AHS cross country splits meet with Johnstown, gets ready for championships

The Amsterdam boys and girls varsity cross country teams wrapped up their Foothills Council dual meet schedule against Johnstown on Tuesday afternoon in a tune up before Monday’s Foothills Council championship meet at Saratoga State Park. The AHS boys were victorious 25-33, getting top five finishes from Gabe Fernandez, Ryan Kamanu and Will Weinheimer. The AHS girls got another dominant performance from top finisher Olivia Lazarou, yet dropped another close meet 29-26.

“I’m very proud of the boys,” Amsterdam coach Kevin Wilary said. “Their enthusiasm has really picked up. We had a good [invitational meet] at Saratoga and the kids have said they want to hit specific times.”

Amsterdam’s top two runners, senior Gabe Fernandez, and sophomore Ryan Kamanu, finished second and third respectively behind Johnstown’s Brandon Mraz, a junior who has been Johnstown’s top runner this season.

“Brandon has been our top runner all year,” Johnstown coach Brian Yager said. “We’re looking for him to do well in sectionals.”

Gabe Cole was the next Sir Bill’s runner to cross the line in fourth, followed by Amsterdam senior Will Weinheimer in fifth and Johnstown sophomore Dom Discocia in sixth. Both Cole and Discocia are part of a young and improving Johnstown team.

“We have mostly sophomores on the team,” Coach Yager said. “We need to continue to work to get our times down. The future is looking bright for this team.”

Another runner whose effort was noticed by his coach was Amsterdam’s next finisher, John Companion, who was seventh overall.

“John Companion was our number four runner today and he was probably 30 seconds faster than his time at Saratoga,” Coach Wilary said. “His rise has been a real surprise. He may not be the fastest runner, but he’s the toughest.”

Companion’s finish followed by seniors Jon Knack and Edgar Maldonado sealed the win for Amsterdam. Seventh grader Trevor Dzikowicz crossed the line in eleventh, Thomas Knack was fourteenth, Jacob Reed was fifteenth, and Antonio Spagnola was seventeenth for the Rams.

“We have a goal at each meet to beat our times,” Amsterdam’s Edgar Maldonado said.

“I was impressed with our times today, Coach Wilary said. “We had a couple of kids get better times than they did at Saratoga.”

Johnstown’s Mikey Simone finished tenth. Joel Thomas and Carl Parslow were twelfth and thirteenth, and Zach Ropeter was sixteenth.

The Amsterdam boys finished the season 2-2 in the Foothills Council and will get another shot at improving their times on the Saratoga State Park course at Monday’s Foothills Council title meet.

Olivia Lazarou was dominant against Johnstown winning the girls race with a time of 19:26, almost a minute and a half faster than the second place finisher from Johnstown, Julia Sarullo (20:49). And while the hills of the course that ran behind the Johnstown High School athletic fields were a problem for some, Lazarou just took it in stride.

“The hills were fun,” Lazarou said. “I thought it was a nice course.”

Sarullo was followed by Aylene Newman (21:32) in third before Amsterdam eighth grader Kayla Sondrup (21:59), and senior Chantel Dopp (22:23) crossed the finish line. Johnstown then had the next three runners push across with Julia Preston (23:09), Casey Van Valkenburg (23:51), and Lyndsey Fiore (24:58) to secure the win.

“The girls are always positive and a close knit group,” Coach Yager said. “We had good times today. Julia Sarullo and Aylene are my top two, and we are solid overall.”

Amsterdam’s McKayla Pine (27:13) and rookie Gabby Feliciano (29:37) rounded out the top ten finishers. Dahlia Quinones (29:43), and Kayla Dzikowicz (31:00) completed the field for the Lady Rams.

“We just haven’t been able to get over the hump,” Amsterdam coach Stu Palczak said. “The girls have been working hard. We’ve had different people have a good race at different times.”

Amsterdam has had three of its four league meets decided by three points or less. Their race with Gloversville in September was decided by a single point.

“We haven’t all had a good day at the same time,” Coach Palczak said. “It was a challenging course with the hills and our times ran a bit slower, but I thought it was a good cross country course.”

The Amsterdam girls will also be back in action at Monday’s championships. Lazarou is likely going to be one of the runners to watch as she sets her sights on reaching a goal she set at the beginning of the season. Hopefully, the weather will be better than the near freezing temperatures last Saturday at the Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake Invitational held at Saratoga State Park. But, neither that or the hills at Tuesday’s course seem to bother the talented sophomore.

“It hailed a little bit on Saturday,” Lazarou said. “But, I didn’t mind. I just kept running. I want to get my best time. I definitely want to break 18:20.”

Lazarou is aiming at a return trip to the state championships. The only runner from Sectuion 2 to finish ahead of Lazarou at Saturday’s meet was Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake junior Eva Scott. Lazarou’s coach knows she is ready for another chance to challenge Scott, and challenge for a sectional title.

“She’s on target,” Coach Palczak said. “Her fitness is good and she’s racing well. Olivia’s race specific preparation is good and she’s on pace to have a good end of the season.”

All the Foothills Council teams will contend for titles in boys and girls varsity races on Monday. The Section 2 NYSPHSAA championships will also be held at Saratoga State Park on Friday, November 6th and will feature many of the finest high school cross country runners in New York State.

(Photos by Scott Mulford)

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.