Amsterdam cross country teams finish strong at sectionals

Friday afternoon, the Amsterdam cross country girls and boys teams got their chance to challenge the likes of Saratoga Springs, Shenedehowa, Colonie and other Suburban Council schools, and put up some of their best times of the season at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Cross Country Championships at Saratoga Springs State Park.

Lazarou finishes in top 20 overall

Since the start of the season, Amsterdam junior Olivia Lazarou has known that in order to get back to the state championships for the third straight year she would have to be faster than many of the best runners that the Suburban Council has to offer. Amsterdam’s cross country teams were bumped up to Class A for 2016 after running in Class B the past two years. Lazarou became the first Amsterdam girls runner to make it to the state meet in 2014 and followed that up with a repeat performance in 2015 finishing second to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lakes’ Eva Scott. The competition for Class A included the likes of Saratoga Springs sophomore Kelsey Chmiel, who broke the Saratoga course record and set a personal best at the Suburban Council championships, and Shenedehowa’s Julia Zachgo and Hanna Reale. Lazarou took her usual positive and energetic outlook on the race.

“I was so excited the whole week,” Lazarou said. “I looked forward to competing with some of the best runners out there. I had so much fun.”

Sixteen of the top twenty runners in the girls Class A race were from the top three teams: Saratoga Springs, who won the Class A title with 47 points, Shenendehowa (second- 40 points), and Niskayuna (third- 58 points). Lazarou was the third runner from a school outside the top three and finished 17th in Class A with a time of 18 minutes, 28.16 seconds. While the effort didn’t get her to states, Lazarou’s time was more than twenty seconds better than her time at the Foothills Council championships nearly two weeks ago, and not far from her personal best on the Saratoga course. A time she’s still determined to beat.

“I want to beat 18:20,” Lazarou said. “I think I had a great start. Now I know where I will need to improve to get better. I’m already looking forward to next year and beating my personal best, and going to states.”

Lazarou’s start was part of the plan, as it was for her teammates as well.

“The plan was to go out hard and have a good start to the race,” Amsterdam coach Stu Palczak said. “Because of the quality of the competition in the race we needed to have a good start. Olivia did a good job and ran a really good race.”

Had Lazarou been running in either of the other three girls races she would be headed to states for a third consecutive year. Her time would have won the girls Class C/CC race, been good enough for second in Class D, and put her in third in Class B. Overall on the day, Lazarou posted the 20th best time of any girls runner in the competition, and that effort was contagious as every one of her teammates put up some of their best times of the season.

Freshman Kayla Sondrup was the next Lady Rams runner to cross the line, in 83rd with a time of 21:04.15, better than her times in the Foothills Council Championships, and at the Harvest Classic. Sondrup continues to work hard toward her goal of getting her time under twenty minutes. Sondrup was followed by freshman Skylar Grybos (21:42.12), who continues to improve her times since injuring her knee earlier this season. Finishing right next to Grybos was Brook Marshall (21:42.58) posting a better time than her last two races. Both Grybos and Marshall finished in the top 100 Class A runners. Just outside that group in place 101 was Amsterdam eighth grader Gabby Maroto (22:10.80) who also improved her time from her last race, and then fellow eighth grader Sydney Szcezpanik (22:49.25) who improved the most of the group, knocking nearly a minute and a half off her time from the Harvest Classic run less than a week ago. Overall, the Lady Rams finished twelfth with 317 points. The results give plenty of reason for a positive outlook on the future.

“Every girl had their best running performance of the year,” Coach Palczak said. “This group of girls has shown to be a group that will work hard to improve. That gives me a lot of optimism going into next year.”

Saratoga Springs sophomore Kelsey Chmiel won the girls Class A race with a time of 16:47.21, only six seconds off her best time of the year. Shenedehowa junior Hannah Reale (17:36.77), who missed the 2015 race due to injury was second followed by her teammate senior Julia Zachgo (17:40.14). Niskauna junior Abigail Spiers (17:46.58) was fourth, and Shenendehowa junior Olivia Lomascolo (18:02.20) rounded out the top five.

Bublak in top 100 for Amsterdam boys

After the Amsterdam varsity boys cross country teams’ first meet of the season against the Scotia- Glenville Tartans, Rams junior Ryan Kamanu commented after challenging the Tartans top runner for first place that, “By the end of the year you’re going to see these young AHS runners right up there battling with me.”

Kamanu’s words could not have been more accurate as the Rams battled with some of the best high school runners in the state and posted some of their best times of the season.

Freshman Daniel Bublak was the first Rams runner to reach the finish line completing the 4908 meter course with a time of 17:56.14 good enough for 94th place. Kamanu was stride for stride with teammate eighth grader Trevor Dzikowicz as the two headed down the last 100 yards for the finish line. Dzikowicz passed Kamanu to end up 103rd with a time of 18:17.99. Kamanu (18:19.01) was next across the line for the Rams and commended his teammates efforts.

“The boys did very well as a team,” Kamanu said. “Three of the five had personal records by a lot. The younger boys did well especially Trevor. He had been saying all year that he had to beat me. Today he did.”

Rams senior Antonio Natole (19:06.53) was next across the line followed by junior John Companion (20:38.64) to complete the field for Amsterdam.

“It was a good competitive race,” Kamanu said. “The younger boys proved themselves. They proved that they could run a 5k throughout the season. They showed that they could challenge the big boys.”

Amsterdam finished 13th in the Class A race with 406 points. A young AHS squad is showing that the building blocks are there for a bright future for the program.

“We build with our modified track and field program,” Amsterdam coach Kevin Wilary said. “Runners like Daniel Bublak came from that program and we need to continue to build. Hopefully we can get some distance runners to come out here.”

Saratoga Springs won the boys Class A team competition with 38 points. Guilderland senior Noah Carey nearly broke the 15 minute mark winning the Class A race with a 15:04.84 time. Saratoga’s Declan Hines (15:12.38) was next followed by Carey’s teammate Noah Tindale (15:29.26), Saratoga’s Shea Weilbaker (15:30.06), and Queensbury’s Kevin Bouyea (15:37.14) were in the top five.

“This is one of the strongest sections in the country,” Coach Wilary said. “We were in the best race today. It was a great time. I have to say that with a freshman and an eighth grader as our one and two, it’s good for our program.”

The future of the Amsterdam cross country program appears to be in good hands. Even when athletes like Olivia Lazarou and Ryan Kamanu complete their careers after next season, most of the runners on the current AHS rosters are freshman or eighth graders. It will be the next group to take their turn and see who could become the next AHS cross country athlete to qualify for the state championships.

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.