ALBANY – Athletes representing Broome and Tioga County schools collected eight first-place medals and re-wrote two Section 4 record book entries in state track and field championships Friday and Saturday.
And get this: Wasn’t a senior among them.
How’s that for coming attractions, Spring of 2016-style?
Most notable of the bunch, it says here, was the two-day showing turned in by Michael Palmer. The Maine-Endwell junior, as was suggested during the awards ceremony recognizing pentathlon medal winners, could rightfully be billed the finest athlete in the meet. Neither fastest nor strongest nor highest-flying, but pre-eminent overall, given the very nature of his accomplishment.
Palmer rang up 3,540 points to top a 30-deep field of competitors. In that mix of versatile athletes, he was No. 1 high jumper, No. 2 shot putter, No. 3 in the 110-meter hurdles and long jump, and seventh in the concluding 1,500.
Worth repeating is his response to the question, “Do you allow yourself to be impressed with what you’ve achieved?”
Get this: “For a minute or two, but then, it’s right back to what do I need to do for next year so I can go even higher? Now I’ve got my sights on the section record.”
As for most eye-opening effort by a youngster yet to enter high school? How about Vestal eighth-grader Tia Jones. She ran to a 24.79-second clocking as runner-up among Division I public school entrants in the 200-meter dash, besting the previous Section 4 record established by Lindsey Seymour, of Elmira Southside, in 2010. Jones proceeded to a fourth-place finish in the overall championship among a group that included six seniors and Newark Valley sophomore Courtney McNeil.
McNeil was the fastest DII public school runner in the 100, as well as chart-topper in the DII 200 on a 24.85-second clocking that featured a dazzling burst through the closing 70 or so meters.
Should make for some fascinating short races within Section 4 boundaries over the next couple seasons.
Section 4’s record in the 1,500 fell to Union-Endicott junior Emily Mackay. She ran 4:25.32, second to Rush-Henrietta sophomore Sammy Watson by 8-100ths of a second in a scintillating finish. And after her surname was repeatedly mispronounced, finally during the medal presentation, the second syllable correctly rhymed with “fly.”
No shame in that second place behind Watson, Section 5 record-holder at 400, 800 and 1,500 meters who, over two days in Albany, harvested five first-place medals. One was by virtue of a 52.69-second 400-meter race that was announced as the No. 2 time in the nation this season.
Binghamton High junior Alexis Daniels turned in a shot put of 43 feet, 11¼ inches, good for top honors in the DI public school competition. She adds that medal to a mounting pile of awards that includes one for first place in the indoor states shot put, earned three months back with a 45-6½ heave on her final attempt.
Maine-Endwell junior Dan Schaffer was DII public school champion on the strength of a 9:22.24 in the 3,200, second-to-last event of Day 1, and Windsor junior Mike Beebe cleared 6 feet, 6 inches to best DII high jumpers.
Call it an interesting path to the championship for Beebe, a first-season high jumper. Black Knights coach Tim Hogan was sufficiently impressed with Beebe’s ability to dunk a basketball that he persuaded the young man into coming out for track and field. Once Beebe made his way over 6 feet or so, Hogan contacted Bob Weingartner, a Windsor High grad who coaches Susquehanna Valley’s jumpers. Weingartner began working with Beebe, and the result was Saturday’s 6-6 effort that trailed a single competitor.
First from Section 4 to the top of the awards platform was Waverly junior Josh Mastrantuono. He cleared 14 feet in the pole vault, earning top DII honors with Lansing senior Max Jordan third at 13-6. Lansing also produced the 2-3 finishers among DII girls, sophomore Emily Gallagher and freshman Miya Kuramoto.
It seems Mastrantuono and Palmer share a similar desire for excellence. Asked how he intended to celebrate the feat, the champion vaulter replied, “Go back to work, start training Monday. I’ll be up at 5 in the morning lifting.”
Richard Buchanan, a Susquehanna Valley senior, was an illustration of just what state championship-caliber competition can bring out of an athlete. He was DII runner-up with a 3,200-meter time of 4:12.66, nearly six seconds faster than he’d previously run.
Aside from Section 4 athletes’ showing, the meet provided highlights aplenty.
Jordan Roland, of Syracuse Westhill, twice Class B state basketball Player of the Year, placed fourth in the pentathlon, along the way heading 1,500-meter runners in a striking 4:13.11.
Jack Jibb, of Monroe-Woodbury, whacked nearly 10 seconds off a seven-year-old meet record with a stirring 8:57 to win the steeplechase. With a 46.4-second 400, Izaiah Brown, of Amsterdam, erased a meet record that had stood for 27 years.
Not often will teammates finish 1-2 in a state championship race, but that’s what Hackley’s Anthony Roderick and Elijah Ngbokoli did in the DII 100. Naturally, they teamed with two others for the 4×100 relay title, and Roderick tacked on a top triple jump finish.
All told, it was one fine chapter of state track & field championships.
Except for the venue, that is. Here’s hoping University at Albany is either a) dropped from the rotation, or b) far better equipped to host an event of that magnitude next time around. It was lacking on numerous fronts, and among the least media-friendly settings that yours truly has encountered in 32 years.
Just sayin’ …
Kevin Stevens can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @PSBKevin.