AHS track and field recap and sectional preview, spotlight on relay teams

At last Thursday’s Foothills Council track and field championships held in Schuylerville, the Amsterdam varsity boys and girls teams combined to win five of the six relay events. That may seem remarkable to some on it’s own, but it’s even more astonishing when you consider that Amsterdam’s relay teams have won over ninety percent of their events in the Foothills Council this season, and have scored consistently throughout all competition they’ve faced in 2016, breaking records along the way. It’s no surprise that the number of talented athletes that make up this year’s Amsterdam High School varsity track and field relay squads have been at the heart of the two teams’ success. Heading into Wednesday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Group 2 Championships at Ichabod Crane Middle School, the relay teams will once again be counted on to lead the way as the Amsterdam teams compete for a sectional title.

“The kids always enjoy being on the relay teams,” Amsterdam coach Kevin Wilary said. “Relays are a lot of fun and its not about individual accomplishment, you’re running for your team. Talented kids are running with other talented kids and working together, and that makes for a good relay team.”

During Foothills Council league meets and invitational meets, Amsterdam competes in the 4×100 meter, 4×400 meter, and 4×800 meter relay events. In 2016, not many schools have done it as well as the Amsterdam Rams and Lady Rams. The AHS girls relay teams were 14-1 in the Foothills Council this year, with the only loss coming against Scotia-Glenville in the 4×100 meter when an errant baton exchange caused a disqualification. A clean exchange would most likely have meant an AHS win. The AHS boys relay teams were 12-3 in the Foothills Council giving both the boys and girls AHS squads a combined record of 26-4, easily the best in the league. At the top of the charts for the AHS girls, the 4×400 meter relay team that has featured junior Edena Sanchez, sophomores Olivia Lazarou and Brenda Santana, and freshman Lauren Santiago are undefeated in both league meets and invitationals this season. The girls 4×400 meter team set a new school and meet record at the Queensbury Invitational earlier this month with a time of four minutes, 5.26 seconds. The 4×400 meter team has also been best for the AHS boys, with the “fab four” of Kevon Boucaud, Omahri Sturdivant, Mikey Gomez, and Gabe Fernandez winning all but one race this year (second to Christ the King at the Niskayuna Warrior Classic), and also setting a new meet record at Queensbury with a time of 3:26.52.

Being a part of an AHS track and field relay team is something athletes can reflect on with pride when their high school days come to an end.

“It’s prestigious being on the relay teams,” Amsterdam coach Stu Palczak said. “Having good kids who work together very well and enjoy it. The kids get amped up for the relays, especially the 4×400 meter.”

Both the AHS boys and girls 4×400 meter relay team have posted significant victories in addition to breaking records. The Amsterdam boys win at the Queensbury Invitational was fractions of a second better than Smithtown West High School, but that slim margin proved to be the difference in Amsterdam’s overall first place finish, by one point over Smithtown West and the Suburban Council’s Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School. The AHS boys 4×400 meter relay team also continued its dominance in the recent Eddy Meet at Schenectady High School, where the group won the event for the fourth straight year. The Amsterdam girls 4×400 meter relay team also earned a victory over a Suburban Council team. The Lady Rams own “fab four” defeated Saratoga Springs at the Johnstown Invitational in early May to help the AHS girls to an overall third place finish. But, there’s more than athletic ability and teamwork that these athletes have in common.

“It’s the heart we have for the relays,” Amsterdam senior Gabe Fernandez said. “It’s all heart for us.”

“We rely on each other,” Amsterdam sophomore Emma Patrei said. “For both the girls and boys, our sprinters and distance runners know we can depend on each other, and we work well all around.”

Fernandez will once again anchor the AHS boys 4×400 meter relay team on Wednesday for the final time in Section 2 competition for his career, with a trip to states looming in the distance. Boucaud, Sturdivant and Gomez will join him. All three of the AHS boys relay teams have featured plenty of talented athletes including Luis Rodriguez, Alezey Rivera, Marcos Santiago, Adam Tatun, Michael Johnson, Ryan Kamanu, Louis Fedullo, Angel Sanchez, Timmy Kline, Jake Smitka, Jon Knack, and John Companion, all who compete in other events as well. Many of them will be part of the Amsterdam relay teams on Wednesday.

Patrei, who played softball along with track and field this season will be part of the 4×800 meter relay team on Wednesday. The multi-talented sophomore, who is also entered in the 800 meter run and triple jump events, is glad she is participating in sectionals after missing some early meets while she fulfilled her commitment to the AHS varsity softball team.

“I’m happy,” Patrei said. “I was nervous before but now I’m relieved. Even if I didn’t go to the last meet, I would have made it to sectionals.”

Patrei was part of the first place AHS girls 4×800 meter relay team at the Foothills Council track and field championships last Wednesday along with Emma Gomez, Olivia Lazarou, and Edena Sanchez, all who will likely join her on that team for sectionals. And just like the boys, all three AHS girls relay teams have featured many talented athletes who have kept them competitive and winning. Members of the AHS girls relay teams have included Alyssa Kuchis, Courtney Bottisti, Monet Nole, Stephanie Garcia, Gabby Stanavich, Chantel Dopp, Kayla Sondrup, Kaitlyn Deine, and Giuliana Pritchard.

During league meets both the boys and girls relay teams have also entered B and C squads, with coaches always looking for the next standout performer or athlete to show consistent improvement when setting their lineup.

“We’re putting together a roster for Wednesday,” Coach Wilary said. “There’s nothing surprising about what we do. We put our kids where we feel they will be at their best and hopefully they perform.”

One of those athletes who has improved since the start of the season is freshman Gabby Stanavich, who has been on a relay team twice this year including running a leg of the 4×400 meter in Amsterdam’s first league meet against Johnstown. Lately, Stanavich has been a standout in the hurdles events finishing first at the Foothills Council Championships in the 100 meter hurdles and following that with a sixth place finish in the same event at the Eddy Meet where she also achieved a personal best time of 15.91 seconds. Stanavich’s finish along with Santana’s fifth place effort in the 100 meter dash gave the Lady Rams team their first points (3 points), ever in the 76 year history of the Eddy meet.

“She’s improving in leaps and bounds,” Coach Palczak said. “As she gains more experience she keeps improving. She’s a tiger.”

When asked if Stanavich’s breakout season could lead to her making more appearances on the relay teams, Palczak replied, “There’s a good chance.”

There was one thing that everyone in the AHS camp, coaches and athletes, agreed on as the team ended practice on Monday afternoon. One goal, that veterans like Gabe Fernandez, or spirited two sport athletes like Emma Patrei were striving to achieve.

“The goal is two plaques,” Coach Wilary said. “Getting a plaque is something that we hadn’t done until three years ago.”

The first and second place teams at sectionals receive a plaque. Top three finishers in each individual event receive a patch.

The Amsterdam boys won the Section 2 group title in 2014 led by now AHS alumni Isaiah Brown and David Graveley. The Amsterdam girls are looking for their first top two finish in track and field, and the first girls sports team sectional title in school history.

“It’s really the girls first attempt at a plaque,” Coach Wilary said. “We have a good chance.”

According to Wilary the girls sectional meet will likely come down to competition between Amsterdam and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School, with teams such as Emma Willard and South Glens Falls factoring in the scoring. The boys meet will also likely come down to Amsterdam and the Spartans of Suburban Council power Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School.

“The goal is to get two plaques and as many patches as we can,” Coach Palczak added.

Athletes like Fernandez and Patrei will be at the heart of the competition as both are part of the relay events.

“Hopefully we get a plaque,” said Patrei who set goals of helping the 4×800 meter relay team to victory, placing in the 800 meter run, and reaching a distance of 31 feet in the triple jump.

2016 Foothills Council Track and Field Championships results:

The Amsterdam boys finished second with 105 points behind only a deep Queensbury team (140 points).

In addition to wins by the 4×400 meter, and 4×800 meter relay team, AHS got first place finishes from Kvon Boucaud in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 400 meter runs, and Omahri Sturdivant in the long jump, and triple jump. Sturdivant was second in the 400 meter run, Boucaud was second in the long jump. Gabe Fernandez was third in the 800 meter, and Gehrig Garner was third in the high jump to round out top tree performances by the Rams.

The Lady Rams swept the relay events helping them to a third place finish at Schuylerville with 93 points, behind only Queensbury (145 points), and South Glens Falls (102.5 pts).

Also getting wins for the Lady Rams were Brenda Santana in both the 100 meter and 200 meter runs, Edena Sanchez in the 800 meter run, and Gabby Stanavich in the 110 meter hurdles. Lauren Santiago picked up a second place finish in the 200 meter run, and was third in the 400 meter run, and Olivia Lazarou placed third in the 1500 meter run, and then three days later at the Eddy Meet, Lazarou put up a season best time of 4:54.23 good for 22nd against some of the best competition in the state, and gave another strong indication that Amsterdam athletes have not slowed down and are peaking at the right time heading into sectionals.

Among the AHS athletes also turning in good finishes at the Foothills meet included; Kaitlyn Devine (7th- 100 meter run, 8th- long jump), Giuliana Pritchard (12th-100m run), Chantel Dopp (13th- 1500 m run), Kayla Sondrup (6th- 3000m run), Gabby Stanavich (5th- 400m hurdles), Emma Patrei (7th- 800m run, 11th- triple jump), Hailey Madej (11th- discus throw, 15th- shot put), Alyssa Kuchis (19th- high jump), Emma Gomez (21st- long jump, 7th- triple jump), Aneysha Gonzalez (17th- shot put), Luis Rodriguez (9th- 100m run), Michael Johnson (8th- 110m hurdles, 9th- pole vault), John Companion (14th- 1600m run), Timmy Kline (15th- 1600m run, 12th- 3200m run), Sturdivant (4tth- 200m run), Wil Weinheimer (8th- 3000m steeplechase, 13th- 3200m run), Mikey Gomez (7th- 400m run), Ryan Kamanu (6th- 800m run), Edgar Maldonado (8th- discus throw), Jah’leel Muhammed (16th- discus throw, 11th- shot put), Louis Fedullo (13th- high jump), Angel Sanchez (16th- long jump), Jon Knack (6th- pentathlon), Alezey Rivera (15th- triple jump), and Austin Brock (23rd- shot put).

When the starting pistols fire on Wednesday, you can be sure that each AHS runner will be depending on each other to give everything he or she has for their team. The Amsterdam track and field teams’ quest for sectional titles will continue, and its relay teams will be at the heart of that effort.

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.