One of the thrilling moments in last year’s state track meet at Vestal came when Otis Ubriaco of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake charged down the stretch and lunged at the wire to catch Chad Noelle of Greene for first place in the 3,200 with a Section II-record time of 9:04.75.
A similar scenario could play out tonight when the two rivals square off again in the 3,200 as the state meet opens at Caledonia-Mumford High School.
Ubriaco is one of several reigning state champions, indoors and out, representing Section II this weekend. Several others are seeded first or second in their events.
Action begins today with field events at 12:30 p.m. and running heats at 1:30. The boys’ 3,200 and girls’ 3,000 cap off the program in the evening. The meet resumes Saturday at 10 a.m.
Most events will again be broken into Division I (large school) and Division II (small school) for New York State Public High School Athletic Association athletes, then the Public Schools Athletic League of New York City, Catholic High Schools Athletic Association and independent schools will join in for the Federation championship events.
“Otis has always gotten up for these big races,” said Spartans coach Chip Button, “the state meet in particular. He has always run well in them.”
Two years ago, Ubriaco finished sixth in the state meet 3,200 in 9:10.64, just two seconds off of the state sophomore class record. He ran second in the state indoor 3,200 as a junior, and came back with a sixth in a faster 9:19.20 in this year’s state indoor meet.
Ubriaco’s best time this spring is 9:26.85, fourth-best among Section II athletes and a far cry from
Noelle’s top-seeded time of 8:56.02 or the 9:00.21 run by No. 2 seed Martin Hehir of Washingtonville. But the Spartans’ senior has seen little competition in his races.
“He’s definitely healthy, and he’s going into the meet feeling really great about things,” said Button.
An unexpected change in schedule, however, may work against the Iona-bound Ubriaco. He ran in the Class BB sectionals on May 23, but that meet was postponed by thunderstorms and resumed the following Tuesday, two days before the state qualifier. Button said Ubriaco, who had tripled in the class meet, felt tightness in his legs toward the end of the 3,200 in the qualifier, when he lost to Jason Lange of Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons.
As a result of his time, Ubriaco is seeded 16th — on the cusp — in a field of 30, which will be divided into fast and slow sections. Lange, a Division II runner, is 14th at 9:24.35.
“The key thing is going to be whether he gets into the fast section,” said Button. “I know he really wants to be in the seeded section. You really need to have a bunch of other people committed, along with you, to [run fast times].”
Among the top hopes for Section II this weekend is Holy Names senior Klarissa Ricks. Ricks figured into three firsts a year ago, the Division 2 100-meter dash, long jump and 4 x 100 relay, then placed second in the Federation 100 and long jump. Indoors, she won the 55-meter dash and was runner-up in the long jump.
Ricks has dominated those events this spring, uncorking an area-record 19-103⁄4 in the long jump to win the Penn Relays and matching the all-time area best in the 100 with an 11.7. And Holy Names is seeded second in the 4 x 100 relay.
Another athlete with a strong state meet background is Schuylerville high jumper Sarah Palmer, who has both indoor and outdoor state titles to her credit, but had to settle for second last spring. Palmer came up with her best effort of the season, a 5-7, in the state qualifier, and is tied for the No. 2 seed.
Colonie junior Kyle Plante won a state title in the 400 intermediate hurdles last year, but this time will test the waters in the open 400, where she is seeded second. Plante is also part of Colonie’s
4 x 400 team that won and indoor title and wants to duplicate the feat outdoors.
Shenendehowa, too, looks for an indoor-outdoor sweep in the
4 x 800 and is joined by Saratoga Springs, Bronxville, Fayetteville-Manlius and North Shore in a strong field that could send all five teams near or under nine minutes. Earlier, junior Lizzie Predmore could earn a PR in the 1,500, chasing national champion Aisling Cuffe of Cornwall.
Schenectady’s Molly Shapiro, competing for Emma Willard this year, sits on top of the triple jump seedings after a 39-31⁄2 and was second indoors. State indoor runner-up Sam Kosa of Shenendehowa is ranked second in the shot put.
Top-seeded for the boys is Averill Park’s Rudy Winkler, who got off a discus throw of 183-5 in the qualifier. Others expected to contend include Albany hurdler Dashawn Gates, who was second indoors; Giancarlo Sainato of Colonie in the 800; Kyle Wegner of Saratoga Springs in the steeplechase; and Shaker in the 4 x 800 relay.