On Schools: Schenectady boys’ track and field 400 relay has been excellent

Schenectady boys’ track and field 400-meter relay teammates Deron Davis (front) and Jelani Wells work on the handoff during a practice Wednesday at Schenectady High School.

Schenectady boys’ track and field 400-meter relay teammates Deron Davis (front) and Jelani Wells work on the handoff during a practice Wednesday at Schenectady High School.

SCHENECTADY The Schenectady High School boys’ 400-meter relay group accomplished some impressive things in the early weeks of the spring track and field season, including three invitational wins and a super-quick 43.81 in one of them last Saturday at Ballston Spa.

That effort was just shy of the top Section II times from last spring — a 42.98 by Colonie and a 43.32 by Schenectady — that were established in a superb dual at the Division 1 championship meet. 

“We’re still not 100% clean, and we’re still working on our order,” Schenectady track coach Joe Bennett said of his veteran senior foursome of Che Samuel, Deron Davis, Dior Roberts and Jelani Wells. “We’ve got some tweaking to do.”

The Patriots have about a month and a half to get as fast as they can, and to add additional trophies to ones they have already attained with 400 relay wins at the Empire Arsenal Relays, CBA-La Salle Relays and the Ballston Spa Invitational. The Patriots popped a hand-held 43.43 (converts to 43.67) in a dual meet with Columbia a few days before the triumph at Ballston Spa, with those two runs furthering their claim as one of the state’s top foursomes in the event this spring.

“I have goals for this group,” Samuel said. “Obviously, make it to states first, and nationals after that. And we’ll see if we can break the school record.”

That would be the 41.75 Schenectady clocked at the 2019 state Federation finals, when Colonie was just a bit faster that day with a Section II-record 41.39.  

“We’ve got to put in the preparation,” Davis said of his team’s quest for the school record. “We’ve got to get our marks down. Stay in shape. Stay healthy. We’re getting there little by little.”

Samuel said he sees improvement with each passing week as the four good friends further mesh in their final campaign. They ran in relays together and as individuals in a successful indoor season as a lead-in to this spring.

“The handoffs are starting to be smoother,” Samuel said. “In the 4×100, that is one of the crucial things.”

Wells is the new guy in Schenectady’s first-string quartet that runs the 400 relay, while Samuel, Roberts and Davis are all holdovers.

“The cool thing about these guys is they’re friends, and good friends,” Bennett said. “You see them in school and they’re all together. They have been together since modified. They want to run for each other.”

Wells ran plenty of relay races last outdoor season, but as Schenectady’s fifth man, he deferred to then-senior Shemar Delphin in most of the big meets.

“There’s a bit of pressure,” Wells said. “They expect to do well. I expect to do well, too.”

The 400 relay has been a consistent strength in the Schenectady boys’ program and several times recorded by Patriot foursomes dot the Section II all-time list. 

“It’s a matter of pride in the boys’ program,” Bennett said. “Guys see what the guys did before them, and they want to have that kind of success. Success breeds success.” 

This year’s team is aiming to hit the 42.76 state meet at-large time sometime soon. That would allow Schenectady to gain a state meet birth even with a second place finish at the state meet qualifier later this year.

“We hit that number, and it gets the hurdle off our back and we can really go for it,” Bennett said. “We can play a little bit and try to figure out how to make this team faster.”

Bennett said he is considering different takeoff  positions for his final three runners in the exchange (handoff) zone that was widened from 20 meters to 30 meters last season in a move approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“That’s another big thing we’ll be working on. Our exchanges in the extended zone,” Bennett said. “We would like to use the 30 meters to our advantage. Looking at the personnel I have, it would be foolish not to do it. You could potentially have a runner go 115 meters and another one go 85 meters.”

Schenectady will be running Saturday at the Niskayuna Warrior Track Classic that Mohonasen is hosting, and Bennett anticipates a higher level of competition than his cast has seen. 

“There are 32 teams coming in and I bet 28 of them have 4x100s,” Bennett said. “We haven’t been pushed, and that’s probably going to change. That will be good for us.”

Wells said he’s very much looking forward to another go-round with his pals, in what is among  highlight events at most every meet.

“We line up and get out there, and everyone stops to watch,” Wells said. “That’s one of the things that make this relay special. It becomes everyone’s focus.”


Fonda-Fultonville seniors who moved up to No. 1 on the MileSplit New York boys’ track and field leaderboard with their performances at last weekend’s Ballston Spa Invitational. Carter Petersen earned his spot with a 15.13 in the 110-meter high hurdles, and Alessandro Saltsman notched his with a 170-5 in the discus. Both of those performances also boosted Petersen and Saltsman up to No. 2, respectively, on the F-F school record list for those events. Saltsman’s monster day included wins in the shot put and javelin.


Home runs hit in Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s 10-9 Suburban Council softball win over Shaker Wednesday, including two by Spartan Cianna Benamati. Jess DeLaFleur also homered for Burnt Hills and picked up the pitching win. Izabelle Ratcliffe homered twice and Sarah Syden had a solo shot for the Blue Bison.


Assists collected by Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake senior Kevin Carney — tying a school record — in a 21-2 Suburban Council lacrosse win over Averill Park Thursday. Carney also scored two goals for 11 points after the USA Lacrosse All-American piled up 10 points (6-4) Tuesday in a 14-2 victory over Shaker. 


Strikeouts recorded by Hoosick Falls eight-grade pitcher Kennedy Boisvert in a one-hit, 1-0 softball win against Cambridge Thursday. Boisvert struck out 15 of 16 Cambridge batters at one point in another superb effort. She fanned 13 in a one-hit 1-0 win over Berlin/New Lebanon earlier this season, and late last season the young righty struck out 23 in a 6-1, 11-inning loss to Galway. 


Wins accumulated by the Niskayuna boys’ lacrosse team, all of them under the direction of head coach and program founder Mike Vorgang, after Wednesday’s 14-12 Suburban Council triumph over Guilderland at Union College. Davey Carroll and Lucas Klokiw scored three goals apiece in the latest milestone win for the Silver Warriors, who have been playing varsity ball since 1994. Vorgang guided Niskayuna to the first of its 17 Section II championships that year, and he is the only Section II lacrosse coach with a state title (2015) on his resume.

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Categories: High School Sports, Schenectady, Sports

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