Boys seeking turnaround, girls improvement on strong ’16
Clarence’s track teams had opposite efforts last spring, with the boys’ squad recording a sub-par effort and the girls excelling in a year where it finished second in the ECIC I standings before sending a handful of representatives to the state championships.
If all goes well, it’ll be both squads battling for a regular-season title, not to mention ECIC, Section VI and, potentially, state championships.
“For us, we mainly want to rebound from a bad season last year,” boys coach Kevin McCuen said. “Coming off a bad year last year, we may catch some teams by surprise, but we have prove to ourselves first that we can be competitive in all of our meets this season.”
Leading the way this season among the returning athletes on the boys’ side will be seniors Ethan Loewer, Austin Knorz and Russ Kobierecki, whom McCuen said “should be our best role models and leaders.” Loewer is coming off a “great” indoor season where he qualified for sectionals in the 300-meter dash, and Mc- Cuen said he “should be our best 400 runner this year and one of our best sprinters in the 100 and 200, as well.” Knorz, meanwhile, should be the boys’ best 800 runner this year and give Loewer some competition as a standout 400 runner. Both will be key members of two of the Red Devils’ three relay teams this year, as well.
“Ethan is a versatile athlete who will help us in the long jump as well, and might even get a chance to do some hurdling for us, too,” McCuen said. “Russ’s work ethic and leadership will be important for our team during the season.”
Other returning standouts include sophomore Grey Conover, junior Hunter Reed, sophomore Dan Daddario and junior Ryan Mazurkiewicz. Conover, who qualified for the state meet this past indoor season, leads a strong group of distance runners and should stand out this year as one of the premier distance runners in Western New York, McCuen said. Reed and Daddario should be key contributors in the mile and 2-mile runs, while Mazurkiewicz will join Loewer in the 100 and 200, and will also be a key member of both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
“We have always been strong in the distance events, and we have a young and talented group of distance runners this year as well,” McCuen said. “This is where we have the most depth, but we have some good sprinters this year too who should give us some key points in dual meets.”
Freshman Alex Lopez, meanwhile, is one of the boys’ key newcomers and is looking to help the Red Devils in the sprints and jumps.
“Our underclassmen show signs of being a very solid group who should be important contributors this year and certainly in the future,” McCuen said. “It’s hard to say at this point but, between our returning athletes and younger guys looking to make a difference for us this year, we show signs of being a better team this season. At this point, I am cautiously optimistic that this will be a successful season as we look to become an upper echelon team again. We just want to develop an attitude that shows we can be competitive as a team and help our stars have outstanding seasons that will get them into sectionals and states.”
The girls’ team, meanwhile, will look to build off last year’s 4-1 record against divisional opponents in coach Justin Weldon’s second season as the squad’s head coach. Fortunately for him, he’ll be able to rely on returning state-meet participants Liz Rott, Mallory Prelewicz and Katrina Patterson as the Lady Red Devils embark on that quest.
Patterson, a senior who will continue her cross-country and track careers at the University of Cincinnati starting in the fall, won her heat of the 3,000 in a school-record time of 9 minutes, 53.60 seconds, placing 11th in the Division I portion of states to cap her junior season. Prelewicz, a senior who will continue her pole-vaulting career at Binghamton University starting in the fall, also tied for 11th place with her best effort in that event. Rott, another senior, finished 28th in the steeplechase for the Lady Red Devils, who won the team titles last year at both the Fleet Feet and Niagara Falls Wolverines Invitationals.
The Lady Red Devils will also be able to count on the services of returning team members Natalie Armon (hurdles), Julia Darlak and Gillian Fedor (middle distance/ distance), and Laura Bagley (throws).
“The girls all look to have a strong work ethic, camaraderie, and competitiveness this year,” Weldon said. “Our combination of youth and veteran leadership is exciting, and I think we’ll have more depth than we’ve had in the past.”
Clarence is scheduled to kick off its season Saturday at the Buffalo Public Schools’ Fleet Feet Invitational at All-High Stadium, and then begin league action Tuesday by hosting Williamsville North.
“Our goal is to have a strong season and improve upon last year,” Weldon said. “We’d love to win the league, but we know that in our division any team can win on any given day. No win is automatic. We had a lot of close matchups last year and we look forward to the upcoming meets this year. It will be crucial to have a ‘team first’ mentality and have several people contributing in a variety of events. Utilizing everyone in the right spots against each team is always a fun yet challenging part of the puzzle. We’ve put in a lot of work at practice thus far and I know all of us — myself included — are itching to get competition started.”