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October 25, 2016
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Right on track

Sullivan West junior Mitch Paciga takes fourth place in the high jump with a leap of 6-0.

WEST POINT, NY — Within each of us there resides far more strength and resolve than we could ever imagine. All that is required to unleash that powerful reserve is the right challenge and the mustering of will and perseverance to meet it head on.

For the hundreds of high school students who give their all as runners, jumpers or throwers in the unheralded indoor track season, the OCIAA Championship meet offers a golden opportunity to go against Section 9’s best in an effort to achieve new personal milestones. This year’s meet almost didn’t happen, as it was not included in the original winter schedule. Fortunately that ill-conceived omission was reversed, and the two-day meet took place on January 18 and19, albeit with its share of imperfections, due in part to constraints of time.

To err is human and there were some foibles that detracted from this year’s meet, a couple of which registered profoundly with Eldred senior distance standout Alex Campanella; more on that shortly. For kids from the smaller Sullivan County schools, medals are hard to come by against schools with far deeper talent pools. That said, the county had its share of local heroes and heroines who stated their case by garnering first through sixth place in their respective events. In addition, many more achieved personal bests either for the season or for their careers to date. Medalists included Eldred’s Alex Campanella, who was first in 3200 (9:35.47) and second in the 1600. Since Campanella and Middletown’s Alex Shodai lacked a seed time in the 1600, coming into the meet despite their prior stellar history in the event, they were placed in the unseeded race, thereby lacking the competition that would drive them to their fastest times. In addition, an official stepped out onto the track causing a minor collision with Campanella, whose time would eventually be 41 hundredths of a second short of the winner of the seeded race. The result is under protest. Campanella and his Eldred cohorts will head to the New York Armory this weekend for the New Balance Games where the stalwart senior will look to qualify for the storied Millrose Games in February. Teammate Julian Gottlieb was third in the unseeded 55 (7.41).

Tri-Valley had its share of medalists. Senior Aric Boyes took first in the shot put (50-15.75). The throw greatly exceeded his seed distance of 48-09. He was fourth in the weight throw (51-03). Senior Mareena DiMilia was second in the weight throw (40-05.50), third in the shot put (35-00.25) and fourth in the 55 hurdles (9.10). Junior Aidan Woolsey set a lifetime best mark in the pole vault with a leap of 11-6. He took fourth place. Devan Jones was fifth in the unseeded 55 (8.67). Junior Brooke Gillette took fourth in the 1500 racewalk (8:04.62) Senior Sarah Coney took sixth in the weight throw (30-08,50). Sullivan West junior Mitch Paciga was fourth in the high jump with a leap of 6-0. Sophomore teammate Anthony Rydell was fifth in the weight throw (43-01). Sophomore Courtney Landers was fourth in the unseeded 55 (12.54). Monticello sophomore Laura Doherty was fourth in the high jump (4-10). Liberty junior Nery Campos was second in the unseeded 300 (41.11), a race that was cancelled on Friday night due to a lack of time. Protests by coaches who felt that their athletes had made the trip for naught prevailed as the event was held late on Saturday.

As noted, there were many personal bests, too numerous to list here. At the end of the season, coaches will have a chance to submit a list of some of the most salient lifetime milestones. Eldred Coach Don Drewett pointed to seventh grader Kayla Maas, who shaved 30 seconds off her personal best 6:00 in the 1500. Tri-Valley freshman Autumn Bender turned in a lifetime best in the 1000 with a time of 3:17.62. Her prior best was 3:28.64. Bender, along with Danielle Graham, Brittany Pennell, and Brooke Gillette, took seconds off their seed time in the 4x800 relay as they finished in 10:58.43. In all 17 schools participated. Eldred’s boys were ninth overall and T-V’s boys and girls were tenth. For ongoing stories, visit www.sportsinsightsny.com. For photo albums check out www.sportsinsights.smugmug.com.