Recorder file photo Amsterdam's Jose Perez competes in a relay during a 2014 meet in Albany.
Recorder file photo Amsterdam's McKenna Palczak competes in the 400-meter hurdles during a 2014 meet in the town of Amsterdam.
Recorder file photo Amsterdam's Olivia Lazarou competes during a 2014 meet in the town of Amsterdam.
Recorder file photo Amsterdam's Ryan Farley, left, and Alezey Rivera are shown during a 2014 meet in Albany.
By MICHAEL KELLY
In advance of the cross country campaign and on the heels of the school's first-ever sectional title in outdoor track and field, the Amsterdam High School running program's athletes stayed busy during their vacation.
A selection of athletes participated in a speed camp at Colonie High School, while a smattering of Rams and Lady Rams took part in the weekly Tuesday night track and field meets at CHS.
Stu Palczak, the Lady Rams' head coach, said about 10 of the school's athletes took part in the week-long camp in Colonie earlier this summer, which also helped athletes with nutrition knowledge.
"They work a lot on drills for strength training," he said. "We thought it was really good because the idea of getting faster and stronger, with getting better nutrition, is not just for sprinters, too."
The crew that went to the speed camp consisted mostly of Lady Rams, while the group that went to the weekly track meets was a male-dominated collection, said Rams head coach Kevin Wilary. Those meets welcome athletes of all ages, and Wilary said he was happy to see the program's athletes take advantage of the informal setting to both stay in shape and try new events.
"A lot of the kids tried different events, so it was a lot of fun," Wilary said.
Notably, rising junior Edgar Maldonado attempted the 1,600-meter run and Wilary said the sprinter acquitted himself nicely with a time right around 5 minutes, 30 seconds; rising junior Alezey Rivera took on the high jump and showed promise; and, soon-to-be senior Aris Nieuwkerk continued to show growth in both the discus throw and shot put.
At the last summer meet in Colonie, a bunch of the Rams attempted together a brand-new event in the racewalk, a distance event in which one foot always needs to be touching the ground. It is an unusual event, and one that Section II athletes do not compete in at league meets, but that didn't stop a pack led by Izaiah Brown, Gabe Fernandez, Nieuwkerk Jose Perez, Rivera and Omahri Sturdivant from jumping into the event.
When Wilary saw his group on the track for the odd race, he said all he could do was shake his head.
"I was like: 'What is wrong with these boys?'" he joked.
Brown ended up winning the race, but Wilary said that was only because the officials were extra lenient with the participating rookie Rams.
"We broke the (one-foot-touching) rule the entire time," said Wilary, laughing. "All our boys would have been disqualified."
Brown was a consistent winner for the Amsterdam boys at the meet, and the twice-defending state champion in the 400-meter dash even extended himself out to secure a victory one week in the 1,600-meter run.
For the Lady Rams, rising freshman Olivia Lazarou was a top runner.
"She consistently won for the girls in the distance races," said Wilary. "It was awesome what she did."
More than anything else, what Lazarou did at the meets was race, often competing against Palczak.
"At the last meet, I think Stu and Olivia ran every race that was on the track," Wilary said.
"She's young, so she's able to be convinced to jump into a lot of races," Palczak joked.
Next up for the Rams and Lady Rams runners is the cross country season, which starts Monday with preseason practices. Wilary said the squad is expecting to a receive a nice jolt from runners that competed this past spring for the modified track and field team, while Palczak said the two squads should be competitive throughout the fall.
"Our numbers aren't going to be huge, but it's going to representative of a good group," Palczak said.
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