Indoor track: Rams hope to bring home relay gold

For the past few seasons, the Amsterdam High School boys’ track program could always expect to be a

For the past few seasons, the Amsterdam High School boys’ track program could always expect to be a contender at the state championships, indoor or outdoor.

That’s senior Izaiah Brown’s effect on the program. Brown has won three solo state championships between his exploits in the 300- and 400-meter dashes, plus he anchored the school’s winning 4×400-meter relay team at last June’s outdoor championships. That relay victory came after a pair of unsuccessful performances at the preceding indoor and outdoor championships.

As expected, the Amsterdam relay team is headed to the indoor state championships Saturday at Cornell University as one of the favorites. Ranked No. 7 in the country, though, this year’s relay squad has taken on a much different look than expected at the beginning of the season, as a career alternate and running newcomer have joined relay stalwarts Brown and fellow senior David Graveley in the team’s lineup.

“Our team is definitely not what we expected,” said Graveley. “But it’s about starting fresh.”

The Rams entered this indoor season expecting Brown and Graveley to serve as the relay’s bookends, but there was an open competition among a handful of athletes for the remaining two spots. Juniors Gabe Fernandez and Omahri Sturdivant won those positions after a spirited competition, and coming from different backgrounds.

Fernandez was an alternate for the past few Amsterdam relays, starting when he was a freshman. In the past, Fernandez had competed primarily at longer distances, but the junior worked during the past year to become more of a sprinter.

“I’m so proud of him,” said Brown. “He’s put his heart and soul into every workout we’ve done.”

“I feel like I’m a big boy now, competing with the top guys,” said Fernandez. “I finally made it.”

For a while, Sturdivant has been one of Amsterdam’s top athletes — but in jumping events. The junior is one of Section II’s best at the long jump and triple jump, and will compete at the state championships in the latter.

Sturdivant started to develop as a short sprinter last spring before getting his big break earlier this season when Amsterdam needed an extra runner for its relay entry at the Armory Track Invitational in late January.

“Coach took a big chance with taking me to the Armory,” said Sturdivant, who rewarded boys’ head coach Kevin Wilary with a split of 52.11 seconds to help Amsterdam to a season-best mark of 3:20.66 seconds.

That time has Amsterdam as a No. 3 seed for Saturday’s state championships — and only 0.31 seconds off the seed time for the No. 1 seed. The opportunity to have a couple of teams to chase will be a unique one for Amsterdam; at the Section II state qualifier meet, only Bethlehem elected to run a foursome against the Rams’ powerhouse relay, leaving Amsterdam to essentially jog its way to a time of 3:46.36 seconds — almost 14 seconds better than Bethlehem.

Boys’ competition will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, followed by the girls at 2 p.m.

Section II has a number of top-10 seeds in several girls’ field events, led by Grace Smith of Bethlehem and Jillian Shippee of Shenendehowa.

Smith is No. 4 in the high jump (5-6) and the event’s defending public school champion. Sam Hjelmar of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake placed third a year ago, and is entered with a No. 10 seed (tied at 5-4).

Shippee and Leah Moran of Holy Names are both high seeds in two events, with Shippee No. 4 in the shot put (42-8 3⁄4) and No. 3 in the weight throw (48-8 1⁄4).

Moran is an outdoor state champion in the jumps, and is entered at No. 3 in the triple (38-11 1⁄2) and No. 5 in the long (18-6).

Categories: High School Sports

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