Lady Patriots track team takes sectional crown

It was by the slimmest of margins. “At the beginning of the season, the question I asked them was, ‘How do you want to be remembered?’” said Broadallbin-Perth track and field coach Jeff Richards. The Broadalbin-Perth Lady Patriots answered scoring points in 17 events to finish one point better than Albany Academy for Girls, 95.33-94.33, and won the Section 2 Group 3 track and field title Thursday afternoon at Knox Field in Johnstown. The meet turned into an instant classic where in every event that “one more point’ mattered.”

Her turn to shine

What was even more remarkable about the Lady Patriots win was that throughout the entire meet they only had one first place finish, and it came at a crucial moment in the meet, the 800 meter run.

Earlier in the season Coach Richards had said of Celina Onzo, “We’re trying to figure out what event she is best suited. She’s a tough runner, so the 800 meter suits her better.” On Thursday, she showed just how tough she is. Knowing that every point mattered, Onzo stayed with the lead pack during the entire race, and with her teammates cheering, Onzo broke out in front only yards from the finish line. As she fell to the ground after winning the event, there were few that realized it was Broadalbin-Perth’s only first place win. Onzo’s effort kept her team in front 80.33- 78.33 after 14 events.

“I had been watching these inspirational videos on youtube on how we train,” said Onzo. “When I went to the line I was thinking we are all equal and this is all about who wanted it more. This is what I trained for. I kicked in and I knew it was my turn to shine.”

Onzo’s victory was the team’s victory. The Lady Patriots had held the lead for most of the meet, getting top six finishes in nearly every event before Onzo’s run. They continued to hold off a surging Albany Academy team with only three events remaining.

“I was so ready,” Onzo said. I’ve never been more determined than I was at that moment. This is what I trained for.”

“Today she (Celina) asked for a pep talk,” said Coach Richards. “ I said to her that you have all the talent in the world, and when you combine that with heart then you will find out what you are capable of.”

We need points”

That was what Broadalbin-Perth athletes heard in every event as the conclusion of the meet drew near.

Lexi Eipp was BPHS’s only competitor left in the final round of the long jump. Eipp made every attempt count and every inch count earning a fifth place finish and score valuable points for her team. Lady Patriots senior Coreena Monroe was aiming for a trip to states in the 400 meter hurdles. Moments after a fifth place finish, Monroe was alone with her thoughts staring up at the sky from the middle of the infield.

On this day it was all about the team and the points scored in every event made a difference. Monroe still had more work to do in the 4x 400 meter relay. Senior Christa Decker finished second in her heat of the 200 meter run and fifth overall as BPHS and Albany Academy drew even at 82.33 points apiece. But, it wasn’t the race of Decker’s career, that was only moments away. Kaitlyn Sala finished sixth in the 400 meter run, and Danielle Landers’ fourth place effort picked up points in the discus throw. Albany Academy fought back scoring in the 3200 meter run setting up a showdown in the 4×400 relay.

Heart and courage

The Lady Patriots 4×400 relay team of Kaitlyn Sala, Coreena Monroe, Christa Decker, and Celina Onzo were literally running for a title. A first place finish would mean 10 points and the lead. As the gun sounded, Sala started out strong flying past five runners and challenged Schuylerville for the lead. She kept up an incredible pace and handed the baton to Monroe, who stayed right on the heals of the lead runner the entire distance, then handed the baton to Decker fractions of a second behind Schuylerville. Decker continued to close the gap. Somewhere in the far turn at Knox field, Christa Decker found the heart and courage that had been with the Lady Patriots throughout the day, passing the Schuylerville runner to take the lead. She handed the baton to Onzo then fell to her knees near an exhausted Sala, neither runner looking to see Onzo’s final leg of the race. The wave of athletes on the infield flowed from one side of the track to the other as Onzo raced Schuylerville to the finish. The Lady Patriots team finished second, but the eight points left them tied with Albany Academy at 94.33 points, and only the pentathlon to be decided.

Heading into the final event, the 1500 meter run, Lady Patriots Kelly Makarowsky and Victoria Laurange were in fifth and sixth place, both ahead of Albany Academy’s two competitors. Laurange and Makarowsky finished fourth and fifth in the race once again scoring that one more point and put Broadalbin-Perth on top when the final scores were tallied. The Lady Patriots huddled together at the center of the infield as the scores were announced. When they heard Albany Academy finished second they began to scream knowing that they were champions. It was one of the closest contests in Section 2 history, with the two teams separated by only one point.

“We talked about overcoming adversity and you did that,” Coach Richards said addressing his team while awaiting the final results. Richards noted the efforts of the team and emphasized the efforts of seniors and underclassmen alike. Several of the BPHS seniors spoke, among them Decker, Naple, and Derwin, to thank their coaches for their dedication during their careers.

“They answered the way I expected,” Coach Richards said. “We talked about team goals not individual goals. Our balanced scoring took it and put us over the top.”

The Lady Patriots scored in the top six in 17 of the 19 events, and had more than one person score in five events.

High Jump – Chelsea Leblanc (2nd), Madison MacFarland (4th), 3000 meter Steeplechase – Sarah Naple (2nd), Jordyn DeNeuville (4th), Cadey Nolan (6th), Pole Vault – Joanna Tavolaro (2nd), Lexi Eipp (4th), 3200 meter realy – Eipp, Napple, Monroe, Onzo (2nd), 100 meter hurdles – Tavolaro (6th), 1500 meter run – Onzo (5th), triple jump – Eipp (2nd), Tavolaro (3rd), shot put – LeBlanc (5th), 400 meter relay – Decker, Monroe, Sala, Naomi Frasier (6th), 400 meter run – Sala (6th), 800 meter run – Onzo (1st), long jump – Eipp (5th), 400 meter hurdles – (Monroe (5th), discus throw – Landers (4th), 200 meter run – Decker (5th), 4×400 meter relay – Sala, Monroe, Decker, Onzo (2nd), pentathlon – Makarowsky (5th), Laurange (6th).

The Broadalbin-Perth Lady Patriots worked for every point. In the end that “one more point” was not scored by any one individual, but by the Lady Patriots team.

“You showed the heart of a champion,” Coach Rciahards said. “And for that I am thankful. You showed that hard work we talked about all season. And you will be remembered.”

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.