By MICHAEL KELLY
ALBANY -- Section II outdoor track and field wrapped up its title week at the University at Albany Saturday, as both Canajoharie and Fort Plain competed in the Group 5 Championships.
Maple Hill won both team titles, while the Canajoharie girls finished in third place and the Cougars climbed to fifth; the Fort Plain boys finished in seventh place, while the Lady Hilltoppers settled for 13th.
Between the two local schools, both the Canajoharie girls' 4x800-meter relay team and junior Dainara Veeder (100-meter hurdles) claimed sectional titles, with juniors Ariannah Logan, Jordyn Logan and Alexis Kane joining Veeder on the relay team.
Turning in a season-best performance was Fort Plain senior Gene Ryan. The thrower recorded a personal-record distance of 40 feet, 3 inches in the shot put to land a third-place finish in the event.
"In practice, I've been throwing well lately, and I guess sectionals is just a different atmosphere, it's more competitive," said Ryan. "It got me more pumped up, got my adrenaline flowing a bit more."
Ryan had set a PR with his second-to-last throw; then, he broke it with his final toss. Senior teammate Zach Florian -- who came in fifth place in the discus throw and sixth in the shot put -- was in position to see Ryan's final throw as it landed.
"That's 40," said Florian, smiling, as his teammate broke past the 40-foot barrier for this first time in competition.
"It was a great feeling," said Ryan, "especially since it's my last year."
Similarly ending the team-portion of his season with success was Canajoharie sophomore Kaisean Adams, who came in second place in the long jump with a leap of 19 feet, 7.75 inches.
From where he started this season, Adams said a second-place finish at sectionals was a surprise.
"Never would have guessed that," he said.
Adams credited junior teammate Blade Mead, who finished in fifth place in the event, for his improvement. Adams said the constant competition between Mead and himself made both jumpers better.
"Hard work and dedication," he said. "This whole team's always been together like that."
Also adding strong finishes from the Canajoharie boys were Logan Sala (high jump) and Zach Folts (discus throw), who both had third-place finishes.
Meanwhile, Hilltoppers senior Jordan Ahrens continued his remarkable comeback after missing most of the season with an ankle injury. The senior scored points in four events, highlighted with a second-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Ahrens also came in third place in the 3,200-meter run, and in sixth in both the 400-meter hurdles and 1,600-meter run.
Also, Fort Plain junior Evan Searles finished in third place in the pentathlon.
The Fort Plain girls were led with fifth-place finishes from Emily Potter in the 1,500-meter run and 3,000-meter run, while Cheyann Walters came in fourth in the pole vault.
Besides their winning entries, the Lady Cougars received several other sparkling efforts. Eighth-grader Jordan Porter finished in third place in the 400-meter dash and fourth in the 200-meter dash; Ariannah Logan came in second in the 800-meter run and fifth in the long jump; and, Jordan Logan came in third in the high jump and second in the 400-meter dash.
Porter said it was a memorable experience getting to compete at UAlbany, which has one of the top track and field facilities in the country, including a nine-lane track.
"Everything was bigger; it feels larger because we're used to a six-lane track," she said. "We're not used to how large -- how grand -- everything is here."
The lament for the Lady Cougars was that their 4x400-meter relay team of the Logans, Porter and Veeder only finished in second place. The group has had a strong season for Canajoharie, and Porter said Saturday's loss was just a little speed bump before next week's state qualifiers, which are back at UAlbany.
"We can definitely do better," said Porter. "This showed us that we need to step up our game a little bit more. Next week, we'll come back better, faster and stronger."
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