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Thill, Brooks lead golden effort by WNY’s girls at state meet

MIDDLETOWN — An air of promise saturated Faller Field.

Several thousand students competed in New York State high school track and field this year, and only the best of the best advanced to Middletown High School for the state finals. Some athletes had been waiting all year for Saturday.

“This is the best experience ever,” said Clarence’s Ben Reinhardt, who finished eighth in the boys 800-meter run. “I think about states all the time, every day.”

Reinhardt was one of the 110 Greater Buffalo-area athletes who competed at the state championships. Six returned home as state public schools champions, while another didn’t capture a championship but did return home as a Section VI record-holder.

Lancaster’s Jenn Thill (Division I pole vault) and Frontier’s McKyla Brooks (Division I triple jump) were among the big winners among the girls from Western New York.

Others winning state titles included Maple Grove’s Christina Walter (Division II 100 meter), Alden’s Miranda Daucher (Division II discus), Cheektowaga’s Stephanie Lombardo (Division II shotput), and the Amherst girls Division II 4x100 relay of Josette Dawson, Emily Irish-Ryan, Gabie Montalbano and Amina Lewis won the title in 49.83.

Meanwhile TJ Hornberger broke the 4-year-old Section VI record in the boys Division I 3,200.

Thill, the indoor state champion in the pole vault, added the outdoor title to her resume.

Thill woke up feeling sick to her stomach, which got her blood pumping with nerves. Thanks to some therapy shortly before the final, she wound up pumping her fist in mid-air as she landed the winning vault.

Thill went for a walk while wearing a cold towel and listening to music – a mix her coach, Mike Kozlowski, assembled for the state meet. The strategy worked, as she soared 12 feet, 3 inches, winning via tiebreaker.

“It’s how I always wanted it to end up, going out with a bang,” said Thill, who will compete at UB in the fall.

Brooks is a sophomore who has made the state finals every year since eighth grade. Heading into the meet, she was aiming for first place in the long jump, where she qualified No. 1 and ended up placing fourth. But in the triple jump, it was her leap of 38-8 that proved to be golden.

Walter, the Maple Grove junior, didn’t let a stress fracture (leg) slow her down. She won the 100 state title for the second year in a row, finishing in 12.20.

A state medal is not the only exceptional honor Walter has attained this year. She also scored a perfect 2,400 SAT.

So, which is better? Walter said states, all the way.

Daucher won the discus with a toss of 133-9. Lombardo finished second with a throw of 128-5.

Lombardo broke through in the shotput, winning with a throw of 39-¾.

Williamsville South’s Devon Patterson took second in the boys Division I shot put.

Patterson entered as the No. 1 seed, and he was disappointed with his finish. His throw of 61-1¾ fell short against Benjamin Bonhurst’s 61-11.

“I wanted to throw over 63,” Patterson said. “I just didn’t have it in me.”

Patterson will compete at the World Youth Trials June 25-26. And as for his mentality next year, his senior season?

“It’s gasoline ignited right now,” he said. “I’m coming back with a vengeance.”

“I’ve never felt that fast before,” Hornberger said of his two-mile race time, which bested his 2012 state final by 21 seconds. “I think it was everything: It was the conditions, environment and everyone I was racing against.”

In boys Division II, Gene Baritot of East Aurora took second in the steeplechase (9:31:58). Teammate Sean Phillips took third in the 3,200, while Phillips along with Rob Coulter, Brendan Keany and Matt McLaughlin helped EA place third in the 4x800 relay.

Section VI went 2-3 in the pole vault behind the efforts of state runner-up Justyn Haines (Albion) amd Chris Doubek (Randolph). James Hanners of Cheektowaga placed third in discus, while Tonawanda’s 4x400 relay of Jacob Choate, Nathan Holler, Phil Giuga amd Robert Liebel also took third.

Western New York took third and fourth in the girls Division I shot put. Lancaster’s McKenzie Kuehlewind tossed 42-3½ and Grand Island’s Jesse Dhaliwall threw 41-10¼”.

The Lockport boys 4x100 relay came in third in Division I in 42.72.

In Division II girls, Falconer’s MacKenzie Wright took second in the triple jump. EA’s Megan Baritot finished third in the steeplechase.