By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- With today's Schenectady Invitational, the Amsterdam High School girls track and field team begins its move into the more competitive side of its season.
"This is part of our progression toward the championship part of the season," says AHS head coach Stu Palczak. "This gives us a good barometer of where our more experienced athletes are at -- and we expect to have a good showing."
Today's invitational -- which starts at 4:30 p.m. at Schenectady High School -- brings together schools from the Big 10, Foothills Council and Suburban Council. The Lady Rams should get a similarly tough test today to the one they received a couple weekends ago at an invitational in Niskayuna. At that competition -- the Niskayuna Warrior Classic -- the Lady Rams came in sixth place out of 17 squads.
After coasting through three conference meets in the Big 10, the Lady Rams welcome the challenge of competing against non-league foes from bigger schools.
"We look forward to this because it is more competitive," says freshman distance runner Chantel Dopp. "It makes us push ourselves more."
"We know we have to push ourselves to do better because they're the bigger schools and they have more people," adds freshman sprinter and pole vaulter Kaitlyn Devine. "Having those girls to run against ... gives us more of a push to do our best."
Pretty soon, each outing for the Lady Rams will require a maximum effort. Following today's invitational, Amsterdam heads Saturday to the competitive Fonda Relays and then closes its league season next Wednesday with an away meet at Albany. After that, the Lady Rams will participate in several of the area's more competitive invitationals prior to the Section II Group 2 Championships in Ravena on May 23.
Thus, today's invitational provides a point of demarcation for the Lady Rams, as the squad's competition will only get more difficult with each outing.
"We just have to prepare ourselves more mentally for this, more than for the smaller meets," Dopp says.
Part of that mental game is getting used to going head to head with the area's larger schools, who will be with the Lady Rams at most of their upcoming events prior to the sectional championships.
"For most of the year, (the athletes from) schools like Shaker and Colonie are just names," says Palczak. "We really don't know them, but we saw them more this year because of doing indoor and now we'll start to see them a lot. These are the types of schools we need to be able to run with if we want to be successful. Those are some of the top dogs."
Devine says the Lady Rams' goal is to win the team competition, though a nice consolation prize would be to accrue a smattering of personal-best times and distances at the event. Palczak says that he cannot think of a reason for Amsterdam to not have a successful day at the event.
"There's no reason why they shouldn't have confidence," says Palczak. "We're hitting it hard in our workouts and we're progressing in our times. They should be confident."