Leap at finish line gives Tooker gold

All Saratoga Springs junior distance runner Aidan Tooker needed was a leap of faith to capture a stu
Aidan Tooker of Saratoga Springs, center, stands on the podium with runner-up Mike Brannigan of Northport, left, and Jeremy Spiezio of Greenwich after winning the 3,200 at the New York State indoor track championships Sunday at Cornell University
Aidan Tooker of Saratoga Springs, center, stands on the podium with runner-up Mike Brannigan of Northport, left, and Jeremy Spiezio of Greenwich after winning the 3,200 at the New York State indoor track championships Sunday at Cornell University

Categories: High School Sports

All Saratoga Springs junior distance runner Aidan Tooker needed was a leap of faith to capture a stunning state track championship victory.

Tooker’s last-second jump at the finish line was good enough to edge Mike Bran­nigan of Northport and win the gold medal in the 3,200-meter run at the New York State high school indoor track championships Saturday at Cornell University’s Barton Hall.

Tooker, seeded seventh, won with a time of 9:05.47, the second-best time ever run by a Section II athlete. The third-seeded Brannigan’s time was 9:05.50.

Brannigan had his arms lifted for what he thought was a victory. But he may not have seen Tooker make his jump at the finish. As he did, Tooker fell to the ground, and came up a champion.

“It was unreal,” Tooker said. “I knew I was kind of closing the gap, and I knew it was going to be so close. I wasn’t going to regret it, so I gave it everything I had.

“It took a little bit of a leap, but I got it.”

Tooker ran in second for most of the race, but with four laps to go, he took the lead.

“I didn’t really try to push the pace,” Tooker said. “It was more comfortable there, less people there. I just tried to stay as relaxed as possible, knowing the last few laps were going to be really fast.”

As the bell sounded for the final lap, Brannigan regained the lead to set up the mad dash to the finish.

“I just decided to push it as much as I could and hold my ground, and even try to close it back up,” Tooker said. “I didn’t find out that I had won until I was [at the media table]. It was just spectacular.”

Tooker called it the biggest victory of his career.

“It was an incredibly loaded field,” Tooker said. “A bunch of great guys. A bunch of guys I’m very familiar with. I just did what I usually do. I just ended up being close at the end. I just gave it everything that I had.”

Greenwich senior Jeremy Spiezio, who was seeded second, finished third with a time of 9:07.27.

Shenendehowa’s 3,200-meter relay team, ranked second in the country, took the gold medal ahead of No. 1-ranked Arlington in 7:56.72. Arlington’s time was 8:00.26.

Arlington beat Shenendehowa at the Millrose Games. The teams will meet against next week at the New Balance National Indoor Championships.

“They ran tough today,” Shenendehowa coach Lance Jordan said. “We knew it was going to be a big battle with Arlington. It was a pre-race for nationals, I guess. They [the Plainsmen] wanted to win a state title. None of them won a state title before.”

Shenendehowa senior Shawn Bleichert got the gold medal for the public school in the 55 hurdles with a time of 7.47. For the Federation championships, he earned silver. Sidney Gibbons of Monsignor McClancy got the gold for the Federation in 7.32.

“It feels great,” Bleichert said. “Last year, I was unable to participate in the indoor at states. It was really for stupid reasons. I told myself, ‘Next year, I’m coming back and I’m coming back strong.’ I’m glad I did.”

Shaker junior Ronel Forde won gold in the public school division of the triple jump with a leap of 48-2 1⁄2, which was 1 1⁄2 feet over his previous best and puts him fifth on the all-time Section II list. He won silver in the Federation, as Archbishop Malloy’s Jared Lovelace had a jump of 50-4 1⁄2.

Colonie junior Jacob Johnson won the silver medal in the 1,000-meter run with a time of 2:28.78, coming out of the second heat.

“I feel good,” said Johnson, who was the second seed. “It’s tough running from the second heat. I just pushed myself the whole way. Hopefully, next time, they’ll put me in the first heat.”

The Section II boys’ intersectional medley relay team earned silver with a time of 8:59.47.

Amsterdam’s 1,600-meter relay team placed third in 3:29.99.


Fourth a year ago, Colonie senior Meaghan Podlaski won the Federation 1,500 race walk in 6:49.67.

Grace Smith of Bethlehem was second (Federation and NYSPHSAA) in the high jump at 5-5. Also taking second (Federation and NYSPHSAA) was the Saratoga Springs 1,600 relay team of Ellery Bianco, Sija Los, Amelia Mahoney and Valentine Starnee (4:01.61); the Shenendehowa 3,200 relay team of Emily Crounse, Caroline Rusch, Hannah Reale and Ally Arserio (9:22.82); and the Section II intersectional relay team of Emily Dingman, Ericka Stewart, Allison Fernandez and Emily Burns (10:36.25).

Leah Moran of Holy Names was second (NYSPHSAA) in the triple jump with a 38-9 1⁄4. The junior was also third (NYSPHSAA) in the long jump at 18-1 3⁄4.

Sarah Knowles of Shenendehowa won her heat and finished second (NYSPHSAA) an the 600 (1:35.62).


55 — Carnell Noble (Greece Olympia), 6.46; Anton Porter (Mt. St. Michael’s), 6.47; Jahnique Dessaline (Newburgh), 6.52. 300 — Rai Benjamin (Mount Vernon), 33.29; Anton Porter (Mt. St. Michael’s), 34.83; Kory Fitzgerald (HHH West), 35.21. 600 — Luke Germanakos (Lynbrook), 1:20.60; Anthony Hawthorne (Niagara Falls), 1:22.15; Calvary Rogers (Greece Odyssey), 1:22.15. Section II finishers: Rob Young (Saratoga Springs), 17th, 1:25.67; Jack Vite (Shenendehowa), 1:26.57. 1,000 — James Asselmeyer (Arlington), 2:28.20; Jacob Johnson (Colonie), 2:28.78; Kyle Barber (Fayetteville-Manlius), 2:28.81. Other Section II finishers: Andrew Burns (Guilderland), 17th, 2:37.36; Jonathon Feil (Guilderland), 19th, 2:38.57. 1,600 — James Burke (Port Jefferson), 4:17.88; Luke Gavigan (Tappen Zee), 4:20.28; Marco Pompilj (Collegiate), 4:21.04. Section II finisher: Thomas Hale (Shaker), 10th, 4:27.29; 3,200 — Aidan Tooker (Saratoga Springs), 9:05.47; Mike Brannigan (Northport), 9:05.50; Jeremy Spiezio (Greenwich), 9:07.27. Other Section II finisher: Paul Nichols (Shaker), 15th, 9:38.91. 55 hurdles — Sidney Gibbons (Monsig­nor McClancy), 7.32; Shawn Bleichert (Shenendehowa), 7.47; Aaron McFadden (Copaigue), 7.51. Other Section II finisher: Nate Gerhardt (Cobleskill-Richmondville), sixth, 7.63. 800 relay — Newburgh, 1:30.89; Mount Vernon, 1:32.59; Christ the King, 1:32.89; Section II finisher: Saratoga Springs (Corey Briggs, Tom Conboy, Nick Anderson, Robert Haughton), fifth, 1:33.14. 1,600 relay — Huntington, 3:27.76; North Rockland, 3:29.79; Amsterdam (David Graveley, Gabe Fernandez, Omahri Sturdivant, Izaiah Brown), 3:29.99. 3,200 relay — Shenendehowa (Connor Buhrmeister, Tyler Schmidt, Mitchell Halpern, Collin Rowe), 7:56.72; Arlington, 8:00.26; Sweet Home, 8:07.99. Intersectional relay — Section I, 8:55.87; Section II (Grant Horton, Liam Lynch, Jonathon Feil, Josh Moeckel), 8:59.47; Section XI, 9:01.30.

High jump — Hasani Rathan (William Floyd), 6-10; Daniel Claxton (Smithtown East), 6-8; Connor Langdon (Eastport-South Manor), 6-6. Section II finishers: Zaviir Berry (Guilderland), fifth, 6-4; Harrison Bickmore (Guilderland), seventh, 6-2. Pole vault — Ryan Herrera-Murphy (Iona Prep), 15-9; Derek Dibona (Warwick Valley), 15-6; Max Jordan (Lansing), 15-0. Section II finishers: Tom Conboy (Saratoga Springs), eighth, 14-0; Michael Budka (Gloversville), no height. Long jump — Charles Lambert (Xavier), 23-3 3⁄4; Rayvon Grey (Beacon), 21-3 1⁄2; Moses Castello-Edward (Lafayette EC), 23-0. Section II finishers: Nick Anderson (Saratoga Springs), 12th, 20-11; Jacob Griffin (Schenectady), 23rd, 20-5 1⁄4. Triple jump — Jared Lovelace (Archbishop Molloy), 50-4 1⁄2; Ronel Forde (Shaker), 48-2 1⁄2; Traivon Gilchrist (Webster Schroeder), 47-3. Other Section II finishers: Omahri Sturdivant (Amsterdam), seventh, 45-9 1⁄2; Joe Osaheni (Shenendehowa), 13th, 43-10 1⁄2. Shot put — Eric Favors (North Rockland), 66-1; Jaelen Vazquez (Cardinal Hayes), 58-11 1⁄2; Robert Detz (Chapel Field), 58-10 1⁄4. Section II finishers: Nick Green (Saratoga Springs), 15th, 49-5 1⁄2; Michael Jeffers (Shenendehowa), 18th, 48-3 1⁄4, Mason Tallman (Mohonasen), 25th, 44-7 1⁄4.


55 — Lanae-Tava Thomas (Rush Henrietta), 7.08; Halie Hazzard (St. Anthony’s), 7.10; Alyssa Leto (Sachem North), 7.19. Section II finisher: Jahari Coleman, 7.22, fifth. 300 — Arianne Strunkey (Taft), 39.26; Sammy Watson (Rush-Henrietta), 40.25; Kiana Lee (Irvington), 40.34. 1,500 race walk — Meaghan Podlaski (Colonie), 6:49.67; Katharine Newhoff (East Islip), 6:52.72; Lauren Harris (Sachem East), 6:58.58. 3,000 — Bella Burda (Arlington), 9:58.10; Anna Flynn (Ursuline), 9:59.78; Jessica Lawson (Corning), 10:04.87. Section II finishers: Emily Acker (Albany Academy), 10:22.41, 11th; Spencer Hayes (Saratoga Springs), 10:28.99, 14th; Paris Fenoff (Saratoga Springs), 10:33.28, 18th. 1,000 — Sammy Watson (Rush-Henrietta), 2:53.33; Kaitlin Ryan (Bronxville), 2:55.29; Katie Devore (Mamaroneck), 2:58.17. Section II finishers: Estela Smith (Saratoga Springs), 3:01.71, 10th; Janelle Rothacker (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 3:01.80, 12th. 600 — Kamryn McIntosh (Suffern), 1:30.78; Emma Gallagher (Benjamin Cardozo), 1:33.86; Amanda Crawford (Paul Robeson), 1:34.96. Section II finishers: Sarah Knowles (Shenendehowa), 1:35.62, fourth; Valentine Starnes (Saratoga Springs), 1:42.88, 27th. 1,500 — Paige Duca (Friends Academy), 4:36.42; Abbey Wheeler (Elmira), 4:39.49; Alexandra DeCicco (Sachem East), 4:41.84. Section II finishers: Julia Flower (Schalmont), 4:46.89, seventh; Gabrielle Robens (Saratoga Springs), 4:52.27, 13th; Amelia Mahoney (Saratoga Springs), 4:55.34, 20th. Intersectional relay — Section III, 10:33.54; Section II (Emily Dingman, Erica Stewart, Allison Fernandez, Emily Burns), 10:36.25; Section VI, 10:37.89. 55 hurdles — Victoria Jones-Alleyne (New Rochelle), 8.04; Alyssa Sandy (Paul Robeson), 8.15; Sophia Myers (Queens-Teach), 8.36. Section II finisher — Jaleah Owens (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 8.45, sixth. 3,200 relay — Cornwall, 9:22.07; Shenendehowa (Emily Crounse, Caroline Rusch, Hannah Reale, Ally Arserio), 9:22.82; Corning, 9:27.38. 1,600 relay — Suffern, 3:55.37; Saratoga Springs (Ellery Bianco, Sija Los, Amelia Mahoney, Valentine Starnes), 4:01.61; Westhampton Beach, 4:02.72. 800 relay — Medgar Evers College Prep, 1:42.44; Rush-Henrietta, 1:43.44; Uniondale, 1:44.06.

High jump — Faith Penny (East Islip), 5-6; Grace Smith (Bethlehem), 5-5; Aviana Goode (Bay Shore), 5-5. Section II finishers: Samantha Hjelmar (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 5-4, sixth; Eileen Bequette (Albany), 5-2, 10th. Pole vault — Kari Stromhaug (Vestal), 12-0; Samantha Beyar (Monroe-Woodbury), 11-6; Earnie Burapan (Hilton). Section II finishers: Kalli Manley (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 10-6, tie fifth; Tedi DeMaris (Bethlehem), 9-0, tie 14th; Alana Carroll (Averill Park), 9-0, tie 17th. Long jump — Marie-Jose Ebweabile (Benjamn Cardozo), 19-1; McKyla Brooks (Frontier), 19 1⁄2; Alyssa Mustafa (Island Trees), 18-3 1⁄2. Section II finishers: Leah Moran (Holy Names), 18-1 3⁄4, fourth; Eileen Bequette (Albany), 16-1 1⁄4, 22nd. Triple jump — Maria-Jose Ebweabile (Benjamin Cardozo), 41-1; Sadira Brown (Sweet Home), 38-11 3⁄4; Leah Moran (Holy Names), 38-9 1⁄4. Section II finishers — Tedi DeMaria (Bethlehem), 33-11 1⁄2, 20th. Shot put — Alexis Daniels (Binghamton), 45-6 1⁄2; Valerie Hinds (Kingston), 45-4; Kristina Insingo (Holy Trinity), 44-9 1⁄4. Section II finishers: Grayce French (Saratoga Springs), 42-5 1⁄2, sixth; Jillian Shippee (Shenendehowa), 40-11 1⁄2, seventh; Kaitlyn Klein (Cobleskill-Richmondville), 37-4 1⁄2, 13th.

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