During the 1970’s, the Bennett H.S. Cross Country and Track & Field teams won their first-ever Section VI titles, to go along with the city championships they routinely won. It was because of athletes like Mike Austin that these team accomplishments were achieved.
Within the first few months of his freshman year, Mike began to establish himself as a quality runner by winning his first varsity letter in cross country, and finishing 4th in the Freshman All-High race. He achieved these two feats even though he didn’t actually go out for cross country until after the season started. Over the next three and a half years Mike produced one of the great running careers in Bennett H.S. history. After completing his freshman year, lettering in track & field, Mike began his sophomore cross country season strong. He was a top 5 finisher in each of the league meets, and won the first of his 8 All-High medals with a fourth place finish in the All High Meet. The following spring Mike became the city’s top miler, a title he would maintain for the next three years. His junior year he again established All-High in cross country finishing 3rd in the 1976 All-High Meet. Mike repeated as the top miler in track, and added a first place finish as anchor man in the 2 mile relay.
Finally in his senior year, Mike established himself as the city’s top distance runner when he finished first in the 1977 All-High cross country meet. In the spring of his senior year he successfully defended his one mile and 2 mile relay titles.
In addition to the championships in cross country and track, Mike was a big contributor to the 1 99 consecutive wins the Bennett tracksters achieved in city school competion over a 15 year period. In his senior year Mike was also an important role player on the 1977-78 varsity basketball team that won the Section VI, Class B title.
Mike comes from a very athletic family. His father, the late Harvey Austin, is a member of the Buffalo Sports Hall Of Fame. His sisters Charisse and Jackie were also fine athletes at Bennett, excelling in volleyball and track & field. After high school, Mike attended the U. of Ottawa in Kansas. He retired after twenty years of service to Niagara Mohawk/National Grid. Mike Austin is currently working as a youth counselor and mentor for the Buffalo Employment Training Center, and still resides with his family in Buffalo.
Roberts’ resume in his cross country and track career at Bennett is punctuated with team championships, individual records ,All-Highs, All-WNY and even a state championship. Rob was an All-High cross country runner for 3 years, Section VI, Class “B” individual champion once, and individual N.Y.State Class “B” Champion in 1 989. Rob led Bennett’s Cross Country team to the 1 ranking in W.N.Y. in 1989, unprecidented for a city school in cross country.
The story in track is very much the same. Three undefeated “Scalp & Blade” championship squads. Rob was a three time All-High in the 1600 meter run, setting a league record of 4:20 sec., as well as a member of the All-High 1600 meter and 3200 meter relay teams. In the sunner of 1989, Rob was the Empire State Games 1500 meter champion of the scholastic division.
NOTE – unfortunately, although a fairly recent graduate, we couldn’t trace Rob beyond college in Rochester, N.Y. Our committee would welcome any information about Rob’s whereabouts since he left college.
N.Y. State Senator Antoine Thompson was a two sport “All-High” athlete at Bennett. Antoine ran for the 1986 “Columbia Cup” cross country champion squad, and was an “All-High” selection on the 1987 squad with a 4th place finish in the All High meet. Additionally, he was captain of the Cross-Country Team in 1987 and Co-Captain of the Track Team in 1988. In track Antoine was a two time All-High performer in his senior year in the 880 yard run, and the two mile relay team. The Tigers captured the “Scalp & Blade” trophy as track champions during all of Antoine’s 3 year varsity career, a streak that would reach a 15 year run as undefeated track champions.
In his post high school years Antoine competed in track and cross country at Brockport State College, 1 year in cross country, and two years in track. Antoine later turned to politics, where he won a seat on the Buffalo Common Council, and later ran and won a race for State Senator. That seat was vacated by Byron Brown, who became Mayor Byron Brown of the City of Buffalo.
Bryan was a standout athlete on the Cross Country and Track teams during his four year career at Bennett HS. Bryan was All-High In Cross Country three times, placing 3rd as a sophomore, winning the title as a junior, and 2nd as a senior, even though he was hampered that season by illness.
As a freshman, Bryan won the freshman league title and set the freshman record for the race. In Bryans’ sophomore year he qualified for the National AAU Cross Country race in Raleigh NC, finishing 27th in his age group in the country. His junior year was Bryan’s best. Bryan twice broke the course record during that season, bettering it by an amazing 30 seconds. Bryan seldom had any runners within 150 yards of him that season, capping it off with a win in the All-High Championship. Bryan finished the WNY Regional meet in 2nd place, at that time, the best finish ever by a Buffalo Public High School runner.
Bryan led the Cross Country team to undefeated Columbia Cup seasons during his junior and senior years, with the team winning the Section A championship his senior year, a feat never before accomplished by a city high school. Bryans’ accomplishments in Track were no less impressive. He won consecutive 2 mile All-High Championships as a junior and senior, going undefeated in the 2 mile those years in City High School competition. Bryan set the Nicholls Track Invitational Meet 2 mile record his junior year. He helped lead the Bennett Track team to four straight undefeated Scalp and Blade championship seasons. The team won the Class BB sectional championship his junior year.
Bryans’ proudest achievement is that during his 8 varsity letter seasons in Cross Country and Track, his Bennett teams won 6 League championships, going undefeated in those championship seasons in City competition. Scholastically, Bryan was a member of the Student Council, National Honor Society, and a Regents Scholarship winner. Bryan attended SUNY at Buffalo, receiving a BS in Physical Education in 1981 . Knee and ankle injuries kept Bryan from continuing his running career at SUNYAB, but he did run in an occasional local race, such as the annual Buffalo Turkey Day race. Bryan now lives in Rural Hall North Carolina, where he is the Safety Manager for Sonoco CorrFlex’s, Rural Hall Plant. Bryan has two sons, Keith 23, and Justin 18.
After 8 years of dialysis, Bryan received a Kidney transplant in 2001 and urges everyone to become an organ donor.
Mary Evanco was a ground breaking athlete at Bennett H.S. who excelled in three sports during the pre-Title IX era of 1972 – 1976. This was quite an achievement for a time when there were no all girls interscholastic teams funded by the Board of Education in the Buffalo Public High Schools until her senior year.
Mary broke a barrier by becoming the first girl to make Bennett’s all male cross country team in her sophomore year. She was one of the top girl runners in the city and was the first and only girl to make All-High from Bennett in 1974 by finishing in 2nd place in the entire city among girls.
Mary also played two seasons of basketball. In her freshman year Mary was a contributing forward on an “unrecognized” team, with the only undefeated season in the school (12 – 0). In her senior year, she again played as a forward on the basketball team. This was part of the girls sports program, and she earned a varsity letter for basketball. This team went on to win the Buffalo City Championship against East H.S.
Mary also played volleyball for two seasons in the girls sports program. she led Bennett to an undefeated season and the League 1 championship for the City of Buffalo in December 1975. For that she earned another varsity letter and the Buffalo Evening News “Girl Athlete of the Week”. She began playing in junior high school at PS #22 and was on the winning team at several annual Erie County Tournaments, including years when Bennett had no team. She played on many “mens power teams” during high school with men who were at a collegiate or older level. Mary received a full academic/athletic scholarship to attend SUNY at Buffalo (the first year that SUNY schools offered women athletic scholarships). After college Mary continued to play and was a member of the bronze medal Western New York Empire State volleyball team in 1981 . Mary was awarded Bennett’s “Outstanding Female Athlete Award” in 1976.
Academically, Mary finished 11th in a class of over 500 students, and won numerous awards while at Bennett, including Bennett’s “Mathematics Award” at graduation. She was a member of the National Honor Society and a New York State Regents Scholarship winner.
After graduation from college, Mary continued long distance running, including road races and one full marathon.