Ammar Brown gave himself the best birthday gift he could possibly think of during Sunday’s New York State indoor track qualifier at the University at Albany.
The Schenectady High School freshman sprinter, who just turned 15, made a few adjustments out of the starting blocks and established a new personal best to win the 55-meter dash in 6.65, just .002 ahead of Schalmont’s Leo Favoldi.
In one of the qualifier’s premier events, Brown earned a spot in his first state meet next weekend at Cornell and will join another young athlete also named Brown, who turned in a similarly superior performance. Amsterdam sophomore Izaiah Brown coasted to the 300-meter title in 36.90, with Colonie’s Nick Powers in second (37.94). It will be Izaiah Brown’s second overall trip to the states. Although this is his first year on the indoor track team, he qualified for the states outdoors in the 400 meters last spring.
Ammar Brown, who finished third in last week’s sectionals, tweaked his takeoff technique just in time for a breakout performance.
“It’s my first time going to states,” he said with a smile. “I did all right last week, but I had to work on my starts. I got my starts better. It gave me an advantage. I ran a personal record of 6.65, and that was faster than last year and this year.”
Brown, who had to ask meet officials where the state meet is being held, said he felt the butterflies when he first got up.
“I felt fine; I was just a little nervous. This is great that I’m going to the states,” he said. “I’m going out with my team later to celebrate my birthday. I’m also going to nationals the following week at the New York City Armory.”
Brown explained that he has a tendency to bounce up out of his stance too early in his takeoff.
“I had to work on my knee drive, and I had to stay lower, longer. I was popping up,” he said. “My coaches noticed it. For the most part, it was my coaches who figured it out, but also I picked up on it sometimes.”
Brown said he gained experience from last year’s trip to the nationals.
“I didn’t make states, but I made nationals as an eighth-grader,” he said.” I’ve got experience in big meets.”
He said he was proud to be one of the fastest indoor sprinters in the Capital Region, but that he wouldn’t think about that honor until he had time to reflect on it after the next few weeks of major events. He was more interested in getting a piece of some birthday cake.
Schenectady sprint coach Katie Carhart was not surprised by her star pupil’s performance.
“All he had to do was to stay low and work his upper body from his feet on up to gain his speed,” she said.
“He’s been running well lately, and he’s extremely coachable. He’s made quick improvements and I expect him to keep on improving because he listens to his coaches and keeps working hard.”
Unlike Ammar Brown, whose performance was a mild surprise, Izaiah Brown did what was expected of him by cruising in the 300 meters. He ran the second-fastest time among all freshmen in the nation last year in the 400 meters.
“I’m always a little nervous,” Izaiah Brown said. “This is my first year on the indoor track team, but there are always some nerves involved. I just try to race and have some fun. I try not to think about what it means just before the race. I just try to bring my A game and show them what I’ve got.”
But Izaiah Brown admitted that he thinks about his performances on the track all the time.
“I’m always thinking about the race, how I’m running and how the track is. I think about it constantly,” he said. “But I enjoy all aspects of running, from practice, to doing workouts and even lifting. It’s all part of the fun. When I’m at the meet, I always want to work as hard as I can and show everyone what I’ve got.”
Izaiah Brown said that he is extremely proud to be making his second appearance at a state meet.
“It’s definitely a milestone to get to states just once, let alone two times in a row,” he said. “With the outdoor season coming up in a couple of weeks, I’m very excited but I want to go out there and try to make everybody proud.”
In the 3,200 meters, Saratoga Springs’ junior Jay Navin, who won both the 1,600 and the 3,200 at last weekend’s Division I sectional championships, started out strong, but faltered down the stretch and finished only fourth in a race won by Gloversville’s John Knox III. Only the top two qualified for states.
Knox’s winning time was a blistering 9:19.97, the best in the section this season, and almost a full 15 seconds ahead of runner-up Andrew Tario of Averill Park.
Navin didn’t try to qualify in the 1,600. He recently placed third in a field of 12 in the Millrose Games boys’ high school mile in 4:15.80, his fourth straight personal-best performance. He is only the second Saratoga boy to compete in the Millrose Games.
Navin did earn a trip to the states as part of the Blue Streaks’ 3,200 relay team, which won in 8:16.55.
In other highlights:
Schalmont senior Chas Higgins won the boys’ long jump with a Section II-best leap of 22-63⁄4.
Greenwich senior Will McFee won the shot put with a heave of 53-0, making him the first Section II athlete to reach 53 feet this year.
Stillwater freshman Leah Moran won the girls’ long jump at 17-3⁄4. She’s only the second girl to reach 17 feet this season.
Albany senior Blessing Uzoeshi ran an area-best 42.31 in winning the girls’ 300.
Bethlehem junior Steve Booker moved to the top of the leaderboard in the boys’ 1,600 with a winning time of 4:25.01.
Emma Willard senior Keishorea Armstrong’s winning time in the girls’ 55 of 7.38 is the second-best in Section II this season.
55 — Ammar Brown (Schenectady), 6.65; Leo Pavoldi (Schalmont), 6.67; Shomari Ingram (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 6.74.
300 — Izaiah Brown (Amsterdam), 36.90; Nick Powers (Colonie), 37.94; Jacob Williams (Granville), 38.80.
600 — Rob Smith (Shaker), 1:26.62; Ian Weykamp (Shaker), 1:27.13; Robert Kirstey (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 1:27.37.
1,000 — Jon Holmes (Colonie), 2:38.37; Fallon-Underwood (Shaker), 2:39.56; Jordan Johnson (Colonie), 2:39.63.
1,600 — Steve Booker (Bethlehem), 4:25.01; Ross Wightman (Chatham), 4:26.81; Jeremy Spiezio (Greenwich), 4:26.88.
3,200 — John Knox III (Gloversville), 9:19.97; Andrew Tario (Averill Park), 9:34.81; Gavin Gaynor (Saratoga Springs), 9:39.82.
55 hurdles — Shawn Bleichert (Shenendehowa), 7.89; Devon Willis (Schalmont), 7.99; Isaiah Turek (Ichabod Crane), 8.0.
800 relay — Colonie (Nick Powers, Jayson Gayle, Zach Latnie, Aaron Nimako), 1:36.61; Bethlehem, 1:37.70; Chatham, 1:44.82.
1,600 relay — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Matt Bunch, Luke Cameron, Robert Kirsty, John Rabideau), 3:38.05; Saratoga Springs, 3:39.23; Shaker, 3:39.52.
3,200 relay — Saratoga Springs (Evan Quinones, Travis Briggs, Joe Verro, Jay Navin), 8:16.55; Colonie, 8:28.54; Bethlehem, 8:36.44.
High jump — Isaiah Turek (Ichabod Crane), 6-4; Erik Trinkle (Shaker), 6-0; Liam Martens (Bethlehem), 5-10.
Pole vault — James Steck (Shaker), 14-0; Casey Ogden (Shaker), 13-0; Daniel Gavin (Shaker), 13-0.
Long jump — Chas Higgins (Schalmont), 22-6 3⁄4; Rephael Joseph (Chatham), 20-4 3⁄4; Chris Rost (Amsterdam), 20-4 3⁄4.
Triple jump — Isaiah Turek (Ichabod Crane), 45-11; Devon Willis (Schalmont), 44-7 3⁄4; Brian Greenberg (Bethlehem), 43-3 3⁄4.
Shot put — Will McFee (Greenwich), 53-0; Ryan Griffin (Shaker), 51-7 1⁄4; Don Thorington (Cobleskill-Richmondville), 49-5 1⁄2.
Weight throw — Will McFee (Greenwich), 57-9; Anthony Santoro (South Glens Falls), 50-11; JT Buttimer (Shenendehowa), 50-8.
55 — Keishorea Armstrong (Emma Willard), 7.38; Arnelle Thomas (Bethlehem), 7.49; Ellery Bianco (Saratoga Springs), 7.52.
300 — Blessing Ozoeshi (Albany), 42.31; Alicia Bousa (Colonie), 42.59; Samantha Taillon (Bethlehem), 43.73.
600 — Kaitlin Close (Holy Names), 1:38.66; Kirsten Kaminski (Colonie), 1:39.39; Emily DeWald (Niskayuna), 1:39.53.
1,000 — Taylor Driscoll (Saratoga Springs), 2:56.20; Leah Triller (Holy Names), 2:57.03; Janelle Rothacker (Ballston Spa), 3:04.59.
1,500 — Kaylee Scott (Holy Names), 4:43.24; Catherine Maloy (Holy Names), 4:45.18; Erin Clark (Chatham), 4:52.95.
3,000 — Keelin Hollowood (Saratoga Springs), 10:11.1; Madeline Montague (Greenwich), 10:18.34; Felicia Sciortino (Niskayuna), 10:41.35.
55 hurdles — Sarah Osaheni (Shenendehowa), 8.61; Jaleah Owens (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 8.67; Isabella Borini (Schalmont), 8.70.
800 relay — Shenendehowa (Analise Kirby, Alex Jacques, Julianna Klein, Audrey Meany), 1:49.01; Saratoga Springs, 1:50.70; Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 1:53.37.
1,600 relay — Colonie (Devanee Baskerville, Alicia Bousa, Gina Capobianco, Kirsten Kaminski), 4:11.95; Columbia, 4:22.37; Scotia-Glenville, 4:31.43.3,200 relay — Holy Names (Estela Smith, Kaitlin Close, Catherine Maloy, Leah Triller), 9:31.42; Shenendehowa, 9:39.66; Bethlehem, 10:04.59.
High jump — Grace Smith (Bethlehem), 5-5; Samantha Hjelmar (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 5-4; Keishore Armstrong (Emma Willard), 5-4.
Pole vault — Kara Snyder (Colonie), 10-6; Olivia Matthews (10-6); Kalli Manley (Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), 10-0.
Long jump — Leah Moran (Stillwater), 17-3⁄4; Eva Kiehl (Columbia), 16-11 1⁄4; Alison Xu (Niskayuna), 16-4 1⁄2.
Triple jump — Eva Kiehl (Columbia), 36-11 3⁄4; Sarah Osaheni (Shenendehowa), 36-8 1⁄2; Vicky Buehler (Bethlehem), 35-6 1⁄2.
Shot put — Riley Martin (Troy), 35-6; Brianna Seeley (Hudson Falls), 35-2 3⁄4; Zoe Doolittle (Glens Falls), 33-4 1⁄4.
Weight throw — Acacia Larson (Emma Willard), 42-11; Lundy Spinner (Shenendehowa), 40-0; Zoe Fowler (Emma Willard), 33-10.
Race walk — Meaghan Podlaski (Colonie), 7:53.47; Bridget O’Malley (Emma Willard), 7:56.76; Paige Genito (Cohoes), 9:39.40.