By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- With the Amsterdam Lady Rams outdoor track and field team returning nearly all of its key components from a year ago and the squad coming off a successful inaugural indoor season this winter, things are falling into place for head coach Stu Palczak's team.
"We're really prepared right now," says freshman Cassandra Robataille, who does field events. "There's some of us that need a little extra training, but we're doing extra practices, so that will help us a lot, too."
"It hasn't been that hard to get going since we just finished indoor," adds junior distance runner Delilah Quinones. "We're working hard, so I think we'll do really well this season."
With senior distance runners like Deb Johnson, Megan Ottati and Kelly Paris returning for this season, Palczak says he knew all along that this year's Lady Rams could contend this spring for the Big 10 title that the team narrowly missed out on a year ago. But with the addition of an indoor team for the program, Palczak says the team has taken an unexpected leap.
"The field skills have really progressed for many of the girls," he says. "We never realized what a great boon doing indoor would be for us."
Besides the indoor season serving as a way for the school's runners to stay in shape during the winter after cross-country season, Palczak says that the winter season helped show the team's coaches what to expect from the club's less-experienced members. Rather than needing to wait until mid-spring to find out that an athlete is capable of an extra event, Palczak says that some of the previously would-be unknowns are already known.
"Two sprinters in particular, Abby and Hannah Wollman, really became long jumpers, as did Maddie Janetsky," says Palczak. "Cassandra Robataille really honed her high-jumping skills and became a credible hurdler, and McKenna Palczak went from being a solid hurdler -- good for the Big 10 -- to putting herself in the finals at sectionals. So, the skills really progressed."
So, despite the dreary weather -- "Cold; really cold," is Quinones' assessment of the preseason's conditions -- the Lady Rams are off to a fast start. Besides the winter work, key to that strong beginning has been the club's senior leaders.
"They've been great with getting everything started at the beginning of practices," says Palczak. "We (the coaches) don't have to do anything."
"It's just happened naturally," says Ottati. "We've been here for so long -- Kelly, I and Deb -- so we just want to get things rolling."
The Lady Rams' season begins Thursday with the Fonda-Fultonville Steeplechase/Pentathlon Meet. After that, Amsterdam gets into its league competitions, and does so with a favorable schedule in the early going: The first three Big 10 dual meets for the Lady Rams are set to take place at Amsterdam High School.
"We're like Syracuse in December," jokes Palczak, referring to the scheduling practices of the university's men's basketball team.
Getting to start their season at the friendly confines of AHS should help the Lady Rams get off to a much-needed good start. Palczak says that there are a handful of teams that could win the Big 10 this season, so the Lady Rams will need to be in top shape from the start of the season.
"But (knowing that) that makes us more competitive," says Ottati. "I think we'll be ready since we know we have tough competition coming up."