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Monmouth contingent readies for Games
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Monmouth contingent readies for Games

Still kicking — and heading — at 47, soccer player Ian Grusd of Colts Neck is one of the older athletes set to represent the United States at Israel’s upcoming 19th Maccabiah Games.

Grusd will compete at the Masters Level, facing other athletes 40 and above from all around the globe.

He joins a number of other Monmouth County-based athletes — teenagers and young adults — participating in the quadrennial tournament, which gets under way July 17.

The local contingent includes: Laura Coyne of Freehold (open track and field), Jeffrey Morgan of Wall (juniors ice hockey), Shoshana Swell of Rumson (juniors swimming), and Zachary Weingarten of Morganville (juniors table tennis). Michael Bronstein of Freehold will participate as a trainer. (Nine additional Maccabiah athletes from Monmouth County have been profiled in previous issues of NJJN.)

A native of Cape Town, South Africa, Grusd is a 6'2″, 175-pound soccer player who attended Binghamton University, winning the NCAA New York State Championship in his senior year. “We were the number four ranked team in the United States,” he told NJJN via e-mail.

Currently a partner in a commercial real estate asset management firm based in Tinton Falls, Grusd said he has played soccer since he was seven. Now, four decades later, he credits Bert Locke, a coach from England, for helping him recognize the value of discipline, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to sportsmanship.

Noting that at the Maccabiah, the U.S. team will participate in “up to seven matches if we make the medal round,” Grusd said finding time to train is not easy when you’re “a business owner, husband, and father of three children.

“I start as early as 5:30 a.m. and train in rain, snow, and freezing temperatures,” he said.

Even though he didn’t know a single person on the U.S. Masters soccer team when the tryout process began, he now feels that he has “21 brothers with so much in common.” He is looking forward to playing under head coach Alan Bodenstein, an all-American at Hofstra University and a former professional player and coach who had stints with both the New York Arrows of the Major Indoor Soccer League and the New York Kick of the American Indoor Soccer Association.

Grusd said he was motivated to try out by his 17-year-old son Hunter, who played for the United States Junior Team at the 2012 Pan American Games in Brazil. “This will be my first visit to Israel,” said Grusd, “and I look forward to creating strong friendships with other Jewish athletes. For a number of years, I have been involved with Chabad of Northern Monmouth County, which is located in Colts Neck.”

Grusd said that in support of the master athlete’s “commitment to sponsor a youth athlete to participate in the games,” he is helping to raise funds for the Maccabiah Games through his home page.

Laura Coyne, 21, is a fourth-year student at Northeastern University in Boston, majoring in architecture. “I am a Deans Scholarship recipient,” she told NJJN.

“I started running in sixth grade when I joined my middle school’s track team. I tried to pick the event that involved the least amount of running, which led me to the long jump and the 100-meter dash,” she said.

Eleven years later, however, Coyne said she has embraced distance running and now focuses on the 800/1500-meter race.

This is not Coyne’s first visit to Israel. While there on a Birthright trip in 2011, she also was training for the indoor track season back home. “I had to continue running even though the group was on a strict schedule,” she recalled. “One of the excursions was a hike to the top of Masada; I chose to run up the mountain (to my group leader’s surprise), so that I could integrate my training with my Jewish experience.”

June 18 is an important day for Jeff Morgan. It’s when the Wall High School hockey player celebrates his 17th birthday and gets his driver’s license. A month later, he will be competing in Israel for the U.S. juniors hockey team.

But the joy will be tempered with sadness that his father, the late Dr. E. David Morgan, an area obstetrician/gynecologist for more than 20 years, won’t be there to share the experience.

“My father passed away Nov. 20, 2011,” said Jeff. “I miss him very much, but I know he would be happy that I am going to Israel to visit and to play hockey there.

“My mom will also be going, her first time, and my older sister also will be there cheering me on in the games.”

The teen, who also has three other siblings, said his athletic goals include winning a state championship at Wall High School, and then going on to become a scholarship athlete at a Division I college.

An honor roll student at Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School, Shoshana Swell is as at home in the water as she is on dry land. Competing since she was five, the 15-year-old swimmer (she turns 16 on June 30) has already made both short course and summer nationals in eighth grade, received a varsity letter as a high school freshman, and earned All-American honors for the YMCA and second team all-county and conference.

Noting that her best event is the 50-meter freestyle, Shoshana described her preparation regimen in an e-mail: “The night before a big event, I normally eat pasta. The next morning I normally eat a bagel and some kind of yogurt and cereal to take with me on the car ride to the pool. I try to get as much sleep as I can, because I become cranky and not motivated when I don’t. I like to be early to my swim meets and normally go up for my race very early; I make sure I don’t miss my event. Often, the day before an event, my team at Red Bank’s YMCA will hold double practices. For away meets, we like to get to the venue early so we can practice in it and get a feel for the different pool.”

Table tennis player Zachary Weingarten, 17, a straight A student at High Technology High School in Lincroft, also runs his own business, Prep U, which specializes in tutoring middle school and high school students in math.

“My entry into the world of table tennis was kind of a fluke,” Zachary told NJJN. “I was on a family vacation and we encountered rainy weather. So my cousin and I stayed inside a lot to play Ping-Pong. We played all weekend, and it sparked my interest. After researching to find a good table tennis center and repeatedly telling my parents that I wanted to play table tennis seriously, I finally began my lessons — at age 13! Within six months, I attended my first ranked competition, going up against athletes ranging in age from six to 60.”

Zachary said that a side benefit of playing table tennis is an opportunity to learn about a different culture. “The sport is dominated by Asian competitors so I have been exposed to a lot of new customs.”

According to Zachary, the major lesson he has learned from competing at a high level is to persevere when things go wrong. “After a bad tournament, I go home to analyze what I need to do to improve, and then I systematically follow the plan,” he said. Prior to the Maccabiah tryouts, he said, “I trained eight hours a day, six days a week for a full month.”

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