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October 28, 2016
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Spring forward

Sullivan West’s Matt Cardona trades his basketball shoes for track footwear as he joins teammate Mitch Paciga to give the Westies a dynamic one-two punch in the high jump.

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — The clocks moved forward, adding a man-made accent to the already lengthening days. This followed a snowy day that saw many schools close, hopefully for the last time this winter. Miraculously, it seemed the weather turned enticingly balmy, as bright sun and mild temperatures were an encouraging sign to the spring athletes champing at the bit for the long-awaited first official day of spring sports on March 11.

Aside from John S. Burke, Catholic’s boys team’s impending fourth consecutive trip to the Final Four in Glens Falls, all other Section IX basketball teams have now seen their hoop seasons finish; indoor track nationals are history as well. College basketball is still in the news with March Madness looming, while locally the Sullivan County Generals are hosting the NJCAA Finals from March 14-16. The Generals, who are the Region XV Champions, are hoping to bring home another national championship. We’ll have coverage of that tourney next week, as well as the Sullivan West Winter Sports Awards slated for March 13. Tri-Valley will stage its winter awards just one week later.

But for now it’s time to look ahead to the school year’s most glorious season.

Following a couple of weeks of practice, held either in gyms or outside weather permitting, the first week in April will feature a docket of track meets, boys and girls golf matches, baseball and softball games and boys tennis matches. While early spring weather can be quite chilly and/or wet, it gives way to gorgeous sunny days and, eventually, to daunting heat by the time the sectional meets, matches, games and the ensuing post-season glory quests are front and center.

Spring brings the promise of renewal and hope to a beleaguered world at large, and sports is no exception to that universal longing. As teams meet for the first time this week, coaches will assess their new configuration of veterans and newbies, and begin drills and conditioning as a run up to the daunting schedule that looms ahead. Spring has its own set of rivalries, many of which will be elucidated in the weeks to come.

At this juncture, several to watch for beg the following questions. Can the Monticello boys track team bring off a fourth consecutive Division III championship? How will the track division rivalry shake out between Sullivan West, Tri-Valley and Liberty this spring? Will the Lady Bears cap off the swan song of coaches Joe and Missy Iatauro with their seventh consecutive Section IX Class C track title? In golf, will the Sullivan West boys team garner an uncanny 10th straight division title? How many of our local track and field standouts will carry the mantle of their school, community and Section IX pride to Middletown’s Faller Field? (This year’s NYSPHSAA track championships will be staged at that glorious local facility and will no doubt draw untold legions of fans from our beloved region.) And what of the baseball and softball rivalries that create their own storylines? Will a dominant pitcher emerge like Tri-Valey’s Joe Mickelson did last year as he recorded only the 12th perfect game in NYSPHSAA history?

These are but a few of the questions that will be raised and answered in the coming weeks. Each season has its own distinctive allure, in terms of its weather, aesthetics and sports. This writer loves them all in their own right as the recent winter fervor will surely attest, preceded by the vigorous and intense travels throughout the fall. But now, it is spring, and in spring a young man’s fancy turns to love. And while I have more years in my lifetime résumé than I care to admit, my passionate ardor for the time of year never diminishes. Warm weather also brings the advent of my spring swimming season and those mile-a-day workouts will soon take place in the warmth of the sun.

So let spring begin and let life flourish with untold vigor and beauty. T.S. Elliot noted in “The Wasteland” that “April is the cruelest month.” For those of us who have waited all year for spring’s return, nothing could be further from the truth.