The Amsterdam High School varsity cross country teams got a pair of first place finishes from sophomores Olivia Lazarou and Ryan Kamanu, but ended up splitting their season opening meet with Foothills Council division rival Gloversville. The Amsterdam boys were victorious 21-37, but the girls dropped a one point decision 27-28 Tuesday afternoon on the trails at Bob’s Trees in Galway.
Both AHS squads feature some standout runners aiming to improve from last year, and both teams come in with goals to accomplish before season’s end.
“We want to finish better than last year in the Foothills Council,” Amsterdam boys coach Kevin Wilary said. “Last year we finished third in the south division, and we want to get better.”
The AHS boys team took a step toward that goal with a season opening win against a Gloversville team that they lost to a year ago. Sophomore Ryan Kamanu battled senior teammate Gabe Fernandez for the top spot in the boys race.
“Gabe Fernandez was our number two distance runner in cross country and track and field, but he is also one of our top athletes,” Coach Wilary said. “When I saw them (Kamanu and Fernandez) coming down the hill and then down the final stretch I thought Gabe would catch Ryan, but he didn’t. It shows how hard Ryan has worked this year. He’s bigger and stronger and has improved his consistency from last year, and it shows in winning his first race.”
Kamanu was named one of the top freshman in the Foothills Council at last season’s league championship meet at Saratoga State Park. Scaling the 2.8 mile course at Pinehaven Trails proved quite a challenge, but Kamanu got a push from Fernandez.
“Today’s race was a tough one,” Kamanu said. “I’ve been working hard, and yet that second lap was painful. Sometimes cross country is about knowing you were almost there, and if Gabe hadn’t caught up to me I couldn’t have done as well as I did.”
The race for first was followed by another close contest for third as Amsterdam’s Will Weinheimer caught up to Gloversville’s Chris Hernandez and then passed him less than 30 yards from the finish line to give the Rams the top three runners. Gloversville placed the next three with Austin Reese in fifth and Schuyler Reed in sixth. Seventh grader Trevor Dzikowicz was the next runner across the line for Amsterdam followed by seniors Jon Knack and Edgar Maldonado. Rounding out the Amsterdam finishers were Thomas Knack (eleventh), Antonio Spagnola (twelfth), and Jacob Reed (thirteenth).
Gloversville’s Anthony Hayes finished tenth followed by Devon Pickney (fourteenth), Timothy Shaver (fifteenth), Jacob Fleck (sixteenth), and Alex Karakovich (seventeenth). The Gloversville girls team turned the tables on Amsterdam in their meet by defeating a team that they lost to last season. Led by a second place finish from Kaitlin Senzio (22:11.0), a fourth place finish by Brenna Wooster (22:31.0), and a fifth place finish by Tuerney Vandeusen (22:48.0), the Lady Huskies earned a one point win. The race however was dominated by Amsterdam sophomore Olivia Lazarou, who finished more than three minutes ahead of Senzio and the rest of the field.
“ It felt good and it was fun,” Lazarou said after the race. “I know it was our first race, but we still have time (to improve).”
Lazarou became the first Amsterdam girl cross country runner in school history to make it to states with her top five finish in last years Section 2 championships at Saratoga State Park. Topping her freshman year won’t be easy, but she has set some goals.
“My first goal is to break the 18 minute mark at the Saratoga (SPAC) course,” Lazarou said. “My second goal is to win sectionals and qualify for states, and my third goal is to make it to the federation meet.”
Lazarou’s coach Stu Palczak has seen many talented runners come through the Lady Rams program and said he focuses on a runner’s technique and fundamentals to get them to the highest level.
“I would like to see her (Lazarou) improve on her finishing kick,” Palczak said. “She can take it to the next level if she improves on that and she will have a better season.”
The next Lady Ram crossing the finish line after Lazarou was senior Chantel Dopp (22:24), who also takes on the role as team captain of an AHS team consisting of mostly freshman and sophomores.
“We want to improve in the Foothills Council from last year,” said Dopp, who is now in her fifth year on the team. “We want to improve our scoring and our times.”
And like Lazarou, the team captain set some goals for herself as well.
“I want to push myself hard enough so that I beat my times from last year,” Dopp said.
Eighth grader Kayla Sondrup (23:11) led the AHS varsity girls rookies with a sixth place finish. She was followed by junior Mariah Rackowski (24:48) in eighth place and fellow rookie, sophomore Kayla Dzikowicz (28:02) in tenth place. Dzikowicz was part of the Lady Rams track and field team as an eighth grader and is a standout for the AHS swim team. This was her first Foothills Council cross country meet.
“It felt good,” Dzikowicz said. “That second hill was tough, but it was good. “
And like her veteran teammates, Dzikowicz too has set some goals and showed what teamwork is all about.
“I’d like to better my times every race,” said Dzikowicz, who spent time consoling another teammate who was unable to finish the race.
“We’re all one big, happy family,” Dzikowicz said. “We’re supportive of each other.”
The Lady Rams know that family-like approach will be important as they look to improve during the season. Coach Palczak already has a formula that has proven successful in the past.
“A goal is to be more consistent,” Palczak said. “We need to run like we practice.”
The Amsterdam modified teams were also in action on Tuesday. The boys squad took the top three spots with Corey Motyl (9:49) coming in first, Tommy Ziskin (9:55) finishing second, and Brandon Ribot-Diaz (!0:01) coming in third. Gloversville’s Rhea Winter (10:38) took the top spot in the girls race. Amsterdam’s Gabby Maroto (11:56) finished second, and Sydney Szczepanik (12:02) crossed the line in third.
All Amsterdam teams will return to Foothills Council action when the Rams and Lady Rams host division rival Broadalbin-Perth at Bob’s Trees in Galway. Start time for the meet is 4:30pm.