By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
George Constantino was born in Buffalo, New York, in January 1939. After finishing high school, he attended the State University of New York at Cortland and he graduated in 1961 with a degree in physical education.
He started his professional career as a physical education teacher in the Syracuse City schools in 1961, and taught at Ed Smith and H.W. Smith Elementary Schools, before settling in at Nottingham High School. Besides teaching physical education, Constantino, fondly known as Mr. C., also coached gymnastics, football, basketball, cross-country and track and field.
Constantino's athletes won numerous City League and County League titles, as well as sectional team and individual championships. Nottingham girls cross-country team won the New York State championship in 1975 and 1978, and the Eastern States Championship in 1975, 1976 and 1978. His girls' 4x400 relay team also set the Section 3 outdoor record of 3:58. Nottingham State champions under Constantino included Jerry Scholder in the 2-mile run in 1976, Janeen Bonner in the triple jump in 1984, Allison Dupree in the hurdles in 1985 and 1987, and Bill Rathbun in the mile in 1986.
Noted for his gruff demeanor and no-nonsense coaching style, he gained the respect and admiration of his athletes. Constantino was also noted for his sense of humor. In 1979, he gave Corcoran coach and former Constantino runner John Hohm a check for $19.23 as a wedding gift, to remind Hohm, whose boys' team had just won the State cross-country championship, of Nottingham's winning score against Corcoran in a duel meet earlier in the season.
Both Hohm and current Nottingham coach Dan Pusey credit Constantino's inspiration for their decisions to pursue teaching and coaching careers.
Constantino's involvement with athletics extended to the community. He was active in the Syracuse Chargers youth program in the mid-seventies, was a founder of the Syracuse Track Club in 1977 and a recipient of the YMCA's Annual Fitness Award.
Constantino died in May 1987 after suffering a heart attack in class. His former athletes and the Syracuse Track Club honor his memory by continuing the Tuesday night summer runs that he had started at Nottingham High School and by awarding the annual Constantino Scholarships.
The Constantino Scholarships are intended to assist the recipients to continue their academic and athletic development in college. Criteria considered in awarding these scholarships include athletic and academic record and potential, financial need, community service, character, dedication and work ethic.
In 1998, applications were received from students in Onondaga, Madison, Oswego, Cayuga and Cortland counties. The recipients were Rachel Gregg of Sandy Creek High School and David Austin of Fabius-Pompey High School.
Rachel Gregg distinguished herself at Sandy Creek through a strong work ethic that resulted in success both in the classroom and on the track. She ranked in the top ten percent of her class, was president of the student council and was active in many extracurricular and community activities. In athletics, she was twice the captain of the cross-country team and received an award for the most improved athlete.
Gregg plans to attend SUNY Cobbleskill to study chemistry and run on the Running Tigers cross-country team. Her postgraduate plans include a medical research career in the area of AIDS.
David Austin was Fabius-Pompey's team captain in his senior year, and received the most valuable athlete award and the coaches award. His dedication to running was evident, and he sought training opportunities beyond his school. As a junior, he joined and trained with the Syracuse Chargers Track Club. As a senior, he trained with the Fayetteville- Manlius track team.
Austin plans to attend Ashland University in Ohio to study physical education and athletic training, and run cross-country and track.
Gregg and Austin were honored at an informal ceremony preceding the July 21 Tuesday night Constantino run.
Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at email@example.com.