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Front-running talent heading to states

Some people might be at a loss for words after being introduced to an Olympic champion, but not Seamus Degan.

The City Honors senior couldn’t wait to approach Steve Mesler after the Olympic bobsledder gave the keynote speech last fall at a cross country banquet.

Mesler graduated in 1996 from City Honors where he competed in track and field before going on to be a part of the winning the four-man sled at the 2010 Winter Games.

Degan has an electric personality, and during the meeting he informed Mesler that the Olympian still held four school records, and by the time he graduated, he would beat that.

“So I sarcastically told him ‘I’m going to get more than you.’ I was more of less prodding him, it was something fun to say. He laughed and said, ‘I’ve got one more gold medal than you do.’ I was like ‘oh, you got me there.’ ” said Degan.

After qualifying for the cross country states, Degan is off to another state-wide competition. He will be a part of a talented Section VI team that will compete at the New York State Track and Field Championships on Friday and Saturday in Middletown, about an hour north of New York City.

Degan won the Division II 800 meters in the Section VI meet to earn a spot on the bus.

The section will send three state champions from indoor track, hoping their good fortune will carry over. Junior Devon Patterson of Williamsville South, indoor shot-put champion, is coming off big throws over the weekend in the shot and discus. Lancaster freshman Ashley Grazen looks for another title in the sprints while the Redskins’ Jenn Thill is high on winning the pole vault again.

Could East Aurora seniors Megan and Gene Baritot actually have been born to run the steeplechase? Well they are twins, and both qualified for states in the steeple and have signed college track scholarships. Megan has signed with Duquesne, Gene with Edinboro.

Gene has followed his sister’s lead through the years first as soccer players and then cross country and track. “Because we’re boy-girl we really don’t have that competitive thing,” said Megan. “We have a really good relationship and help each other out a lot. He’s very strong at handling the” steeplechase “barriers and that’s not really my thing.”

The Blue Devils will try to not leave Middletown empty-handed. The boys and girls both will run in the 4x800 relay and the girls are in the 4x400. Marta McLaughlin will run the open 800.

West Seneca West qualified three girls in individual events: Brianna Colello (100 and 400 hurdles), Kathleen Zimmer (400) and Abby Jankowski (800). Along with Isabella Mancino, they also will run the 4x400 after making it two sectionals titles in a row on Saturday.

West’s Kalen Sullivan has nine sectional titles to his credit following Saturday’s win in the 800. He looks to improve on last year’s eighth-place finish at states. Gregg Hart earned a trip to states with a season-best 22 feet, 5 inches in the long jump.

Andy Smigiera of West Seneca East will end his memorable high school career at the state meet competing in the 100 and 200. Last fall he quarterbacked the Trojans football team to 10 wins and will play next season at Robert Morris. He likes his chances of placing higher in the 100.

“I think for me the difference is I’m a lot taller than a lot of these other athletes, and my stride kind of takes over at 50 meters,” the 6-1 Smigiera said.

Senior Emily Irish-Ryan of Amherst is making her fourth trip to states after winning both Division II hurdles titles at sectionals.

“I’m also really running for my coach,” said Irish-Ryan of Shannon Brown. “She just means so much to me, and Dan Tryon was an amazing coach for three years.”

Sophomore Mckenna Maycock of Randolph considered making a run in the state pent, but after crunching the numbers, liked her chances better in the 100 and 400 hurdles.

Junior TJ Hornberger of Lake Shore has the defending state champion to contend with in his two races. Nick Ryan of Fayetteville-Manlius won the 1,600 last year, breaking the state record in 4:05.24, and won the 3,200 in 9:03.81.

“He’s obviously a really strong runner, I’m not sure I’ll have a chance to beat him, but I’m going to try my best to stay as close as I can, to see what I have,” said Hornberger. “At sectionals I wasn’t really trying to kill myself. Next week I’ll be going after my times.”

Clarence’s Sam Bonk had been looking up at the Lancaster throwers all year. At sectionals he let loose on his last throw in the discus final and hit the state standard with a 155-1. He came into sectionals a No. 6 seed with a previous best of 144.

The Red Devils’ Ted Oken should contend in the high jump if he can equal his season best 6-7. Ben Reinhardt is going in the 800 and he’ll also run the 4x800 with Alec Southern, Kieran Coffey and Dan Huben.

Mitchell Moore is Jamestown’s best hope in the 400 hurdles.

Junior Christina Walter of Maple Grove is the defending state champion in the Division II 100 and 200 meters. She’s been nursing a stress fracture and the sectionals were her first invitational in a month. She’ll run only the 100.

Her leg started bothering her in mid-April. “It’s not really hurting very badly, and I don’t really notice it when I’m running a race,” she said, admitting she’ll feel some pressure at states. “The last couple years I went to states I wasn’t super-nervous, I was like I’m going to do this as well as I can. Now I have something to live up to, kind of.”

Sophomore McKyla Brooks of Frontier knows exactly what she has to do to contend for the Division I long jump title – hit the board. Her season best is a 19-4.50 inches, just shy of the Section record of 19-9.25.

“Most of her jumps she’s had the record, but she’s behind the board,” said Frontier jumps coach Ed Streety. “If I can get just her there, she has it. She’s a 20-foot jumper. She’s a strong girl, she has the plant. She works hard into the pit and her landings are solid. She works the jump from start to finish.”

Carrying the torch for Holland will be junior Chelsea Grupp, who qualified in the Division II 100 and 200 meters and will run the lead off leg of the 4x100 relay along with Julia Grupp, Christina Kolbman and Nicole Schwab. They hope to be in the mix with a 50.38.

The Lockport boys and Lancaster girls are coming off Section records in the 4x100 relays. The Lions’ Alex Reid, Andy Reid, Josh Beshaw and Nick Hamilton broke a record that had stood since 1986. Lancaster, with Molly Scarpello running for injured senior Lauren Sullivan, along with Ashley Grazen, Tiffany Cycon and Allie Mazur beat’s Amherst’s record from 2009. That Amherst team included current Baylor freshman Ashley Fields, who will compete this weekend at the NCAA Championships in Oregon.

Tyvon Rivers of Sweet Home will pass up the triple jump to focus on the 110 hurdles, 4x100 and 4x400 relays. The Panther boys and girls 4x100s advanced. The boys 4x400 is also going thanks in part to Jeff Hart’s 48.6 anchor leg.