Vestal’s girls successfully defended their Southern Tier Athletic Conference track & field championship Thursday at Union-Endicott, once again following the lead of ace sophomore Kari Stromhaug.
The Golden Bears’ 105 points were eight better than runner-up Elmira, with Corning a distant third. Vestal celebrated a third girls’ team title in the last six conference championships.
Corning ran away with a second consecutive STAC boys title with a 129 1-2-point total to second-place Vestal’s 92.
Stromhaug matched her season best to repeat as high jump champ with 5-foot-2 clearance, did 11 feet as top pole vaulter and triple-jumped a first-place 34-7.
Other prominent contributors to the Golden Bears’ take were Heidi Stahl, who ran 1:00.23 to win the 400 meters; Madeline Beaulieu winner of the steeplechase (7:27.16) and runner-up in the 800 (2:22.55); and first-place 400 and 1,600 relay quartets — with Stahl and Emily McNierney a member of each.
Norwich junior Matt Murray further enhanced his burgeoning resume with a tremendous showing, winning the 400-meter race in 48.84 seconds and coming back with a resounding surge to get past Cory McCarty of Elmira in the closing 40 meters for a winning 1:54.54 in the 800 to McCarty’s 1:55.28.
“As strong a double as I’ve seen. Impressive, very impressive,” said erstwhile U-E coach Mike Miller, most knowledgeable track & field man on the premises.
Vestal sophomore Christopher Murphy was quick-change artist of the day, shifting impeccably from musician to hurdler with striking results.
He arrived at the facility with precious little time to spare, as in, “You take my time and multiply it by five, that’s how much time I had to warm up,” he said.
That time was a first-place 57.22 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles, a victory logged after manning to string-bass responsibilities at an orchestral function in Owego. Murphy and other athletes were bused from Point A to Point B — and pulled up in a nick of time.
“I got here and saw the runners going and I thought, ‘Oh, no. I missed it!’ But I was told I was in the last heat,” he said. Of his ability to excel in the face of it all: “I don’t know, I think it’s the adrenaline of just getting here. I was freaking out to say the least.”
Kathy Cadet of U-E produced admirably in her final home meet, repeating as champion in both hurdles races. She ran a personal-best 15.14 over 100 meters and 1:04.43 over 400 to hold off Oneonta’s Jennifer Jelic (1:05.24).
“I’m really excited. I’ve been trying to get a PR in the 100 hurdles all season,” Cadet said, “and I’ve been trying to get the school record. Hopefully I can before the end of the season.”
Of the 400 race, she added: “I love being pushed because that’s when I get my best times. .. Once I saw her and once I hear (assistant coach Mike) Terboss yelling ‘Go! Go!’ I tried to go.”
The girls’ 1,500 was all Maddie Zeitz of Windsor. She shot from the starting line to the front in customary fashion, built a substantial lead and came home in school-record 4:43.62 fashion. Melinda Wheeler of Elmira was second in 4:46.32.
“The wind was really bad coming into the home straightaway so the only thing you can really do at that point is put your head down, muster up some strength and go,” she said. “My coach told me I was pretty much where I should be every lap so just stay comfortable, keep loose. I was trying to go for a PR today.”
As for one observer’s suggestion that she’d run “a brave race,” Zeitz said: “To be honest, I don’t really think that much when I run. You really can’t over-complicate things, it’s either there that day or it’s not in most cases. You just kind of have to be comfortable with yourself and do what you know how to do.”
Cody Brizzolara of Maine-Endwell won the boys steeplechase comfortably, just as he had five days before in the Parkhurst Invitational on the same track. Vestal’s Jon Edwards was untouchable in the shot put (47-1) and discus (152-10) after placing second in each last year. Golden Bears teammate Mike Egotanda followed suit by doubling in the long jump (22-3 3-4) and triple jump (44-0).
Norwich’s Brooke Bonney ruled the girls’ throwing events. Her 37-7 was best in the shot put by three feet-and-change, and her 115-1 was nearly five feet better than the nearest pursuer.