Many local stars bound for Empire Games

After a series of woes, the Empire State Games have returned in 2010, set to go again next week in the Buffalo area.

From the July 21 opening ceremonies until July 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 spots.

That includes a large and diverse contingent of local athletes, many of whom will be spotlighted. Here is the rundown:

Baseball - Two great pitchers are expected to lead the Central scholastic squad. Kevin McAvoy (Westhill) is fresh off leading the Warriors to its second consecutive state Class B title, and Bishop Ludden's Matt Pirro joins him in games at Amherst's Audubon Complex and Erie Community College. Marcellus star Phil Zdanowski adds depth to Central's batting order.

Basketball - On the Central scholastic women's team that will play at Niagara University, Molly Hourigan (Jordan-Elbridge) brings a dominant inside presence and Ashley Cianfriglia (Bishop Ludden) looks to hit 3-pointers.

Ludden grad Molly Byrne joins Westhill great Carlee Cassidy on the open women's team, while Solvay's Dan Aiello made the Central scholastic men's side that will play at Canisius College.

Lacrosse - As a sign of Jordan-Elbridge's ascendance on the girls side, four of its players -- Carrie-Jo Farrugia, Kelsey Richardson, Ella Thorpe and Amanda Wheeler -- made the Central women's scholastic squad to play at Niagara University, as did Marcellus star Nora Barry.

Over at Canisius, where the men's competition will take place, West Genesee's Dylan Donahue is a key player on the Central attack. Marcellus coach Jim Morrissey leads the squad.

Swimming - West Genesee's outstanding boys swim team includes Ben Seketa and Carson Elias, both of whom are ESG-bound. Seketa is swimming in the 200 individual medley, plus the 100 and 200 breaststroke, while Elias goes in the 100 freestyle.

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