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Local stars head for Empire Games

After a one-year hiatus and serious questions about the event's future, the Empire State Games come back with the opening ceremonies July 21 at University at Buffalo Stadium.

Once that is done, from July 22 to 25 thousands of athletes from six regions (Central, Western, Adirondack, Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island) will vie for medals in more than 20 sports at venues throughout Western New York.

Many local athletes are part of this mix, and here is where they can be found:

Baseball - Three members of Liverpool's Section III Class AA final team -- Alex Caruso, Mike Parsons and Shawn Peake -- join Cicero-North Syracuse pitcher Joe Pokrentowski on Central's scholastic team, which will split games between the Amherst Audubon Complex and Erie Community College's North campus.

Basketball - Fresh off twin Section III Class AA titles, both of CNS's basketball teams figure in the ESG. Kelsey Mattice and Brittany Paul are on the scholastic women's team at Niagara University, while Zach Coleman and Elliott Boyce join Liverpoll's Connor Rogers and Josh Williams on the scholastic men's side at Canisius College. Meanwhile, CNS alum Marybeth Egan and Liverpool great Tyler Ash play on the open women's team at Niagara with Cicero native Jennifer Feher.

Soccer - All kinds of Liverpool and CNS greats will cover the fields at Amherst North French Soccer Complex. Ashleigh Bowers, Nicole Close, Chelsea Dunay, Kristin Hinrich and Gabby Racines all join forces for Central's open women, while Marcus DeBottis, Bogdan Yatsishin, Jake Taber and Mike Vaughn play for the open men. Scholastic players include CNS's Dan DeBottis and Liverpool's Amanda Heberger.

Track and Field - Jasmine Thompson will be a medal favorite in the scholastic women's heptathlon, with Samantha Schaefer (who attends Bishop Grimes) also in the heptathlon and Tatiana Gladney a contender in the shot put. Joe Spernyak competes in the scholastic men's 110 high hurdles, with Dan Fritz and Daniel Ver up in the open division for the 3,000-meter steeplechase and Fred Shattell in the 10,000.

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