Souleymane Fall speaks three languages, excels in two sports and is now the proud owner of a school record from Bergenfield.
Fall, a senior sprinter, won the league title at the Far North Championships in the 200 meters with a school and personal best time of 21.86.
That time, which was nearly better than his previous personal best of a full second, got Fall thinking now about the running track in college.
“I’m relatively young,” said Fall, who turns 17 next week. “I’m graduating a year earlier than most people in my class, so that scared me, and when I looked at the college sprinter times, I didn’t know if I could reach that level. Now I know if I work hard enough I can make it with these guys.
Fall was born in Jersey City, but moved to his native Senegal when he was 3 years old. His family took him back to Bergenfield for high school, but he speaks lovingly of his home and family there. His name, one of the best in the history of North Jersey athletics, comes from his grandfather and he says it means man of peace.
In Senegal, the main sport is football, and that is what Fall has practiced all his life. He was a Bears forward, scoring nine goals last fall. He still plays club football.
On a whim, he and some of his friends joined the Bears track team in his sophomore year. It was mainly to stay in shape for football.
But slowly, track started to become important to Fall, and he realized that skill translates from sport to sport.
“In football the most important part is your legs, you need your legs to run,” Fall said. “Obviously it’s the same for the track.”
He sticks to sprints, joking that running more than 400 meters exhausts him.
“Even the 400, I hate doing it, but it’s something I’m not too bad at,” Fall said. “I’m pretty lazy, I used to sit in my room and think I was just going to get better.”
At the Far North Championships, Fall was thinking about the sprint sensation of St. Peter’s Prep Fitzroy Ledgister and how he could keep up with him.
“He’s probably the main reason I was able to run so fast,” Fall said. “He beat me the last time I ran him. He ran a flat 22 and I ran like a 22.6.
Fall and his coach thought he could hit around 22.4, or maybe 22.2 in the 200m, but during the race Fall saw the clock at 15 seconds into the turn and it suddenly all came together. He focused on his stride, lifting his knees (you don’t do that in football, so it’s a habit he’s trying to break) and pushing himself to the finish.
“It all happened so fast,” Fall said. “I kept telling myself that if I didn’t break the school record or set a better time, I would drop out of the track. … I didn’t think so, but I was inspired by it.
Fall was excited when he saw the time, knowing he had broken the school record and possibly changed the course of his life.
Fall of Souleymane
The school: Bergenfield
To classify: Senior. Age: 16
Achievement: Set a new school record at the Far North Championships in the 200 meters with a time of 21.86.
Also nominated: Ryan Burke of Glen Rock, Evan Meberg of Bogota, Frank D’ercole of Old Tappan and Trey Packen of Wood-Ridge for basketball; Tyson Lowe of Fort Lee, Sean Fortunato of Ridgewood, Jacob Heredia of Clifton, Connor Munson of Westwood and Zach Madison of Northern Highlands for athletics; Constantinos Raftis of Tenafly for ice hockey; and Mathew Carvajal of Bogota/Ridgefield Park for wrestling.