Gold rush: Local athletes rip it up at Maccabi Games

By the end of the month, even Antarctic explorers will know who Olympian Michael Phelps is. That being said, Michael Kvyat, Simon Iacob and Joceline Herman won more medals than he did.

At this year’s JCC Maccabi Games, that is.

The Palo Alto JCC trio — from San Francisco, Sunnyvale and Roseville, respectively — each took home a dozen medals in a bevy of swimming categories. Adam Fox of Hillsborough also came through with a fistful of medals.

Meanwhile, Jake Reingold of Berkeley, who competed for the JCC of San Francisco, pocketed three golds, two silvers and a bronze.

The games, held earlier this month in both Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio, went well for athletes from both Palo Alto’s Albert L. Schultz JCC and JCCSF, who turned in dominant performances.

Peter Pollat was as happy as any fan as he watched his under-16 Palo Alto boys basketball squad cruise to seven straight wins and a gold medal. For Pollat, a San Francisco dermatologist and assistant coach at Riordan High, it was the fourth-straight Maccabi gold captured by his squads, which have rolled out 28 consecutive Maccabi wins.

"It was wonderful. They were fun to watch and fun to coach," he said.

The coach chalked up the keys to victory as "our guards and pressure defense. We played wonderful defense, which we stressed when we were practicing. We played great man-to-man. Up until the final we had allowed only two teams to score over 30 points. We beat Omaha, and they scored 20, maybe 23 points. One game against Baltimore, we were ahead 46-16 at the half."

Four of Pollat’s starters had varsity experience at the high school level, and a number had played for his previous medal-winning teams. He handed out kudos to his entire squad, but he singled out Peter Gierlach of Moraga, David Liss of San Francisco, David Ostrow of Sunnyvale and 6-foot-4 center Ari Ben-Avram of Berkeley as his most solid tournament performers.

After winning its first six games by no fewer than 19 points, the Bay Area squad finally met a competitive opponent in the final. The Miami squad hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime, taking a four-point lead with 40 seconds to go.

Gierlach nailed a pair of free throws, then rebounded a Miami miss, absorbed a foul and knocked down two more to tie the game. After a Miami timeout, Pollat called for a full-court press, which paid off as Gierlach stole the ball in the backcourt and hit a layup while being fouled.

He missed the ensuing free throw, but Liss ripped down the board and sunk two free throws, sealing a 57-53 win. Gierlach turned in a Pete Maravich-like performance, accounting for more than half of his team’s total with 30 points.

"Peter and David will both be stars on the high school level here," predicted Pollat of his stars, who attend Campolindo and Branson high schools, respectively.

It was a crowded podium for Bay Area basketballers, as the JCCSF’s U-16 squad took the bronze.

In other events:

• On the soccer pitch, the Palo Alto boys U-14 and U-16 teams and the girls U-14 all earned silver medals, as did the San Francisco U-16 girls.

• On the diamond, the Palo Alto U-16 baseball team captured a bronze.

• In the gym, the inaugural San Francisco girls U-16 volleyball team earned a bronze medal.

• Matt Soloman of Los Gatos notched a gold and a bronze on the tennis court, while his sister, Jamie, took home a silver; both are with the Palo Alto team. On the San Francisco side, Julia Leonard took silver for U-14 girls, and Jennifer Goldman won the U-16 singles, sweating out a two-hour final in 102-degree heat. Alex Koltyar took a gold in U-16 doubles and a silver in singles.

• Brenner Gerry of San Carlos aced the links for a gold medal in Boys U-16 golf while Rachel Moll of Los Altos came away with a bronze; both played for Palo Alto. San Francisco’s Daniel Feldman drove his way to a silver and a bronze.

• On the track, competing for Palo Alto, Elliot Wainess of Piedmont sprinted to a 200-meter gold and picked up a silver in the 4×400 in the U-14 division, while Hannah Lane of Middletown took home gold in the girls U-16 mile with a 6:47 time, and also competed in the tennis competition.

• The JCCSF’s dance squad is turning out to be the most dominant dancing dynasty since the halcyon days of Arthur Murray. The team racked up six golds, three silvers and a bronze, and won the group Israeli dance category.

In addition to their athletic endeavors, coaches and participants also found the time to pitch in for charity, crafting care packages for the homeless, hospitalized children and soldiers and baking dog biscuits for local animal shelters.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.