Dave Wojeski / For The Recorder 5/21/2014 Albany Assignment Boys track coach, Kevin Willary holds up the first place plaque as his team reacts during Wednesday's Co-Ed Sectional competition at SUNY Albany.
Dave Wojeski / For The Recorder 5/21/2014 Albany Assignment Amsterdam's Izaiah Brown (L) and Lucas Dorr run side by side towards the finish line during the boys 100 meter dash at Wednesday's Co-Ed Sectional competition at SUNY Albany.
Dave Wojeski / For The Recorder 5/21/2014 Albany Assignment Amsterdam's Giacamo Lanzi prepares to release the shotput duringt Wednesday's Co-Ed Sectional competition at SUNY Albany.
Dave Wojeski / For The Recorder 5/21/2014 Albany Assignment Amsterdam's David Gravely clears the hurdle finish line during the boys 400 meter hurdle event at Wednesday's Co-Ed Sectional competition at SUNY Albany.
By MICHAEL KELLY
ALBANY -- Depth, Izaiah Brown and a few years of yearning delivered the Amsterdam High School boys outdoor track and field squad the program's first-ever sectional team title Wednesday at the University at Albany.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team," AHS head coach Kevin Wilary said after his club's thrilling victory at the Section II Group 2 Championships.
A year after finishing second to rival Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake at sectionals, the Rams edged the Spartans, 124-119.
BH-BL head coach Chip Button said he had his club pegged as a slight underdog this year, but credited AHS for getting the job done.
"This (losing) isn't fun, but they're a great group of guys," said Button. "They're a really good team -- a great team -- and I feel good for them."
Cobleskill-Richmondville finished in third place with 81 points.
Section II's records go back to the mid-1980s and do not show AHS as having ever won a sectional title. Stu Palczak, the AHS girls head coach, said the program had never won a title before that, either.
"This (winning) is just a rush," said Wilary. "We've talked about doing this for years."
"Accomplishing this, it's an awesome feeling," said Brown. "We finally got Burnt Hills, and we can finally say we won sectionals."
Brown won four solo events to compile a meet-high 40 points. The junior won each of the day's dashes, plus the long jump.
But the biggest contribution the state's reigning champion in the 400-meter dash made came while not competing.
Before the 100-meter dash, AHS senior Lucas Dorr was unsure if he was going to run in his signature event, as he has been battling leg injuries for the past couple weeks.
"I really didn't think I was going to run; I had even told Coach to scratch me," said Dorr. "But, then, Izaiah came over to me with my (lane) number tag -- and I couldn't say 'No' to him."
While Brown won the event, Dorr grimaced his way to a third-place finish, good for six points.
The exact number of points Dorr -- who could only compete in the one event -- contributed was not lost on his coach.
"If he doesn't run, we lose by one point," Wilary said.
The Rams had several athletes step up. The club received bad news in the run-up to the meet when it found out dual-sport athletes Jared Gallup and Julian Gallup were unable to compete because of the looming baseball sectionals, leaving AHS unsure if it could still keep up with BH-BL.
"But we brought ourselves back up, and kids that weren't typical scorers for us responded," Wilary said.
In all, the Rams had 15 athletes contribute point-scoring efforts. Palczak credited Wilary's season-long emphasis on each athlete doing his best for AHS being able to utilize so many pieces of its roster.
"That's a testament to what he has preached to them about the importance of team," said Palczak. "Many people think of track and field as an individual sport because you compete as an individual, but, man, if all those individuals do not succeed, the team will not succeed -- and a lot of people who are not big stars contributed today."
The Rams received points from all three of its relay teams, while a trio of unheralded individuals turned in clutch performances.
With Brown not competing in his customary high jump, sophomore Gehrig Garner (second place) and junior Jose Perez (fifth place) combined to collect 10 points for the Rams.
"They had those two guys step up and get 10 points," said Button. "That's the same as Izaiah would have gotten."
Also helping out the Rams in a big way was Isaiah Cameron-Murray. Between the triple jump and hurdles, Cameron-Murray contributed seven points for the Rams.
"Those were points you don't expect," said Wilary. "He scored big points for us."
Cameron-Murray joined Dorr in turning in a gutsy performance, as the junior seemingly used every bit of energy he had to hold on for a fourth-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles.
"He pushed so hard through those last hurdles," said Brown. "He was in a lot of pain and he pushed through to get us points."
Another key race for the Rams was the 800-meter run, in which junior Andrew Druziak turned in a season-best performance to grab a third-place finish for the Rams. In an event in which BH-BL picked up the top two places, Druziak minimized the damage with a time of 2 minutes, 2.50 seconds.
"He was huge for us," said Wilary. "I knew he was good, but I didn't know how good."
But perhaps more important than his own run, Druziak said, was that sophomore Gabe Fernandez was able to sneak in for a sixth-place finish -- and a point -- on a day when every competitor mattered.
"We really needed Gabe to score, too, and he did," said Druziak. "That was big for us."
Despite every Ram doing what he could to deliver the team its first-ever title, the club had to sweat out the meet's result. In fact, even when Wilary knew his team had pulled off the slim victory, he made his athletes wait a little bit longer to find out.
With his team stationed on the infield of UAlbany's track after the meet, Wilary approached. Once the coach was within earshot of his club, he began reliving the past, explaining how BH-BL had topped AHS just a year ago in a close contest.
Then, he read off the Spartans' 2014 tally of 119 points.
"And, Amsterdam, 124 points," he said, as he brandished the first-place plaque from behind his back toward his jumping-for-joy Rams.
"We freaking did it," screamed junior Ryan Farley as he hugged Brown.
Junior David Graveley -- who won the 400-meter hurdles, finished in second place in the 110-meter hurdles and was a member of the Rams' second-place entry in the 4x400-meter relay -- said it was a surreal moment.
"Even inside me, I just blew up," he said. "I felt so happy."
Like they did in 2013, the competitors from AHS and BH-BL lined up to share post-meet handshakes, a demonstration of sportsmanship and an acknowledgement that both squads always knew it was going to be one of them walking away Wednesday with the team title.
For AHS, topping BH-BL made Wednesday's victory extra special. While the Spartans have had the Rams' number in various sports in recent years, BH-BL has also long been one of Section II's true powerhouses in track and field.
"We all wanted this real bad," Druziak said.
And, the Rams got it, capping a trying 11-day stretch for the squad that began when the club found out former standout Mike Flowers had passed away in a tragic accident. Six days after Flowers' death, the club won the prestigious William F. Eddy Jr. Track and Field Meet before closing the stretch with Wednesday's win.
The resurgence of the Rams' program started in 2011, when Flowers starred for the squad as a senior. Steadily, AHS continued to gain steam in the next two years, but the Rams could not end their team season with a sectional title, leaving program-building stars such as John Hardies and Matt White to graduate without getting to taste that final piece of success.
"And, you always think: 'You know what? We're not going to have a chance to do it again,'" said Wilary. "But the kids in this program have worked so hard to get to this level."
After back-to-back disappointments, the Rams openly spoke about winning sectionals during the 2014 preseason. While the Rams had developed into one of Section II's top programs, Graveley said the team needed a sectional victory to prove its legitimacy.
"We had to prove that we're ... not just some good team that goes out there, tries really hard, does good at some events, and just finishes wherever," said Graveley. "We're the team that you want to look at, the team you want to beat. That's what I wanted our goal to be for this year. We wanted to be at the top, and I feel like we accomplished that."
That trek from also-ran to champion was far from easy. Graveley credited the team's coaches, past athletes and supporters for making Wednesday's win possible.
This title, he said, belonged to everyone.
"We did it for anyone who cared, anyone who came to see us, who supported us, did anything for us," Graveley said.
Follow MICHAEL KELLY on Twitter at twitter.com/RecorderMK