By Eli Ruiz
FALLSBURG June 17, 2005 Fallsburgs Darnell Owens is a great guy.
He is a great athlete, great student and a role model for others.
The problem is that Darnell Owens, a senior at Fallsburg High School who will be graduating next week, wasnt always all of these things.
Owens story is one of change and determination. It is also a story of loss and heartache.
Changes are what have made Owens the person he is today, and these changes began to take shape in 2003 when Owens, who has always kept in shape, was working out in the gym and Fallsburg Central School Resource Officer and varsity track coach Ed Liotard told him, youre running track.
And, as Owens puts it, that was it.
The next couple of years have cemented a clear path for Owens future.
Owens says that he never got the idea to play any organized scholastic sports even though he would spend much of his free time on Fallsburgs basketball courts playing street ball. He had never played an organized sport until Liotard saw the potential in Owens and demanded that he join the Comets track team.
Owens took to track, a sport of mostly individual events, mostly because as he puts it, people like Felicia Strauss and Doug Novogrodsky [who] made it feel like the ultimate team sport.
(Novogrodsky and Strauss, both of whom were members of the Fallsburg Class of 2004, were two of Owens track teammates that spring.)
They, along with Coach Liotard, pushed and encouraged me when things really got tough out there, Owens said.
Losses are what have shaped Owens character.
His mother, who raised him by herself passed away two years ago, and the 18-year-old uses this loss as inspiration for everything he does.
Im just glad my mom can look down and see the good things that are happening now, Owens said. I just remember how bad I was in 10th grade, and how one day she said, OK Darnell, its time to buckle down.
Those words of wisdom were certainly not lost on Owens. He has been on the honor roll ever since, maintaining an 85 average.
Another tragedy that has greatly affected Owens, possibly even more than the loss of his mother, is the plight of his older brother, Korey.
Korey Owens was a sports star at Fallsburg and had a bright future ahead of him. But three-and-a-half years ago Korey began to experience headaches and sinus problems. Doctors at Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris said he had a sinus infection. As it turns out, what Korey had was a severe brain aneurysm which has turned his life upside down.
Korey now resides in a care facility in the Albany area and is confined to a wheelchair. He also has vision problems and has no feeling in his right side.
He was unable to graduate with his class. However, he still earned his diploma last year in a show of his determination to achieve regardless of circumstance.
This same determination is what Darnell speaks of most when he speaks of the effect that all of this has had on him.
When I see what my brother has done with all of the problems he has had, it puts things into perspective for me, he said. Who am I to complain?
Although Owens began his track career at Fallsburg later than some of his teammates, he regularly participated in five events high jump, long jump, 100 meters, 200 meters and 4X100 relay over the past two seasons. He qualified for the Section IX Class C/D championships in 2004 and 2005 in both the 100- and 200-meter events.
This fall, Darnell is headed to Thompson-Cortland College. He plans to stay there for one year and raise his GPA so he can transfer to ether Syracuse University or Marist College.
Of course, Owens is the first to deflect the credit for all of his successes onto others. Darnell said he would like to thank Tarra Strauss, biology teacher and assistant track coach, Mary Perkins, senior class guidance counselor, Larry Schaffman, Public Relations Director for FCS, and of course, Liotard, whom Owens calls, my second father.