Everyone seems to be a bit ahead of schedule in the pits, in the circle and on the track as Western New York approaches the final stretch of the indoor season.
That’s something that could work in Ashley Grazen’s favor. The Lancaster sophomore has already posted a faster time in the 55-meter dash than she did last March when she captured the state title in the event.
Grazen, whose cousin Matt plays hockey for Canisius College, won the 55 in 7.19 seconds recently at the Dartmouth College Relays in Hanover, N.H., shaving two-hundredths of a second off her state-championship time.
Grazen’s time is tied for second best in the state with two others, and there’s no telling how low Grazen will be able to go next month during the Section VI State Qualifying meet. Lancaster has started to amp up its training workouts, with Grazen and the rest of the team’s sprinters running all out several times during last Thursday’s workout while dragging a 35-pound weight wrapped in a rug attached to their upper body with a harness.
“It helps us get stronger and push through our race at the end,” said Grazen, who looks to challenge the Section VI record of 7.14 set in 2000 by Jamestown’s Tirana McDermott.
What may work at pushing Grazen even better, though, is simply the competition. She loves it. It’s what drives her every time she sets foot on the track to race either in an individual event or in the 4x200 relay.
And the bigger the meet, the better.
“At a bigger competition there are more people that are faster and I have a better chance of running a faster time,” said Grazen, who along with classmate Molly Scarpello and juniors Allie Mazur and Tiffany Cycon took second at Dartmouth in the 4x200.
That foursome owns the fastest time in Western New York in the event at 1:47.89.
Lancaster set the Section VI record in the 4x200 last year (1:45.68), with Scarpello the only new addition to the relay – taking the place of the graduated Lauren Sullivan.
Lancaster’s crew features a foursome in which three of the competitors rank among the top four sprinters in the area in the 55-meter dash. Grazen has the top time, with Mazur’s 7.43 standing third and Scarpello’s 7.57 fourth. Grazen may be the fastest, but she’s not the anchor as Mazur has accepted that responsibility.
“We have good role players. Allie is certainly one of them and she’s kind of establishing her career in her own right,” Lancaster coach Kevin Carriero said.
So has senior McKenzie Kuehlewind, the defending Section VI champion in the shot put who took third at states last year and has met the state-qualifying standard already.
Lancaster freshman Olivia Gervan has already met the state standard in the high jump. Kelsey Barrett, a junior, has the top time in the 1,500 race walk (8:05.54).
For the boys, Mitch Fuller improved his state-qualifying and Western New York-leading time in the 55-meter dash last weekend at Brockport, finishing in 6.62 seconds. Kyle Ruffner has the top time in the 600 (1:27.29) and Lancaster’s 4x400 relay of Ruffner, Nick Schlum, Mason Velletta and Steve Neumaier has the top time in the area at 3:37.88.
Eclipsing the standard
Among the girls, 13 have already hit state qualifying marks in various events, while the boys’ number is an astounding 18.
Should make for an entertaining home stretch to see who earns spots in the state meet March 2 at Cornell.
“The heart of the season is coming up,” said Section VI Boys Chairman and West Seneca West assistant coach Pete Szymanski. “Usually, it takes the middle or end of the season to peak. Again, this makes Section VI track and field look pretty impressive again with what some of these kids are doing.”
Especially McKyla Brooks.
The Frontier junior has already set the section record in the triple jump (40 feet, 2 inches), an event she placed second in at states last year, and also is flirting with the sectional mark in the long jump. She’s leaped 19-2, just 6 inches shy of Mikayla Pearce’s mark set in 2012 for Maryvale.
Brooks’ distances in the triple and long jump are the top marks in the state. She also has the second fastest time in Western New York in the 55m (7.34).
Sadira Brown of Sweet Home has also met the standard in the triple jump (36-7).
Williamsville North senior Lauren Hudson, last year’s state runner-up, has the top height in the state in the high jump at 5-7¼.
Kristen Sawyer of Lockport (10-9), Mikeyla Capestrani of Jamestown (10-6), Madison Roberts of Iroquois (10-6) and Aubrey Rockoff of Amherst (10-3) cleared the state standard in the pole vault. Sawyer’s height ranks sixth in New York, while Roberts qualified for states last year.
Summer Haight of Jamestown (8.66) has the top time in WNY in the 55 hurdles.
Grand Island senior Jaskiran Dhaliwall looks to improve on last year’s fourth-place finish in the shot put at states and currently has the top throw in all of New York (47-7). Stephanie Lombardo, a Cheektowaga senior, has a throw of 40-feet on her resume.
On the boys side, besides shot putters Devon Patterson of Williamsville South, Dawson Hillis of Orchard Park and Lancaster’s Tony DeYoung and Brandon Sicurella, Sweet Home’s DaQuane Spikes (36.08) and Will North’s Matt Schaefer (36.39) have hit the state standard in the 300-meter dash. Both look to challenge the Section VI record of 35.71.
Gregg Hart of West Seneca West joined the club last weekend when he hit the standard of 21-6 in the long jump, setting the school record in the process. He just missed going to states indoor last year but won the sectional title during the outdoor season last spring.
“His best jumps are still ahead of him,” WSW coach Emilio Mancino said.
Hart has the third-best distance in the triple jump in the area (42-3¾), which is impressive considering he’s only trying it this year and has competed just twice in the event.
Tapestry’s Dawan Jones joined the qualifiers club during Monday’s meet at Fredonia with an effort of 21-10¼ in the long jump.
Fredonia’s Matt Civilette has hit the state mark in the triple jump with a leap of 43-9¼.
The 1,600 should be interesting as Lake Shore senior T.J. Hornberger, who is coming off an outstanding cross country season in which he won the state Class B race and placed 20th at nationals, has the top time in the area at 4:17.50 even though the future Syracuse Orange runner has participated in just three meets. Sweet Home junior Mitchell Daddario has hit the standard in this event (4:25.97) and the 1,000 (2:35.02). Cheektowaga senior Tim Whelan has qualified in the 1,600 (4:24.93).
Clarence senior Ted Okon has the fourth-best jump in the state in the high jump (6-6). He took ninth at states in ’13.
Frontier junior Trevor Koch has hit 13-6 in the pole vault, followed by Justin Wilson’s 13-3 for Sweet Home.
Besides Fuller, others who have hit the qualifying time in the 55-meter dash include Frontier’s Adrian Cannon (6.72) and Dunkirk’s Nick Barlette (6.73).
Sweet Home’s 4x200 girls relay, featuring the foursome of Kaila Frazier, Brown, Rachel Roberson and Terionna Ware, is the only other squad besides Lancaster’s to break 1:50 – posting a time of 1:49.35 last weekend at Brockport.
But the Panthers are loaded with middle- to long-distance runners.
Freshman Sam Peterman has the top times in the 1,000 (3:13.14) and 1,500 (4:57.54) and ranks second in the 600, just seven-tenths of a second behind Iroquois’ Lauren Jenney (1:42.04).
Peterman’s teammate, Aileen Doyle, is No. 1 in the 3,000 (10:24.33) and third in the 1,000. The Panthers’ Ally Ortega is right behind Doyle in the 3,000.
Keep an eye on Sweet Home’s 4x400 relay girls team of Tiana Luton along with Frazier, Roberson and Ware as it currently boasts the top time in WNY (4:16.36). The Panthers’ boys 4x800, anchored by Daddario, has the top time in the area at 8:21.47.
Around the track
• Clarence senior Marissa Saenger holds the Section VI record in the 3,000 (9:51.92) but hasn’t had a chance to improve the mark she set last season because of a knee injury. The injury happened during cross country season and she’s been letting it heal since placing eighth at states. Coach John Hunt said the Harvard-bound athlete should return before the end of the season.
• Clarence’s Cincinnati-bound senior Dan Huben ranks third in the 1,600 and is just one of four in the 3,200 with a time under 10:00.
• West Seneca West senior Abigail Jankowski is pretty versatile as she’s been to the states in indoor and outdoors in the 4x400, won the sectional title in the 800 last spring, and looks to contend in the 300, 600 and/or 1,000. Teammate Taylor Ksiazek put in a lot of time between last season and this to improve in the race walk. She ranks second in WNY in the event, winning in a personal-best 8:18.15 at Cornell last weekend.