Local track and field athletes begin state competition today

OBSERVER Photo by Jeremy Izzio: Pictured are local track and field athletes boarding the bus to Union Endicott High School for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Track and Field Meet. They are, in front, from left, Dunkirk’s Anthony Ruiz, Silver Creek’s Jaylah Cossin, Emma Seiders, Grace Restivo and Kylie Procknal. In back are Dunkirk’s Emilee Hanlon, Fredonia’s Lydia Lanski, Dunkirk’s Nelson Estrada-Cruz, Mike Deland and Chris Michalski.

Eleven local athletes boarded a bus leaving Walmart on Friday and heading toward Union Endicott High School for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Track and Field Meet.

Dunkirk will be represented by Emilee Hanlon in the high jump and the 4×800 meter relay team of Chris Michalski, Anthony Ruiz, Mike Deland and Nelson Estrada-Cruz.

Hanlon entered last week’s Sectional meet as the No. 1 seed in the high jump and that’s the way she left, winning the event with a jump of 5-feet-3 inches. Hanlon’s best jump this season was a leap of 5-feet-6 inches, which ranked tops in the Section and has her entering the state meet in the top three, along with a host of other jumpers at 5-6. The top jump in the state this season was 5-8, so it is within the realm of possibility that Hanlon could come away with some hardware, especially within Division 2.

Hanlon was also a standout softball player who competed in multiple track and field events each meet. Now that she can focus on the high jump, her coach believes she has a chance to get back to the heights she was jumping early in the season, if not higher.

“We would like to get back up to the 5-5 to 5-6 range,” Dunkirk coach Adam Woelfle said. “She has been doing three events per meet all year, but now all her energy can go into the high jump. She should be able to medal in Division 2 or even within the federation. She has a lot to offer and has college offers from softball and track. As a tall athlete, her height isn’t preventing her from jumping high and we expect her to go even higher next year.”

The 4×800 team is one that has been confident in its ability all season, even if their coach wasn’t convinced early on.

“They told me before the season they would be going to states, but it took me longer to believe,” Woelfle said. “They came together, and the talent was there, so heart is what won the (Sectional) race. I hoped this is where they would be by the end of the season. Their motivation is what makes them good and they want to do it for each other, which makes them great.”

As with any good team, each member brings something special as with any good team, each member brings something special to the team that took first place with a 8:10.31 at Sectionals broke a 42-year-old school record in the process, one that many thought wouldn’t be touched, according to Woelfle.

The old record, set in 1975 by Paul Maslakowski, Rick Bauza, Al Palmatier, and Tom Madigan Jr., was an 8:11.93.

“Chris was a good recruit from soccer two years ago. He agreed to come out for track and has been a workhorse,” Woelfle said. “No matter what event I put him in, he gives it his all with no questions. Anthony is the surprise of the bunch based on his height. Seeing him run against 6 footers at his height of 5-feet even is impressive. He pushes himself so hard for the others on the team. Mike is almost like a robot. He tore his ACL in the fall during soccer and missed the indoor season. He used it as rehab and came back even stronger. The boys asked him to join the 4×800 and he took it and ran. Nelson has been consistent all year and really focused on the 4×800. He and Anthony are the leaders of the group and have been working all year toward the goal of states.”

Woelfle expects the four seniors to go even faster at states in their final race of their careers and believes they have a good shot at medaling within Division 2.

Fredonia junior Lydia Lanski will be making her first trip to states and will be competing in the 100 hurdles.

Lanski took first in the 100 hurdles at :15.15 during the Sectional meet and in the process broke the Fredonia school record, which was previously held by Olympic gold medalist Jenn Stuczynski (:15.64).

“Lydia started to make a name for herself last year and made Sectionals, but also danced and focused on dance over the Sectional meet,” Mike Marshall said. “The girls who have done dance and gymnastics are typically very good track athletes in my experience. She is a talented athlete and works very hard to improve herself. … She has improved a lot just in the last two meets. She ran 16 seconds flat at Counties and a :15.15 at Sectionals.

“This week we have been working a lot of technique and focused on the mental aspects,” Marshall said. “Hurdlers’ problems are typically when they focus on the athletes next to them. It’s them versus the hurdles. Get there as fast as can and focus on you versus the hurdles. Once you think about the other runners you start hitting hurdles and that’s not good.”

Like Dunkirk, Silver Creek is sending five members to states, including Emma Seiders in the 400 and the 4×400 relay team.

“Emma trains really hard in the weight room two to three days a week and no matter where the track is, we try to get on the infield so she can alleviate the pounding on her legs,” Silver Creek coach, and Emma’s mother, Amy Seiders said. “She gets on the infield at Dunkirk two days a week. She has been doing short and quick work and we are hoping to see her peak in the 400 this weekend.

“She began as a dancer and ran cross country and was good at it,” Amy Seiders said. “The first year I asked her to run track and she said no because it was dance season. We decided to try next year and made it to the state meet in cross country. The next year she said she’d give track a try.”

Emma Seiders continued to dance along with track, even doing dance recitals before Sectional meets and returning to the dance recitals in the evening after her races. Eventually she decided to dedicate herself full time to track and now is competing at states and will be running track at Division I University at Buffalo on a scholarship.

Seiders and her 4×400 relay teammates, including Kylie Procknal, captain Krystel Schwab and Jaylah Cossin placed second with a new school record in a time of 4:04.33. That time was good enough for the state standard by .11 seconds

The genesis of Silver Creek’s 4×400 team began with the Dunkirk 4×400 indoor team that made it to states and to the New Balance Nationals. On that team, two runners (Emma Seiders and Cossin) were from Silver Creek and two were Dunkirk runners. Amy Seiders needed two more athletes to complete Silver Creek’s team and recruited Schwab and Procknal. Unfortunately Schwab hurt her back two weeks ago and will make the trip to states, but alternate Grace Restivo will run in her place.

The two-day track and field meet begins at 12:30 p.m. today with the final events scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.