By Mitch Silver

A lot of things have to come together for a Rye High student-athlete to win a New York State championship in sports. If you’re a quarterback, the whole football team has to be good enough to make it to the Carrier Dome and win a couple of games there. Same, of course, goes for all the team sports. May’s honoree for the Rye Lions Club Athlete of the Month award hasn’t merely won a State title, he’s won one in back-to-back years. His name is John Dailey, he’s captain of the men’s varsity crew, and he’s one of the best rowers Rye High has ever produced.

This month, John and his lightweight foursome plus coxswain not only repeated as New York’s best, but they beat the second-pace team by a 100-meter margin, with the fastest row in the 1,500-meter race’s recorded history. And it would have beaten the 2017 heavyweight champions by five full seconds if they’d raced side by side.

As the boat’s stroke, John sets the pace for the rest of the team. You could say he does the same on land, recording a 95 GPA while carrying the following AP courses: World History, U.S. History, U.S. Government and Politics, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Calculus AB, Literature & Composition, and Language & Composition. He will be studying at Boston College in the fall. “It’s a Jesuit school, and they really value the liberal arts there. I want a wide-ranging curriculum, and that’s exactly what they offer.”

John credits his teachers — Mr. Kelly, Mr. Teisch, and Mr. Zung — with mentoring him in the classroom. And he credits his coach, Stanley Nelson, for guiding his success in his sport. “I was a scrawny kid. I don’t know what the coach saw in me.”

Coach Nelson is clear about what he saw.

“Even as a freshman, John showed leadership and competitiveness, constantly raising the bar ever higher for himself and his teammates. He understood early that his calling was to be a lightweight rower, and he spent all of his freshman and sophomore years building his strength and endurance.

“He has been both the emotional and the ‘on the water’ leader of the boats that have qualified for Youth Nationals each year since he was a sophomore.  A team captain for two years, he’s a student of rowing. John researches the crews we race, knows the coaches and studies the techniques they teach, and follows the champions in the sport, emulating their behavior. 

The award for May, given jointly by the Lions and the Rye High Athletic Department, qualifies John to join the other monthly winners in the race for Athlete of the Year, an honor that will be announced next month at a dinner at The Osborn.

Before that night, there’s still the SRAA Nationals in Camden this weekend, and U.S. Rowing’s Youth Championships down in Florida in two weeks. So he just might walk into The Osborn with even more gold in his pocket.