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FULL SPEED AHEAD
ATHLETES FACE EXTRA CHALLENGE TRYING TO REACH STATE MEET

Section VI used to need three buses to transport its athletes to the annual state meet. This year they'll be saving a little gas.

With the New York State Public High School Athletic Association moving to a two-class system this year from three classes, fewer athletes from this weekend's sectional championships are going to advance. The Section VI Championships are Friday and Saturday at JFK.

It's an unpopular decision among some local coaches who say track should embrace its recent surge in popularity, and that too many of the section's better athletes will be staying home. Proponents say the move will make the state meet more competitive and point to somewhat mediocre performances in Class C/D finals.

Section VI used to qualify three athletes per event, one in each of the three classes. Now just two athletes will advance, as the state meet is divided into Division I/large schools and Division II/small schools. One additional athlete or one relay team can advance by equalling or bettering a state standard. The state had been using the three-class system since 1996. .

The states are June 6-7 at Union-Endicott (Section IV).

Division I/large schools

Lockport looks for its regular season success to carry over into sectionals. The Lions have been the area's most dominant public school winning the Carl Roesch, the Kenmore East Bulldog Invitational, the Walter Hutchinson Invitational and the Niagara Frontier League championship. Junior Jhamal Fluellen (100 meters), sophomore Mark Russell (1,60 0/3 ,200), senior Ben Lewin (steeplechase) and Daren Stone (high jump) are No. 1 seeds going into sectionals. . . . Junior Mike Feathers of Grand Island is a strong favorite in the pentathlon after winning Class A last year and placing third in the state. . . . Senior Joe Miner of Amherst is coming off his season-best performance at ECICs with a 50.6 in the 400. The 800 promises to be a close race with No. 1 seed Josh Durkin, a freshman from Lancaster, looking to hold off a field that includes Adam Syty of Clarence and Blaine Gallson of Frontier. . . . Senior Dave Hock of Iroquois is the only long jumper in Western New York to reach 23 feet this year. . . . The triple jump will belong to junior Muhammad Halim of Albion is he can get anywhere near his season-best effort of 46 feet, 9 3/4 inches. . . . Junior Larry Warren of Albion and Jamestown senior James Dickey will battle in the shot put along with Frontier senior Randy Labedz . . . Senior Jesse Mang of Orchard Park looks to challenge Russell in the 1,600. . . . Lafayette speedster Ibrahim Ramadan has a 22.14 coming into the 200. . . . Junior Jarod Renford of Niagara Falls brings a 14.84 into the sectional meet in the 110 hurdles. He was last year's Class A champ. . . . Brian Heim of Williamsville East looks to cap his senior season with a win in the 400 hurdles.

Among the girls, it's always interesting to see what senior Ronnetta Alexander and sophomore Alyissa Hasan of Williamsville South are going to do next. Alexander will run the 100 and 110 hurdles and Hasan has chosen the pentathlon. Alexander set the Section VI 110 hurdle record last year at states running a 14:04. She's running the 100 for the first time this year. "I find the 100 so much more intimidating (than the hurdles)," said Alexander. "I'm more immune to the hurdles because I've been doing them for so many years. The 100 is a totally different race and it seems so much harder even though there is nothing there. Everything changes in the 100." Hasan will win the pentathlon, the only question is by how many points. Hasan won the Class B state title in the pentathlon as an 8th grader. . . . Junior LaDrea Dortch of Lockport will challenge Alexander in the 100 and also looks to win the 200. . . . This isn't the way Jenny Rogan's senior year at Grand Island was supposed to go. Rogan will be running with two heavily-taped hamstrings when she gives the 100 relay and 400 relays a shot. . . . Chances are Lancaster will win its share of sectional patches. Sophomore Shannon Crane has WNY's fastest time in the 1,500 (4:45.8) and will also run the 800. Sophomore Mary Saxer has the area's best long jump (18-0 1/2 ) and will run the 200. Senior Jamie Militello is the top seed in the pole vault at 10 feet. . . . Junior Brittany Pryor of Niagara Falls begins defense of her state title in the shot put. She's also got a shot in the discus along with Mary Boller of Clarence. . . . A 2:16.4 gives Orchard Park freshman Erika Somogyi the nod in the 800. Another Quaker freshman, Jessica Nowak, has the area's best time in the 3,000 at 10:31.3. . . . Clarence also has two freshman who are eying titles: Gina Adornetto in the steeplechase and Necca Nungasser, who will battle Nowak in the 3,000. . . . Look for sophomore Kaitie Johnson of Starpoint to run from the pack in the 400 hurdles.

Division II/small schools

The standard in the shot put will be set by senior Jehuu Caulcrick of Clymer, who won the New York State C/D title last year in 54-8 3/4 . His best so far this season is 53-11 3/4 . . . . Senior Dan Field of East Aurora, looks to repeat in the 3,200 and steeplechase. He's coming off impressive performances in both at the ECICs. He'll get a push from teammate John Yager in the 3,200 and sophomore Dennis Pollow of Wilson. . . . A super-competitive 800 field includes junior Steve Roberts of East Aurora, Pollow and Robert Courson of Southwestern. . . . Junior Keien Williams of Eden remembers losing last year's 100 race to Doug Blakowski of Iroquois by 1/1 00th of a second. He's determined not to get "leaned" out this year. He's got the small schools division's fastest times in the 100 (10.94) and 200 (22.94). . . . Senior Shawn Donovan of Alden gets the nod in the 110 hurdles while junior Jim Sholley of JFK has been running well all season in the 400 hurdles. Donovan also has to like his chance in the long jump with a 20-9 1/2 . . . . Junior Dereck Bojanowski of Franklinville, last year's C/D champ in the steeplechase, will give Field, last year's Class B winner, a run. . . . Dustin Bowser of Southwestern, one of the area's top running backs, hopes to channel his strength into winning the long jump and triple jump.

Among the girls, Eden sophomore Lisa Romano, last year's Class B champion in the 100 is back. She'll look to double at sectionals in the 100 and 200. Her 200 race at last year's sectionals was a disaster when her spike caught and she fell a few meters before the finish. Her season-best times this year are 12.3 in the 100 and 25.4 in the 200. Romano also has Western New York's fastest time in the 400 at 57.5, but coach Kiernan Pierce said she's only been running 400s to get strong for the 200. . . . Sophomore Mackenzie Shults of Southwestern looks to double in the 200 and 400. She won the Class B sectional title last year in the 400, running a school record 58.29. Junior Bethany Anderson of the Trojans is a No. 1 seed in the shot put and discus. She broke her own school record at Saturday's league meet in the shot put at 41-5 1/2 . . . . Desiree Rudloff of East Aurora won the 400 hurdles last year. while Christina Lambros of Wilson had equal success in the 400. . . . Sarah Mosser of East Aurora is peaking at the right time of year. She ran a season-best 2:18.9 to win the 800 at the ECIC meet. . . . Senior Renee Evans of Alden, the Section VI record holder in the pole vault, is a little banged up, but it won't be enough to slow her. . . . Megan Corman of Allegany-Limestone went a career-best 9-6 to win the pole vault at the CCIAC meet.

e-mail: mmonnin@buffnews.com

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