2014 Track & Field Preview: Back on Track

Successful fall cross-country and winter indoor track campaigns have translated into big increases in the number of athletes in the local track and field programs this spring.

The Broadalbin-Perth girls cross country team earned a top 10 finish at the state championship meet and were contenders in every indoor meet during the indoor track season. The interest carried over to this spring drawing more athletes to both the girls and boys squads.

“Over the past few years our biggest difficulty has been to be able to have the talent and depth to compete with the bigger teams in the Foothills Council and at sectionals,” Broadalbin-Perth coach Jeff Richards said. “We have had the talent, but quantity has been our weakness. In most events, we were able to enter only one athlete as opposed to the other teams that could enter two or three. These same athletes also regularly had to compete in a full slate of four events and do so against athletes from other schools that were fresh as they focused entirely on one event. Consequently, our lack of depth usually did not allow our athletes and team to truly achieve what they were capable of. Currently, we have 85 athletes on the varsity team and, more importantly we have 85 athletes who seem to really care. “

The Amsterdam boys and girls track and field teams swept the Big 10 championships last year and are poised to duplicate the feat in their final season as members of the conference before moving to the Foothills Council next year.

Reigning New York State 400-meter champion Izaiah Brown returns to the Rams’ lineup with his eye set on a repeat performance and dropping his school-record time of 47.20.

The Rams also sent their 1,600-meter relay team to the state championships in 2013; however, three members of the squad, John Hardies, Brett Stanavich and Anthony Stewart, graduated. The boys reloaded the team with Julian Gallup, Jared Gallup and Andrew Druziak joining Brown this winter to qualify for the indoor state championships.

Although Amsterdam won the league and several invitational titles last year, one title eluded them, a Section II championship. The Rams finished second to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in the Group 2 championships.

“The Amsterdam boys track team hopes to make another run at its first track and field sectional title in school history,” Rams varsity coach Kevin Wilary said. “The boys hard work during the indoor season and pre-season will help continue the recent success in the 2014 outdoor season.”

Being unable to field a girls lacrosse team or boys tennis team has proven to be a double-edged sword for the Johnstown track team.

Although some are sad the sports were dropped from the schedule, the athletes who were involved are not sitting still.

“It looks like it is going to be one of our best seasons in a long time,” JHS coach Allissa LaPort said. “Our numbers have tripled and the quality of athletes we have brought in is not only incredible but extremely promising. We had a huge turn out from athletes that participate in other sports in the fall and winter who have great athletic ability and raw talent. The athletes who came out this year are ready to work hard and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure we have a successful season. Our focus has been able to shift from individuals back to team, which has helped our program.”

A large turnout of experienced athletes has the Gloversville track coaches looking forward to the possibilities for the teams.

Chanel Thomas qualified in the pentathlon for the state and national championship meets last season and is comes into the spring season after qualifying for the state championship in three events – 55-meter hurdles, triple jump and long jump – this winter.

Also this winter, Michael Budka found success and made his first trip to the indoor state championships in the pole vault.

“This season looks to be a good one,” Gloversville coach Stephen Wendt said. “We have a lot of strong returning athletes and a lot of promising newcomers to both teams. All our coaches feel this will be a breakout year for the Gloversville men’s and women’s track teams. Overall, we are really excited and cannot wait for the season to start.”

The Fonda-Fultonville boys ran away with the Colonial Council championship last year and placed second at the Section II Group 3 championships. The Lady Braves also enjoyed success, placing second in the Colonial Council and third at sectionals.

Although the teams lost some key members to graduation, the returning athletes will keep the Braves and Lady Braves at the top of the league and sectional standings.

Lindsay Therrien returns to the Lady Braves lineup for her senior season with an eye on a third-straight trip to the state championship meet in the 100-meter hurdles.

Ryan Park earned a trip to the indoor state championships in the pole vault and is looking to duplicate the feat this spring.

“Good recruitment numbers combined with a very successful indoor season sets us up for a very good outdoor season,” Fonda-Fultonville coach Mike Benton said. “We expect to do well with both the boys and girls teams.”

The Canajoharie boys and girls teams found success last season and are looking to rise to the occasion again this season.

The Cougars posted a 6-2 record in dual-meet competition, but put it together to win the Western Athletic Conference championship meet. The Lady Cougars rolled to a perfect 8-0 record in dual-meet competition, but finished second to Middleburgh at the WAC championship meet.

“After the boys winning the league meet and the girl’s going undefeated in the dual-meet season and placing at sectionals, we expect every meet to be challenging this year,” Canajoharie coach Kevin Stuttle said. “We lost some key athletes from last year but have a great core of young talent and great upperclassmen leadership. We expect to go out and put forth our best effort every meet and continue to improve from the first meet through the state meet.”

Coach Brian Moore said the numbers are down slightly from last year for the combined Mayfield-Northville squad, but a solid core of returning veterans will have the team in the thick of the battle for a Western Athletic Conference title.

The team lost high-point scorers Tom McClellan, Brandon Smith and Sarah Montgomery to graduation, but return Sarah Dickey, Kaylee Bumpus, and Mary Ryan to the girls line up and standout Todd Briggs, who led the team’s scoring last year, to the boys side.

“Our numbers are down from last year with around 50 athletes this season,” Moore said. “We have a great mix of returning experience and newcomers. We also have brought in many new faces in the coaching staff with great experience and knowledge. We are very positive and excited about the possibilities this season and look forward to brighter weather.”

The Fort Plain Hilltoppers improved as the 2013 season moved along and veteran coaches Charlie Karker and Ed Duba hope are looking for the veteran squads to pick up where they left off.

Senior Jordan Ahrens is coming off a strong cross-country season that landed him a berth in the NYSPHSAA championship meet. He is joined by fellow upperclassmen Gene Ryan, Zach Florian and Austin Filmer.

On the girls side, 13 of the 21 athletes on the roster are returning veterans with no seniors.

“The newcomers bring some talent, which we hope balances well with the veterans so we have a complete team,” Karker said. “The veterans need to continue to develop as the season goes on picking up where they left off in 2013. We have a number of individuals who should be able to do well at invitational and championship meets.”

A big change that all teams in Section II will face this season is that all the group championships and the state qualifier meet will be run at the University at Albany.

Several classification championships and the state qualifying meet had been run for a number of years at Knox Field in Johnstown before the change.

The NYSPHSAA state championship meet will be run at Section III’s Cicero-North Syracuse High School on June 6 and 7.