Niskayuna’s Franjieh shines in steeplecase at state championships

Niskayuna's Julian Franjieh is a step ahead of Nikhil DeNatale from Trinity School as the clear water hurdle on the final lap of the 3,000-meter steeplechase championship at Cicero-North Syracuse Saturday at the NYSPHSAA track and field championships.

Niskayuna's Julian Franjieh is a step ahead of Nikhil DeNatale from Trinity School as the clear water hurdle on the final lap of the 3,000-meter steeplechase championship at Cicero-North Syracuse Saturday at the NYSPHSAA track and field championships.

CICERO — Saturday was the first New York state outdoor track and field championships for Niskayuna senior Julian Franjieh — and his last.

The Silver Warrior runner missed out on the spring track championships in 2020 and 2021 with the meet canceled both years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, Franjieh made the most of it.

Franjieh battled new-found friend Nikhil DeNatale from Trinity School, a private school in New York City, throughout the boys’ 3,000-meter steeplechase and was edged out by 0.01 seconds at the line in Saturday’s opening event at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

“I met Nikhil over the summer and he’s been a great friend throughout this whole senior year,” Franjieh said. “He’s wonderful to race with, he’s a really great guy. If I was going to lose to anybody, I’m really, really glad it was Nikhil.”

The two now share something in common — gold medals.

Nikhil was awarded the federation gold medal as the overall winner and Franjieh the New York State Public High School Athletic Association gold medal as the top public school finisher. 

Franjieh expected a close race.

“I knew it would really come down to the last 800 [meters], who had the strength to just keep going and not fall off,” said Franjieh, a Syracuse University commit. “I really tried to make it as honest as possible throughout the first three-quarters of the race, just so it wouldn’t be left down to a kick.”

It took two years, but Franjieh was finally able to run for a state outdoor title.

“I’ve been looking to outdoor state championships my whole career and this is my first and last state meet,” Franjieh said. “It’s really exciting and I’m really glad I had this opportunity outdoors. Steeplechase being my favorite event, this is really awesome for me.”


Mohonasen senior Zionna Perez-Tucker claimed a gold medal in the girls’ 100-meter dash federation championship after second-place finishes earlier in the day in the Division 1 100 and 200.

“After the first race, I didn’t get the place I wanted,” Perez-Tucker said. “The 100, I was kind of next to her [first-place finisher Ashley Fulton of Elmont], 200 she had a little lead on me, I knew I had to stay on her and keep going.”

Perez-Tucker had to reset her mental game to earn a gold in the afternoon.

“After the 100, I was very mad. The 200 I was like, ‘Hey, it happened,’ ” Perez-Tucker said. “I forgave myself and it worked.”

Perez-Tucker was second in her final race of the day, the 200 federation championship, for her third silver medal Saturday.


Shenendehowa senior Carter Cukerstein earned two individual gold medals, a silver and another relay gold Saturday. He also won gold with the Plainsmen’s Division 1 boys’ 400-relay squad on Friday.

He started his day with a win in the Division 1 100-meter race in 10.76 seconds and then was edged out by 0.01 of a second against Connetquot’s Jermaine Thompson in the 200 federation championship race. He returned the favor later in the day, beating Thompson for the federation 100 title.

“I had a good mentality going in, my legs sometimes I feel like they’ve given up because I pushed too early,” Cukerstein, a University of Oklahoma commit, said. “They felt like that in the 200, the race I just ran [100 federation championship] was really smooth. I felt really relaxed, if I did that in the 200 probably would have won it.”

After a fifth-place finish in the 200 federation championship race, he rejoined Tyler Dedrick, Jason Gillan and Michael McElrath to win the federation 400 relay title, edging out UPrep Rochester with Cukerstein racing the anchor leg. The same group captured the Division 1 400 relay on Friday.

“We kept up with them most of the time, we were tied at the end and then I just took off,” Cukerstein said.

The group gold medal capped the Plainsmen’s weekend.

“We’ve dreamed about it since 10th grade when we went to states for the 4×200 for indoor,” Dedrick said. “We always knew we had a special group, and once Carter tapped into his full ability we were able to achieve that goal.”


La Salle Institute senior Gitch Hayes captured the boys’ 1,600 in 1:53.69, two seconds ahead of Liverpool’s Ryan Hagan and Saratoga Springs’ senior Ryan Bush third and Columbia’s Nathan Davis fourth. 

Hayes followed up his performance from Friday, where he won the Division 1 and federation titles in the 800 and finished second in the Division 1 3,200.

“I wanted to use that first 800 as a warm-up and stay with the field,” Hayes, a University of North Carolina commit, said. “I took it 400 out because Nate Brimhall from Shen, he started to pick up the pace, so I let him take it. 

“I really made my move in the last 400 and kicked like no one else can match. I ended up running a 4:09, sub 4:10 that was in my mind. A :58 the last quarter [mile] I was proud of that.”


The Stillwater girls’ squad also added a fair bit of gold this weekend.

On Saturday, senior Gianna Locci won the Division 2 200 meters before she had to compete in the federation long jump competition. With her adrenaline pumping, she leaped 20 feet, 3 inches on both her first and third attempts, enough to stand for a gold medal. 

“I wasn’t even expecting to do federation [long jump] because the two overlap, just to win federations right after I won the 200 was amazing,” Locci said.

On Friday, senior Kelly Moran won the girls’ Division 2 triple jump by covering 38 feet, Locci won the girls’ Division 2 long jump by clearing 20-6.25, and the pair joined  with their Stillwater teammates, Kara Moran and Skyler Rich, to win the D-2 400 relay in 49.15.

The Warriors went 1-2-3 in the Division 2 long jump as Kelly Moran took second behind Locci with an 18-11 and Kara Moran placed third with a 17-6.

The group success was a highlight for Indiana University commit Kelly Moran.

“It makes it so much better, you have a whole community backing you up and it’s not just yourself, you get to cheer on your teammates, watch them in their events, watch them shine and then they’ll do the same for you,” Kelly Moran said.


Saratoga Springs sophomores Emily Bush and Alycia Hart helped send seniors Mackenzie Hart and Ella Kurto off with gold medals Saturday, winning the girls’ 3,200 relay in dominating fashion.

The Blue Streaks finished seven seconds in front of second-place Bronxville and 14 seconds in front of Fayetteville-Manlius.

“Coming into this, I think we knew it was going to be the last relay we were going to run together,” Kurto said. “I think we all just wanted to put all our effort into it and we’d be grateful for that.”

The seniors continue to be part of a legacy program that they said hopes to thrive.

“I think as a team as a whole we’ve done a great example of going into practice, working hard every day so we’re hoping some of the other, younger kids can pick up on that and continue on with it,” Hart said.


Fonda-Fultonville senior Alessandro Saltsman pushed through pain and made the most of his final discus throw Saturday to capture the federation title with a toss of 182-05.

“I felt an ache in my right groin and that affected my sweep leg [Friday],” Saltsman said. “I managed to put together a couple of pieces on the last throw, I wasn’t sweeping and it flew 182.”

Michael Pinckney was the leader at 178-05 prior to Saltsman’s final throw, sitting in second place at 170-04.

“I knew once I hit the sweep, just finish it and it would go,” Saltsman said. “This is what I truly wanted. It was awesome to win the public school Division 2 title, but I want to be the New York State champion. I wanted to be the best in New York today.”

Gloversville’s Zoie Tesi added a win in the girls’ Division 2 high jump. Tesi finished fourth in the federation competition.

Also victorious were Taconic Hills’ Neil Howard in the boys’ federation long jump and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk’s Uchenna Uba in the girls’ federation discus.





First — 100, Carter Cukerstein (Shenendehowa), 10.76; 1600, Gitch Hayes (La Salle Institute), 4:09.94; 400 relay, Shenendehowa (Tyler Dedrick, Jason Gillan, Michael McElrath, Carter Cukerstein), 41.89; LJ, Neil Howard (Taconic Hills), 23-10.5; Discus, Alessandro Saltsman (Fonda-Fultonville), 182-5.

Second — 3000 steeplechase, Julian Franjeh (Niskayuna), 9:01.19; SP, Garrett McHeard (Amsterdam), 54-8.

Third — Ryan Bush (Saratoga Springs), 4:11.82; 400 hurdles, Neil Howard (Taconic Hills), 54.69

Fourth — 1600, Nathan Davis (Columbia), 4:13.48; 110 hurdles, Michael Kilgallo (Queensbury), 14.96.

Fifth — 200, Carter Cukerstein (Shenendehowa), 22.55; SP, Alessandro Saltsman (Fonda-Fultonville), 52-3.25; Pentathlon, Bashir Praileau (Albany Academy), 3,150 points.

Division 1

First — 100, Carter Cukerstein (Shenendehowa), 10.59; 1600, Gitch Hayes (La Salle Institute), 4:09.94; 3000 steeplechase, Julian Franjeh (Niskayuna), 9:01.19.

Second — 200, Carter Cukerstein (Shenendehowa), 21.42.

Third — 110 hurdles, Michael Kilgallon (Queensbury), 14.47; 1600, Ryan Bush (Saratoga Springs), 4:11.82; Pentathlon, Bashir Praileau (Albany Academy), 3,150 points.

Fourth — 1600, Nathan Davis (Columbia), 4:13.48.

Fifth — 3000 steeplechase, Logan Doll (Shenendehowa), 9:42.58.

Sixth — 100, Che Samuel (Schenectady), 11.14; 3200 relay, Saratoga Springs (Ryan Bush, Mason Talarico, Alex Dominguez, Jacob Bernd), 7:56.84.

Division 2

Second — 110 hurdles, Carter Petersen (Fonda-Fultonville), 15.30.

Third — 100, Baden Seabury (Ichabod Crane), 10.92; 200, Baden Seabury (Ichabod Crane), 22.08; HJ, Daryl Headen (Schuylerville), 6-2.



First — 100, Zionna Perez-Tucker (Mohonasen), 12.08; 3200 relay, Saratoga Springs (Emily Bush, Alycia Hart, Mackenzie Hart, Ella Kurto), 9:07.24; LJ, Gianna Locci (Stillwater), 20-3; Discus, Uchenna Uba (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk), 131-11.

Second — 200, Zionna Perez-Tucker (Mohonasen), 24.77.

Third — 2000 steeplechase, Sheridan Wheeler (Saratoga Springs), 6:39.92.

Fourth — HJ, Zoie Tesi (Gloversville), 5-5.

Fifth — LJ, Kelly Moran (Stillwater), 17-9.5; Discus, Alexa Dochat (Shenendehowa), 113-4.

Sixth — TJ, Kelly Moran (Stillwater), 36-5.75.

Division 1

First — 3200 relay, Saratoga Springs (Emily Bush, Alycia Hart, Mackenzie Hart, Ella Kurto), 9:07.24.

Second — 100, Zionna Perez-Tucker (Mohonasen), 12.16; 200, Zionna Perez-Tucker (Mohonasen), 24.36; 2000 steeplechase, Sheridan Wheeler (Saratoga Springs), 6:39.92.

Division 2

First — 200, Gianna Locci (Stillwater), 25.08; HJ, Zoie Tesi (Gloversville), 5-5

Second — 100, Gianna Locci (Stillwater), 12.51.

Categories: -Sports-, High School Sports

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