By Rob Centorani Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — With a mix of veterans and first-timers, an area contingent of 16 athletes will see where they fit in among New York’s best during the two-day state track and field meet that begins today at Middletown High.
Sidney will send six athletes — all making their first appearances at states — Oneonta High has four, Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton will bring two, and Downsville, Gilbertsville-Mount Upton/Morris, Cooperstown and Unatego have one apiece.
The meet starts at 11:30 a.m. today and resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The busiest among the athletes who’ll compete on the first day will be Sidney’s Ethan Green and Hunter Sowersby. The Warriors qualified their 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams and they’ll run about half-hour apart this afternoon.
Seniors Green and Sowersby will join classmates Aaron McCarroll and Nate Magnussen on a 400 relay that’s seeded 11th in Division II (school enrollments of 600 or fewer). They’ll run around 4:20 p.m.
At about 4:50 p.m., Green, Sowersby, fellow senior Austin McCarroll and freshman Dean Howard will run on the 1,600 relay team that’s seeded fourth.
Both foursomes broke school records at last Thursday’s Section Four State Qualifier at Vestal. The 400 relay crossed in 44.70 and the 1,600 relay team finished in 3:26.14 to win overall sectional title.
“Very seldom do all four hit at the same time, but we had four PRs,” Sidney coach Paul Sims said of the 1,600 relay, which dropped about four seconds off its previous best last Thursday.
Sowersby had the fastest split at 50.5 seconds and Austin McCarroll was next at 50.9.
“Right now, their eyes are set on the Section Four record of 3:24.21,” Sims said of the mark set in 2009 by a Dustin Ross-led Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton quartet that went on to win a Division II state title that season. “Looking at the seeds, we’re seeded fourth in D-II. We have a goal of wanting to win a state championship, but the No. 1 seed (Bayport-Bluepoint, 3:21.79) is about five seconds ahead of us. We’re looking for a time in that 3:24 range.”
The Yellowjackets’ quartet includes senior hurdler Jennifer Jelic, a senior who’s been at the varsity level the past four years.
Making her first appearance at the state meet, Jelic is seeded sixth for the 400 hurdles with a time of 1:04.98, that performance coming in an early-season invitational at Windsor. Jelic qualified last week with a time of 1:06.91 to place second overall to U-E standout Kathy Cadet and first among D-II athletes.
OHS girls coach Dave Forbes said Jelic should benefit from only having to focus on one event this weekend.
“We’ve really abused her,” Forbes said of Jelic, who has run both hurdles races this season, been a member on the 400 and 1,600 relays and competed in the long jump this season. “I think the fact that she has one race to look to, she’ll have all of her energy pointed at that race.”
Headed for SUNY Delhi next season, Jelic’s been working this week on getting out fast.
“(OHS boys coach) Brady (Cotter) has been working with her on explosion out of the blocks and then going smooth into the back stretch, so she’ll have something left for the finish,” Forbes said.
Another OHS senior, Mitchel Couch, will compete in the discus.
Couch won the overall sectional title with a distance of 152 feet, 6 inches, adding close to 10 feet to his personal best last Thursday.
In the fall, Couch routinely was the Yellowjackets’ top scorer on the golf team. He shot a 3-under-par 33 at Oneonta Country Club on Oct. 2.
“I’d guess none to be honest,” Forbes said when asked if he’d ever coached someone who doubled as a golf star and a discus thrower.
Couch, also headed to former B-G/A track coach Robb Munro’s squad at SUNY Delhi next season, started on Oneonta’s basketball team as well.
“I’m thinking he’ll have to hit the mid-150s to be in contention for something,” Forbes said of Couch, who’s seeded seventh among D-II throwers. “I think he has the ability to do it.”
The individual event with the most area competitors is the girls high jump. For the second straight year, Oneonta’s Brittney Herrick and Natalie Vanderlaan-Meyering, as well as Cooperstown’s Lucy Ford, will compete.
Ford, a junior, is the top D-II seed in the event, with a height of 5-4.25. That came during the Don Howard Invitational at Cooperstown in May. In the same meet, junior Herrick finished second at 5-4 and senior Vanderlaan-Meyering was third at 5-1.
During that meet, Ford suffered a left ankle injury that forced her to miss the next two weeks.
“It has been aggravated, but it is not too bad,” Cooperstown coach Connie Herzig told The Coopersotwn Crier this week. “She will be jumping on Saturday.”
Ford advanced to states by clearing 5-2 at the Section Three State Qualfiers last week. Last year at states, Ford tied for 11th at 4-11. Herrick cleared the same height and finished tied for 16th, and Vanderlaan-Meyering went over 4-8 to tie for 19th.
At last week’s Section Four State Qualifier, the 6-foot Herrick and the 6-2 Vanderlaan-Meyering each cleared 5-0 to qualify.
“I think 5-2 will be the magic number,” Forbes said. “Five-2 will be in the running (for a top-six finish). That’s Natalie’s best jump. Brittney has done that a few times and had a 5-4 at Cooperstown. They’ll have to bring their A games. Both have the ability to do it if they focus and have a good day.”
The competitor with the most state-meet experience is B-G/A sophomore Julia Knapp. She’s placed sixth among public school D-II 400 hurdlers the past two years at states. Last season, she also finished third out of D-II public school athletes in the 100 hurdles and placed 17th in the long jump.
B-G/A coach Israel Lorimer said that Knapp only having to run one event this season should be helpful.
“It may be a blessing that she’s not in two or three events,” Lorimer said. “She’s (seeded) third and she’s just going to run the 100 hurdles. She’s such a great athlete. It may work out to be a good thing to concentrate on just one event.”
Knapp won the overall sectional title last week, crossing in 15.20. She beat U-E’s Cadet in that race.
“She’s capable of 14-something,” Lorimer said. “She could run a 14.90, but it’s supposed to be pretty wet and nasty, so you never know. Friday is going to be a semi for her and she should run well enough to get in the (D-II) final. She had two great workouts on Monday and Tuesday.”
B-G/A junior Pedro Aparicio is seeded 11th in the D-II shot put with a distance of 48-4.25, a mark he set at the Section Four Class C championships two weeks ago. He qualified last week at 46-9.75.
“Pedro thrives on competition,” Lorimer said. “He’ll go against better competition and that will help him. I think he has a 49-foot throw in him and that may work (to get him on the awards podium). Over the last five years, 49-6 has been the average sixth-place finish. If he throws that, he’ll be on the podium somewhere.”
Three area boys sprinters also will try to make it to the D-II podium.
Senior Eddie Ray Cotton of Gilbertsville-Mount Upton will compete in the 100, and Downsville junior Antonio Gomes and Unatego senior David VanAlstine will run in the 200.
Cotton, who finished ninth in the D-II 200 at last year’s state meet, is seeded 12th in the D-II 100 with a time of 11.21. He ran that last week in finishing third overall in the section and first among D-II competitors.
Gomes, who ran a school-record 22.85 in placing second overall in the section last week, is seeded 10th in the 200. VanAlstine is seeded 14th with a time of 22.93.
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.