By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- In just her second season on the Amsterdam girls cross country team, Delilah Quinones has caused Lady Rams head coach Stu Palczak to gush more than a few times about the junior's breakout campaign.
Friday's Section II cross country championships at Saratoga Spa State Park were just the latest chance for Palczak to sing Quinones praises, as the junior delivered a time better than 20 minutes -- the barrier Palczak says separates a good race from a great one --to lead Amsterdam.
"She ran great today, just great," said Palczak. "I'd probably put that race in the top 10 in our girls' performances at SPAC in the past 15 years."
Quinones finished the race in 19 minutes, 42 seconds, her best time of the season. With the time, Quinones cracked the top 30 in the ultra-competitive Class B race, as she finished in 28th.
The junior, whose team finished in ninth place in the 17-team field, said she thought she was running Friday at a slower pace than normal.
"I felt kind of nauseous, though, at the end, so I guess I did push it," she said, laughing. "I tried to go at [my opponents'] pace, that's how I pushed myself."
Meanwhile, on the boys' side, Matt and Nick Raponi similarly used the day's fast pace to set personal best times in their final cross country race. Leading the Rams to a 13th-place finish, Nick Raponi finished in 27th place with a time of 16 minutes, 44 seconds, 13 seconds and 11 spots ahead of his twin brother.
"It feels great," said Nick Raponi. "It was a fun experience. It feels good to finish off the season with a great race."
The team placement was a little off what the Rams had hoped for heading into sectionals, but head coach Kevin Wilary said he was not disappointed in his team's performance.
"We were hoping to be in the top 10, but ... in the scheme of things, all we wanted was for our kids to run their best times, to reach their potential, and most of them did," Wilary said.
Besides the Raponis, sophomore Brett Flint (18 minutes, 6 seconds), senior Pat Purtell (18 minutes, 14 seconds) and senior Josh Turo (18 minutes, 36 seconds) turned in strong days for the Rams. Amsterdam also brought along several youngsters, like freshmen Gabe Fernandez and Jon Knack, to round out its lineup for Friday.
"We wanted those kids in the race because they'll be the kids scoring for us next year and we wanted them to have this experience," Wilary said, whose team will lose five seniors.
Palczak's Lady Rams also saw several of its scoring runners take part in their final sectionals race Friday, as seniors Kelly Paris (21 minutes, 6 seconds) and Deb Johnson (21 minutes, 39 seconds) turned in strong performances. Fellow senior Megan Ottati missed the race, as she is still dealing with an ailment.
"Those three had an outstanding year," said Palczak. "We'll miss them dearly."
Finishing her race at sectionals was a point of pride for Paris, who missed a chunk of the season with an injury to her right Achilles and only returned recently.
"It felt good to finish this race," said Paris. "It's my senior year and I wanted to finish strong."
While the Lady Rams lose their trio of seniors for next season, the expected returns of underclassmen like Caitlyn Adamchick, Chantel Dopp, Brenda Santana and Quinones should provide the Amsterdam girls with a strong base to build from in 2013.
"We're very optimistic about what we can accomplish in the coming years," Palczak said.