OLEAN — For some girls, the Section VI meet is a chance to qualify for the state championship – combining a lifetime of hard work, dedication and a willingness to overcome adversity.
For others, it’s a story of a huge setback turning into a great comeback. For Erin O’Brien of Kenmore East, her story comes full circle.
While she didn’t set a record, she took massive strides in a comeback that was two years in the making. Suffering an ACL tear described as “full-blown” in her words, it was the injury that she was laughing off, in the middle of gasping for air, as she crossed the finish line ahead of everyone else, qualifying for her first trip to states with a time of 1:05.19 in the Division I 400-meter hurdles.
Missing her other chance by a tenth of a second, the senior finally gets her chance to bring it home next weekend. “I just want to thank my parents, my friends and my coaches,” O’Brien said, “Without them I wouldn’t be here right now.”
O’Brien will continue her comeback in college as she plans to attend Edinboro University to participate in track.
In the Division I 1,500-meter run, Sydney Bova of Frontier took first place, with Lockport’s Abby Lang on her heels the entire run. Bova never surrendered the lead, despite having Lang breathing down her neck, who was only seven-tenths of a second behind Bova.
“You really have to know what you’re training for, and how much you really need to train for it,” Bova said, “My mindset has changed so much, I realize that what I believe, I can achieve. That really changed me a lot.”
A day after setting the Section VI record in the triple jump, Frontier’s McKyla Brooks captured the long jump with a leap of 18 feet, 4 inches.
She wasn’t the only double winner in Division I. Grand Island thrower Jess Dhaliwall won the shot put and discus, while Hutch-Tech sprinter Lynda Brundige won the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
Also in Division I, Lauren Hudson of Williamsville North defended her title in the high jump, winning in 5-7. Amy Villarini of Hamburg took the top spot in the 400 (58.03). Clarence’s 4x800, featuring 3,000-meter champ Marissa Saenger, also ran to victory. The crew consisting of Saenger, Hannah Reinhardt, Katrina Patterson and Dana Warner won in 9:36.08.
Sophia Tasselmyer of East Aurora took first in the Division II 1,500 and will compete in her second state championship. Tasselmyer also was a member of EA’s triumphant 4x800 relay team, which set an Olean High School track record by winning in 9:46.34. Other members included Marta and Molly McLaughlin and Fiona Danieu. EA’s 4x400, which included the McLaughlins, Bekah Zee and Hannah Hitchcock, won in an Olean track record of 4:05.61.
Also in Division II, Hailey Rospierski of Alden won the high jump (5 feet, 5 inches) and 100 hurdles. Southwestern’s Brittany Feldman took first place in the 400 meters (58.83), sending her off to her fourth state championship, the second in the 400 meter dash.
Maple Grove’s Christina Walter won both the 100 and 200 in Division II with City Honors’ Julia Ziaja finishing a close second to her in both events.