Every athlete needs a pick-me-up during a long, grueling season, but Amy Villarini had more than a keep-the-faith kind of day last Saturday in Yorkshire.
The Hamburg senior had a meet to remember during the Pioneer Invitational – winning all four events she entered, setting two meet records, posting a personal-best time and earning MVP honors.
And to think she wasn’t happy with how her season had gone until finally running in the first of many meaningful races during the month of May.
“It was kind of an awakening for the season,” Villarini said. “It gave me a boost of confidence to compete in the most competitive part of the season.”
One would think a runner of Villarini’s talents wouldn’t need any confidence boosters. She owns the school record in the 200- and 400-meter dashes (25.49 and 58.02 seconds, respectively). The defending Section VI champion in the 400 also holds two school records for indoor track (55 and 300 meters). She is weighing offers from Division I University at Buffalo and Niagara and Division II Seton Hill (Pa.).
Track and field is a tricky sport where being in the right place mentally is just as important as being healthy physically. Everyone wants to set a personal record when he or she competes, but if achieving that was so easy, then it wouldn’t be as special a moment when it’s attained. Villarini wants to do well all the time, according to 37th-year Bulldogs coach Bill Malican.
“Sometimes in athletics you’re not on top of your game all the time,” Malican said. “It’s about being on your game at the right time, and she usually is on her game at the right time.”
Villarini proved that last season when she set school records in the 200 and 400 at the ECIC Championships. Villarini showed it once again Saturday in winning the 100, 200, 400 and long jump events to help Hamburg win the girls team title at Pioneer.
She was most pleased by her efforts in the 100 as she ran the event in a personal-best 12.6 seconds, which is two-tenths of a second away from matching the school record set in 1988.
“I was a little nervous going into the season hoping I could break my PRs,” said Villarini, who admits she’s feeling confident, again. “Hopefully I’ll get that 100 before I graduate.”
The competition likely will push Villarini toward that goal.
She currently has the fourth-best time in the 100 in Western New York, with some heavyweight meets still on the docket, including the WNY Girls Track and Field Classic on May 23 at Lancaster and the ECIC Championships on May 30 at Maryvale. The Section VI Championships are June 5-6 at Niagara-Wheatfield.
She’s not the only Bulldog to keep an eye on this spring. Hamburg has one of the top pole vaulters in the area in senior Taylor Thurnherr, who has committed to St. Francis (Pa.). She has posted a clearance leap of 11 feet, 3 inches.
Villarini’s sister, Katie, is one of three sophomores, along with freshman Molly Kabza, who Malican has lots of faith in. Katie Villarini is a solid middle distance runner, while Kabza can run mid-distance and the 800. Madi Maurer (800 and 1,500) and versatile Jen Robbins are the other sophomores performing well.
Sweet Home is trying to do what it did last year and complete the academic year as team champion of all the running sports. The Panthers won cross country, indoor and outdoor track team titles last year in ECIC and are an outdoor title this spring away from achieving the unique repeat.
Senior Sadira Brown looks to keep the momentum going this spring as she won the state indoor title in the triple jump last winter. She currently ranks third in the event in WNY in outdoor.
Two-time indoor 300 champion and anchor of 4x400 relay Terionna Ware, a senior, has been to states the past two seasons. She also is tied for the second-best time in the 100 with Orchard Park’s Jamie Guadagno.
Ware and senior Rachel Roberson are also members of the 4x400 team that set the Section VI record during the indoor season for Sweet Home. Roberson runs lead-off.
Sophomore Sam Peterman, a member of last year’s 4x400, is a two-time indoor state meet medalist. Aileen Doyle, the section’s cross country champion, should be a factor in the 3,000-meter run. Defending Section VI champion Ally Ortega owns the second fastest time in section history in the steeplechase.
Sweet Home’s Tiana Luton finished seventh at states last year and the junior has a legit shot at finishing in the top three, according to coach Brian Lombardo.
Luton has the top time in the 100 hurdles, shares top distance in high jump and ranks third in the 400 hurdles and long jump and fifth in the 200.
Of course, looking at the pentathlon leaders right now would be an exercise in futility as most of the contenders haven’t participated in the grueling event yet because “it kind of beats up competitors,” Lombardo said. The pentathlon consists of the high hurdles (110 hurdles for boys), long jump, high jump, shot put and 800 (1,600 for boys).
It’s time for the last mid-season scholastic-athletic report for Frontier senior-do-everything McKyla Brooks’ career.
Brooks, the athletic talent who will play volleyball and participate in track at Stony Brook, is once again the hunted on meet day as the two-time state champion has the top time or distance in three events (100-meter dash, triple jump and long jump) in Western New York. She has the third-fastest time in the 200.
She broke her own Section VI record in the triple jump (39-8) and is coming off an indoor season in which she won three section titles and states in the long jump. She won the outdoor long jump two years ago.
Other Falcons to keep an eye on include Rebecca Steifler, who won the section’s shot put title during the indoor season. She holds school records in shot, discus and weight throw. Frontier’s girls are looking to win ECICs for the second straight spring.
Brooks isn’t the only senior multi-sport talent looking to go out in a blaze of state championship glory.
Randolph’s Mckenna Maycock, who will play basketball at St. Bonaventure, is the current leader in the 400 hurdles but took second in the pentathlon last spring at the Division II (Small Schools) state meet. The defending Section VI champion in the pentathlon has the second fastest time in the 400-meter dash and ranks sixth in long jump.
Cardinals coach Brooke Adams said Maycock, also a standout volleyball player, will decide before sectionals what event or events she wants to focus on in pursuit of a state title. If she opts out of the pentathlon, Maycock’s options include the hurdle events, the 200 and the 400. She’s unbeaten in those open events in league meets this season.
“She has quite a few options,” Adams said.
East Aurora talents
Sophia Tasselmyer returns for East Aurora and is the state’s defending Division II champion in the 3,000. She ranks first in the event in Western New York, followed by Sweet Home’s Doyle. Tasselmyer won the 1,500, 3,000 and was a member of the 4x800 team. Molly McLaughlin was part of the 4x800 and 4x400 relays, Fione Daniue is a 3,000 and 4x800 state qualifier and Hannah Hitchcock a member of the 4x400 relay. McLaughlin has the third-best time in the 800.
Around the tracks
• Juniors Lynda Brundige of Hutch-Tech and Julia Ziaja of City Honors look to make states for the second year in a row. Brundige, the Section VI champion in the 100 and 200, took third at states in the 100 and fifth in 200. Ziaja placed fifth in states in 100 and 200.
• The fantastic foursome is back together for Lancaster as junior Ashley Grazen has overcome a series of injuries dating back to last year. She rejoins a relay crew consisting of Tiffany Cycon, Molly Scarpello and Allie Mazur that when healthy is one of the most formidable in the state. Teammate Olivia Gervan shares the WNY lead in the high jump while newcomer Isabelle Licata has caught people’s attention with a 59.1 clocking in the 400.
• Orchard Park’s Alexa Hillis is the hunted in the shot and discus, while everyone is chasing Naomi Wistner of Williamsville North in the 1,500-meter run. But Wistner is trying to track down Nardin’s Gabrielle Orie in the 800. Orie has a 2:17.88, with Peterman of Sweet Home the next closest pursuer at 2:20.14.
• Meghan Krawiec of Immaculata is among the long and triple jump leaders, while Anndea Zeigler of Cardinal O’Hara has the area’s seventh fastest time in the 100 and 200.
• Unbeaten Barker is chasing its first girls title in the Niagara-Orleans League. Standouts for the Raiders thus far include Caitlyn Mason, who is 3 inches shy of matching the school record in the long jump, and Gabriella Clare, who has a chance at breaking the school mark in the 400 hurdles. Sprinter Kelsi Flegal is a threat to finish in the top three at sectionals in the 100 and 200.