The divisions: Schools with more than 600 students are in Division 1, those with fewer are in Division 2. Starpoint was the closest to the dividing line this year at 606. There are 26 schools in Division 1 and 55 in Division 2.
The season: The wet spring has made life difficult for track and field athletes and their coaches. It hasn't been impossible to compete, thanks to all-weather surfaces. Still, most of the meets have been held at temperatures under 55 degrees.
"Trying to run in 35-, 40-degree weather - that's an issue," coach Paul Ksionzyk of Olean said.
"It really puts sprinters at risk for injuries," coach Dan Syracuse of Williamsville South said. "We've cancelled the pole vault at a number of meets. The bar won't even stay up for the high jump at times because of the wind. You can tell what's happened at competitions, because we haven't hit our usual times."
Some coaches believe that the schools with big indoor track teams will have an advantage this year, because those athletes had less work to do to prepare for the outdoor season.
Boys and girls: Most of the running events are the same distances for the boys and girls. However, there are a few slight differences. Boys run 3,000 meters in the steeplechase, while girls go 2,000 meters. The boys hurdles event is 110 meters to the girls' 100. The boys go an extra 100 meters compared to their girls for q 1,600-meter race, and an extra 200 meters for a 3,200-meter race.
Qualifying for states: The winner of each event, individual or relay, automatically goes to states. The second-place finishers also go if they have met the standard for qualification, either at the sectional meet or an invitational featuring at least five teams. If the runner-up hasn't met the standard, the third-place (or fourth-place, etc.) finisher is eligible to go if the standard is met. But only two athletes or teams can represent Section VI in a single event.
The standards vary by class, but not by much. For example, boys in Division I must run a 1:54.74 in the 800 meters, while those in Division II have to run 1:56.64. For the girls, the times are 2:15.64 and 2:15.74 for the two classes. They are derived by taking the average of the sixth-place finishers of the finals from 2012 to 2016.
Record-holders: Some Section VI records were set in 2016. For the boys, Sam Wray of Starpoint threw the discus 194 feet, 4 inches, while the 4x100 relay team of James Khalil, Lavette Warren, Tom Wendt and Dante Mounte of Lockport finished in 41.87. Among the girls, Sophia Tasselmyer of East Aurora ran the 3,000 meters in a record 9:41:80. while Lancaster's 4x100 relay team of Molly Scarpello, Ashley Grazen, Ava Gervan and Olivia German set a mark with 48.09 seconds.
Improvise: You've read about how several school districts are getting new athletic complexes these days. But what do you do in the meantime, when the old facilities are torn up and the new ones are not ready? In Williamsville South's case, you do the best you can.
"I don't even have a track," Syracuse said. "We run on the grass in front of the school, or in the parking lot."
The Prep Talk Athletes of the Year contenders are ...: For the boys, Nathaniel Davis and Chris Nowak of Sweet Home are obvious contenders, as is Connor Doran of Lockport. Anton Kunnas of North Tonawanda would be a top contender if he wins both the pole vault and the 400-meter hurdles.
Among the girls, do you like sprinters or a distance runner? Jenna Crean of Orchard Park and Nia Stevens of Tapestry are fast for a short period of time; Danielle Orie of Nardin is fast when running for a long time. They'd be among the favorites.