When it came to sports, Cascius Facen was all about basketball during his freshman year at University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men (Rochester, New York). But by the time the winter high school season arrived, Facen was coaxed into joining UPrep’s indoor track team.
“I made sectionals in the ninth grade and said, “I’m going to keep doing this,’ ” Facen said.
Facen stayed on course at a school where there is no track or fieldhouse. Sometimes they practiced on the surrounding streets.
But on Wednesday, he signed a letter of intent to attend and compete at Wagner University on Staten Island. According to coach Majied Eason, Facen is the first member in the eight-year history of UPrep’s track and field team to move on to a Division I college program.
“I’m the first generation to go to a Division I college (for sports), the first to graduate from UPrep and go Division I,” said Facen, who lives on the west side of Rochester with his parents and seven siblings. “It’s just an honor to be here today because from ninth grade and up, I was like, ‘Nobody has made it before,’ and Eason always told me, ‘You’re going to do it — you’re going to be the one.’ He drilled it into me every day.”
Meanwhile, Facen advanced to two high school indoor and three outdoor state meets, including this season’s championships, which will be contested Friday and Saturday in Middletown, Orange County. A sprinter, Facen qualified in four events.
Facen is a top-five seed in both the Division II 100- and 200-meter dashes. UPrep’s 400 relay of Eriq Lawson, Facen, Perriyone Brown and Jarvis Alexander is the team to beat in that race. Their fastest time this season is 42.34 seconds, third in Section V behind the Division I relays at Rush-Henrietta and Penfield.
Aaron Brooks, Joshua Quinn, Facen and Alexander will see what they can do at states in the 1,600 relay. Facen and Alexander advanced to states in both the 100 and 200 and Brown made it in the long jump, meaning athletes from UPrep’s 28-man team will compete in seven events.
“A lot of (Facen’s) success is due to his family’s support,” Eason said. “They came to Ocean Breeze (on Staten Island) for indoor states and then came rushing back to see his younger brother for the UPrep vs. McQuaid (sectional) basketball game.”
Since UPrep has a campus that fits into a corner of a neighborhood block on Lake Avenue, where does the school’s track team practice?
“On the streets. We work wonders in the neighborhood,” Eason said. “We did a lot by just making do; extremely resourceful … The technical stuff had to be worked out at meets — passing the baton, work on the hurdles, the long jump, the high jump. It was frustrating coaching on the fly, but I give a lot of credit to the athletes. They took it all in stride.”
Facen led one-two finishes for UPrep last Friday in the Division II 100 and 200 during the Section V state meet qualifier. No sprinter, no matter the size of the school they represented, ran faster than Facen’s 10.87 in the 100 and 21.95 in the 200.
“We practice on the sidewalks. It’s good coaching,” Facen said. “They feed us good information, positive information. ‘You have to do this, (because) we don’t have a track.’
“That only pushes us to go faster. Our relay is first in the state for Division II, and we have no track … It’s just more motivation.”
Facen, who is 6 feet and about 170 pounds, said that while he failed to perform to his standards during the 2019 indoor sectionals, Wagner coaches continued to show interest in him. The school was Facen’s choice over Maine and the State University at Buffalo, known as UB in Section V.
“They saw the potential in me that other colleges didn’t,” Facen said. “That told me they really want me.”