By MICHAEL KELLY
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- The level of competition the Amsterdam High School Rams' top athletes have craved to face all season will be there at today's William F. Eddy Jr. Track and Field Meet.
But while athletes such as juniors Izaiah Brown and David Graveley have their sights set on using today's opposition to turn in season-best times, head coach Kevin Wilary's squad has a bigger goal than individual glory.
Since winning last season's team title at the Eddy Meet, pulling off a repeat performance in 2014 at the 74th running of the Northeast's most prestigious meet has been a major goal for the Rams.
"Looking at the roster we've submitted, I'm really excited," said Wilary, Monday. "I think there's a good chance we could come out on top again."
The Rams will send all of their top athletes to today's meet, with most of them competing in multiple events.
As it was last year, most of today's attention will center around Brown. The junior has won the meet's top award for a male athlete the past two years, and he is the favorite to walk away with the honor again. Brown, the reigning state champion in the 400-meter dash, will compete in the 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash, 4x400-meter relay and long jump. He will be the favorite in his solo track events and with his relay team, and he should be a factor in the long jump.
"He still hasn't faced that top competition at a meet this year," said Wilary. "At the Eddy Meet, hopefully he'll have someone running with him right at the end."
For those interested in seeing someone turn in an impressive time, that would be a good thing. Brown's best time in the 400-meter dash this season is 47.8 seconds, but in Wednesday's 4x400-meter relay, Brown started back of his opposition and turned in a lap recorded at 45.68 seconds.
The record at the Eddy Meet for a 400-meter dash is 47.22 seconds. That mark should be in danger today.
"I'm hoping I can do a high 46 or a really low 47," Brown said.
While Brown will attract the lion's share of today's attention, Wilary said is just as excited to see Graveley in the 400-meter hurdles. The junior has a top time this season of 56.9 seconds in the event, but he has never had someone running with him for the final 75 meters of a race.
"He's going to have a lot of competition [today] and I want to see what having someone running right next to him for the last 200 meters ... what he's going to do and how he's going to respond," said Wilary. "I really can't wait to see him run."
While Brown has been a state-level competitor since he was a freshman, Graveley's trek to the top has been a steady one. After last season's strong finish, Graveley has been working consistently to turn this year's championship season into his time to shine.
"This is his time," said Wilary. "This is what we've talked about since the Eddy Meet last year. This is why David did cross country, why he pushed so hard in indoor, and why David has been pushing so hard in outdoor -- because of this meet, state qualifiers and states, if he can make that."
The past few weeks have been frustrating for Graveley. He achieved his top time in the 400-meter hurdles weeks ago, and has spent his last few outings being reined in during the final straightaway.
"Every time I've run lately, I don't have anyone to push me," said Graveley. "So, when I get to the end, the coaches are all telling me to slow down. The only way I feel I can get a good time is if I have people there to push me."
Other top individual competitors for the Rams today will include senior Lucas Dorr (100-meter dash), senior Julian Gallup (long jump), sophomore Bryan Stanavich (200-meter dash) and sophomore Omahri Sturdivant (triple jump).
The Rams' most interesting entry, though, is likely the club's 4x400-meter relay team. In that event, AHS turned in a season-best time of 3 minutes, 26.0 seconds Wednesday -- but the Rams did that without Gallup and Stanavich, who will join Brown and Graveley in today's relay unit.
All season, the Rams have auditioned runners for the fourth spot on that relay team. While Brown, Gallup and Graveley each have a set spot with that unit, today represents Stanavich's chance to stake a claim to the fourth spot on a team that will have a significant chance to make it to the state championships.
Today's foursome have never raced together in the 4x400-meter relay, leaving Graveley unable to project out a possible time for the squad.
"We're just going to go and see how well we can do," he said. "To be honest, I don't know if we can have a goal."
As a team, though, the goal is clear. While winning the team title was a surprise in 2013 -- Brown admitted this week that he did not even know the Eddy Meet had a team title before the Rams won it last year -- the plan all along this spring has been for the Rams to repeat as meet champs.
"It would be outstanding to get it again," Brown said.
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