A week’s worth of unfavorable weather had caused the postponement of dozens of baseball and softball games and even last Tuesday’s home opener for the Amsterdam High School varsity track and field teams. But, it’s been said that good things come to those who wait. The good things never stopped coming Saturday afternoon at Johnstown’s Knox Field where the AHS boys and girls track and field teams posted 14 first place finishes overall, and took home three “outstanding performance” awards at the 37th Annual Gloversville-Johnstown Kiwanis Bi-County Invitational Track and Field Meet.
“Our kids work hard,” Amsterdam coach Stu Palczak said. “I give them a lot of credit. Many of them have already done so much coming off a successful indoor track and field season, and our kids that did indoor looked great today. That commitment and hard work makes a big difference.”
Under mostly sunny skies for much of the day, Amsterdam earned six first place finishes on the girls side, and eight on the boys side out of a total of 36 events contested throughout the six hour meet. Among the multiple event winners for AHS teams were Olivia Lazarou, who earned first place in both the 1500 meter and 3000 meter runs, Kevon Boucaud, who took home first in both the 100 meter and 400 meter dashes. Boucard was also part of the winning 1600 meter relay team along with another top performer for the Rams, Omari Sturdivant, who placed first in the 200 meter dash, long jump, and triple jump where he broke his own meet record with a distance of 46 feet and six inches. All three were honored after the meet with awards. Lazarou received her second “outstanding track performer award” becoming the first Amsterdam girl in the meet’s history to win the award more than once. Boucaud was honored with his first “outstanding track performer award” for the boys, and Sturdivant was named the “outstanding athlete award” winner for the boys following in the footsteps of former Amsterdam High School and current Rutgers University standout Izaiah Brown, who won the award from 2013 to 2015. The Rams will be looking to seniors like Sturdivant for leadership as they reach for their goals in the 2016 Foothills Council league and invitational meet season.
“One big goal is to win the Eddy Meet,” said Sturdivant. “Without athletes like Izaiah (Brown), (Andrew) Druziak, and David Graveley, it may not be expected for us to win. We’re deeper as a team this year. We have more people to put in different events, and we’re skilled in a lot of spots.”
The Amsterdam boys and girls entered an athlete in every event except the steeplechase. In addition to first place finishes by Sturdivant and Boucaud, the AHS boys got top finishes from Gabe Fernandez in the 800 meter run, and the 3200 meter relay team of Michael Johnson, Ryan Kamanu, Fernandez, and Michael Gomez. Both Fernandez and Gomez joined Sturdivant and Boucaud on the winning 1600 meter relay team. Sturdivant, on and off the track has played a role in the team’s continued success.
“When we had leaders like Izaiah Brown and David Graveley on the team, the focus was never on Omari,” Amsterdam coach Kevin Wilary said. “Now his leadership has shown. He’s the man. This year he’s stepped into the role as a leader, and he leads as one should, by example. Omari continues to work hard at every practice and gives it all he has at every meet.”
Sturdivant’s influence is most profoundly seen in the performance of Boucaud, who joined the team last year and has continued to put up strong numbers ever since.
“Omari is a leader,” Boucaud said. “We look up to him, and do a lot of drills in practice to try to stay with him.”
According to Coach Wilary, Sturdivant is an NCAA Division 1 college prospect, and much like his predecessor Brown, is leaving his mark by encouraging the next generation of talented Amsterdam athletes, who could one day compete at the college level.
“Omari took Kevon under his wing immediately,” Coach Wilary said. “He saw Kevon’s potential. Now, they push each other to get better. No one was happier then Kevon when Omari won triple jump at indoor nationals. Today, Omari wanted Kevon to beat him in long jump.”
Sturdivant took first in the long jump with a distance of 21 feet, 7.5 inches. Boucaud wasn’t far off the lead with a best distance of 21 feet, 4.5 inches, good for a second place finish. Boucaud continues to improve and impress and nearly equaled a meet record on Saturday set by his former AHS teammate Izaiah Brown, in the 100 meter dash.
“When he came out and ran for the team last year, he jumped off the map,” Coach Wilary said. “I thought he was better in the 55 meter run during indoor, but today he ran eleven seconds flat in the 100 meter dash. That’s an incredibly legit time. Kevon’s going to have another amazing season.”
Brown’s meet record in the 100 meter dash is 10.9 seconds, and was set only last year. Boucaud’s performance left an impression on everyone including his teammates.
“I did not expect that,” Sturdivant said. “I thought maybe he would do 11.2 this year, but I did not expect that time.”
Boucaud won the 400 meter run with a time of 52.10 seconds, nearly two seconds ahead of his teammate Gomez (23.90). Kamanu (54.50) finished third giving the Rams a sweep of the top spots in the event.
“Kevon had a great day overall,” Coach Wilary said. “He won easily in the 400 meters. He’s a superior athlete.”
Any good athlete knows that there is room for improvement, and Boucaud credited his coaches and teammates for his continued success.
“Coach Decker has me doing longer sprints to build my endurance, which is something I really needed,” Boucaud said. “I really wanted to get good times in the 100 meter and 200 meter, and I’ve improved a lot in the 100 meter. Longer workouts with Omari have helped me a lot, and here I am.”
And, while Boucaud has set goals to continue the line of great athletes in the Amsterdam track and field program, Sturdivant is looking to put an exclamation point on his career with some goals of his own.
“I want to hit 49 feet in the triple jump,” Sturdivant said. “And, I’d like to place in triple jump and long jump at States.”
The Amsterdam boys got second place finishes from Luis Rodriguez in the 100 meter dash, and the 400 meter relay team of Rodriguez, Alezey Rivera, Marcos Santiago, and Adam Tatun. Third place finishers included Jon Knack in the 1600 meter run, and Michael Johnson in the 400 meter hurdles. Coming in fourth place were Tatun in the 200 meter dash, and Edgar Maldonado in the shot put and discus throw.
Timmy Kline finished fifth in the 1600 meter run and sixth in the 800 meter run. Johnson was sixth in the 110 meter hurdles, and Austin Brock was sixth in the discus throw. Trevor Dzikowicz was ninth in the 3200 meter run.
The Amsterdam girls team also had a good day at Knox Field, and like the boys team will be led by experienced athletes, some who have been part of the AHS track and field program since the seventh grade. Brenda Santana, only a sophomore is one of those experienced athletes being looked to for leadership on a team with few seniors.
“What’s different about her this year is that she’s taken on a leadership role,” Amsterdam Coach Stu Palczak said. “Her work ethic is great and she puts time into working with the girls on their relay teams with their exchanges and with the younger girls during drills.”
Santana out-sprinted Fonda-Fultonville’s Brittany Castellucio in the 100 meter dash winning with a time of 13.4 seconds, and she was part of the winning AHS 1600 meter relay team with Lazarou, Lauren Santiago and Edena Sanchez, who had no trouble with their baton exchanges and won impressively with a time of 4 minutes, 14.5 seconds, far ahead of the second place Gloversville team (4:30.10).
“We do a lot of drills,” Sanatana said. “We are in the weight room two or three times per week. It’s a lot of powerful stuff. This team has amazing coaches who work us hard. There are no easy days. Every day is considered a hard day.”
And that hard work pays off. The Amsterdam girls placed in nearly every event they had entered. Santiago won the 400 meter dash with a time of one minute, 1.5 seconds, a full second ahead of Canajoharie’s Jordan Porter, and Edena Sanchez took the top spot in the 800 meter run with a best time of 2:27.60, nearly eight seconds better than Porter’s 2 minutes, 35.30 seconds. Most impressive were Santana’s sprints as it appeared at times when running she had both feet off the ground.
“It’s a lot of drills,” Santana said about working on her form. “As soon as my legs go down they have to pick up again.”
Santana, Santiago, and Lazarou are all part of a young AHS girls team that includes 30 members that are freshman or sophomores, with one eighth grader in Kayla Sondrup, who was also part of the AHS varsity cross country team this past season. The young squad is the future of the Amsterdam track and field program and have set their sites on a Foothills Council title.
“We’re working hard for it,” Santana said. “Definitely, we would like to win it. It’s showing in that we have a lot of athletes who are improving.”
One of those athletes is fellow sophomore Olivia Lazarou, who faced some determined competition in both the 1500 meter and 3000 meter runs. Lazarou has already entered the Amsterdam High School record books by becoming the first girls cross country runner in school history to qualify for the State meet, and she has done it twice so far. Lazarou has also competed for the AHS indoor track and field team and continues to improve. Saturday afternoon, she and her coach had a plan in mind when facing one of the few runners to defeat her in competition.
“Coach Palczak always tells me to just go out and run,” Lazarou said. “He tells me that my third lap has to be strong because that lap could determine the race.”
Lazarou followed that plan to near perfection in the 1500 meter run where her primary competition was Broadalbin-Perth junior Celina Onzo, who finished ahead of Lazarou is the 800 meter run in the 2015 Kiwanis Meet. During Saturday’s girls 1500 meter, Onzo stayed close behind Lazarou for the first two laps, but just as was planned, Lazarou kicked it into another gear during the third lap and broke away from Onzo, winning with a time of 5:16.10, nearly 15 seconds better than Onzo’s 5:30.40 time.
“She followed the plan exactly,” Coach Palczak said of Lazarou. “We intended to keep anyone from coming after her in that last lap. Her third lap wasn’t her fastest lap of the 1500 meter, but it was enough for her to push the pace and break away so that last lap wasn’t a factor. Celina Onzo is a gutsy kid. Give her credit, she ran a good race”
Lazarou also had some competition early in the 3000 meter race with Mayfield- Northville’s Madison Relyea staying with the AHS sophomore for the first lap, but Lazarou had her stride and outdistanced everyone ending with a 11:12.60 time. The next runner across the line was Fonda- Fultonville’s Hailie Lapratt with an 11:51.70 showing. After the race Lazarou admitted she prefers having someone running with her.
“I love having people push me,” Lazarou said. “I get my best times when there’s someone there to push me. But, I have to work on being able to push myself.”
Lazarou was one of several young athletes for the Amsterdam girls who enjoyed a good day at the Kiwanis Bi County Meet. The Lady Rams got third place finishes from freshman Gabby Stanavich in the 400 meter hurdles, and freshman Santiago in the long jump, and the 400 meter relay team of sophomore Alyssa Kuchis, juniors Courtney Bottisti and Stephanie Garcia, and senior Monet Nole. The AHS girls 3200 meter relay team that included Stanavich, Sondrup, freshman Emma Gomez and senior Chantel Dopp took fourth with a time of 11:33.40. Gomez was sixth in the triple jump. Junior Aneysha Gonzalez was fifth in the shot put followed by sophomore Haley Madej in sixth. Madej was also eighth in the discus throw. Sophomore Kayla Dzikowicz was seventh in the 400 meter hurdles, and Gonzalez was sixteenth in the discus throw. The only Amsterdam girls senior to place in more than one event was Cassanadra Robataille, who took second in the 100 meter hurdles and third in the high jump.
Other award winners for the 2016 Kiwanis Bi County Track and Field Meet were Briattany Castellucio of Fonda-Fultonville, who earned the girls “outstanding field performer award”, and Gloversville’s Madison Fancher, who was named the girls “outstanding athlete award” winner. Castellucio won the girls long jump, was second to Fancher in the high jump, and second behind Santana in the 100 meter run. Madison Fancher also won both the 100 meter and 400 meter hurdles, and was on the second place Gloversville 1600 meter relay team. Other top finishers for the girls included Emma Rhodes (FFHS) in the 200 meter run, Halie Lapratt (FFHS) in the 2000 meter steeplechase, the Johnstown 400 meter relay team, the Fonda-Fultonville 3200 meter relay team, Sierra Fancher (Gloversville) who finished first in the triple jump and tied for first with Joanna Tavolaro (BPHS) in the pole vault, Abigail Queeney (Johnstown) in the shot put, and Kayla Murphy (Gloversville) in the discus trow.
Jeff Derwin of Broadalbin-Perth won the boys “outstanding field performer award” taking first in both the shot put and discus throw. Other top finishers for the boys included Damion Freeman (FFHS) in the 1600 meter run, Brandon Mraz (Johnstown) in the 3200 meter run, Ben Vardi-Davidson (FFHS) in the 110 meter hurdles, Taylor McCredie (Gloversville) in the 400 meter hurdles, Blane Newcomer (FFHS) was first in the 3000 meter steeplechase, the Canajoharie 400 meter relay team took the top spot, as did Andrew Yacobucci (Canajoharie) in the high jump, and Chris Estep (Canajoharie) in the pole vault.
The Amsterdam track and field teams are scheduled to return to action Tuesday at AHS when they host Johnstown at 4:30pm. AHS will also host Gloversville on Thursday.
(Photos by Scott Mulford)