FREDONIA - Just because favored TJ Hornberger won the 1,600 doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting.
Sophomore Mitchell Dad-dario of Sweet Home made it that way as he gave the Lake Shore junior plenty to ponder as he relentlessly chased him around the track at Fredonia State. Hornberger finished in 4:24.87 to win by 1 second at Thursday’s Section VI Indoor Track and Field Championships. Approximately 500 girls and 420 boys from 28 schools participated in the annual event, which also served as a state meet qualifier.
“I was actually glad to have competition in Section VI. Mitch did really well, he hung with me and made a move when he was supposed to and gave it all he could,” said Hornberger, who also won the 3,200.
The top two finishers in each event, along with the third-place finisher in the 300, 600, 1,000 and 1,500/1,600, advance to the New York State championships March 2 at Cornell. Clarence qualified an impressive 15 athletes while West Seneca West has 13. West’s boys and girls won the 4x400 relay, with the boys breaking the school record in 3:38.66.
It was not a day of surprises as most of the athletes ranked among the leaders all season delivered. But the meet did come to a curious end with a protest following the last race, the boys 4x200 relay.
Sweet Home was leading when its team was DQ’d after its third runner dropped the baton. When he went back to retrieve it, it was ruled he interfered with a runner from Lockport. Iroquois won the race, but the Lions protested, saying they were slowed by the Sweet Home runner.
After both teams were given sufficient time to warm up, a runoff was held between Iroquois and Lockport, with the Chiefs once again winning, but only by .06 seconds.
Lancaster’s girls had a big day with senior Jenn Thill electrifying the crowd with a jump of 12 feet, 8 inches in the pole vault. The jump doesn’t just rank No. 1 in New York State, but is No. 7 in the nation. After her third and final miss at 13 feet she was given a round of applause.
“I recently went up a new pole and I’m still not at the top of the hand grip on my pole,” Thill said. “And so I moved up a little bit on my grip, and I was patient in the beginning of the swing, and then I just held it up tight.”
The Redskins finished 1-2-4 in the 55 meters as senior Lauren Sullivan took the title in a personal-best 7.21, freshman Ashley Grazen was second in 7.24 and freshman Molly Scarpello was fourth in 7.57. Grazen holds the fastest time in the section at 7.16.
McKayla Brooks of Frontier joined the mix, finishing third in the 55, but that was just an appetizer to her first-place finishes in the long and triple jumps. Brooks was coming off school record performances at last week’s Team Championships.
The boys pole vault was won by Kenmore East’s Gavin DiMaria, who went 14-1, improving on his WNY-leading 13-6.
Marissa Saenger of Clarence will be making her first trip to indoor states after winning the 1,500 and 3,000 and anchoring the winning 4x800 relay along with Dana Warner, Katrina Petterson and Kristen George.
She struck just the right balance, running her distance races conservatively, hoping to save as much as she could for the relay. The strategy worked. “Our team was really going for it, and now all four of us get to go to states,” she said.
Williamsville South qualified seven athletes for states, led by Section VI record holder Devon Patterson, who won the shot put in 56-6. Lancaster’s throwers came through with Brandon Sicurella and Tony DeYoung taking second and third and McKenzie Kuehlewind winning the girls event.
Senior Tyvon Rivers of Sweet Home came within .20 of the Section VI record while winning the 55 hurdles in 7.66. “At the start as you hear the gun, you just have to go,” he said.
Punching their tickets to states from Lockport was senior and soccer All-American Alex Reid winning the long jump, and senior pole vaulter, Morgan Evans, whose second-place effort of 10-6 was overshadowed by headliner Thill.
Favorites Kalen Sullivan of West (1,000), Andy Smigiera of West Seneca East (55) and Ben Reinhardt of Jamestown (600) all took home titles.