Daniel Hamilton seemed to come out of nowhere this past season. And perhaps no one was more surprised at his emergence than Kennedy gymnastics coach Robert Colon.
It was the Public School Athletic League individual gymnastics championships last February, and Colon — looking for that elusive city title — decided he’d roll the dice on Hamilton coming up big in his individual performance. It was a huge gamble, but a winning one, as Hamilton and the Knights emerged as big winners.
“The shocker of that day was Daniel Hamilton on the high bar,” Colon said. “I changed his routine a couple of days before the meet, adding some higher-level skills. I took a risk with him. It was do or die. And he wound up winning the high bar event doing the skills he had learned for the first time ever. It was really something.”
Hamilton was also a vital cog on a rejuvenated Knights boys volleyball team that, prior to his arrival two years before, endured an 0-10 season. With Hamilton aboard, JFK posted back-to-back 6-4 campaigns along with a pair of PSAL playoff berths.
It made for some very special memories that Hamilton will take with him to college and beyond.
“The high bar was my main event, my favorite event, and I was hoping I could win the city championship in my final year,” Hamilton said. “I was going up against the guy who won it the year before, and I really wanted to beat him. So I went up there and was confident and just did (my routine) and I ended up winning. It was a great day.”
But even though Hamilton was pivotal in returning the Knights boys volleyball team to league prominence, the hopes of winning a second PSAL title in his final year just wasn’t in the cards. And that still sticks with Hamilton.
“Honestly our season should not have ended like it did,” he said. “ We were supposed to go really far this season. We were supposed to make it to at least the third or fourth round, but really I thought we could actually win it all this year. There was no way we should have been eliminated in the first round. It still bothers me.”
But what irks Hamilton even more was his lack of discipline in the classroom in his early days at Kennedy.
It’s a mistake he looks to rectify now.
“I started out in school not so well, so my grades weren’t that good in my freshman and sophomore years,” Hamilton said. “I really didn’t have that many options for college, so in the fall I’m going to” Borough of Manhattan Community College.
“I got financial aid, and it will cover the whole two years I’ll be there,” he added. “So I thought, why not go there? They have the major that I want, so it made sense.”
Hamilton wants to pursue a degree in computer science and software engineering, but will look to earn that at another college after his two years at BMCC, like maybe at a SUNY school.
“I don’t know which one yet,” he said, “but I have time to figure that out.”
What he has figured out is that gymnastics and volleyball will not be a part of his college experience at BMCC. That’s because he plans to remain focused on his studies.
“After my two years at BMCC, I’ll continue playing volleyball again,” Hamilton said. “But most colleges don’t have a gymnastics team, so I won’t be continuing with that. But I’ll really miss it a lot because I enjoyed it so much.”
So much so that it remains his fondest moment from his Kennedy years.
“Winning the gymnastics championship was special to me,” Hamilton said. “We were all trying our best all season, but it was still a surprise when we won it. I had only been in the sport for two years, but the season before last we had a lot of seniors who were very good, and they just motivated us to do well.
“So we wanted to be like they were, and we wanted to win that championship. And we went out and did it.”
And although he won’t partake in sports for the next couple of seasons, Hamilton has a plan to stay close to volleyball in the meantime.
“I’d like to come back to Kennedy and help coach the volleyball team,” he said. “I’d like to come back and help them get better and maybe compete for another title.
“Coaching? Yeah, that would be fun.”