country coach Ed Menis said of Permaul’s final fall season as a Patriot in 2019. “He had a good senior season.”

That season included a significant performance at the annual cross country meet that Schenectady hosts. Permaul finished first in his division that October afternoon at the 81st Everett T. Grout Cross Country Invitational at Central Park, something no Schenectady High School runner had ever done previously in the three-decade history of its program.

“I feel proud of myself,” the 18-year-old Permaul said recently. “I wanted to make my parents proud. I wanted to make the Guyanese proud.”

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Schenectady standouts Isaac Menis and Maazin Ahmed were Grout runner-ups in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and Permaul was aware of his school’s history at the invitational.

“Before the race, coach was telling me I could win, but I had a little doubt,” said Permaul, who is currently studying automotive technology as a freshman at Hudson Valley Community College. “The guy who finished second [Francisco Mendonca of Shaker] had run faster than me in a couple of races.”

The Guyana-born Permaul ended up beating Mendonca by five seconds in the Division II race on the 2.75-mile grass, dirt and road course, and became the first Schenectady City School District runner to earn top Grout laurels since Mary Knott of Linton in 1987. Before Permaul, the last SCSD male to taste Grout victory was Phil Tama of Linton in 1963.

“He knew his competition going in. He knew the times and knew it was going to be a tough race,” Ed Menis said. “He knew no one had won it in a long time.”

Highlights of Permaul’s senior indoor track season included second-place efforts at both the Suburban Council (3,200) and Section II Division I (1,000) championship meets. His senior outdoor season, however, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was kind of bummed out,” Permaul said of missing his senior outdoor campaign. “I knew I could run really fast based off my indoor season. I was ready for fast times.”

Going into that 2020 canceled spring season, Schenectady tennis coach Bart Metzold had Guyanese player Avim Narine penciled in at No. 1 singles, just as he had been the season before.

“When I was at Schenectady there were quite a few [Guyanese] playing sports,” Permaul said.

Permaul had been attending North 13th Street Tech in New Jersey before he and his parents, Faizal and Shaleema, moved from the Garden State to the Capital Region in the spring of 2018. Permaul’s first athletic experience at Schenectady, as a sophomore, was with its outdoor track team.

“We’ve always had Guyanese kids up and down our roster,” Schenectady indoor and outdoor track and field coach Joe Bennett said. “Shazim was our most successful, but when we made our run at sectionals, Mike Ganesh [2016 graduate] was a huge part of our lineup.”

Ganesh Govindan played a huge role for Schenectady’s football team as an all-star lineman and its lacrosse team as the starting goalkeeper before his 2020 graduation.

Current senior Amy Chinsammy was among the lead runners on the Schenectady girls’ cross country team this past fall.

“I think with the first wave of kids who came over here, sports were not their forte,” Schenectady girls’ basketball coach Carol Lupo said. “Now, kids who are born here are assimilating differently in the school district. You’ve got an influx of kids going out for teams. They are assimilating as Americans.”

Editor’s Note 4/28 6:51 p.m.: An earlier version of this article inadvertently included a photo of Maazin Ahmed among three athletes shown

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Categories: High School Sports, News, Sports

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