Seeing Jenna Crean hugging competitors after big races is as common a sight as East Aurora runners experiencing success in distance events. But watching Crean cry while embracing folks, however, is unusual.
The Orchard Park senior had a good reason for being teary-eyed, and it had nothing to do with how her weekend went during the second and final day of the Section VI girls track and field championship state qualifier at Williamsville South on Saturday.
“It’s just dawning on me how much fun I’ve had for the last five years and what a beautiful blessing it was to experience all this and meet the best friends of my life,” said Crean after anchoring the Quakers’ 4x100 relay team to victory in the final state qualifier meet of her standout scholastic career. “It’s just something that’s defined my life for so long and to see it now coming to an end ... it’s overwhelming.
“It does sting to lose, but 5 years from now I’m not going to remember losing. I’m going to remember running against all my friends.”
That’s how Crean has always rolled since bursting onto the scene as an eighth-grader – whether it’s hugging the runners she has raced against or fetching them water after especially grueling races.
Crean, the Duke University signee, entered her senior year as a 15-time Section VI and two-time state champion.
Crean came oh so close to adding to her championship collection only to be thwarted in nail-biting fashion during runner-up finishes in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes before OP's relay win in front of an estimated 3,000.
Frontier sophomore Gwyneth Goldowski, who beat Crean in a race for the first time last week during the ECIC Championships, edged her friendly rival in the 200 and 400. The win in the 200 was perhaps the most thrilling finish of the day as both runners were even when they both leaned to cross the line ahead of the other. After a nearly 2-minute delay, officials posted the results on the South video board with Goldowski winning by a hundredth of a second with a time of 25 seconds flat.
“That was wild,” Crean said. “I love running against Gwyn, she pushes me. She’s just such a kind soul.”
That win came after Goldowski won the 400 with Crean finishing behind by .41 seconds.
“She’s so supportive of everybody,” Goldowski said of Crean.
On being a double-winner Goldowski said: “It feels really great. It was a good day.”
Crean ran down the Lockport runner ahead her during the final 25 meters of the 4x100 as OP won in a personal-best 48.40 seconds, just two-hundreths of a second off the Section VI record posted by Tapestry on Friday.
Speaking of Tapestry’s 4x100 relay, it triumphed in the Division II race as expected with the foursome of Nyrelle Simpson, Jada Kenner, Angel Marshall and Nia Stevens winning in 48.40.
That triumph made seventh-grader Kenner a three-event champion in her first Section VI meet. Kenner also won the Division II 100 and 200. She came within a whisker of making it four wins as she helped Tapestry place second in the 4x400. Iroquois (Nicole Kuehner, Laina Caparaso, Logan Streety and Leah Streety) won by two-hundredths of second.
“She did a really good job,” said Stevens. “She wasn’t happy with her times but that’s what happens on a windy day, you don’t get the best times you want. ... She has a great future ahead of her. She’s going to do amazing.”
The champions and others who have met qualifying criteria return to action Friday in the state championship meet in Middletown.
In Division I, Lockport sophomores Kahniya James and Sydney Nowicki each experienced victory with James taking the 100 and Nowicki the 1,500. It’s Nowicki’s second straight 1,500. She used her anger for failing to defend her 3,000 title on Friday as fuel for winning by more than 9 seconds.
“I just really wanted to come back today and win because it doesn’t feel good when something is taken from you,” she said.
The competitor who beat her in the 3,000, Mallory Grubb, helped Amherst roll to victory in the 4x800 as she, her sister Maxan, Sophia Roy and Kayleigh Acquino finished more than 29 seconds ahead of the runner-up. Tigers teammate Morgan Halt won the pentathlon.
The most excited winner, in another close finish, was Williamsville North senior Kayla Bailey. She broke her previous best mark in the event by winning in 1:06.41, edging Niagara Wheatfield’s Mackenzie Patterson by nine-hundredths of a second. Just as Bailey’s first big invitational celebration win seemed to be calming down, the excitement kicked up again when she realized she extended her running career by one more race by qualifying for states.
“I didn’t think I would get first,” Bailey said. “I’ve been running 1:12 all season. I’m just very, very happy and so excited.”
Other winners included: Division I -- Jamestown’s Giovanni Calamunci (100 hurdles), Orchard Park’s Marin Bogulski (steeplechase) and Leah Pasqualetti (pole vault), Hamburg’s 4x400 relay (Clare Danyluk, Raechel Zielinski, Emmy Walker and Charlotte Reczek), Sweet Home’s Lanee Hall (triple jump), Starpoint’s Kiara McDowell (shot put) and Niagara Wheatfield’s Le’Gary Jackson (high jump).
Division II – Dunkirk’s Jericha Petrella (400), Maple Grove’s Ava Crist (1,500), Pioneer’s Marissa Klimczak (100 hurdles), Springville’s Payton Rowe (1:04.39), Fredonia’s Emily Brown (steeplechase), Holland’s Jayna Galley (pentathlon), East Aurora’s 4x800 (Celia Cocca, Ava Danieu, Megan McLaughlin, Maggie McLaughlin), Falconer’s Samantha Gilbert (triple jump) and Rachael Ward (pole vault), Tapestry’s Maryam Akaic (shot put) and Roy-Hart’s Kali Scharping (high jump).