By MICHAEL KELLY
FORT PLAIN -- After a preseason filled with ugly weather, Canajoharie Cougars outdoor track and field junior Jordan Brownell said his club approached Thursday's season-opening meet against Fort Plain with some trepidation.
"I wasn't really sure if we were ready because it's been really cold and we've been inside a lot," he said. "But, for an overall team effort, we did really good. We worked our butts off today."
The Cougars picked up a 113-22 victory against Fort Plain, as Brownell picked up individual wins in the 200-meter dash (25.7 seconds) and 400-meter dash (57.8 seconds), while he also contributed to a winning entry in the 4x400-meter relay (3 minutes, 57.6 seconds) with sophomore Kaisean Adams, senior Brice Buccolo and sophomore Zack Young.
Ellee Fichthorn, who co-coaches Canajoharie with Kevin Stuttle, said the best thing about Thursday's Western Athletic Conference meet was getting to see her team's athletes enjoy themselves on a warm, spring-like day that made the sport seem more like fun than work.
"It's the first time this season it felt good," she said.
Senior Logan Sala led the Cougars, as he picked up individual wins in the 800-meter run (2 minutes, 16.1 seconds), high jump (5 feet, 8 inches) and triple jump (34 feet, 3.25 inches). His most impressive event was likely the 800-meter run, an event in which he used a strong finish to move past Fort Plain freshman Jon Payack in the final stretch.
While the finish looked like a nice piece of strategy working out, Sala said that was not exactly the case.
"It just looked that way," he said. "I just knew [Payack] was good from hearing rumors and stuff, so I had the mindset to keep up with him and hopefully at the end I'd have something left to kick with."
Payack -- who finished in second in that event, and won the 1,600-meter run with a time of 5 minutes, 8.9 seconds -- said the loss was a valuable learning experience.
"I definitely need to conserve more energy for the second lap," he said. "The second lap is where the kick is needed."
Payack, in his second varsity season, had picked up a pair of wins during Fort Plain's (2-1) meet earlier this week. He said Thursday's close loss will help him as his season progresses.
"I'm aiming high and trying not to settle," he said.
For Fort Plain head coach Charlie Karker, senior Zach Florian picked up the Hilltoppers' lone other victory of the day, as Florian won the shot put with a throw of 41 feet, 6 inches. Karker said he expects his team to improve now that it can practice outside more consistently, while it is also eagerly anticipating the return of elite senior distance runner Jordan Ahrens, who suffered an injury to his left leg a couple weeks ago. Karker said Ahrens could be back in late April.
"He's already looking to get back at it," said Karker. "He was hoping to run with his crutches today, but we told him 'No.'"
Canajoharie (1-0) also received solo wins from junior Nate Ferguson (400-meter hurdles; 72.9 seconds); senior Zach Folts (discus throw; 108 feet, 8 inches); sophomore Alex Hayes (3,200-meter run; 12 minutes, 5.1 seconds); senior Soren Hudyncia (pole vault; 11 feet, 0 inches); junior Blade Mead (100-meter dash; 12.9 seconds); sophomore Ken Sullivan (110-meter hurdles; 18.8 seconds); and, sophomore Zack Young (long jump; 16 feet, 2 inches). The club's 4x100- and 4x800-meter relay teams also were victorious.
"We haven't been able to be outside too terribly much yet, and these kids came out and did what they needed to do today," said Stuttle. "They showed us some good stuff."
Extra encouraging, Fichthorn said, was that the club had several youngsters and older rookies provide critical depth.
"Just seeing where we thought we had some holes, there were some young kids that really stepped into them," she said.
While it was only an opening meet, the club felt like it began its season with a nearly-flawless performance.
"Everyone seemed to be on point with everything, really," Sala said.
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