East Aurora coaches Walt and Marty McLaughlin won’t just be taking their family for a ride this weekend.
Three of their kids will be competing for the Blue Devils on Friday and Saturday at the New York State Track and Field Championships at Cicero North Syracuse. The couple’s two daughters and one son are among 10 East Aurora athletes who qualified. Marta, a senior, will run in three events, Molly, who’s in eighth grade, is in two relays and sophomore son Matt is in two events.
“It’s definitely neat when you stop to think about it, but it’s really not our focus,” said Walt. “We want to see all of our ‘kids’ — athletes do well and take advantage of the opportunities that being a runner can offer. Marty and I have been given the gift to teach kids, even our own, what this sport has to offer. We think the results speak for themselves.”
Matt is coming off a big performance at last weekend’s Section VI Championship in Olean as he broke the school record in the 800 and was on the 4x400 relay that also broke a school record. His time of 1:55.66 in the 800 bettered the 1982 mark of 1:55.9. The 4x400 went 3:23 shattering the previous record from 2003 of 3:27. The 4x100 also ran a school record time.
Marta won the sectional title in the 800 for the fifth year in a row. She has signed a national letter of intent with Grand Valley in Grand Rapids, Mich., a national level program in NCAA Division II.
Section VI will send 74 boys and 66 girls to compete in Division I and Division II competition.
Marissa Saenger of Clarence, who missed last year’s states with an injury, will run in the Division I 3,000. She also took great satisfaction in running with Dana Warner, Hannah Reinhardt and Katrina Patterson to win the section title in the 3,200 relay in a school record 9:36.
Look for Teddy Okon of the Red Devils to put on a show at states. At sectionals, he cleared 6-8 in the high jump and just hit his heel on an attempt at 6-10. He also won the triple jump. He broke the school record in the high jump and took over the lead in the state with a 6-9 in a meet at Starpoint. He was recently named the Athlete of the Year at Clarence.
“He’s a classic to see,” said coach John Hunt. “He prepares himself the same way every time. Everyone knows that’s Teddy. He has a great demeanor, everyone likes him.”
Clarence’s Dan Huben returns to the steeplechase where he finished fifth last year.
Maple Grove senior Corey Wefing knows what it’s like to cross the finish line first. He’s a four-time Class D champion in cross country. But this weekend he will not be in the 3,200 distance event. He’s opted instead to run the 800 and 1,600.
“I played baseball this spring, so I didn’t have as much time for training,” said Wefing, who will run for Edinboro in the fall. “Dropping down was just something to get a little more speed training, use my sprinting a little more. I turned out awesome this year doing the 800 and the mile. I loved it. It’s a quicker-paced race. I’m blessed to be able to transition into those different races.”
Christina Walter of Maple Grove will make her fourth trip to states. She already has two Division II state titles in the 100. Her winning time of 11.98 at last year’s Federation meet will likely remain the school record for a long time. She is ranked No. 1 in her class academically and plans to continue her career at Princeton.
“Normally I’d be more nervous, but this year I’m just more excited because I don’t feel as much pressure,” she said. “The key for more, or where I tend to do better, is at the finish. I think I can stay at top speed for longer.”
TJ Hornberger of Lake Shore comes into his fourth state meet as the Section VI record holder in the 1,600 (4:12.77 on Saturday) and in the 3,200 at 9:03.20. He missed the first six weeks of the season with an injury and will run the 800 and 1,600 at states.
Hornberger has signed with Syracuse and was delighted after learning the state meet would be in nearby Cicero. “I want to give it my all, my coaches are probably going to be there, and I want to impress them and go out with a bang as much as I can. I’m going to try and get both PRs.”
He ran his person best in the 800, a 1:53 last Friday at sectionals.
Dawan Jones of Tapestry won the long and triple jump at sectionals, breaking Olean track records along the way. He has the No. 1 jump in WNY in the triple jump. He’ll go to Cortland next season.
Tapestry competes as an independent within Section VI. The lack of a track on their campus forced them to use nearby sites such as Amherst, Johnnie B. Wiley and Cleveland Hill.
“I really want to be the best at what I do, so I’ll do whatever it takes,” said Jones, who has a personal best 22-5. “The long is probably my best event. When I feel uncomfortable when I land, that’s when I know I did something right. It’s not my usual jump, it’s better. If something felt weird, something probably went right.”
Daquane Spikes said people hear his last name and assume he’s a track star. They are right. The Sweet Home senior went to states last year in a relay. This year he earned a trip in the Division I 110 hurdles as well as the 4x100 relay.
Mitch Moore of Jamestown will be competing against a 400 runner with the fastest public school time in the state. Rai Benjamin of Mount Vernon has a 47.17.
“He’s about a second ahead of me so I’m going to try and go out and get him,” said Moore. “That’s a lot to make up, but if I get him, it would be the section record. He’s about 6-5, and he strides everything out, he’s a really strong runner.”
Look for junior McKyla Brooks of Frontier to spend some time on the awards podium in the Division I long and triple jumps.
Sweet Home junior Ally Ortega has a season-best 7:02.99 in the 2,000 steeplechase. In a fast race at states she looks to threaten the Section VI record of 6:58.38.
Immaculata will be sending five athletes to compete in Division II of the Federation meet: Katie Simon (steeple), Grace Attea (400), Maggie Gerard (shot and discus), Meghan Krawiec (long and triple) and Isabelle Blanchard (400H).
It’s guaranteed Section VI will be heard from this weekend as retired Eden athletics director Chuck Yale will be the PA announcer, something he has done since 1983.