OLEAN — Devon Patterson qualified for the New York State meet in the discus at last Friday’s Section VI Track & Field Championships, and then he did the unthinkable.
The Williamsville South senior gave up his coveted spot for this weekend’s New York State Championships to the next best finisher, Sam Wray, allowing him to go.
“My personal opinion is the kid deserves it more than I do. I’d rather see him go than me, I’ve got my event,” said Patterson, a two-time state runner-up in the shot put.
“I’ve seen him go from last year doing 147 feet to 165 and beating me every meet we’ve been to except this one. Discus is on the first day [at states], and as much as I could do both, I’d just rather focus on one and rest that one day. That one day helps me relax more.”
Patterson will need to be in the right frame of mind to have any chance of beating the favorite and defending state champion, Ben Bonhurst of Smithtown, who leads the state at 64-0 feet. Bonhurst beat Patterson on his second-last throw at last year’s states.
Bonhurst is coming off an indoor season in which he won the championship at the Nike Indoor Nationals in March at The Armory in New York City. His throw of 65-0 broke the state record. Patterson was a distant second at 63-3.50. Bonhurst told his hometown newspaper his indoor season played out like a “fairy tale.”
Patterson would like to write his own fable. “It’s a bit of a rivalry, but I have to give credit where credit is due, he has the better technique right now, but I’m coming,” said Patterson, who’s outdoor best is 63-7. “It took me four years to understand I can’t go in trying to beat somebody. I have to go in trying to beat myself. When you look in the mirror, that’s your biggest competition.”
As Patterson put the final touches on what has been a memorable high school career, he looks forward to a college career at the University at Buffalo. The Bulls have also signed three other Section VI throwers: Tony DeYoung (Lancaster), McKenzie Kuehlewind (Lancaster) and Jess Dhaliwall (Grand Island).
Kuehlewind has the top throw in the state at 45-0. She has three Section VI outdoor titles to her credit and and was the state indoor champion. She and Dhaliwall plan to room together at UB.
“I definitely can’t be thinking at this as my last meet because then you add more pressure to what you have it being a state meet,” she said. “I got nothing to lose, everything is set with college, so I just want to end on a good note. It’s not going to be easy with good competition like Jess and from around the state.”
Dhaliwall won the Division I shot put and discus at sectionals. She started her high school career as a basketball player, but in a twist of fate, she found track. She tore her ACL playing varsity basketball for the Vikings as a freshman and was left searching for another competitive outlet.
“Tearing your ACL is not fun by any means, it’s a lot of rehab, it’s just that fact that you have to get over a certain fear of turning your knee so hard all the time,” she said. “Yeah, I guess it was kind of a good thing, but it was kind of bad thing too. It will always be a little off, but it’s back to where it’s going to get. You just have to work with what you have.”