The 2018-19 Section II sports year produced plenty of memorable stories. Here are 10 of them.
SARATOGA XC BACK ON TOP
Saratoga Springs ended Fayetteville-Manlius' 12-year run as state Class A girls' cross country champion with a 46-47 win, and secured its first New York State Public High School Athletic Association title since it strung six straight from 2000-05. Senior Kelsey Chmiel placed second, and was later named the top runner in her class for the fourth year in a row by the New York State Sportswriters Association.
The Greenwich girls won the state Class C cross country title, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys prevailed for the third year in a row in the Class B race, with Tyler Berg finishing first, and Saratoga's Shea Weilbaker was first in the Class A race. Weilbaker later won state indoor and outdoor track titles, as well.
BURNT HILLS PLAYS FOR MARTUCCI
With black stripes and 'DM' stickers on their helmets, and thoughts of Deacon Martucci ever present, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football team put forth a superb season highlighted by a 21-16 Section II Class A Super Bowl win against rival Queensbury. Martucci, a junor linebacker, died in a one-car accident in August as the Spartans were preparing for what would be a 9-2 season.
FOOTBALL GAMES POSTPONED
High school football games were postponed involving Gloversville, Amsterdam and Schalmont after cases of Coxsackievirus — which causes hand, foot and mouth disease — were confirmed in those school districts. The games were eventually played between Gloversville and Ballston Spa, Amsterdam and Broadalbin-Perth, and Schalmont and Hudson.
Motivated by a state title-game loss in 2017, the Stillwater girls' soccer team roared past Little Falls 5-0 to secure the program's first New York championship, while capping an unforgettable season. Stillwater (22-0-1 with a tie against Mechanicville) outscored its opponents 129-16, and piled up 39 goals and allowed just one in seven postseason victories. Junior Brooke Pickett, who scored the first three goals against Little Falls and finished with 52, and Christina Ihnatolya were selected the state Class C player and coach of the year, respectively.
The Schalmont boys also reached the state soccer final four before a semifinal loss to Westhill, but getting there was the real story. The Sabres rallied from a 3-0, second-half deficit to beat postseason rival Ichabod Crane 4-3 in an overtime Section II title game. They beat Canton 1-0 in overtime in a sub-regional game, and then beat Peru in a regional final on penalty kicks 4-3 after overcoming a 2-0 deficit in regulation.
In a scholastic career full of highlights, Glens Falls senior Joseph Girard III will likely be remembered most for his overtime layup with three seconds left that gave his team a 75-74 win over Lowville and the state Class B championship. New York's all-time points producer later led the Indians to the federation title where he earned his third MVP award of the postseason. Albany Academy also won a Class A federation title.
Girard scored 50 points or more 15 times his senior season topped by a Section II-record 69 in an early-February win against Schuylerville, and a 66-point outing against Watervliet in the area playoffs. The New York Mr. Basketball award winner broke his own state one-season record with 1,457 points, and completed his five-year varsity career with 4,763.
In October Girard III announced his decision to attend Syracuse University, and in November he quarterbacked Glens Falls to its second state football championship in three years. Earlier this month, he was selected the MaxPreps 2018-19 Male Athlete of the Year.
LONG TIME COMING
The Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons girls' basketball team started off hot, cooled off a bit, and picked up steam again with four Class D postseason victories that included the program's first Section II title since 1989 and first regional championship since 1988. The Mechanicville girls' basketball team captured its first Section II championship since 1989, and the Saratoga Springs boys' basketball team earned its first Section II crown since 1988.
This spring the Ballston Spa baseball team won its first Section II title since 1973 on its way to the program's first state championship. The Whitehall baseball team won its first Section II title since 1989, and later added a state championship to go with the one the Railroaders garnered in 1984.
LENGTHY WIN STREAKS
The Saratoga Springs girls' gymnastics team rolled to its 18th consecutive Section II team title behind all-around winner Laura Eberlein, and the Lake George boys' basketball team set a Section II record with 54 straight wins before a state semifinal setback. The winter season also saw state wrestling champions Zack Lawrence of Duanesburg (50-0) and Stevo Poulin of Shenendehowa (44-0) put together lengthy individual win streaks. Lawrence completed his career with a Section II-record 277 victories.
In the spring, Fort Ann won its ninth straight Section II softball championship, and on the track, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Saratoga Springs girls' teams each won their seventh straight Section II team titles.
In the fall, the Greenwich girls' cross country team extended its Section II title streak to 15 years, and the Fort Ann boys' soccer team made it nine area titles in a row.
Tapestry Charter School seventh-grader Jada Kenner stole the show at the William F. Eddy Jr. Memorial Track and Field Meet at Schenectady when she tied a world record for 12-year-olds while winning the 200-meter dash in 23.72. The youngster from Buffalo equaled the 23.72 run in April 2017 by then-12-year-old Brianna Lyston of Jamaica. Kenner, the Eddy Meet outstanding female competitor award winner, also won the 100 and anchored a first-place 400 relay
Kenner had previously set an age group world record when she won the indoor state 300 title in 39.24.
Ballston Spa's baseball and softball teams both won Section II and regional Class A championships and, ironically, both defeated teams from Sayville in the state semifinals. The baseball team slugged Sayville 10-0 went on to beat Maine-Endwell 13-6 for the high school's first state title in any sport. The softball team, after outlasting Sayville 2-1 in a state tournament-record 20 innings, lost 3-0 to Williamsville East to mark its second championship-game setback in as many years.
Notably, Ballston Spa's baseball team was down 8-7 in the eighth inning in its sectional opener against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake when Luke Gold belted a walk-off, two-run home run. His sister, Ana, hit a solo homer in the sixth inning that was the difference in the Ballston Spa softball teams' 3-2 Section II title-game win over South Glens Falls.
LONG RUN FOR GANSLE
Marbry Gansle put her whistle aside this spring after a final go-round with the Shaker girls' track and field team, ending a coaching run at the high school that spanned 126 consecutive seasons. Gansle coached girls' cross country and girls' gymnastics as well as girls' track and field for 42 years. Gansle is also retiring as a physical education instructor, but will continue in her role as the state chairperson for girls' cross country and girls' gymnastics.
Gansle's star athletes included gymnasts Shannon Bagley and Dayna Drobny, and distance runners Maryanna Lansing and Krissy Haacke.
La Salle baseball coach Jesse Braverman and Ichabod Crane softball coach Tracy Nytransky also made news this spring by reaching the career 300-win mark.