It looks like they’re saving the best for last at this year’s state track and field meet, and the focus is on Section II athletes.
The two-day meet that opens today at Vestal High School wraps up with relay races Saturday afternoon, and that includes a highly anticipated rematch between the Saratoga Springs and Shenendehowa girls in the 4 x 800 race.
When they hooked up a week ago in the intersectional qualifier, the Blue Streaks ran the fastest time in Section II history, 8:54.66, with the Plainsmen close behind in 8:58.85, the No. 3 performance on the all-time section list.
But it’s going to be more than a two-team race. Garden City ran 8:58.08 in the Section VIII qualifier, so the teams with the three fastest times in the nation this season will be going head-to-head. And just a few seconds back are a trio of traditional powers in the 4 x 800, Fayetteville-Manlius (9:02.13), Warwick Valley (9:02.61) and Bronxville (9:07.18).
“We’ve been in this situation before. It brings out the best in us,” said Blue Streaks coach Linda Kranick, who rattled off approximate split times of 2:12 for junior Amanda Burroughs, 2:17 for senior Colleen Hollowood, 2:13 for sophomore Margaret McDonald and 2:10 for senior Brianne Bellon.
Shenendehowa is the reigning state champion and returns three of its winning foursome — senior Danika Simonson, sophomore Lizzie Predmore and junior Alex Burtnick, along with junior Sam Crisafulli. The Plainsmen also won the state indoor title in March.
Kranick was pleased both with Bellon’s effort on the relay anchor, making up several seconds on the pace-setting Plainsmen, and with her time in the open 800 the night before. She posted the third-fastest time in Section II history, a 2:09.23, and broke the 21-year-old school record of 2:10.49 set by the most recognizable name in Saratoga running history, Cheri Goddard.
“That makes Brianne’s run something spectacular,” said Kranick. “It’s not the time; it’s whose record she broke.”
An advantage for the top-seeded Bellon on the new state meet schedule is that she only has to run the open 800 once (today), and will be fresh for the relay Saturday.
Bellon and her distance running teammates — including Keelin Hollowood in the 3,000 — aren’t the only horses in the Blue Streaks’ stable.
University of Connecticut-bound senior Madalayne Smith is looking to add to her streak of two straight indoor and two straight outdoor state hurdle titles, and is top-seeded in the 100-meter highs with a time of 14.11. A year ago, Smith twice ran 13.80, which puts her within range of the state record of 13.65.
“She looks as strong as she ever did,” said Kranick.
Another athlete with a string of state championships is Schuylerville junior Sarah Palmer in the high jump. Palmer’s personal best of 5-93⁄4 last spring is No. 2 on the all-time Section II list, and her 5-8 this season makes her the second seed behind another junior, Joanne Imbert (5-9) of Valley Central.
Colonie sophomore sensation Kyle Plante set all-time Section II marks this spring in the 200, pentathlon and 400 hurdles, as well as strong performances in several other events, and will finally get competition this weekend.
Plante, a state and national indoor sprint champion running outdoor track for the first season, is seeded third in the intermediates with her Eddy Meet time of 59.95, and will be chasing Donna Jeantry (59.37) of Brentwood and Janet Melor (59.61) of Mt. Sinai. The state sophomore record is 59.85.
Many of the state meet events are contested as large school (Division I) and small school (Division II) events, and Holy Names has several threats in small-school competition.
Kolbi Smith is seeded first in the shot put, with Megan Seeley of Hudson Falls second, and Holy Names has the fastest 4 x 100 relay. The anchor of that relay, Klarissa Ricks, is also seeded second in the 100 and long jump.
Other high girls’ seeds include Nicole Irving of Shenendehowa, third in the 3,000; Danielle Winslow of Queensbury, third in the steeplechase; and Tehresa Coles of Colonie, third in the discus.
Shane Smith of Fonda-Fultonville came away with a pair of silver medals at last year’s state meet and appears ready to take another step up on the podium. His 60-31⁄2 in the shot put and 183-10 in the discus make him the No. 1 seed in both events.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s Otis Ubriaco recently ran the fastest two-mile in Section II history, a 9:06.8, and leads the pack in the 3,200 this weekend. Teammate Scott Maughan is ranked third in the steeplechase, and both runners are part of a 4 x 800 relay that is also seeded third.
Watervliet has the top-ranked small-school 4 x 100 relay, while other high boys’ seeds include Jelani Currie of Albany Academy, second in the triple jump, and Pat Peterson of Gloversville, second in the 800.
Competition begins today with field events at 12:30 p.m. and running events at 1:30, and will wrap up with 3,000 and 3,200 races in the early evening. Day 2 kicks off with the steeplechase races and field events at 10 a.m.
Many of Section II’s premiere athletes will not be finished with their seasons this weekend; the New Balance Nationals will be held June 17-19 at Greensboro, N.C.