AHS makes strong showing at cross country sectionals, Lazarou headed to state meet

Olivia Lazarou turned in a second place finish in the most competitive girls race of the day, and led the Amsterdam girls varsity cross-country time to a sixth place finish at the New York State Public High School Section 2 Cross Country Championships, Friday afternoon at Saratoga Springs State Park. Lazarou’s runner-up finish also guaranteed her another trip to the state meet next Saturday.

The Lady Rams sixth pace finish (137 points) in the Class B race was their best at sectionals since 2014 when Lazarou was a freshman. The AHS girls were 12th last year when the team was bumped up to Class A due to school enrollment. They were eighth in 2014, and seventh in 2015 at Class B.

“They did great,” Amsterdam coach Stu Palczak said about his team. “We talked about finishing strong today, and they did. I’m very proud of how the girls ran. They finished well.”

All seven girls on the Lady Rams varsity improved their times from the Foothills Council Championships nearly two weeks ago at the 3.05 miles at the Saratoga State Park course. Lauren Santiago’s time of 20 minutes, and 9.82 seconds was 41 seconds better than her time from the previous run (20:52.49), and put her in the top twenty-five (22nd) at sectionals. Sophomore Kayla Sondrup (20:54.59) was nearly a minute faster than her previous time, and gave Amsterdam three runners in the top thirty. Gabby Feliciano (21:31.16) made it four in the top fifty, out of 97 runners with her 41st place run.

Skylar Grybos (22:25.56) had the greatest margin of improvement, taking nearly a minute off her time at the Foothills championships (23:21.72). Grybos has been nursing an ankle injury for much of the season, but wasn’t about to miss her final race of the season. The sophomore turned in yet another gutsy performance and will now take three weeks to rest and rehabilitate before track and field season begins.

Freshmen Brook Marshall (22:36.17), and Sydney Szczepanik (22:36.54) both turned in better times than their last run at the Saratoga course, and showed why they were among the Foothills Council top freshmen, completing the race within a second of each other, and put all seven AHS girls in the top 60 runners.

“I couldn’t have scripted it much better than that,” Coach Palczak said after the race.

Lazarou was among the leaders throughout the race. Along with Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake junior Rory Graham, Mohanasen freshman Kate Sherman, Queensbury’s Emily Atamanchuk, and Scotia- Glenville senior Juliana Geniti, Lazarou was part of the lead pack that completed the first lap. The girls Class B race was the last run of the day, and by the time of the 2:30pm start, the rain and clouds were melting away. However, as it has been throughout her career, Lazarou has never really been concerned with the weather. She just kept running, and when the lead group reached the hill at Ferndale Spring, once again Lazarou kicked it in another gear and took off, trying to put distance between herself and the other challengers. Only this time, Graham went with her. The two runners matched each other stride for stride, but as they headed out of the woods and toward the Hall of Springs, Graham managed to put seconds between her and Lazarou. Graham crossed the line at 18:05.29, less than ten seconds ahead of Lazarou’s (18:15.89).

“That’s the type of race we were hoping for,” Coach Palczak said. “The girl from Burnt Hills (Graham) was just a bit faster, but we just wanted Olivia to go out and run hard. She did a great job today I told her before the race started that I was proud of her no matter what.”

Lazarou’s time was a personal best at the Saratoga State Park course breaking her previous mark of 18:20.14 set back in 2014 when she was a freshman. The senior captain was hoping to break the 18 minute mark at the course on Friday, but was happy with her personal best. She was happier with how her teammates performed.

“The whole team did amazing,” Lazaour said. “It was a good race today. I just went out and had fun, and I owe it to me team, my coaches, and family that I’ve had this success.”

Lazarou qualified for the NYSPHSAA State Cross Country Championships on Saturday, November 11, at Wayne High School (Section 5). Overall, Section 2 is sending yet another talented field of runners that included the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Lady Spartans team led by Graham, and eighth grader Emily Berg (19:00.91), who finished sixth in the girls B race. Along with Lazarou, Mohonasen’s Kate Sherman (18:40.55) who placed third on Friday, Queensbury senior Emily Atamanchuk (18:50.43), who placed fourth, Scotia- Glenville’s Juliana Geniti (18:57.42), and Mohonasen junior Anna Sherman (19:06.46), all qualified as the top five runners not from the winning school. All five were not part of the Section 2 state teams last year.

Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake won the girls Class B competition with 61 points. Mohonasen was second with 67 points, followed by Queensbury (85 points), Scotia- Glenville (106 points), and Academy of Holy Names (127 points).

Among other local finishers were; Mayfield freshman Madison Relyea (18:30.99), who placed second in Class D, and returns to states. Gloversville’s Daley Jo Christman (20:08.28 – 20th place Class B), Rhea Winter (21:57.35),and Autumn Hardman (22:50.21).

Other Section 2 team champions from Friday included Shenendehowa ( Class A- 40 points) led by seniors Hannah Reale, Olivia Lomascolo, and Charlotte Hartman with top ten finishes. Greenwich Central, the Class D champions with 21 points, placed four in the top ten led by race winner Brynne Wright (17:58.30). Schuylerville (78 points) was the overall girls Class C/CC champion, led by sophomore Sunni Labounty (19:38.28), and freshman Anya Vautrin (20:19.33) with top ten finishes. Duanesburg (55 points) took the girls Class C title.

The 2017 individual champions included Saratoga Springs junior Kelsey Chmiel (16:40.74) in Class A. Chmiel and senior Carly Vetter (18:07.88) both improved their times from the 2016 championships and will represent the Lady Blue Streaks at states. Jenn Skeeter (19:04.87) of Duanesburg won the overall Class C/CC girls race. Skeeter and Elaine Atanasova (19:29.04) were the top overall finishers in Class C/CC and will represent their school at states. Johnstown’s Julia Sarullo (19:19.76) won the Class C race and also heads to states. Graham (Class B), and Wright (Class D) were on their respective winning teams headed to states.

Lazarou’s high school cross-country career likely won’t end with Saturday’s state meet. The Amsterdam senior has run in the Federation meet the last two years. She has broken the 18 minute mark at least three times this year at distances comparable to the SPAC course with her career best time of 17:29 coming at the Harvest Classic on October 28 at the Bob’s Trees course in Galway. The 2017 New York State Federation Cross Country Champions are being held on Saturday, November 18 at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, NY.

Amsterdam boys finish strong at sectionals

Led by freshman Trevor Dzikowicz’s top 25 finish in a highly competitive Class B field, the Amsterdam boys varsity cross-country team ended their season on a positive note at the 2017 New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Cross Country Championships on Friday afternoon at Saratoga Springs State Park.

“They did well,” Amsterdam coach Kevin Wilary said. “We had some personal best times today on this course.”

The Rams fielded a team of only four runners which wasn’t enough for them to score in the team competition, but the AHS four were certainly a competitive group with Dzikowicz coming in No. 23 out of 104 runners and posting a time of 17 minutes, and 19.48 seconds. Two other Rams carved minutes off their times from the Foothills Council meet held at the same course less than two weeks ago.

“Chaun J’ (Ramos) was two minutes better than his time at the Foothills Council championships,” Coach Wilary said. “Marcos (Santiago) ran a good race, and Nick Rodecker was three minutes faster than his time at the Foothills championships.”

Ramos was next across the finish line for the Rams with a time of 19:13.21, the freshman was followed by Santiago (19:23.16), and Rodecker (23:45.32), who showed the most improvement from his time at the Foothills meet (26:54.09). The consistent improvement during the cross-country season could lead to even better results when the track and field season begins in less than a month as the Rams will be running indoors where athletes like Santiago excel.

“Marcos (Santiago) is a good distance runner, but on the track he’s one of the best athletes on the team,” Coach Wilary said. “We’re very excited about indoor track.”

All the excitement on the AHS boys cross-country team has been about Dzikowicz, who just like Amsterdam girls standout Olivia Lazarou has set some impressive goals for his future on the team.

“I was hoping to get my time under seventeen minutes,” Dzikowicz said after the race. “I cramped up with about a mile to go, and my breathing wasn’t as good, so I couldn’t keep up with what I was hoping to do.”

Dzikowicz still has plenty of time to reach his goals. Only a freshman, his work ethic could pay off as it has for Lazarou, who has made school history by being the first girl to make it to the state meet and repeat that effort three of the last four years.

“He’s been on varsity for three years,” Coach Wilary said of Dzikowicz, who joined the AHS varsity squad as a seventh grader. “He’s got three years to go to get his time under seventeen. Trevor works really hard at every practice. He might be the first Amsterdam boy to qualify for states in a long time.”

Dzikowicz knows it will take more hard work to get to where he wants to be and plans to focus on areas that need improvement.

“During the summer I’ll do more work on hills,” Dzikowicz said. “I’d like to find more people to run with.”

Another possible option is The Running School, a training camp in the Catckills that has helped several cross country athletes including Lazarou, Lauren Santiago, and Kayla Sondrup improve their stamina and running technique.

“I want to talk with coach (Wilary) to see if he thinks it’s a good idea,” Dzikowicz said. “I also have triathlons to train for.”

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School won the boys varsity race with 19 points, and had the top three runners in Tyler Berg (14:58.45), Aidan Gillooley (15:12.07), and Evan Brennan (15:25.31). The Spartans team moves on to the NYSPHSAA State Cross Country Championships at Wayne High School (Section 5). Joining them are; Schalmont twins Antonio Beltran (15:48.87), and Francisco Beltran (15:51.11), South Glens Falls senior Frank Triolo (16:08.58), and Queensbury’s Brian Beyerbach (16:22.79), and Kevin Bouyea (16:23.55), who were the top five finishers not from the winning team.

The other Section 2 boys champions from Friday’s meet were Maazin Ahmed of Schenectady (Class A), Brandon Olden of North Warren (Class D), and Glens Falls’ Chris Hughes was the overall winner of Class C/CC. Evan Ensslin of Voorheesville won the Class C race.

Quensbury was second in the Class B race with 81 points. Scotia- Glenville placed third with 99 points. Niskayuna won the Class A competition with 51 points. The other sectional champions for 2017 are; Maple Hill (53 points) in Class D, and Albany Academy (38 points) in overall Class C/CC. Catholic Central of Troy is the Class C champion with 66 points.

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.