A pulled hamstring sidelined Brianna McKenzie from two meets right before the Section VI track and field championships on June 2, yet the senior discus thrower from Lancaster still reached Saturday's state final as one of the top eight throwers in New York.
Most of the attention centered on the running finals at Union-Endicott High School on Saturday but on a patch of grass in the shadows to the side of the track, McKenzie finished second overall in the discus with a top throw of 133 feet.
"I was hoping for the gold," McKenzie said. "...being injured just a few weeks ago and getting second really feels good. I had to recover from that and get where I'm at."
Throwing runs in the McKenzie family, through her grandpa and her father, so McKenzie ditched "running in circles" on a track in middle school for the discus. The switch finally came to fruition at her last state track and field meet, securing a finish that didn't seem likely just a month ago.
Orchard Park's Peyton Hillis, the other Section VI representative in the discus, finished sixth with a maximum distance of 119 feet, four inches.
Tapestry Charter's Nia Stevens has up-and-down day
Stevens finally got a chance to run against Division I competition by herself, and a third-place finish in the 200-meter Federation finals with a time of 24.95 seconds did more than satisfy the Tapestry Charter sophomore.
Earlier in the day, Stevens failed to qualify for the 100-meter Federation championship. When she exited the track following the Division II final, she muttered to herself, "So bad, I came out so slow." But in her strongest event, Stevens redeemed a lackluster morning.
"I'm really freakin' excited because I wanted to win the 100 really bad, but to make it for the 200s and then qualify for Federations was really exciting," she said following her third-place finish. "And then I did really good. I placed two seeds better than I was seeded.
"It means a lot, especially since I got to run against big schools for once. Even just making it into Federations, beating some of the big school times, it felt really good."
In Stevens' lone team event, Tapestry Charter finished seventh in the 4x100 Federation relay with a time of 48.72 seconds.
Orchard Park's Jenna Crean withdraws from three championships
Crean came into this weekend as the best in Section VI in the 100-meter dash and 400-meter race, and second to Stevens in the 200 meters. She lived up to that billing early on, qualifying for the Federation finals in all three events.
Crean finished third in the Division I preliminaries for the 100 in a time of 12.31 seconds, sixth in the Division I preliminaries for the 200 with a time of 25.16 and fourth in the Division I preliminaries for the 400 in a time of 54.59.
Yet come finals time, Crean's lane was vacant in each of the three championship races and her conversation with The News earlier in the day may indicate why.
"My hamstring has been hurting me a little bit," Crean said, "but I think I gave it my all. I think it went OK."
In the end, Crean's hamstring evidently turned out to hamper her too much, and the sophomore was unable to finish the day.
Other area track action
Danielle Orie of Nardin Academy finished second in her section and 12th overall in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:41.30.
"I was feeling a little pain from the night before because I had the 3K, but overall I was pretty happy so it went well," Orie said. "I wish I could've gone a little bit faster but it's a matter of being fresh or not.
"It's a real honor because you don't really think about all the other little meets that take it to get here. Buffalo had a really bad spring season. We were racing in 30-degree weather one day. I remember my lips turning blue."
- In the high jump final, Dunkirk's Emilee Hanlon finished third, Lancaster's Olivia Gervan finished fifth, Niagara-Wheatfield's Le'Gary Jackson finished tied for 17th and Holland's Kaitlyn Bulega finished 30th.
- Rachel Donnor of Iroquois finished fifth in the shot put championship, Kenmore West's Christina Wende finished seventh in the triple jump championship and Samantha Spinella of Depew finished eighth in the long jump final.
- Cattaraugus-Little Valley's Abby Gostomski and Sweet Home's MaKayla Kasperek finished 15th and 16th, respectively, in the 2,000-meter steeplechase championship.
- In the 1,500-meter run championship, West Seneca West's Anna Rybczynski and Cattaraugus-Little Valley's Bailey Gostomski finished 18th and 22nd overall, respectively.
- Williamsville South finished 13th overall and East Aurora 14th in the 4x800 final.
- Holland's Jayna Galley finished 16th overall in the pentathalon, while Williamsville East's Rachel Romanowski finished 20th and Sweet Home's Amaya Turnage 23rd.