If Daniel Barlev hopes to take his place in history alongside such legendary Jewish-American athletes as swimmer Mark Spitz, basketball players Dolph and Danny Schayes, and soccer stars Jeff Agoos and Benny Feilhaber, he’s off to a good start.
Like each of those top athletes, the Holmdel High School track star will compete in Israel’s quadrennial World Maccabiah Games, the “Jewish Olympics,” scheduled for July.
Daniel will run in the 1500- and 3000-meter events as a member of the USA Juniors Track and Field Team.
He is a member of Holmdel High School’s cross-country boys’ team which, under coach Sean McCafferty, won the NJSIAA Group II title in both 2011 and 2012.
In the New Jersey A Central Division Championship held in October, Barlev, a junior, captured first place overall and was followed by four of his teammates, including his brother Aaron, 16, all finishing within 39 seconds of the winner.
In an e-mail exchange, the 17-year-old Daniel told NJJN, “In the United States, we run a 1600 and 3200 instead of the 1500 and 3000. My best 1600 time is 4:37, and my best 3200 is 9:52.”
Striving to reduce these times, he currently trains seven days a week, running about 10 miles each day. “I would like to hit a 4:25 for the mile and in the 9:20s for the two mile,” he said.
“I would also definitely consider training for a marathon in the future. Otherwise, my focus is to help my high school team as best I can and win another state cross-country title next fall,” he said.
As sharp of mind as he is fleet of foot, Daniel was recently inducted into the National Honor Society.
Daniel, who has been running competitively since he was in eighth grade at Holmdel’s William R. Satz Middle School, credits cross-country with teaching him a valuable life lesson. “I learned that running, like many other endeavors, will only bring success through hard work. There are definitely days when I would rather be relaxing than running, especially in the winter. But I realize that I’m part of a team and that people depend on me.
“It is when I pull through and win that I truly feel the joy that running can bring.”
Daniel’s journey to the international games in July will mark his first visit to Israel, even though his father, Michael, was born there.
“We have some relatives living in Israel,” the youngster said, “and I am looking forward to connecting with them.”
The plan is for the entire Barlev family, including Daniel’s mother, Maria, and 14-year-old sister, Elana, to arrive a few days before the opening ceremony of the 19th Maccabiah Games on July 18, and to stay for the duration of the competition, which ends on July 30.
Currently, Daniel is working to raise the $8,000 contribution required of all Team USA members. His appeal is featured on the Maccabi USA website (see tinyurl.com/b73pr6s). Fund-raising efforts will also be made through his congregation, Temple Beth Ahm in Aberdeen. The Barlev family will make a major donation.
Daniel said he is looking forward to meeting his teammates on the USA squad. In Israel, his coach will be Rick Rothman, who has been guiding cross-country and track and field athletes at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, Fla., for almost a quarter of a century. The winner of more than 250 meets and holder of 88 coach-of-the-year awards, Rothman was inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006.
“I think our team has a good chance of doing well, although we don’t yet know much about the athletes coming from other parts of the world,” Rothman told NJJN in a phone interview.
Meanwhile, he added, “As always, the greatest benefit to members of the USA team is to experience Israel and its people, and the Games never fail to deliver on that promise.”