Kerry Flower may have found her track and field niche.
“We wanted to give her her own thing,” said Schalmont head coach Brian Croote. “Separate her from her sister a little bit.”
That thing is the 2,000-meter steeplechase, a race the eighth-grader had never competed in before Tuesday’s Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Girls’ Invitational.
“I just wanted to get over and not kill myself,” Flower laughed, before adding. “No, really, I was pretty relaxed. My game plan was to just run.”
Flower ended up running and jumping better than the rest in one of the more noteworthy performances at the meet, which was held in the rain under winter rules. Lindsay Therrien of Fonda-Fultonville established a personal best and nearly got another in two of her three victories, and Janelle Rothacker of the host Spartans kept Julia Flower from a distance sweep with a superb comeback in the 1,500.
“I always race better when I’m looking ahead,” said Rothacker, after catching and passing the state 1,500 leader. “I’m definitely a chaser.”
The younger Flower also chased and caught up, after leading through the first half of the steeplechase and then surrendering the front to fellow eighth-grader Mariah Van Avery of Fonda-Fultonville.
“Coach told me he wanted me to have my own event that I could be good at,” Flower said after her victory in 7:54.4. “I feel pretty good right now.”
Croote and Schalmont distance coach Rich Kranick decided on the steeplechase for Flower Monday.
“We don’t have the steeplechase jumps at our school,” said Kranick. “She worked on the hurdles and afterward we said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ It ended up being a good decision.”
Julia Flower was a proud older sister.
“She did a good job when that girl passed her,” said the sophomore. “She fought back.”
Rothacker did too, and just missed a PR with a 4:44.9 in the 1,500. Flower ran a 4:46.2.
“This is our meet. I was thinking, ‘I need to go. I can do this,’” said Rothacker.
“She found an extra gear,” Kranick said of Rothacker, a junior. “She looked like a dragster. Salute to her.”
“When it’s a neck-and-neck race, I’d put my money on Janelle,” said BH-BL head coach Emily Lewek. “She’s got that turnover. Her kick is her MO.”
Rothacker overtook Flower on the turn before the final straightaway in the meet’s most anticipated race. Flower made no excuses, though she and her sister did miles of hill work Sunday.
“I tried to hold her off. I had a feeling she was there, but I didn’t hear her. Then I heard her,” said Flower, the swimmer-turned-runner who popped a state-best 4:38.3 at Saturday’s Kingston Tiger Relays. “I didn’t kick it in soon enough.”
Flower later won the 800 in 2:22.6.
“That was a nice bounce back,” said Kranick. “She was disappointed after the 1,500.”
Therrien set a PR in the triple jump with a winning 32-7, took the long jump in 14-103⁄4, and prevailed in the 100 hurdles 16.6, just off her all-time best of 16.5.
“Lately, I’ve been preparing better,” said the senior. “When it’s going to be cold, like today, I wear more clothes and keep them on. When the muscles are warm, you perform better.”
Cameryn Savoie of Fonda-Fultonville won the discus at 95-5 and placed second in the shot put.
“She’s been working hard and getting results,” said Fonda-Fultonville weights coach Tom Carpenter. “She’s doing well.”
The meet was the third in four days for the Burnt Hills girls after Saturday’s triumph at the Hudson Falls Invitational and Monday’s dual competition with Averill Park, Shaker and Shenendehowa.
“We’re getting a workout, that’s for sure,” said BH-BL senior Dani Martino, after helping the Spartans win the 3,200 relay. “It will make us better.”
Burnt Hills also won the 1,600 relay, Renee and Elyse Manosh went one-two in the 200, and Samantha Hjelmar won the high jump at 5-3.
“A lot of girls are tired. We’re trying to run to the best of our abilities,” said Rothacker.
100 — Stewart (Nisk), 12.5; Wilkes (Duanes), 13.3; Adams (BH), 13.3; 200 — R. Manosh (BH), 28.1; E. Manosh (BH), 28.6; Decento (Schal), 28.7; 400 — Regan (Schal), 60.1; Jacome (IC), 62.9; Monsen (BH), 63.0; 800 — J. Flower (Schal), 2:22.6; Scott (BH), 2:24.5; Wagner (Nisk), 2:31.8; 1,500 — Rothacker (BH), 4:44.9; J. Flower (Schal), 4:46.2; Spiers (Nisk), 4:56.0; 100 hurdles — Therrien (FF), 16.6; Parkzek (Amst), 16.9; Rhodes (FF), 18.0; 400 hurdles — Jeniti (FF), 71.6; Madden (BH), 74.9; Skufca (Nisk), 76.3; 2,000 steeplechase — K. Flower (Schal), 7:54.4; Van Avery (FF), 8:12.4; Gregory (Duanes), 8:24.5; 400 relay — Fonda-Fultonville, 55.5; Amsterdam, 55.8; Ichabod Crane, 57.3; 1,600 relay — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 4:25.3; Niskayuna, 4:27.3; Fonda-Fultonville, 4:56.0; 3,200 relay — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 10:18.5; Amsterdam, 10:54.4; Niskayuna, 10:56.7; High jump — Hjelmar (BH), 5-3; Eagner (Nisk), 4-3; Barnes (Duanes), 4-0; Long jump — Therrien (FF), 14-10 3/4; Rhodes (FF), 14-0; Janetsky (Amst), 13-9; Triple jump — Therrien (FF), 32-7; Janetsky (Amst), 31-2; Heacock (FF), 29-11; Pole vault — Hentrik (FF), 8-6; Robataille (Amst), 7-0; Shot put — Hale (IC), 30-6 1/2; Savoie (FF), 28-9; Richardson (Amst), 27-0; Discus — Savoie (FF), 95-5; Peltola (Schal), 94-4; Littlejohn (FF), 73-7.