Marissa Saenger’s track talent is unlimited, so much so that many Division I colleges sought the Clarence senior’s services, including Vanderbilt of the Southeastern Conference, before she opted for the Ivy League.
Injuries the past couple seasons have prevented her from flaunting that talent to the best of her ability, but the future Harvard student-athlete served notice last weekend she could be a handful during the season’s home stretch before heading to Cambridge, Mass.
Saenger finished first in the 1,500-meter run Saturday at the Western New York Girls Track and Field Classic at Lancaster and heads into this weekend’s ECIC Championships at Jamestown with some momentum. She’ll likely focus on the 1,500 and 3,000, according to Red Devils coach John Hunt.
Saenger currently has the third-best time in Western New York in the 1,500 (4:46.74), trailing only Sophia Tasselmyer of East Aurora (4:44.24) and Sweet Home’s Sam Peterman (4:45.84). Saenger has the second-best time in the 3,000 (10:19.04 to Sweet Home’s Aileen Doyle, 10:18.64).
And Saenger still isn’t 100 percent after missing the indoor season with a knee injury and last spring with a stress fracture.
“She’s about 80-85 percent back,” Hunt said. “She’s doing really well considering the circumstances. She’s two to three weeks away.”
A two-week timetable would mean she’ll head into the Section VI State Qualifying Meet at Olean with a chance at earning another state bid.
She has performed well against the Empire State’s best in the past, setting a Section VI record at Elma Meadows two years ago in taking third at the state cross country meet (17:41.3 for the 5K course). She finished sixth in the 1,500 at states two years ago and last fall took eighth at the state cross-country meet on a bad wheel.
She’s not the only Division I talent hoping to go out with a bang for Clarence. Cincinnati-bound distance runner Dan Huben has the top times in Western New York in both the steeplechase and 3,200. Classmate Ted Okon will head to Binghamton. Okon, who was briefly recruited by Auburn, owns the best high jump mark in the state (6 feet, 9 inches) and ranks near the top in Western New York in the triple jump.
Huben has already qualified for sectionals in the steeplechase, 1,600, 3,200 and the 800. Which ones will be his primary focus?
“It’s a nice problem to have, not knowing where to put him,” Clarence boys coach Kevin McCune said.
Another Clarence girl to keep an eye on is freshman Katrina Patterson, who won the sectional title in the 3,000 during indoor season.
Small school talents shine
Eleven of the top 19 times and distances among the girls belong to competitors from small schools.
Coming up large from the Division II ranks is two-time defending 100-meter dash state champion Christina Walter of Maple Grove, a senior who also won the state title in the 200 two years ago. The future Princeton Tiger has gone as low as 12.06 in the 100.
Randolph’s Mckenna Maycock, a past state participant, takes up three spots on the leader board as the junior is hunted in 400, 400 hurdles and pentathlon.
East Aurora girls boast top times in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays while senior Marta McLaughlin, who will run at Division II Grand Valley State in Grand Rapids, Mich., is the returning sectional champ in the 800. She’s qualified for states each year since seventh grade. Tasselmyer has hit the state time for both the 1,500 and 3,000.
Another McLaughlin, er, Blue Devil to keep an eye on is Marta’s sister, eighth-grader Molly McLaughlin. She is a member of both 1,600 and 3,200 relays.
East Aurora’s boys team also has a couple good sprinters to keep tabs on in juniors Mike Coatsworth and Mike Durant, as well as hurdler and middle distance runner Jack Zagrobelny. Sophomores T.J. Murray, Will Zink and Kenny Vasbinber qualified for states during cross country season.
Sweet Home long on talent
Peterman, Doyle, Ally Ortega and Rachael Weissenburg set the Sweet Home record in the 3,200 relay last Saturday at the Kenmore Track Invitational – posting a time of 9:47.62 to eclipse the old mark by 8 seconds.
The foursome works quite well together. That’s a good thing considering they go from teammates to competitors since Peterman, Doyle and Ortega all tend to rank at or close to the top in the 800, 1,500 and 3,200.
How does coach Brian Lombardo keep the peace?
“We’re not getting too competitive in practice,” he said. “The actual fast stuff, we’re keeping them apart to keep the internal competition to a minimum.”
On the boys side, Mitchell Daddario is the hunted in the mile and would like to return to states after qualifying in the 3,200 relay last year. Josh Willson won the indoor pole vault at sectionals and hopes to do the same during outdoor. Senior sprinters Derell Hennings and Daquane Spikes have state experience. Adrian Drake won the 110 hurdles at last week’s Roesch.
Meanwhile, there’s good news and bad news for Lancaster.
First the good. Mitch Fuller has gone from chasing down fly balls and stealing bases for the baseball team to crossing the finish line ahead of his foes this spring.
He shares the top time in Western New York in the 100-meter dash with Canisius’ Desmond Nicholas, whom he defeated Saturday in winning the title at the Roesch.
Why did Fuller switch sports? Fuller, who runs indoor track, earned scholarship money to participate in the sport at the University at Buffalo. He finished second at states during indoor season in the 55-meter dash.
“I’m really happy with it but it’s hard leaving baseball,” Fuller said of his decision to leave a team that reached the Section VI final last year. “I really miss those guys.”
Lancaster has three throwers hoping to make waves at sectionals in Tony DeYoung in the shot, who’s personal-best throw is 58-7. Brandon Sicorella follows at 56-7¼ along with sophomore Colin Blair (55-2ø).
Now on to the bad. Sophomore sprinter Ashley Grazen will miss ECICs with a hamstring injury. She could also be out for sectionals, Lancaster coach Kevin Carierrio said.
“She’s gone to the state meet every year since her eighth-grade year,” he said.
Allie Mazur, who along with Grazen, Molly Scarpello and Tiffany Cycon went to states on the 400 relay last year, has been banged up but could be back soon.
Senior McKenzie Kuehlewind, who will attend UB, leads the state with a shot put effort of 45-0. She won a state title last winter and took third at outdoor last year.
Olivia Gervan’s only a freshman but the high jumper has state tournament experience and is three inches off the top mark of 5-7 in the state.
Around the track
• Hailey Rospierski of Alden shares No. 1 in the state in the high jump (5-7) with Emily Soeder of III-Baldwinsville. Rospierski isn’t the only Section VI jumper, however, making noise as Lauren Hudson of Williamsville North trails the leaders with an effort of 5-6.
• Frontier’s McKyla Brooks is the reigning state Division I champion in the triple jump. She currently has the top distance in high jump. Teammate Rebecca Stiefler looks to make some noise as she has the second-best throw in the state in the discus (146-1) and third-best in the shot (41-9).
• Reigning state Division II champion Stephanie Lombardo of Cheektowaga ranks just behind Kuehlewind in the shot (42-8ø).
• Williamsville South’s Devon Patterson has the second-best throw in the state in the shot as he set the Roesch meet record Saturday with a toss of 63-3¾.
• Grand Island’s Jess Dahliwall has the top mark in the state in the discus (154-0). For the boys, Orchard Park’s Dawson Hillis ranks second in the state (173-9).
• Lake Shore freshman Natalie Cummings won the 3000 and 800 at the WNY Classic last week to earn meet MVP honors.
• Jamestown’s Mitchell Moore ranks second in the state in the 400 hurdles (54.07).