ESPN considers producing documentary about cross country team


Adin Halbfinger

Members of the cross country team begin their practice on Sept. 7, 2022.

Aaron Waldman, Sports Editor

The CESJDS cross country team may soon be sharing their story with millions of viewers across the world. Television network ESPN is considering making a documentary feature about the team’s path to extraordinary success despite the challenges they have faced along the way. 

After starting to get to know the team, ESPN Associate Producer Harry Hawkings will gather his notes and develop a story structure for the five to 15-minute documentary feature. Once approved, filming will be in October and November. Hawkings wants the air date to be around Passover in order to make the story more relevant. 

“I think what’s really appealing about it is that it’s something everybody can relate to,” Hawkings said. “I think everybody struggles in life with religion, sports and what it means to be a part of a team.”

Cross country head coach Jason Belinkie had been in communication with the Kennedy/Marshall Production Company for more than a year before being put in contact with Hawkings.

If released, this documentary feature will put JDS and its other teams in the public eye. Belinkie believes that showing the team’s success will serve as a great recruitment tool for prospective students who want to excel in sports and go to a Jewish community school.

“I hope [the documentary feature] captures all the amazing things that our team has accomplished over the years,” Belinkie said. “I hope that it showcases how much our runners have to go through to achieve the things that they’re striving for.”

The cross country team not only has to go through the usual injuries and struggles any cross country team faces, but also the challenge of competing as Jewish athletes. Because some meets occur on Saturdays or other Jewish holidays like Sukkot, runners have to decide whether to race or opt out, depending on their personal beliefs.

Senior Oliver Ferber was one such athlete who faced that dilemma over the private school state championships last year, which were held on a Saturday. Ultimately, Ferber decided not to compete. 

“It comes to a lot of talking through it, understanding each other and accepting reality,” Ferber said.

Despite the adversity, the team has managed to win two private school state championships in the past five years. The private school state championships were previously held on Saturdays, but fortunately for the team, the meet will be held on Sunday this year due to the efforts of Belinkie and Ferber, so runners like Ferber could compete.

“Our dedication to the team and to the sport is pretty important and pretty valuable,” junior team member Ethan Safra said. “…This [documentary feature] is just another thing that will bring us together.”