MOUNT VERNON – The pictures that hang on the wall near the main office at Mount Vernon High School speak of possibility.
They make up a miniature Hall of Fame, celebrating former students who later excelled in different professions.
There’s Art Carney, the actor who played Ed Norton on The Honeymooners.
Dick Clarke, the television icon and entrepreneur, who rang in the New Year for multiple generations of Americans.
Ralph Branca, the accomplished ballplayer best known for giving up Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World.”
Ben Gordon, who scored the NBA’s 10 millionth point.
E.B. White, who authored Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.
Row after row of photos but with room for more.
On a recent day, a framed Con Edison Award certificate lay just feet away on the office counter. And one day, its owner, Rai Benjamin, may make the leap onto the wall across the hall.
Benjamin, The Journal News Westchester/Putnam boys outdoor track athlete of the year, had a Hall of Fame career on the high school level.
His resume includes state indoor records at 200 and 300 meters and a national indoor 400 title.
Benjamin ran the seventh fastest 400 hurdles high school time in U.S. history outdoors last month, setting a new state record of 49.97. He also owns the Section 1 record in the outdoor 200 and 400 and was also the top area 100-meter runner.
Benjamin, the Gatorade State Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year for New York, did this while maintaining a B average despite missing school for races in the Bahamas, Antigua, Saint Kitts, Oregon and North Carolina.
“I can’t even tell you how long I’ve been in school each week,” he said. “I had understanding teachers, willing to give me work on the road.”
The Bronx-born Benjamin, whose parents are from Antigua and who spent many of his pre-high school days in school there, ran his blistering 49.97 hurdles at June’s New Balance Nationals in North Carolina.
“It felt really, really slow. It felt like the longest 49 seconds of my life,” he said. But of seeing his time, he added, “I was like, ‘Yes!’ I was so happy.”
Benjamin has lived in Mount Vernon with his mother, Jeanette Mason, throughout high school. But his mother, a Head Start program director, is moving to Texas. He will move west to UCLA to run on full scholarship.
Of his mother, he said, “I think she’s proud of everything I’ve accomplished and that I’ve stuck with it and made the best of the situation. …She says I motivate her but I feel she’s doing more of the motivating. During the season, I had ups and downs and she helped me through.”
A main down was the now-ceased, sometimes “unbearable” back pain through which he ran most of the spring. He attributes that to growing an inch to 6-foot-4.
Because he’s only 160 pounds, UCLA will try to add muscle to his frame. His goal is to help the school win championships and to improve his personal times. He’ll largely rest until leaving for UCLA August 1.
“My summer agenda is strictly nothing,” Benjamin said. “I’ll probably go to the gym a little but I’m not doing too much. I’m definitely not running. I had a lot of high-level competition and my body needs rest. I will be a normal kid.”
He’ll study political science at UCLA, where he’ll run the 400 hurdles, the 400 dash, the 4×100 relay, the 4×400 relay and possibly the 200 dash.
His plan is to eventually run professionally, so that he can “do a little traveling and see new places,” although he said, ultimately, he’d like to settle somewhere in Westchester.
A pro career would likely get him a photo on the high school wall. But right now the kid who’s all about speed is thinking about a pro career bringing him a different kind of speed.
“I tell myself if one day I have a Lamborghini I will know I have made it. Money isn’t the drive,” he said. “It’s just being happy, being comfortable.”
The rest of the Westchester/Putnam boys first-team all-stars
110 hurdles — Danny Elia, Sr., Sleepy Hollow
800 — Patrick Watts, Sr., Pleasantville
1,600 — Benito Muniz, Sr., Carmel
1 mile — Mike Delfay, Jr., Brewster
3,200 — Kevin Hazelwood, Jr., Brewster
Steeplechase — Eion Nohilly, Jr., John Jay-Cross River
4×100 relay — Hackley (Elijah Ngbokoli, Jr.; Darius Inzar, Jr.; Anthony Roderick, Jr.; Winston Britton, So.)
4X400 relay — Lakeland/Panas (Jason Bingay, Sr.; Cullen Malzo, Sr.; Josh Dacres, Sr.; Veeral Shah, Sr.)
4×800 relay — Pleasantville (Eli Waxler, Sr.; Eamon Coburn, Sr.; JC Yahia, So.; Patrick Watts, Sr.)
High jump — John Wiley, Sr., Eastchester
Long jump — Anthony Roderick, Jr., Hackley
Triple jump — Josh Diakanwa, Sr., Iona Prep
Pentathlon — John Burns, Sr., New Rochelle
Pole vault — Ryan Herrera-Murphy, Sr., Iona Prep
Javelin — Kiegan Lenihan, Sr., Hackley
Discus — Andrew Cannistraci, Jr., Iona Prep
Shot put — Andrew Cannistraci, Jr., Iona Prep
Coach of the year: Tom Patterson, Pleasantville
100 — Elijah Ngbokoli, Jr., Hackley
110 hurdles — John Burns, Sr., New Rochelle
200 — Josh Dacres, Sr., Lakeland/Panas
400 — Abdul Byabusha, Sr., Ossining
400 hurdles — Danny Elia, Sr., Sleepy Hollow
800 — Benito Muniz, Sr., Carmel
1,600 — Martin O’Connell, Sr., Eastchester
3,200 — Sawyer Maher, Sr., Carmel
Steeplechase — Grant Sheely, Sr., Dobbs Ferry
4×100 — Ossining (Abdul Byabusha, Kaiel Blake, Shea Holbrook, AJ Otero)
4×400 — Mount Vernon (Rai Benjamin, Sr.; Jason Perlaza, So.; Akeim Brown, Sr.; Joshua Zincke, Fr.)
4×800 — Haldane (Trevor Van Brunt, Sr.; Jonathan Clemente, Sr.; Nick Farrell, Fr.; Theo Henderson, Jr.)
High jump — John Burns, Sr., New Rochelle
Long jump — Brent DiVittorio, Sr., Brewster
Triple jump — Obehi Adubor, Sr., Iona Prep
Pole vault — Matt Fay, Sr., Iona Prep
Pentathlon — Brent DiVittorio, Sr., Brewster
Javelin — Tim Faranda, Sr., Stepinac
Discus — Cameron Thompson, Jr., Lakeland/Panas
Shot put — Frankie Hagan, Sr., Iona Prep
Whitman Anderson, So., Horace Greeley; Ryan Bird, Sr., Rye; Angel Betancourt, Sr., New Rochelle; Kris Brethower, Sr., North Salem; Akeim Brown, Sr., Mount Vernon; Adonis Carrasco, Sr., Ardsley; Ricardo Castello, Sr., New Rochelle; Jashua Celestine, So., Lakeland/Panas; Daniel Dore, Sr., New Rochelle; Drew Dorflinger, Jr., Pleasantville; Tyquel Fields, Jr., Stepinac; Kedar Glover, Jr., Woodlands; Jason Holland, Jr., Somers; Luke Holtzman, Sr., New Rochelle; Somers; Eric Hughes, Jr., Pleasantville; Steven Ircha, Sr., Bronxville; Matthew Izuchukwu, Jr., Yonkers; Matt Konigsberg, Jr., Harrison; Angelo Martinez, Sr., Mahopac; Russell McGahren-Clemens, Sr., Eastchester; Armand Pappas, Jr., Croton-Harmon; Alex Parkinson, Sr., Mamaroneck; Jason Perlaza, So. Mount Vernon; Ben Smith, Sr., John Jay-Cross River; Jack Stern, Sr., New Rochelle; Nuku Tsiagbe, So., New Rochelle; Jordan Washington, Sr., Iona Prep; Jahkeem Wheatley, Sr., Iona Prep; Emilio Wilson-King, Jr., Yonkers; Jared Yanis, Jr., Rye Country Day; Joshua Zincke, Fr., Mount Vernon
100 meters — Rai Benjamin, Sr., Mount Vernon; Danny Elia, Sr., Sleepy Hollow; Josh Etkind, Sr., Clarksown North
110 hurdles — David Adams, Jr.; Beacon; Danny Elia, Sr., Sleepy Hollow, Josh Etkind, Sr., Clarkstown North
200 — Rai Benjamin, Sr., Mount Vernon; Wyatt Brooks, Jr., North Rockland; Josh Dacres, Sr., Lakeland/Panas
400 — Rai Benjamin, Sr., Mount Vernon; Abdul Byabusha, Sr., Ossining; Josh Dacres, Sr., Lakeland/Panas
400 hurdles — David Adams, Jr., Beacon; Rai Benjamin, Sr., Mount Vernon; Danny Elia, Sr., Sleepy Hollow
800 — James Asselmeyer, Sr., Arlington; Luke Gavigan, Sr., Tappan Zee; Patrick Watts, Sr., Pleasantville
1,600 — Mike Delfay, Jr., Brewster; Luke Gavigan, Sr., Tappan Zee; Benito Muniz, Sr., Carmel
3,200 — Drew Dorflinger, Jr., Pleasantville; Kevin Hazelwood, Jr., Brewster; Sawyer Maher, Sr., Carmel
Steeplechase — Eion Nohilly, Jr., John Jay-Cross River; Grant Sheely, Sr., Dobbs Ferry; Ben Smith, Sr., John Jay-Cross River
4×100 relay — Lakeland/Panas (JT Aggrey, Sr.; Sean Chatman, Sr.; Avalon Garrick, So.; Josh Dacres, Sr.); Mount Vernon (Tyrese Moore, So.; Akeim Brown, Sr.; Robert Romney, Sr.; Cody Housen, Sr.); Ossining (Abdul Byabusha, Kaiel Blake, Shea Holbrook, AJ Otero)
4×400 relay — Lakeland/Panas (Jason Bingay, Sr.; Cullen Malzo, Sr.; Josh Dacres, Sr.; Veeral Shah, Sr.); Mount Vernon (Rai Benjamin, Sr.; Jason Perlaza, So.; Akeim Brown, Sr.; Joshua Zincke, Fr.); North Rockland (Kingmil Miceus, Sr.; Chima Ezeilo, Jr.; Philippe Louise-Juste, Jr.; Wyatte Brooks, Jr.)
4×800 relay — Arlington (James Asselmeyer, Joseph Morrison, Reece Ragusa, Eric Sbrollini, Devere Knight); Pleasantville (Eli Waxler, Sr.; Eamon Coburn, Sr.; JC Yahia, So.; Patrick Watts, Sr.);
Tappan Zee (Ellis Guzewich, Jr.; Pat Hehir, Sr.; Liam Burke, Sr., Luke Gavigan, Sr.
High jump — Josh Ayala, Jr., Clarkstown North; Luqman Issah, Jr., Pearl River; John Wiley, Sr., Eastchester
Long jump — Josh Ayala, Jr., Clarsktown North; Rayvon Grey, Jr., Beacon; Yanik Martin, Sr., Clarkstown North.
Triple jump — Jamal Akpaloo, Sr., North Rockland; Josh Etkind, Sr., Clarkstown North; Rayvon Grey, Jr., Beacon
Pole vault — Daesob Lim, So., Tappan Zee; Jeff Sanawong, Sr. , Nanuet; Matt Leanza, Sr., Suffern
Discus — Eric Favors, Sr., North Rockland; John Andersen, Sr., R.C. Ketcham; Rickssen Oponte, Sr., Nyack
Shot put — Eric Favors, Sr., North Rockland; Parris Heath, Jr.; Ramapo; Rickssen Oponte, Sr. Nyack
Sunday, June 28: Baseball
Monday, June 29: Softball
Tuesday, June 30: Tennis
Wednesday, July 1: Golf
Thursday, July 2: Girls track
Friday, July 3: Boys track
Saturday, July 4: Girls lacrosse
Sunday, July 5: Boys lacrosse