West Seneca West might want to buy the track team its own bus. The Indians are sending quite the contingent to the state indoor track championships this weekend, and it looks like they'll be doing so for quite a while.
West is sending seven girls and a boy to Ithaca for Saturday's state meet at Cornell University's Barton Hall. While the lone boy, 1,600-meter runner Timothy Bradley, is a senior, the oldest among the seven girls is just a junior, racewalker Danielle Kozub. The rest of West's best are five sophomores and a freshman.
And it appears that the young team is outrunning butterflies heading into a state championship meet.
"We had one of the best pre-state meet practices I've ever been around [Monday]," 10th-year West coach Emilio Mancino said. "It was a great practice. The kids were loose, having fun, but when it was time to get down to work, they got their workouts in and stretched well and had a great team meeting."
Sophomores Morgan Billi and Kailey Sullivan are making their second trip to the state meet. Billi will compete in the 55 meters and the long jump while Sullivan will run the 600. Freshman Nicole Castilloux joins Billi in the long jump as well as on the 800 relay team, which also includes sophomores Kristina Wright and Kelsey Randall. Sophomore Melissa Szymanowski joins Section VI champion Kozub in the racewalk.
"It's a combination of things," Mancino said of the success. "It's putting a lot of time in the program, and just getting kids to buy into the program, and from there it takes on a life of its own."
West Seneca West sent seven athletes to the state meet last year, five of them boys. This year's contingent was nearly 10, but the team's 3,200 was edged when a veteran Clarence squad recorded a Section VI season-best time.
The good news for the relay is that the three girls who missed out on the trip to states are all freshmen, so they'll be back next year -- along with a lot of teammates.
>Passing the pole vault torch
Orchard Park senior Rachel NeMoyer is carrying on Western New York's tradition of outstanding female pole vaulters and is a state title favorite.
NeMoyer is ranked first in the state in the event in which current Division I freshmen Mary Saxer (Notre Dame) of Lancaster and Tiffany Maskiulinski (Washington State) of Iroquois have excelled during recent seasons.
NeMoyer, who was sixth at the state meet (won by Saxer) last year, has the top vault in the state this year at 11-9 and she won the sectional title with a vault of 11-6. The second-best mark in the state this season is 11-3.
Section VI has a threat on the boys side as well in Lancaster's Jim Townsend, who has the sixth-best vault in the state this year at 14-7. Three locals are going in the event after Lancaster classmate Matt Auon tied Townsend for the sectional title at 13-0. JFK junior Greg Craft advanced thanks to a state-qualifying 13-3 at the Section VI team championships.
>Sounds like some serious shots
Section VI has some serious chances to do well in the shot put in both the boys and girls competitions.
On the girls side, North Tonawanda senior Alyssa Pirinelli is ranked fifth in the state at 40-2 while Section VI champion Melissa Kurzdorfer, who is an eighth-grader competing for Lancaster, is ranked sixth just a half-inch behind.
Sweet Home's Drew Graziadei's sectional championship throw of 53 feet, 8 1/2 inches is the fifth-best throw in the state this year.
Frontier's Rob Golombek (52-8 3/4 ) is ranked 10th.
>Around the states
* Brianna Steel of Newfane is tied for the third-best high jump in the state, two inches out of the top spot. She matched her season best to win the sectionals at 5-6.
West Seneca West's Billi has the ninth-best long jump in the state with the 17-9 performance that won the Section VI championship. North Tonawanda's Reya Russell, who finished fourth in the state in the 55 hurdles last year at 8.75 seconds, currently has the 13th-best time in the state with her sectional winning time of 8.63.
West Seneca East is also representing its district well with Natalie Fildes (300), Leanne Skrabacz (1,000) and Amanda Solly (3,000). Competing in two events are Jamestown's Kailey Harvey (1,500 and 3,000), Orchard Park's Christine Sprehe (1,000 and 1,500) as well as Williamsville South's Natalie Gregorski (600) and Katie Johnson (1,000), who are also part of the Billies' 1,600 relay.
* On the boys side, Lockport, as usual, is represented well by its distance runners with John Haenle in the 1,600 and both Patrick Russell and Lyle Tolli in the 3,200 while Brandon Milkes joins the trio in the 3,200 relay. Williamsville North senior John Bauman has the 11th-best time in the state in the 600 with his 1:23.53.
Pioneer senior Cory Pixley, who was third in the state in the high jump last year at 6-4, heads to the meet along with Williamsville North senior Richard Wong after both cleared 6-2 at the sectional meet. Section VI triple jump champion Wong will have a busy day, competing in the high, long and triple jumps. Competing in two events will be: Hamburg's Jamal Norward (55 and 55 hurdles), North Tonawanda's Dan Zuch (55 and 300) and Lancaster's Josh Durkin (1,000 and 800 relay).
* No Monsignor Martin Association athletes will be participating in the meet because none qualified at the state Catholic meet Feb. 11 at The Armory in New York City. Canisius' Brad Bogdan was closest to qualifying with a 9:40.59 in the 3,200 meters. Since that was fourth at the Catholic meet he didn't advance to states; however, that time would have won Saturday's Section VI championship (Lockport's Pat Russell won in 9:41.8).
* The girls meet begins at 9 a.m. with the boys competition scheduled to start at 3 p.m. There is a Friday night warm-up from 6 to 8 p.m.
* Cornell's cavernous Barton Hall was built in 1914-15 and for a time it was the largest unpillared room in existence. The interior of the building, including the eight-lane, 200-meter track, covers almost 2 acres.