Spotlight on two area multi-sport athletes

Broadalbin-Perth’s Ali Visco and Amsterdam High School’s Emma Patrei have something in common. They’re both playing on not one, but two varsity sports this spring. During a time when many high school athletes have started focusing on one sport for their careers, participating in two in one season is rare. Balancing the demands of two schedules takes a combination of motivation and dedication that’s not easy to achieve.

Ali Visco, a junior at Broadalbin-Perth High School started at third base for the BPHS Lady Patriots varsity softball team last year. However, this year Visco’s workload has increased, as she’s chosen to compete on the varsity track and field team as well.

“I have track and field practice first,” Visco said. “And then I go to softball practice after track practice. The coaches record my times and put them in the computer and the I head off to softball.”

When she’s not playing shortstop for the Lady Patriots on the softball diamond, Visco is entered in multiple events for the Broadalbin- Perth varsity track and field team. Friday night at the Johnstown Inviational she was entered in four events for the Lady Patriots. Visco placed 16th in the long jump, and 23rd in the triple jump while going against some of the best competition in Section 2. Visco also tried something new when she ran in the 100 meter dash, and placed 34th out of 42 entered in the event. Visco did not record a height in the high jump event on Friday night, but has improved recently and put up a personal best in a meet against Amsterdam on April 19 at BPHS when she got over the bar at four feet and four inches.

Both teams that Ali Visco is playing for are competing for bids in the Section 2 championships which are only two weeks away. The Lady Patriots softball team had a pair of key Foothills Council games on the road Monday and Tuesday against division rivals Johnstown and Gloversville.  However, on Tuesday, the Lady Patriots track and field team also had a league meet with Johnstown at Knox Field, and Visco had to choose where to go.

“Sometimes it’s not good having conflicts,” said Visco who stated that at the beginning of the season she had chosen softball as her number one sport. She said some of her coaches are more lenient than others when it comes to her missing an occasional practice or game.

Patrei, a sophomore at AHS, also plays for her school’s varsity softball team, and competes on the girls varsity track and field team. Early this season when the Amsterdam softball team was impacted by injuries and a bout of the flu, Patrei helped the Lady Rams stay in contention with her bat and her glove. The weather had also effected schedules for both the softball and track and field teams, and on April 18, the Lady Rams softball team had to play a doubleheader at Shuttleworth Park against the Mayfield Lady Panthers, one of the top teams in Section 2’s Western Athletic Conference. Patrei pitched both games, a total of 14 innings.

“Every time she tells me she can do it,” Amsterdam coach Brendan Cetnar said after the Lady Rams won the second game 7-3 to split the two games. “She’s in great shape.”

Patrei has been at the heart of the Lady Rams effort on the diamond, and has had to miss some track and field meets due to the Lady Rams softball team’s need to have enough players of the field. The coaches of both teams have been supportive of her efforts.

“I’ve missed five meets this season,” Patrei said during Friday nights Johnstown Inviational at Knox Field. “When I do run, I work hard and help the team out. Coach Cetnar (AHS coach Brendan Cetnar) is good with that. Coach Cetnar and Coach [Stu] Palczak e-mail each other and figure out where I’m going. They’re flexible.”

Last year, Patrei played junior varsity softball and varsity track and field as a freshman, but this year she is on both varsity squads, and the need to have her on the field is greater since both squads are competing for sectional titles.

At the Ron Paperniak Memorial Softball Tournament, Patrei came on to pitch in the first inning with her team trailing 4-0, and then stabilized the defense and helped AHS rally for a 10-8 win over Canajoharie. When not in the pitchers circle, Patrei anchors the left side of the Lady Rams infield as the shortstop. She was in the circle on Thursday, a night before the Johnstown Invitational track and field meet, and helped AHS defeat Johnstown 8-6, but once again schedules conflicted when she learned that the Lady Rams softball team could be making up a game against Glens Falls on Friday afternoon.

“Sometimes I get upset if I have a conflict and I have to choose,” Patrei said.

Patrei was concerned when she learned about the conflict. If she played softball, she might not be able to qualify for sectionals in track and field, so she needed to participate in the Johnstown Inviational. She also realized that the AHS softball team would have to bring up players from the junior varsity team to have enough to field a team on Friday against Glens Falls, and the team’s sectional chances were still to be determined. Patrei had played softball and track on the same day twice last year when both of the Amsterdam teams were playing at home, but Friday night the Lady Rams softball team was at Shuttleworth Park, and the track and field team was at Knox Field. Even though her heart was with both teams, she could not be in two places at once. Patrei was at Knox Field where she competed in the triple jump, 800 meter run, and ran a leg on the 4×800 meter relay team. As a steady rain slowly drenched everyone on the course, Patrei wondered if she could still qualify for sectionals. She spoke with Amsterdam track and field coach Stu Palczak, who explained to her that with the meets and invitationals remaining on the Lady Rams track team’s schedule, she still had a chance to qualify.

“She’s on the right course,” Coach Palczak said.

The Amsterdam softball team will play three games next week beginning with a home contest on Monday against one of the top teams in the Foothills Council, Scotia-Glenville. The Lady Rams also have a 7pm game on Tuesday against Johnstown, the same day as the AHS girls track and field team has a meet with South Glens Falls. The AHS girls track and field team will be trying to remain undefeated in league play. On Wednesday, the Amsterdam softball team will be playing in a Foothills Council crossover game on the road. One thing is certain, Emma Patrei will be somewhere on the field with a bat or a baton in her hand on all three days.

“I’m never tired,” Patrei said.

Visco will also be on a field somewhere over the next few days, but deciding where to go is never easy. Some athletes choose one sport over all others and years later wonder what could have been if they had chosen differently. But for Ali Visco and Emma Patrei, they have their hearts in two sports at once.

There’s one more quality that motivates these two young women and helps them persevere, and that’s support from their teammates. Recently, Patrei credited her teammates for cheering from the dugout as she pitched against Canajoharie. That support gave her the energy to go on and lead them to victory. Friday night, Visco looked around at all her teammates as the Johnstown Invitational went on late into the night and said, “We’re like one big, happy family.”

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.