Sweet Home and Williamsville South enter the girls track and field season as multiple-time defending Section VI team champions, but something is going to have to give this winter.
Will it be the Panthers’ three-year reign as champs? Or will it be South’s run, as the Billies vie for their seventh crown in eight years?
The answer will come Feb. 6 during the Section VI team championship meet at Houghton College’s Kerr-Pegula Athletic Complex.
Sweet Home drops from the large-school ranks, by this sport’s standards, into the small schools pool with Williamsville South – making competition that much more interesting and difficult. Dunkirk/Silver Creek is also among the contenders.
Still, team titles are a by-product of the work of the individual athletes and their quests to do their best. Both Sweet Home and South have girls who likely will vie for spots on the medal podium at the State/Federation Meet on March 5 at Cornell.
The rivals rank 1-2 in the 55 hurdles with the Panthers’ Tiana Luton owning the top time of 8.57 seconds. The Billies’ Alyssa Oviasogie trails by 14-hundredths of a second.
Oviasogie, who coach Dan Syracuse said is running “really well right now,” went to states in the 55 hurdles and triple jump last year, while Luton took fifth in the high jump at states. Luton, who is being pursued by Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan, also took second in the pentathlon during the outdoor season last spring.
South’s Amber Lee Robertson went to states last season in the 600 and holds the school record in the event with a time of 1:39.07. She also ranks among the contenders in the 1,000 and 1,500 meters.
Sweet Home’s Sam Peterman ranks first in the 1,500 and second in the 1,000 and 3,000. She has hit the state-qualifying standard in the 1,500 and 3,000 and is 1.03 seconds off hitting the mark in the 1,000.
More Luton: Luton is still in the process of deciding which big-time school she’ll continue her career at, coach Brian Lombardo said. While the high jump and 55 hurdles are the events Luton’s focusing on during indoor, she has proven to be quite versatile. She has already hit the state standard for the two aforementioned events and is also closing in on qualifying for the long jump. She also runs the 300 when necessary and is a couple hairs away from meeting the standard in that event.
“She can do anything,” Lombardo said.
The only reason she’s not doing the pentathlon is because it’s not an event at the state championship indoor meet. However, Luton will get a taste of the event before the outdoor season when she participates in the New Balance Nationals at the Armory in New York City the week after states.
Last year, Luton took second in the high jump in the Emerging Elite division at nationals.
State-qualifying drama: It’s Another season, another season where it seems there’s more talent than spots for Western New York in the state tournament.
Two events to keep a close eye in the state qualifier next month include the 1,500 and the high jump. Each event has four who have hit the state standard but a maximum of three will earn spots in the state meet.
Leading the charge in the 1,500 is Peterman, Anna Rybczynski of West Seneca West, Katrina Patterson of Clarence and Naomi Wistner of Williamsville North.
In the high jump, Luton and Olivia Gervan of Lancaster are neck and neck with leaps of 5-foot-5. Cassie Serafin of Depew and Emily Hanlon of Dunkirk/Silver Creek are in close pursuit with jumps of 5-3.
Lancaster report: Ashley Grazen, a past state champion in the 55-meter dash, trimmed her time from 7.51 to 7.48 the past week in the event – but she has shown in past she can run faster than that – including a 7.19 at Dartmouth in 2014 and the 7.21 she posted in winning the state title in 2013.
Junior Brianna McKenzie has the top distances in both the shot put and weight throw and looks to follow in the footsteps of past Lancaster champion throwers McKenzie Kuehlewind and Melissa Kurzdorfer.
The 4x200 relay team returns mostly intact. Grazen, Molly Scarpello and Olivia Gervan are back to make up three legs with Grazen’s cousin Jenna, a sophomore, joining the crew. She takes the place of the graduated Allie Mazur. The relays boast the top time in WNY (1:47.49). Scarpello now has the top time in the area in the 55-meter dash (7.44).
The Legends’ 4x400 has a slight edge on Sweet Home counterparts with a crew consisting of Isabelle Licata, Morgan Foster, Stephanie Siresi and Emily Brigman. Licata placed fifth in the 300 at Dartmouth last weekend, setting a personal-best of 42.26 seconds. Olivia George has hit the state standard in the weight throw.
Around the tracks
• Half of Tapestry’s history-making 4x100 state champion outdoor relay team is back − freshman Nia Stevens and sophomore Taylor Hunter. Hunter has the third-fastest time in the 55-meter dash and ranks as sixth-fastest in the 300. Stevens ranks fifth in both the 55 and 300. The Thunder Hawks’ 4x200 relay ranks fifth in the area as the newcomers include Esquisite Dunnigan, a transfer from Immaculata, and Kim Bostic, who did not run last year.
This is just the third season Tapestry has had an indoor team compared to 10 for outdoor. “The purpose of indoor is to get better for outdoor,” Thunder Hawks coach Dan Tryon said.
• Patterson has the top state-qualifying time in the area in the 3,000. She and seniors Talia Williams and Hannah Reinhardt also are part of Clarence’s 4x800 relay, which has nearly a 17-second advantage on second-place West Seneca West in the area rankings. The trio holds a share of the school record in the event along with the graduated Danuta Warner. Williams also holds the school record in the 600.
• Jenna Crean could potentially be a star in the making. The Orchard Park freshman took third in the 300 at states last year and is once again setting the pace in the event in the area with a time of 41.84 seconds. She ranks second in the 55 (7.47). Another Quaker to keep tabs on is senior Alexie Zeigler (55 hurdles).
• In addition to the 1,500, Rybczynski of West Seneca West should make some noise in the 600-meter event. She along with distance runner Shania LiVecchi, Ashley Dibble and Emma Larkman comprise the Indians’ 4x800 relay. Harris, Dibble, Nicole Torres and Brianna Lambert are part of the contending 4x200 relay.
• Lockport long jumper Sarah Yensan has carried over the momentum of qualifying for states in outdoor last spring and has exceeded the indoor state-qualifying standard with an area-leading leap of 17-10.25. Other Lions looking to roar include seventh grader Sydney Nowicki, who took fifth at sectionals during cross country season, and sophomore sprinter/hurdler Sherri Lynn Kowal.
• Aubrey Rockoff of Amherst cleared the state-qualifying mark in the pole vault and is ranked first in WNY with a 10-6. Samantha Spinella of Depew has exceeded the qualifying standard in the long jump (17-3.5). Christina Wende of Kenmore West (36-6.75) and Emily Marchitte of West Seneca West (36-4) have eclipsed the state mark in the triple jump.
• Keep an eye on Holland’s Riley Jones and Megan Caltirone in the both the 1,000 and 1,500. … Kim Fohrd of Mount St. Mary is the hunted in the 600.
• Key dates: Section VI Team Championships, Feb. 6 at Houghton College. Section VI State Qualifier, Feb. 27 at Houghton College. State/Federation Championship, March 5 at Cornell.