AHS track teams remain unbeaten in Foothills Council

A free spirit,  a coach’s kid, a role model, a phenomenal athlete, and a gritty competitor were all part of the story in the Amsterdam girls and boys varsity track teams’ victory over Johnstown on Thursday afternoon at Amsterdam High School. The girls were victorious 86.5- 50.5, and the boys 120.5- 20.5 on a day where more athletes set their sights on goals for the present and future.

A free spirit

For the past six years Maddie Janetsky has been a part of the AHS varsity girls team joining as a seventh grader when there was no modified team. Now a senior on the Lady Rams, Janetsky has matured into a team leader and already has a school record in the triple jump, and is aiming to take it higher.

“I really would like to break triple jump again,” said Janetsky whose school record distance currently stands at 32.8 feet. “I’d like to get it a bit higher before I graduate.”.

Janetsky is entered in four events at every Lady Rams meet: the triple jump, high jump, long jump and the 4×100 meter relay. On Thursday she scored first place finishes in both the high jump and long jump, equaling her personal best of 4 feet eight inches in the high jump. After the competitive phase of the high jump was over, Janetsky was still trying for a new personal best then hustled over to compete in the triple jump.

“I think it would be cool to break my personal record in the high jump,” said Janetsky. I definitely would like to hit 15 feet solidly in the long jump.

Janetsky has already qualified for sectionals in the field events and believes going beyond sectionals is possible.

“Getting to states would be a surprise,” she said. “But it can happen.”

While the field events are consistently Janetsky’s strong suit, she also anchors the Lady Rams 4×100 meter relay team.

“We have really fast girls,” said Janetsky. “Both Brenda (Santana) and Edena (Sanchez) are quick. We need to find the right person in the first leg. We keep putting in different people and we’re getting faster, but we have trouble with the hand-offs. We have Coach Decker working with us to help us get ready. By the next meet we should be good.”

Janetsky’s attitude toward the sport gives her team an important energy and reflects her maturity as a teammate and competitor through the years.

“Maddie is a free spirit,” said AHS girls coach Stu Palczak. “She’s in four events and never let’s anything get to her. Being around for six years is part of that maturity for both Maddie and McKenna (Palczak). “

No one would be surprised if Janetsky sets a new personal best in the high jump and breaks triple jump again. Janetsky however is not alone in her lengthy tenure on the Lady Rams track team. Her friend and teammate McKenna Palczak has also been a part of the journey for six years.

Coaches’ kid, role model

“I would definitely like this team to win the division in the Foothills Council this year,” said Palczak, whose father is the AHS girls team’s coach. “That would be awesome for this group of seniors to finish off our careers with that.”

A first place finish in the Foothills Council’s South division would be the third league title this year for an Amsterdam girls team following the top finishes by the tennis and basketball teams. Palczak reflected on the last Big 10 title the AHS girls track and field team won only two years ago and the importance of the senior leadership that team had.

“We were all so excited to win the Big 10 title,” she said. “Megan (Ottati) and Kelly (Paris) were like role models for us. We (seniors) hope that this group of young kids look to us as role models and some day fill our shoes.”

Palczak has been setting an example for others to follow in both track and field events. Like her teammate Janetsky, she enters in four events for the Lady Rams running both hurdles events and contending for top honors in the long jump and triple jump.

“My goal for 100 hurdles is a beating a personal record of 16.8 seconds,” she said. “I want to improve a little bit better going into sectionals and improve in the long jump, and stay consistent in the triple jump.”

McKenna Palczak took first in the 100 meter hurdles and 400 hurdles for AHS on Thursday. Palczak’s father and head coach has seen his daughter grow into that role of senior captain throughout the past six years.

“I can finally say she’s a coaches kid,” said Stu Palczak. “She’s thinking like a coach and about the team. It’s a nice turnaround for her. She’s showing her maturity as a team leader.”

Like Palczak and Janetsky, another Amsterdam athlete is also discovering that maturity and leadership is important to his teammates and finding out that great things can happen.

A phenomenal athlete

Omari Sturdivant has consistently been a top performer in the AHS lineup. He set a school record in the triple jump (45′ 5”) in the first meet of the season. On Thursday, Sturdivant added first place finishes in the 200 meter run, and in the 400 meter relay to compliment his consistent first place in the triple jump.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” said AHS boys coach Kevin Wilary. “He’s determined on running track in college. This year he’s running the 4×100 and he turned in an amazing split time. He’s got so much desire and wants great things.”

Sturdivant knows what that desire and effort can accomplish. His teammate Izaiah Brown recently received a scholarship to run for Rutgers University. Brown’s achieving his goal had an impact on Sturdivant.

“Omari saw what Izaiah did and that can change a life,” said Coach Wilary. “Omari’s starting to get noticed by colleges. He would like to go to Syracuse. If you asked me now, I think he can be on that team.”

Sturdivant thrives on competition and like any other athlete has set goals for this season.

“I’d like to keep my personal record going into sectionals,” said Sturdivant. “Ron Alford of Shaker has been pushing me.. He keeps getting faster and I have to keep getting faster. I’d like to get to states and qualify for nationals. I’d like to place top three in states.”

While Sturdivant is realizing his true potential, another AHS athlete has been findiing out just how good he can be. After a wrist injury in 2013 put his high school basketball career on hold, Andrew Druziak walked into Coach Kevin Wilary’s classroom one afternoon and said…

A gritty competitor

“He said ‘Coach can I run indoor track,'” explained AHS Coach Kevin Wilary. “I said yes…we were fortunate to have him on the team.”

Druziak went on to become an All-American in the 4×400 meter relay in indoor track. That led to him running outdoor track. At Thursday’s meet against Johnstown Druziak claimed first place in the 800 meter run, and in the 1600 meter relay.

“We would definitely like to go for the sectional win as a team this year,” said Druziak, now a senior. “I would like to come in at the top three in the 800 and for our 4×400 meter relay team another state championship and hopefully get on the podium at nationals.”

Druziak ran indoor track and played varsity basketball for AHS this year helping lead the Running Rams to the Section 2 semi-finals. Druziak is also playing AAU basketball this Spring. It was an injury that didn’t allow him to play one sport but gave him the determination to play another.

“The injury for him led to a new experience,” said Coach Wilary. “He’s a gritty competitor, and that probably describes him best. If someone is faster than him, he’s going to give it everything. He has that desire. You have to be really good to beat him. He wants to win the 800.”

Druziak and Sturdivant were part of an incredible effort by the AHS boys. Also scoring first place wins were Izaiah Brown (100 meter, high jump, long jump), Gabe Fernandez (1600 meter run), David Graveley (100 and 400 hurdles), Jose Perez (shot put, discus), Chris Velazquez (pole vault), and the 400 meter, 1600 meter, and 3200 meter relay teams.

The Lady Rams also got wins from Brenda Santana (100 and 200 meter), Lauren Santiago (400 meter), Olivia Lazarou (1500, and 3000 meter), Cassandra Robataille (pole vault), and the 1600 meter and 3200 meter relay teams.

“Brenda Santana did very well,” said Coach Palczak. “She’s only a freshman but has been on varsity for three years. Edena Sanchez continues to impress on the relay teams, and our throwers in field events continue to improve.”

Amsterdam’s next home meet for both teams is Tuesday, April 28, against Scotia-Glenville.

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.