By Tom Gallagher
Niagara Gazette — The Starpoint girls track and field team, slated to open its season against Iroquois Tuesday at home, looks a lot like the team it fielded last year.
For the two-time defending ECIC III champion Spartans, that’s a good thing.
Despite sporting a very similar team, the Spartans will be without head coach Karly Allman, who is on leave from the school. Jackie Kirsch was hired as her replacement.
“Jackie brings some experience – she ran at Buffalo State,” boys coach Brian Lasher said. “She has experience and should help with the jumps and sprints and handling the girls administratively.”
Among the team’s returning athletes include juniors Kayleigh Shifferle, Olivia Chase and Julia Schreir.
Shifferle finished fifth and sixth in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, respectively, at sectionals last year. Chase will lead the way for the team’s distance runners and was all-state in cross country in the fall. Schreir finished fifth in the pole vault at sectionals as a sophomore.
Senior hurdler Abbi Boyce will also be a key contributor on the track for the Spartans. She was a sectional qualifier in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles last year. Versatile junior Brianna Jauch will throw discuss and take on the triple jump.
“She’s very strong, be it field or track,” Lasher said of Jauch.
Freshman Sophia Tasselmyer broke out on cross country this year and was one of the state’s top runners. She will compete in distance events, which will be bolstered by freshman Arianna Saraf and junior Kelsey Jaymes.
“We have a lot of great athletes and it should be a good season for the girls,” Lasher said.
The boys team finished 4-1 in a tough division last year and will field a near-identical team composed of many seniors.
Seniors Tom Moran and Justyn Thompson will man the pole vault for the Spartans. Moran qualified for states by winning sectionals last year. He and Thompson serve as a formidable tandem.
“They’re two of the top pole vaulters in the area,” Lasher said. “They’re ranked very, very high and are potential state qualifiers.”
Junior Evan Majewski will pace the Spartans’ sprinters. Starpoint’s star running back finished in the top six in both the 100- and 200-meter sprint events at sectionals last year.
Seniors Matt Prohaska and Paul Swartz will lead the team’s distance runners. Sophomore Ian Emerick and junior Carl Daigler will compete in the steeplechase. A.J. Joslin finished third in the 800 last year, setting a school record in the process and senior Adam Yacos is the team’s go-to guy in the 400- and 800-meter relays.
“I think it’s an outstanding team,” Lasher said. “It’s going to be a really good season if the kids work as hard as they are now, if they keep it up.”
After a fourth-place finish at the NFL Championship meet last year, the Wolverines’ boys team will look quite different in 2013.
The team graduated several seniors, including state champion pole vaulter Brandon Joyce, and will look much younger.
“They’re a good group of kids who work hard, but they’re fairly young and don’t have a lot of experience,” head coach John Robins said.
Pacing the boys will be mid-distance runner John Jesz, sprinter Fred Bryant and hurdler Markus Johnson, who Robins would like to make a multi-event athlete.
On the girls side, a pair of sprinters, senior Diamond Hamilton and sophomore Cachae Smith, will lead the way. Mid-distance runner Aly Orfano and junior hurdler Holly Siore will bolster the Wolverines’ running. Senior shot putter Ashley Tallarico heads the throwers.
“We have a little more talent on the girls’ team,” Robins said.
Like the boy’s team, the girls finished in fourth at the NFL Championship Meet last year. Robins is hoping to see improvement from both sides.
“We’re young, we lost a lot of talent and I want to see us get better as the year goes on and be competitive,” he said. “We’re going to do that. We have a lot of good athletes out there and if they work hard we will do that.”
New-look teams competing at a new-look facility should give the Falcons’ boys and girls teams plenty to look forward to this year.
Wear and tear to the teams’ old track led to the development of a new facility at Niagara-Wheatfield, set to be completed by the start of the season.
“We’re really excited about the new facility and what it has to offer,” girls coach Al Pogle said.
After graduating plenty of seniors, Pogle’s team is young. Juniors Rebecca Rider and Halle Sauer were cross-country runners for boys’ coach Dick Bartha, and Pogle expects both to be top contributors in distance events.
Freshman Kyri Jackson, who went to states last year, returns to compete in the 100-meter event. Sophomore Angela Coulter will specialize in the hurdles and triple jump and eighth-grader Danielle Thaler will compete in the sprint events.
“Even though we’re young, we feel that we have experienced young people,” Pogle said. “So we’re going to build off their momentum.”
The boys team is in a similar situation as far as experience is concerned.
“We’re pretty slim this year,” Bartha said.
Senior thrower Dan Mirea and sophomore distance runner Jack Jibb will lead the team in 2013. Jibb made it to the state meet as a cross-country runner earlier this year. Bolstering the team’s track side is senior Josh Baptiste in the 400-meter relay and sophomore sprinter Jason Bari.
The Falcons had just two wins in the league last year. Bartha said the team has a fresh outlook heading into this season.
“We’re starting from scratch again this year with not a whole lot of experience on the team,” he said. “We’re just looking to see if we can get better than we were last year.”
The Lancers’ girls team finished 2-3 in NFL meets last year, but after graduating just one senior, looks poised to build on that.
“We’re pretty much the same team we were last year,” coach Mark Johnson said. “Hopefully a year stronger and a year more mature.”
Johnson expects his squad to be strong in the field events. In the high jump, the team will return Julie Law, a senior who finished second in the league last season.
Junior Angela Gallo will once again participate in the long jump and triple jump. Seniors Meghan Ireland and Elizabeth Gatto will join her.
Sophomore Brenna Dunovan returns as one of the team’s strongest distance runners while junior Giovanna Hibbard will be the team’s top sprinter.
Freshman Amber Custodi, a sectional winner in the pentathlon last year, junior Jasmine Singh, a two-time sectional qualifier, and freshman Emily Sembert will pace the hurdlers.
Versatile seniors Anna Carpenter and Mia Fontonarosa will return to the track events as well. Sophomores Lindsey Gee and Chelsea Gundarson will provide depth.
The boys team wasn’t as fortunate as the girls to have returned so many athletes.
“We’re very young, and it will be a learning curve for us,” coach Gary Raby said. “We lost a couple of seniors that were very important to our team.”
This year, the team will lean on senior Corey O’Keefe, who finished third in the NFL in the pole vault last year. A trio of runners from Raby’s cross-country team, Connor Schul, Matt Mcdermid and Greg Azila’shah, will bolster the Lancers’ distance attack.
Ian Sherman, an eighth grader, will compete in the hurdle events. Dante Aversa will compete in distance events and Shawn Sienucha will head the throwers.
Fresh off a second-place finish in 2012, Vikings’ head coach Craig Davis has high expectations for his teams despite being short on athletes.
“I’m hoping that’s where we’re going to finish again this year (second place),” Davis said. “We didn’t have a lot of kids come out this year. We have maybe 50 athletes all together between the boys and girls.”
Davis noted that a pair of juniors, Kevin Freedman on the boys team and Jessie Dhaliwall for the girls, have the potential to win sectionals. Freedman competes in the 110-meter hurdles while Dhaliwall competes in throwing events. Both are two-time NFL champions.
Davis also said that he has high expectations of senior Jessica Brownschidle.
“We expect her to hopefully be NFL champ in the pentathlon,” he said.
The boys and girls teams should fare well in the distance events. Juniors Andrew Masiello and Nick Pino will pace the boys’ attack while cousins Ayla and Taylor Marino will provide a good presence for the girls. Versatile sprinter Joe Torregrossa provieds solid depth for the boys.
The Lakemen experienced a surge in interest from student-athletes this year. The girls side features nearly 60 athletes, with he boys totaling near 40.
“We have a large group from each age level – this is the biggest team I’ve ever had,” girls coach Jamie Lepsche said. “But it seems like a lot of the younger kids are really into the athletics. They’re very motivated and enthusiastic.”
The girls team lost a handful of seniors from last year’s squad. Senior distance runner Shannon Nye will lead the way, competing in the steeplechase. Junior Angela Goodman will run the 100- and 400-meter hurdles.
Senior Arianna Lamb will take care of the field events, throwing discuss and shot put while senior Erin Harding will compete in the pole vault.
After that, the team is heavily composed of sophomores, freshmen, eighth and seventh graders. Eighth-grader Emily Patterson and sophomore Jocelyn Lyon will compete in sprint events and sophomores Torey Couturier and Lauren Austin will perform in distance races.
The boys team finished 2-4 last season and also features a slew of young athletes after losing 16 seniors to graduation.
“You have a big crop coming in, so you hope that they learn the sport and stick to it and four years from now you have the same thing as what we had last year,” coach Garrett Stack said.
Despite the team’s youth, seniors Brian Kerwin, Nick Bell and Justin Stephenson will lead the team. Kerwin is one of the team’s top throwers while Bell and Stephenson will pace the Lakemen hurdlers and mid-distance runners, respectively.
Junior Mike Patterson will man the high-jump and junior Zackery Bell, Nick’s younger brother, will provide depth in the hurdle events.