Back in 2015, at the beginning of her sophomore year on the Amsterdam High School girls varsity cross country team, Olivia Lazarou set three goals. Among them were to return to the state championships, and be the first girl in school history to qualify for the Federation meet. By the end of the 2015 campaign she had achieved both. On Saturday, Lazarou, now a senior on the AHS team is making her third trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) State Cross Country Championships. The 2017 edition being held at Wayne High School from NYSPHSAA Section 5. Lazarou is one of many Section 2 runners with experience at the state championship level.
“I want to medal at the state meet,” Lazarou said when asked on her future goals after placing second in the girls Class B race at the NYSPHSAA Section 2 championships last Friday at Saratoga Springs. A top 20 finish at Saturday’s Class B girls meet, and she will achieve that goal.
“She’s the hardest working kid on the team,” said Amsterdam coach Stur Palczak. “She does everything she needs to do to prepare.”
Lazarou’s best finish in the state championships was in 2014, her freshman year, running in the girls Class B race at SUNY Canton where she placed 23rd. As a sophomore in 2015 she placed 55th in Class B, but missed the 2016 championships when the Amsterdam teams were bumped up to Class A due to enrollment. Lazarou finished in the top 20 (17th) at sectionals against some of the top best runners in the state including Section 2, and NY State champion Kelsey Chmiel from Saratoga Springs High School. This year, Lazarou was only 10 seconds behind Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake’s Rory Graham in the Section 2 Class B race, thus giving her a third bid to the state meet. With a strong showing at states, Lazarou could make it three straight trips to the New York State Federation Championships on Saturday, November 18, 2017 at Wappingers Falls.
Lazrou will have plenty of company from many Section 2 runners with experience at the state level. The Burnt Hills Lady Spartans, who won the Section 2 Class B title are perennial sectional champions led by Graham, a junior, and seniors Kristin McAlonen, Monica Jerry, and Jessica Landry, as well as eighth grader Emily Berg. And, there are athletes Lazarou has competed with since she was a freshman.
The Foothills Council is once again sending a strong group of experienced runners including Queensbury senior Emily Atamanchuk, who won the 2015 Foothills Council girls varsity title as a sophomore, and was runner up to Lazarou this season. Atamanchuk also missed the 2016 state meet, but has posted some of the best times of her career this season and could also possibly medal at the state meet. Scotia-Glenville senior Juliana Geniti placed fifth at the Section 2 B meet and also earned a trip to the state meet.
For the first time since the 2013 season, the Foothills Council is sending a girls team sectional champion to the state meet. Schuylerville won the Section 2 Class C/CC girls title with 78 points to earn their place at the championships. Led by sophomore Sunni LaBounty, and freshman Anya Vautriin, the Lady Black Horses beat out Albany Academy and Duanesburg to become the first girls Foothills Council team to win a Section 2 title since the Broadalbin- Perth Lady Patriots four years ago. Also making the trip from the Foothills Council teams are Johnstown senior Julia Sarullo, and Glens Falls sophomore Katie Culliton.
Lazarou and Sarullo aren’t the only local area athletes running on Saturday. Mayfield freshman Madison Relyea placed second in the girls Class D race at Saratoga Springs and makes her second appearance at the state championships. Relyea has been the only girl on the Mayfield varsity team and represented her school well finishing behind only Greenwich’s Brynne Wright, who leads her Section 2 champion team in the girls D race on Saturday.
The girls Section 2 Class A team has the most experience with defending state champion Chmiel leading a group that included team champion Shenendehowa with seniors Hannah Reale, Olivia Lomascolo, and Charlotte Hartman. Niskayuna senior Abigail Spiers is also part of the experienced group, as is Ballson Spa sophomore Faith DeMars, and Saratoga Springs senior Carly Vetter.
On the boys side, the Foothills Council will be represented by South Glens Falls senior Frank Triolo, and Queensbury seniors Brian Beyerbach and Kevin Bouyea in Class B. Glens Falls senior Chris Hughes, the Section 2 Class C/CC boys champion, along with Schuylerville junior Ethan Burch will represent the Foothills Council in Class C.
Schenectady senior Maazin Ahmed, who clocked the best time in Class A at the N YSPHSAA Section 2 championships, leads a talented field in the boys A race that includes Saratoga Springs junior Shea Weilbaker, Ballston Spa senior Tim Dwyer, Bethlehm Central’s Jack Huber and Matt Cavaliere, and team champion Niskayuna led by senior Donovan Tucker.
The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys team won the Section 2 title in Class B and bring a talented group to states that includes junior Tyler Berg, who clocked the best time of any runner at the Section 2 meet (14:58.45). Maple Hill won the Section 2 boys Class D title and will represent the section at states along with a group that includes North Warren junior Brandon Olden, Saratoga Catholic senior Kevin Cronin, and Duanesburg’s Andrew Drescher.