Holding a national championship race at 8 a.m. on a Saturday may seem out of the ordinary, but for Section II girls, it’s become an ideal schedule over the years.
That’s when the 4 x mile relay will be staged during the New Balance Nationals at Greensboro, N.C., this weekend. It’s a race that caters to the depth of girls’ distance running programs in the Capital Region, and this year will have six foursomes making the trip.
And besides, the early start helps the distance runners avoid the 90-degree heat that will be present for most of the day.
“Down there, it’s like being in a sauna,” said Saratoga Springs girls’ coach Linda Kranick. “It doesn’t cool down until after 8:00 at night.”
The meet opens tonight and finishes Saturday evening at North Carolina A&T University, and brings together many of the top track and field stars from across the country.
But first thing Saturday morning, the focus will be on Section II girls.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake has stood out in recent years, winning the race in 2008 and finishing second in both 2007 and 2009. Prior to that, Saratoga was often at or near the top.
But this time, Saratoga and Shenendehowa, which have hooked up in record-breaking 4 x 800 relays the last two weekends, will take the spotlight in the longer race.
The Blue Streaks lowered the Section II record to 8:54.66 in the state qualifier 4 x 800, with the Plainsmen just a few seconds back, and nearly eclipsed the state record while finishing third with an 8:50.70 in a blazing state meet race that produced the No. 2, 4 and 5 times in national history.
While Shenendehowa will field a 4 x 800 team this weekend, Saratoga cannot.
“Unfortunately, we don’t get another shot at the 4 x 800,” said Kranick. That race is scheduled for Friday, the same day many of her juniors will be taking a Regents exam. They won’t fly into Greensboro until close to midnight.
In the 4 x mile, Saratoga, competing as Kinetic Running Club, will have indoor national champions Brianne Bellon, Keelin Hollwood, Margaret McDonald and Cassie Goutos on one team, and its depth allows the Streaks to send a second team that’s also likely to place: Katie Treichel, Sydney King, Molly Pezzulo and Taylor Driscoll.
Shenendehowa, too, has a talented 4 x mile lineup that placed third in the indoor nationals in Jordan Westcott, Nicole Irving, Danika Simonson and Lizzie Predmore. Also in the race are Queensbury and Niskayuna (Red Gremlin TC).
After competing in the morning, Saratoga and Shenendehowa will come back for a talent-laden distance medley relay on Saturday night. Speedy quarter-miler Kathy Klein will join Alex Burtnick, Simonson and Predmore for the Plainsmen, and Saratoga will use its same lineup from the 4 x mile.
The Streaks’ second distance medley team includes Michelle Riley. The Syracuse-bound Riley missed most of her senior year after breaking her leg during the indoor season, and is finally running back to form in the outdoor postseason.
The boys’ distance medley features Burnt Hills (Deluge XC) and anchor Otis Ubriaco, who scored a thrilling victory in the state meet 3,200 last Friday. Shenendehowa has also entered the DMR, as well as the boys’ 4 x mile and 4 x 400. The Plainsmen narrowly lost to Blacksburg, Va., in the Nike Indoor Nationals 4 x mile relay.
On Friday, Shaker looks to lower its time in the 4 x 800 relay.
Most of the Section II athletes are competing on relay teams, but there are a few individuals, as well.
Most notable is Saratoga senior Madalyne Smith, one of the top entries in the 100-meter high hurdles. Smith, who has a string of state titles, indoors and out, ran 13.84 last year en route to a fourth-place finish in the nationals. Last year’s runner-up returns, and several others have times under 14 seconds, so Smith is likely to see the keen competition she’s missed all season.
“She runs best when she has competition,” said Kranick. “It’s when she really focuses on what she has to do.”
Hurdle trials are at 3:20 p.m. Friday, and finals are set for Friday night.
Queensbury will start twins Danielle and Brittany Winslow and Morgan Mueller in the 2,000-meter steeplechase. Also entered are Lansingburgh’s Alney Tobias in the 800 Saturday, LaSalle’s Tyler Washington in the 400 hurdles Saturday and Shenendehowa’s Tyler Prendergast in the hammer on Friday.