She was a Foot Locker finalist in cross country and an All-American during indoor track in the 3,000 meters. Yes, this outdoor season was highly anticipated for Marissa Saenger.
The nagging pain in her leg wouldn’t go away, however, and just five meets into the season she was done.
The Clarence junior has been sidelined the past three weeks with a stress fracture, a common leg injury for distance runners. The rest it requires to heal goes beyond the end of the season, which means arguably the best female distance runner in Western New York will be sitting this one out.
Coach John Hunt knew something was wrong when Saenger’s teammates urged him to “talk to Marissa, she’s limping.” He did, and an MRI eventually revealed the bad news.
While the veteran coach said injuries are a reality, he added: “This isn’t your typical kid.”
“It’s tough on the kids, especially when you’re competitive, and she just loves to run, loves the workouts,” he said. “Sometimes you’re on the high road, this is the low road. When you’re out sometimes you come back a lot stronger.”
Before she got hurt, Saegner ran the fastest times in Western New York in the 800 meters (2:19.44) and the 1,500 (4:44.34). She hadn’t run a 3,000 yet.
Saenger is keeping up her cardio using an elliptical machine. Her injury opens the door for an ECIC and sectional title for her rivals Sophia Tasselmyer of Starpoint and Carolyn Hopkins of Williamsville South. Both are 1-2 in the 3,000.
Hunt said he was especially proud of his team for winning its last three dual meets after dropping its first two. There were whispers they wouldn’t win one. “I was impressed. The kids who were there did their jobs,” he said.
Clarence has been dealing with injuries all spring. Kristin George, last year’s Division I Section VI champion in the triple jump, has been out with a knee injury. Emily Garrett has been rehabbing the past three weeks after having surgery for Compartment syndrome.
The Red Devils are always developing young athletes with the most promising so far looking like freshman Anna Reinhardt in the 800 and eighth-grader Katrina Patterson in the 1,500 and 3,000.
• Even when she’s not in the classroom, sophomore jumper McKyla Brooks of Frontier is all about getting high marks, Her 19 feet, 1.5 inches in the long jump has led Western New York all season.
She’s got two seasons left to chase the Section VI record of 19-9.25 held by Mary Saxer of Lancaster. Brooks learned her lessons well last year as a freshman competing against future Division I-bound athletes Mikayla Pearce of Maryvale (now at Syracuse) and Stephanie Izard of Sweet Home (Cornell).
Another super-soph is Mckenna Maycock of Randolph. She placed fifth in states last year in the pentathlon with 2,926 points.
This year she leads Western New York with 2,802 points. She holds eight individual school records. At sectionals, she’s contemplating doing the pentathlon or both hurdle events.
• West Seneca West (5-0) has won or shared an ECIC title for the past four years. The Indians, who have been in either ECIC I or II during the streak, are a combined 23-1. A group of seniors who have been with the program since eighth grade are Megan Weinreber, signed with Seton Hill – a Division II school outside of Pittsburgh. She runs the middle distances 800 (2:26.84), 1,500 (5:08.12). Junior Abigail Jankowski is No. 2 in WNY in the 800. Senior Kathleen Zimmer excels in the 400 (58:37) and is part of 4x400. Senior Brianna Colello is in the top three in both hurdles and part of 4x400. Senior Natalie Barrea is No. 2 in the long jump behind Brooks of Frontier. The Indians’ 4x400, ranked No. 1 in the area, is looking to break 4 minutes.
• Lancaster senior Jenn Thill remains undefeated in the pole vault and leads all area competitors by nearly a 2-foot margin after clearing 12-1 in a dual meet. She signed with UB.
Redskins freshman Ashley Grazen has the fastest time in Western New York in the 200 in 25.24 and is second in the 100 at 12.34. She broke two meet records at the recent Rodiak Relays in Hamburg.
Lancaster’s 4x100 relay has picked up where it left during the winter. After breaking the Section VI record indoors, the foursome has the top time in the area (48:15). Team leader Lauren Sullivan has been sidelined with a hamstring strain, but is hoping to return for sectionals. McKenzie Kuehlewind has a personal-best of 40-10 in the shot put. Like all area throwers, she’s chasing Grand Island’s Jess Dahliwall, who has top distances in shot (41-9) and discus (144-7).
• Jenny Delsignore only started getting serious about the steeplechase last year. On Friday, the Sweet Home senior broke Megan Niblock’s school record running a 7:21.40 at the Clarence Invitational.
Delsignore has been working with assistant coach Brian Tollar on tweaking her form over the hurdles and focusing on attacking the water barrier. She has been losing time and wasting energy landing in the deep part of the water pit. Delsignore has signed a letter of intent with Duquesne. She chose Duquesne over former Atlantic 10 Conference-rivals Butler and Xavier.
Coach Brian Lombardo said he thinks she’ll be among the Duquesne’s top seven and be able to contribute immediately.
Delsignore’s teammate, Terionna Ware, was named track events MVP at Saturday’s WNY Girls Track Classic after winning the 200 and anchoring the winning 4x100 relay.
The Sweet Home boys and girls both won ECIC II titles.
• East Aurora’s cross country runners always shine during outdoor. Senior Megan Baritot has already made the state time in the steeplechase, running a 7:18.66 in her season debut. The time stands as the best in Western New York. Mckenzie Donahue is just off the mark. Both also run the 3,000. Junior Marta McLaughlin leads a solid 800 crew. A trip to states in the event would be her fourth. The 4x800 relay of McLaughlin, Hannah Rice, Hannah Hitchcock and Rebekah Zee made the state cut at Saturday’s Lancaster Classic in 9:35.7, tops in Western New York.
• Olmsted’s season was made when it knocked off Hutch-Tech in the Scalp & Blade, ending the Engineers’ eight-year winning streak. Senior Tauri Howard, on the team since the program’s inception six years ago, specializes in the 200 and runs with lead leg of 4x100 and 4x400. Freshman Brittany Higgs has run everything from the 200 to the 3,000. Brittany Valdez, in her second year at Olmsted since transferring to Buffalo from Texas, runs the distances. Diamond Davis is another versatile runner, who can also do the jumps.
• Two-time state-meet qualifier Brittany Feldman of Southwestern has equaled her school record high jump of 5-4.
• There’s no slowing Christina Walter of Maple Grove. Last year’s Division II state champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, has the top time in Western New York in the 100 (12.26). That’s faster than her state-meet winning time of 12:46.