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Indoor track and field outlook / By Miguel Rodriguez

The story of how McKyla Brooks fell in love with track and field is the latest example of why it’s good to listen to your mother.

The Frontier senior tried the sport only after her mother suggested it to her prior to the start of the 2010-11 indoor season. This was back before Brooks had developed into an all-world star in one sport let alone the two she currently plays.

As a seventh-grader, she tried basketball – which seemed like it would be a good fit because she’s tall and would have an advantage scoring inside. However, the sport wasn’t for her.

So she gave track a whirl.

“I never really wanted to do track … but tried it, fell in love with it and it was track and volleyball from there on out,” said Brooks.

Volleyball and track and field are the sports she will continue to play next year when she attends Stony Brook on a volleyball scholarship. Coaches at the university agreed to let her participate in both sports at the Division I level.

So far, she’s heading toward ending her indoor track and field career with a bang.

Brooks not only has the top marks but has hit the state qualifying standard in three events. She’s ahead of the pack in the 55-meter dash (7.32 seconds), the triple jump (38 feet, 9.25 inches) and long jump (18-4.25).

All Brooks needs to do is finish in the top three in each event at the Section VI state qualifier on Feb. 20 at Houghton College and she’ll once again be a part of the state meet caravan to Cornell University in Ithaca.

Brooks, who won a state championship in the triple jump as a sophomore during the outdoor season, has attempted the three events on the same day at states in the past.

She tried it sophomore year and learned that it is way too difficult to try to do well in three as opposed to just focusing on one or two events. With the way the sprints are set up during the four-hour state meet, either a trial heat or semifinal heat is likely to take place at the same time as a trial in a jumping event.

Brooks dealt with the dilemma two years ago when she was slated to run in the semifinals of the 55 and had to participate in the long jump at the same time. She managed to qualify for event finals in the 55, taking seventh, and wound up finishing second in the long jump. She took third in the triple jump.

For the 55, runners must do trial heats, semifinal heats and a final heat to determine the overall winner. In jumping events, competitors have three jumps to determine the final eight. Then they jump three more times. Whichever of the six jump attempts is the best is the one that counts toward overall placing.

“It was just very hard,” Brooks said. “I just wanted to focus on jumping and not the running, but I wanted to try it and see how it was. … I just think it’s just too much for me to do all three.”

So the focus, should everything work out, will be on jumping events at the state meet. Her goal is to add to her state title collection. She’s disappointed she hasn’t won an indoor state title.

“That’s one of my goals,” she said. “It would be very depressing if I don’t.”

She’s not the only Frontier Falcon hoping to qualify for the state meet March 7.

Rebbeca Stiefler holds the school record and top mark in Western New York in the shot put (41-3) and also is No. 1 in the weight throw (43-8).

For the Frontier boys, Trevor Koch looks to return to states and improve on last year’s 12th-place showing in the pole vault. He currently holds the school record and top mark in the area after clearing 14-6. Tyler Hochadel is a contender in the shot and weight. Markus Diehl was a victim of the numbers game last season but once again has hit the state qualifying standard in the 300. Only those who hit the state-meet standard who finish in the top three at sectionals get to go to states.

As per usual, there will likely be some who hit the state mark who don’t get to go to Cornell just because of the numbers game. As of last week, 21 boys had already hit state-qualifying marks in various events, while the number stood at 17 for the girls. Those numbers will likely increase during the rest of the season.

Two-team race for title?

Sweet Home and Lancaster are the frontrunners to win the Section VI boys and girls team titles. The reason: They have the most depth among the indoor teams in the section.

Sweet Home swept the titles at the Varsity Team Challenge on Martin Luther King Day.

That was two days after Lancaster won the team title at the Brockport Invitational. Lancaster coach Kevin Carriero said he stacked his lineup to win at Brockport not at the Team Challenge.

What’s going to happen at the Section VI Team Championship meet Feb. 7 at Houghton College when Lancaster switches its priorities?

“I guess we’ll find out on Saturday the 7th,” Carriero said.

It should be a fun meet to watch.

Sweet Home’s leaders

Sweet Home’s Terionna Ware is the defending section champion in the 300 and has already hit the state standard in the event. Sophomore Sam Peterman has the top time in Western New York in the 1,000 and the 1,500. Peterman won the 1,000 last year and placed fifth at states. Tiana Luton is the leader in the 55-meter hurdles (8.71).

Aileen Doyle is an experienced big-time distance runner for the Panthers and currently ranks second in the 3,000. Canisius College-bound teammate Ally Ortega is back after taking a break following the cross country season and is ranked in the top five in the 3,000. The Panthers’ 4x400 relay of Bella Calloway, Peterman, Ware and Rachel Roverson has an almost 13-second advantage and looks like the team to beat.

For Sweet Home’s boys, senior distance runner Mitch Daddario has the top times in the area in the 1,600 and 3,200 and is a member of 4x800 crew that ranks first in Western New York. Justice Milton, who helped the Panthers football team win the Section VI title during the fall, has the second fastest time in the section in the 55, while Josh Willson ranks second in the pole vault.

Scoop on Lancaster

Lancaster’s girls showed they can still run like the wind without junior Ashley Grazen. The junior and past state champion returned last week after missing most of the season while recovering from a broken ankle. She has already run the 55 in 7.41, fourth in the area. Teammate Allie Mazur ranks third in the event in 7.38, while Orchard Park’s Jamie Guadagno is second (7.37). All have hit the event’s state standard along with Brooks.

Lancaster is pretty good in the sprints as Molly Scarpello and Tiffany Cycon also rank among the leaders in the 55, and both are key members of the 4x200 relay team that boasts Western New York’s top time. Olivia Gervan has hit the state standard in the high jump as her leap of 5-5 is tops. She took fourth in high jump in outdoor states last year and looks to participate in her fourth state meet.

“She’s already there. It’s just a matter of getting better,” Carriero said of Gervan.

Kelsey Barrett is cruising in the racewalk for Lancaster as she holds nearly a 27-second edge on the second-best competitor in the event.

For Lancaster’s boys, Steve Neumaier won the 1,000 at the Brockport Invitational and took fifth at Dartmouth. He won at Brockport in a state-qualifying time of 2:34.15 and is more than three seconds better in the season standings in the event than his next closest competitor – Anthony Hawthorne of Niagara Falls, who happens to have the top time in WNY in the 600. Neumaier also hit the state standard in the 1,500 and is among the contenders in the 600 and mile, posting a sub-4:19 in the event.

Another Lancaster talent to keep an eye on is Steve George, who has run the 55 in a state-qualifying time of 6.58. Junior Colin Blair looks to keep the tradition of quality throwers at Lancaster going as he ranks first in WNY with a 56-3 in the shot and 53-5 in the weight throw. Junior Jake Valley is a contender in the long jump, while classmate Connor Fuller is in the top two in the 300 and is part of Lancaster’s 4x200 relay, which ranks behind only Canisius in the event. Cal Hoag and Jesse Kucewicz are the other two on that relay.

Break up Crusaders

Canisius runners will head downstate with plenty of ambition.

The 4x200 team featuring Desmond Nicholas, Charles Hornberger, Jaelin Marong and A.J. Satcher own the fastest time in WNY history (1:32.72). As impressive as that is, it still ranks behind Newburgh Free Academy (1:28.56) for top mark in the state.

Nicholas shares the fastest time in WNY in the 55 with Lancaster’s George (6.58). Hornberger is on both their tails in that event at 6.61. Marong owns the school record in the 300. Nicholas’ long jump also is among the tops in WNY.

Canisius’ rival St. Joe’s features All-Catholic meet cross country champion Anthony Belfatto among the leaders in the 3,200. Darren Thompson has the fifth best time in the 55.

Marcus Brown (1,000), Julian Smallwood (shot put) and 800-meter runners Alexander Cambria and Phillip Martin all hope to qualify for the Federation meet by hitting state standards and finishing in the top three in the All-Catholic meet in New York City on Feb. 8 at the Armory.

Around WNY

Orchard Park eighth-grader Jenna Crean ranks just behind Ware in the 300, while teammate Alexis Hillis has a 40-5 in the shot put, which ranks second in WNY. Justyn Milks of Pioneer has a 38-6.5 on her resume in the shot.

Clarence’s Katrina Patterson has met the state standard in the 3,000 and is No. 1 in WNY in the event and second in the 1,500. Talia Williams ranks first in the 600 for the Red Devils. They’re also in the lead among Western New York teams in the 4x800.

Lancaster may have the top time in 4x200, but that crew will spend the rest of the season trying to ward off foursomes from Sweet Home, Tapestry and Orchard Park.

Emily Marchitte of West Seneca West has hit the state standard in the triple jump and also has the second-best leap in the long jump

Hamburg’s Taylor Thurnherr and Meghan Haggerty trail only top-ranked Aubrey Rockoff of Amherst in the pole vault.

Among WNY boys

Niagara Falls’ Jeffery Menyah, Ty Becker of Lake Shore, Michael-Jordan Morris of Amherst and Lockport’s Maurice Channer lead the pack in the 55 hurdles among boys competitors.

Iroquois’ Ryan George, West Seneca West’s Robert Frazer and Dunkirk’s Jose Morales are among the favorites in the 300.

Cheektowaga senior Jake Behlmaier should make some hay in the 300 and is an important part of the Warriors’ relays.

Hamburg’s Pete Rindfuss and Lake Shore’s Calvin Butlak look to spring a surprise on 3,200-favorite Daddario. Ty Becker of Lake Shore leads the triple jump.