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St. Joe's, Nardin take team titles in All-Catholic track and field meet

The blink of an eye takes about a third of a second.

That was something of an eternity compared to the finish of the boys 4x400-meter relay in the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association's All Catholic Track and Field Championships, which finished up at a rain-soaked St. Francis High School on Sunday.

St. Joe's defeated St. Francis by one-hundredth of a second - 3 minutes, 36.57 seconds to 3:36:58 - to win the event. In a close competition in which every point was appreciated, the Marauders went on to capture the team championship over the Red Raiders and Canisius (132-118-113).

"Personally, I never been in a race decided by that small of a margin," a happy and relieved Matt Hellerer, the coach of St. Joe's, said about the relay. "I don't know if I would have survived it."

The girls team championship wasn't so close or dramatic. Nardin put on an outstanding performance for the entire two days to win easily. The Gators had 173 points, well ahead of St. Mary's (101) and Sacred Heart (61).

St. Joe's had the lead in the relay, thanks to the good work of Vincent Christiano, Andrew Corra and Will Ostrowski. That left Ryan Chmiel to finish up, and at the top of the stretch it looked as if his team was in good shape. But Josh Gabalski had other ideas. The Red Raiders' anchor man kept gaining ground, creeping closer and closer and closer to the leader.

"I was just praying down the stretch,' Chmiel said. "Based on the crowd reaction, I knew he was right there."

At one point, it looked as if a Gabalski win was inevitable. A few moments later, Chmiel seemed to have found a little more energy. They reached the finish line together. But who won?

"I had no idea," said Chmierl, who won the boys' 800-meter race earlier in the day (2:00.55). "I saw him right next to me, but I had no idea."

It took a while, but the St. Joe's senior eventually was declared the winner. And when the final announcement on the team scoring was made after the last event, the Marauders let out a cheer that almost could have been heard back at the school on Kenmore Ave.

"It was close the whole meet through," Hellerer said. "Canisius and St. Francis both beat us in dual meets this year. The boys really had to step up and perform, and they did. It was a great day."

Canisius was led on Sunday by a pair of double winners. Joel Nicholas took the 100 meters (11.22) and 200 meters (22.75), while Alex Buczynski won the triple jump (41-6) and the 400 (49.89). Other individual winners were Turner Dirrigl of St. Joe's in the 1,600 (4:36.26), and Tyler Dody of the Marauders in the discus (153-0). Canisius won the 4x100 relay.

On the girls side, the happiest person in the stadium on Sunday might have been Nardin coach Rich Skrabucka. How often does a coach come out of a competition with no complaints?

"I didn't expect that," he said. "They just ran out of their minds. They prepared for this from the beginning of the season. The weather has been terrible all year. But the kids bought in, and they absolutely did everything they needed to do. ... They won all three relays and almost every event on the track. It was fantastic.

"There's nothing we could have done better. We had a ton of PRs (personal records)."

It was business as usual in the 800 and 1,500 meters. Gabrielle Orie took the 800-meter win in 2:20.70, while twin sister Danielle won the 1,500 in 4:46.82 - with the latter time breaking the MMAA record. The two seniors were outstanding, as usual, but the "supporting cast" made it a special day for the team.

"That's the way it's supposed to go," Gabrielle said. "I don't think without Coach Rich we'd be where we are today. I don't think I've ever seen him happier. He was like a child at Christmas."

This was the last time that the Ories would have the chance to run with all of their teammates in a meet, and winning the team title under those circumstances made the occasion even more memorable.

"There's definitely some sentimental value that goes down with the last meet, especially seeing our sisters run track when they were older and us following in their footsteps," Danielle said.

Mandy Bushway of the Gators took home the 400-meter title (1:01.41), while teammate Colonie Chaney of Nardin won the 200 (27.90). The day's other winners were Erin Hufford of St. Mary's in the 100 (13.35), Shea Warren of Park in the shot put (33-5.25), and Kathryn Vogl of St. Mary's in the long jump (15-10).

The top runners of the meet qualified for the state championship for the Catholic schools, which will be held in New York City next weekend.






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