Jon Surdej, Nia Stevens, Jada Kenner, Angel Marshall and Nyrelle Simpson didn’t just have a day to remember but also had one for the record books.
Maxana Grubb almost joined them, but was among the competitors who nonetheless left Williamsville South on Friday having earned the right to be called champion.
The start of the annual Section VI boys and girls track and field championship/state qualifying meet was far from ordinary. An estimated crowd of more 3,000 watched in awe as two of the more hallowed Section VI records fell courtesy of Lancaster’s Surdej and Tapestry’s 4x100 relay team.
Surdej, a senior committed to throw at University at Buffalo, broke the mark in the shot put with a heave of 64-feet, 10.25 in winning the Division I competition. He eclipsed the old record of 64-10 set in 2007 by Blake Eaton of Allegany Limestone.
Surdej did it in shocking fashion as he and Lancaster throwing coach George Rak didn’t think Surdej had the distance to surpass Eaton on the record throw.
“When we both heard the number both I and coach Rak looked at each other and just screamed,” said Surdej, the defending state champion who is now a three-time Section VI outdoor champ in the event. “We’ve been chasing that record all season. It’s nice to finally get it. ... Coach Rak has been chasing it for a while.”
“Jon is a special kid,” said Rak of Surdej who has been on varsity since eighth-grade. “It’s an amazing accomplishment. It’s a record we’ve been chasing at Lancaster since I started coaching.”
Rak has been Lancaster’s throwing coach since 2000. He now can say he’s coached both the boy (Surdej) and girl (Melissa Kurzdorfer) who hold the Section VI records in the shot put.
Surdej’s record throw enabled Lancaster’s program to gain a sectional record shortly after the Legends had been bumped from the top spot in the girls 4x100 by Tapestry.
Stevens, the Campbell University-commit who has been part of four state championship triumphs by the 4x100 relay, anchored the team’s record-setting run during a Division II semifinal heat. She crossed the finish line in 48.02 seconds as Tapestry eclipsed the mark of 48.09 previously set by Molly Scarpello, Ashley Grazen, Ava Gervan and Olivia Gervan in 2016.
“Five years. We finally got it,” Stevens said. “It’s really exciting. I’m really proud of our team.”
There has been no shortage of talented runners on Tapestry’s relay over the years. But the current foursome has been special even though it has only been working together since the indoor season.
How were they able to complete the record pursuit that initially began with the first Thunder Hawks relay team to win a sectional title five years ago?
Aside from hanging out together and bonding, which is always key to a team’s success, the athletes have put in the work to make sure the operation runs as smoothly as possible – from getting out of the blocks to making good handoffs.
“This team for some reason is different,” Tapestry coach Dan Tryon said. “They’ve come together as a group. They want to do it for each other.”
Of course the addition of talented seventh-grader Jada Kenner helps, and she did run really fast during her 100 split. But it still takes more that a really fast runner or two to set a record.
“Jada’s obviously boosted us but the other two girls who’ve never been in the relay before are doing their part,” Tryon said. “Relays just aren’t one person. They’re four people working together and that’s how you become the best or become the best that you can be.”
“This one is very special because I’m very happy I got to do this one with my team,” added Kenner, who earlier this year broke the 12-year-old world record for finishing time in the indoor 300-meter dash and just two weeks ago matched the outdoor world record for her age group in the 200. “We’ve been working very hard toward this and I’m just happy we were able to accomplish the goal.”
Maxana Grubb of Amherst came oh, so close to setting the section record in the 800 but was thrilled she captured the Division I championship in 2:10.84. She got off to a great start but ended up missing the record time of 2:09.47. Later in the meet, her younger sister Mallory Grubb won the Division I 3,000.
West Seneca East’s Vinny Pagliaccio considers the steeplechase as is his event but may want to start including the 800 in that, too. Competing in just his third 800, he won the Division I crown with a personal-best time of 1:55.92.
“It feels great,” said Pagliaccio, who will run in the steeplechase and 4x400 relay Saturday at sectionals. “It’s amazing how far I’ve come in a year.”
Others who won championships Friday included:
Division I girls: Orchard Park’s Sara Puskar (long jump) and Starpoint’s Kiara McDowell (discus). In Division II: East Aurora's Megan McLaughlin (3,000), Falconer’s Samantha Gilbert (long jump), Iroquois’ Nicole Kuehner (800) and Southwestern’s Gianna Hoose (discus),
Division I boys: Kenmore West’s Chris Kaszynski (pole vault) and Sweet Home’s Kaleb Luton (triple jump).Division II: Cheektowaga’s Jayden Dubard (shot put) and Jake Kaminski (triple jump), Falconer’s Bryce Baglia (800), East Aurora’s Justin Zimmerman (pole vault).
In other news, longtime Hamburg coach Bill Mallican was at the meet coaching his Bulldogs a week after missing the ECIC Championships due to a medical issue.
While setting up for the meet at Hamburg, Mallican collapsed and seemed to stop breathing, he said. He received chest compressions from assistant coach Chuck Mancabelli and started breathing again before being taken to the hospital.
Mallican, 70, said he was diagnosed with a total chemical imbalance. He received five IVs during his five-day hospital stay. Two days after his release, he’s back at practice as usual, and working out on his elliptical machine.