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Spiers gives a state meet spot to teammate

Spiers gives a state meet spot to teammate

Kokernak among Niskayuna's contingent
Spiers gives a state meet spot to teammate
Niskayuna seniors Abigail Spiers and Amelia Kokernak will compete at the state track and field championships in Syracuse.
Photographer: JIM SCHILTZ/GAZETTE SPORTSWRITER

NISKAYUNA -- Abigail Spiers is okay with running one event at the upcoming state track and field championships.

By doing so, a longtime friend and teammate will get a chance to compete, too, at the New York showcase at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

Still breathing hard after winning the 1,500-meter run at last Friday's state meet qualifier, Spiers offered up her spot to fellow Niskayuna senior Amelia Kokernak. Spiers will instead run the 3,000, a race she qualified for the day before.

"We have been on the team seven years together," Spiers said before Tuesday's workout with Niskayuna's state-bound team. "She [Kokernak] has a goal, and she deserves another shot at it."

Spiers reached one of her own goals when she won the 1,500 at the state meet qualifier at Shenendehowa in a personal-best 4:37.06. Kokernak was second in the race with a 4:42.97, which did not meet the state meet standard.

"Once the gun went off, Abigail went after it," Niskayuna coach Jason DeRocco said.

"I had a goal for the season to PR in the 1,500, and I got it," said Spiers, who has committed to Syracuse University. "That was my chance to do it. I haven't reached my goal in the 3K."

That, she said, would be a sub-9:50. Spiers' best for the season is a 9:51.02. She ran a second-place 10:08.27 last Thursday at the qualifier to finish behind Saratoga Springs junior Kelsey Chmiel (9:55.95).

"If I get a 9:50, I don't care what [place] I get," said Spiers, who at the 2017 state meet was sixth in the 3,000 among New York State Public High School Athletic Association runners and eighth in the Federation results.

Spiers said that running the 5:40 p.m. 3,000 this Friday and the 11:15 a.m. 1,500 Saturday would have been a difficult double.

"I didn't want to worry about running in the evening and the morning," Spiers said. "I know Amelia will do a good job."

Kokernak said she went to the state meet qualifier thinking about time more than place.

"I was seeded fifth or sixth [in the 1,500] and wasn't planning on going to states," The Virginia-bound Kokernak said. "I looked at who was in the race, and three girls had scratched."

Among the scratches were Chmiel and fellow star Hannah Reale, a senior from Shenendehowa who had already qualified for the state meet 800. That left standout Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake junior Rory Graham for Kokernak to contend with.

"Rory had run the day before and I was fresh," Kokernak said. "With that and the scratches, that reset the tone for me. I had a whole different mindset. It was about time, and then it changed."

After Kokernak placed second ahead of Graham (4:50.78), Section II girls' track and field coordinator Mark Therrien confirmed that an event runner-up at the qualifier could go to the state meet even if they did not hit the state standard, which in this case was a 4:35.84 for the 1,500.

"Amelia had to do her job, absolutely," DeRocco said. "If she doesn't show up and run, she wouldn't be going [to the state meet]."

Kokernak's best time for the 1,500 this season is a 4:41.46.

"I'm trying to break 4:40," Kokernak said. "Last year I was injured and wasn't able to go after it. I'm going to leave it all out there. I feel I'm in good shape."

Niskayuna's state-bound team will also include senior Megan Daviero, junior Kristina Koes, sophomore Zoe Harris and freshman Marissa Wise in the 1,600 relay, Donnovan Tucker in the 1,600, and Marty Dolan in the 3,000 steeplechase. The relay foursome set a school record (3:56.52) at the Eddy Meet.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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