Recorder file photo Amsterdam's Andrew Druziak competes during a track and field meet earlier this season in the town of Amsterdam.
By MICHAEL KELLY
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- Competing at Friday's outdoor track and field state championships likely offers no stress to Amsterdam High School junior Andrew Druziak.
That all came during the run-up.
While three of the spots in the Rams' 4x400-meter relay lineup were spoken for almost from the moment the season started in juniors Izaiah Brown, David Graveley and senior Julian Gallup, the fourth opening was not closed until Druziak won the position for good a couple weeks ago.
"After the Eddy Meet (on May 17), he was almost a lock," AHS head coach Kevin Wilary said Monday. "But, then, he ran a great time at sectionals, too, and that's where he locked it in."
Druziak won a five-way battle with teammates Gabe Fernandez, Jared Gallup, Edgar Maldonado and Bryan Stanavich for the final spot. All five AHS runners regularly had relay splits better than 54.0 seconds, making the competition between the Rams both elite and spirited.
"But, slowly but surely, you noticed [Druziak] was getting better," said Brown. "It was pretty amazing, honestly, because he missed some meets, too, but then he came out of nowhere."
Druziak has mixed his spring running season with playing AAU basketball, a split schedule which sometimes caused him to miss weekend meets for the Rams.
"One thing about Drew, though, is that he was always at practices and working on his own," said Wilary. "He's done everything he can to make himself better."
Still, Druziak needed some luck -- and irony -- to work in his favor.
At the Eddy Meet, Druziak was looking like a longshot to make the Rams' relay team and was an alternate for that day's race after missing several recent relays. But, when some of his teammates were unable to race in that day's relay -- the AHS baseball team had a game at the same time, taking both the Gallups and Stanavich away from the Rams -- Druziak got the unexpected call and made the most of it, helping his team to a win with a split better than 52.0 seconds.
Druziak said he is aware that without that chance at the Eddy Meet, his season could have ended much differently.
"But," he said, "I'm here."
And, Druziak will be in a key spot at Friday's state championships. The junior will run the third leg for the Rams, which means it will be Druziak's job to get the baton to Brown -- the state's reigning champion in the 400-meter dash -- within striking range.
Druziak said his goal is for the Rams' first three runners to clear the track in a time right around 2 minutes, 30 seconds. That will require the first three AHS runners to average splits of 50.0 seconds, a feat that will be difficult -- but not impossible, especially considering Druziak has run in the 51s the last three times out.
"He's been going lower and lower each time he runs," said Brown. "We really need him."
Wilary said it won't surprise him if Druziak has saved his best for states.
"Other than just the confidence, he has guts," said Wilary. "He's going to run through pain and that's what you need to be a good 400 runner."
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