SUNY-Cobleskill national power in track

SUNY-Cobleskill has emerged as a national junior college power in track and field.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Testing itself constantly against Division I programs, SUNY-

Cobleskill is building a national reputation in track & field.

The Fighting Tigers are not only ranked No. 1 in the nation in the latest NJCAA women’s track poll, but they are also rated second in the country in men’s track.

The women’s program was national runner-up in both 2005 and 2007, and the men’s team finished third in the nation in 2005.

“These rankings put more pressure on me and the staff, but the kids realize what people expect from this program,” said sixth-year head track coach Brad Fitchorn.

“We want to be at least second or third in the nation every year.”

Fitchorn’s priority is reaching out to the best athletes he can find, and many of them are from the Capital Region.

“The big thing, of course, is recruiting,” he said. “We recruit the same kids that UAlbany recruits at the Division I level. We look at the high-end kids. We take whoever we can get, but we’re always looking for the best athletes available.”

The Fighting Tigers are currently competing in their last season at the NJCAA level. Next year, they move up to Division III. But Fitchorn has already competed against an upgraded schedule for several seasons.

“Our track schedule is tough,” he said. “We go to a lot of Division I meets. We start at Army, and we compete at Cornell, Colgate and Syracuse during the indoor season.”

Fitchorn’s two-year graduates often transfer to extremely competitive Division I programs. A great example is Jen Villanova from Shenendehowa, a national champ­ion in the long jump. Villanova will compete for UAlbany next year.

“When I recruit, we make a commitment on two ends,” Fitchorn explained. “We want the students to come here and help us win a national championship as a team. If they do that, and show committment and dedication to our program, I’ll help them to move on to a Division I program.

“The nice thing is that most of our athletes have bought into what we’re trying to do here. The kids get on each other to succeed. We may be a junior college, but we have kids who can compete on the upper levels right now. For example, Brad Boice, from Cambridge, won the 400 meters at the Army Invitational which included mostly Division I teams. We compete maybe four times a year against just junior colleges, but other than that, we compete against primarily four-year programs.”

The SUNY-Cobleskill roster is loaded with Capital Region standouts who have already qualified for the nationals. On the women’s team, Megan LaPoint (Colonie) will be a threat in the 10,000 and 5,000, while Villanova, a four-time

NJCAA All-American, will be a factor in the long jump and triple jump. Her sister, Angela, is a standout at 800 and 1,500 meters.

Alex Devine, from Berlin, is a middle to long distance runner who has qualified nationally in the 10,000 meters and steeplechase. Brittany Armstrong, a freshman from Mohonasen, qualified in the 1,600 relay.

On the men’s side, Eric Graber (Lansingburgh) was third at the nat­ionals in the 800 a year ago and is the defending regional champ at that distance. Dan Bulson (long distance runner) from Berlin, Nick O’Neil (800 and 1,500) from Ballston Spa and Tomas Velasquez (sprints) of Catskill are other strong local athletes on the Fighting Tigers’ roster.

WHAT THEY’RE DOING

u Amsterdam’s TJ Sumigray, a three-sport standout in golf, baseball and basketball for the Rams, will sign a national letter of intent to play golf at Saint Peter’s College.

u The Union men’s track team finished third in the Liberty League Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Saturday. Pat Cummings won the javelin, and Alex Coppola (Niskayuna) won the triple jump to lead the Dutchmen. The Union women finished fourth and were topped by Jen Merinder’s victory in the 100 meter hurdles.

u Union’s men’s and women’s crew teams swept RPI in all four races Saturday — the JV women’s eight, the JV men’s eight, the varsity women’s four and the varsity men’s eight.

u CSR junior pitcher Tracy

Chesebrough, from Duanesburg, has struck out nearly twice as many batters as any other pitcher in the Northeast-10 Conference. She has 117 strikeouts in 76.2 innings of work and is holding opponents to a .192 batting average. Chesebrough’s record is only 4-7, but she has a 2.11 ERA.

u CSR freshman Mike Allen posted the first hole-in-one in the team’s seven-year varsity history when he aced the 165-yard 15th hole at the Links at Sunset Ridge in Marcellus during first-round plaly at the Le Moyne Invitational.

u Saint Rose senior Brandon Birchak (Shaker) was named the Northeast-10 Conference Male Diving Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive season.

u Saint Rose senior guard Steve Dagostino (Guilderland) has been invited to participate in the Col­legiate Basketball Invitational April 24-April 26 in Wadsborth, Ohio. The eight-team tournament includes 65 players from NCAA

Division II, NCAA Division III and the NAIA levels.

u Albany Academy graduate Jordan DiNola, a senior defenseman at Navy, has been selected by Inside Lacrosse as a favorite to receive his third All-America recognition on Memorial Day weekend. DiNola is a major cog in Navy’s No. 1-ranked defense, which is allowing only 4.85 goals per game.

u Lindsey Heiser, a sophomore pitcher from Canajoharie, recently pitched a no-hitter as the Mohawk Valley Community College softball team blanked Herkimer County CC, 1-0, last week. She struck out eight and walked two.

u UAlbany freshman Brian Caufield was named both the America East Conference rookie of the week and the Lax.com’s Division I rookie of the week after he scored seven goals and added two assists in a

14-11 victory over Hartford.

u Laura Cummings, a junior on the UAlbany women’s track team, was named the America East Conference outdoor track performer of the week after finishing third in the 3,000 steeplechase at the Duke Asics Invitational. Her ECAC and NCAA qualifying time of 10:40.49 is the second-fastest in team history.

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