By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- The Amsterdam High School track and field teams are set for their final home meet of the season, when the Rams and Lady Rams will play host to visiting squads from La Salle Institute and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons.
Both Amsterdam squads enter today's Big 10 meet with identical 4-0 league records and are coming off strong showings at this past Saturday's Niskayuna Warrior Classic. On the boys' side at the invitational, the Rams were the overall team winner and sophomore Izaiah Brown was named the Athlete of the Meet; on the girls' side, the Lady Rams received strong performances from seniors Kelly Paris and Megan Ottati, as AHS came in sixth place in the crowded team standings.
The Lady Rams took control of the Big 10 race last week with their victory against Troy, and the team's top remaining hurdle to a league championship comes in two weeks when Amsterdam travels to Albany. But AHS girls head coach Palczak says his team knows its focus has to be on today's meet, which is a head-on competition with only ND-BG, since LSI is an all-boys school.
"Gibbons is certainly more than a credible opponent," says Palczak. "I think the challenge for us is right there with them. ... For us to look past Gibbons toward Albany would be a big mistake."
On the boys' side, today's meet should present the first decent challenge for the Rams, the Big 10's defending champions. After cruising to four easy victories in league competition, Amsterdam should receive a test from LSI.
"They have a pretty good team and we're going to have guys to run with," says AHS boys head coach Kevin Wilary. "But I still see our team -- if we go out and run the way that we can -- I think we should be able to win this one pretty easily."
Today's meet starts at 4:30 p.m.
In a blink
That's how fast the boys' 100-meter dash could be finished in today, as both the teams from AHS and LSI feature two runners with the potential to take first place.
Amsterdam's duo of Luis Laboy and Brett Stanavich both made it to the finals of this weekend's Warrior Classic in the event, while LSI's Gabe Smith and Dylan Thompson are each capable of running times of sub-11.5 seconds. With the four all in the same race, it should make for a fast-paced battle.
Laboy says the impending race is one he has been excited for since the weekend.
"It makes you want to work harder in practice and prepare for it," Laboy says.
'Tooth and nail'
In cross country and track and field, Lady Rams senior Megan Ottati and Lady Knights junior Talya Williams have gone at each other for several years now.
"They've really gone tooth and nail at one another," says Palczak. "They go hard and I really enjoy watching those races."
Each of the pair is among the top runners in Section II, though Ottati only registered her first head-to-head victory against Williams this past winter during the indoor season. The two are likely to go against one another in multiple events today, though it is possible they will only compete one-on-one in the 800-meter run.
"It will be fun to watch them in the 800, for sure," Palczak says.
One way or another, Amsterdam's Brown is bound to be pushed today by LSI's Sean Fitzgerald in the 400-meter dash.
The two are buddies and hang out together at meets, while Brown has said the pair is also frequent video game partners for online play. The friendly nature between the two should make for a competitive 400 meters of racing, as Fitzgerald is one of Section II's top competitors in the event.
"In the 400, I definitely think that Izaiah is going to be pushed a little bit," says Wilary. "Still, with the times that Fitzgerald is running, Izaiah should win that pretty easily."