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The Blackwell Blog

The long post-season ride

Where does Section III winter sports best resemble the NHL or NBA? Easy, in the long, drawn-out manner in which championships are decided.

From the time they start indoor track and field championships to the time the last Federation basketball title is handed out in Albany, two months elapse. Contrast that with the month or so it takes to settle things in fall and spring sports, racing against various calendars.

All good, though, for at least in this entry it gives us a chance to turn away from basketball and hockey (relax, we'll return in future entries) and give things like indoor track, wrestling and volleyball the spotlight they merit.

Start with the runners, leapers and jumpers. They first entered the post-season fray on Jan. 25 with the Mohawk Valley Indoor Track Association championships, spread out over two divisions.

Clinton ruled in both portions of Division II, getting first or second in every boys event and cleaning up in field events on the girls side. Rome Free Academy got two wins apiece from George Brown and Robert Adler to rule in boys Division I as Cazenovia throttled the girls Division II field, led again by the likes of Ashley Winn, Jeanette Cudney and Ashley Kent.

Less than a week later, at SRC Arena, it was the turn of the CNY Counties League divisions and the Onondaga High School League's Freedom and Liberty/Patriot divisions to hand out top honors.

F-M liked it a lot, sweeping to the CNYCL American titles with the usual amounts of long-distance running domination and some other fine contributors, including Christabel Ezidiegwu, who won three times to propel the Hornets along.

CNYCL National division honors were split, to the C-NS boys and Liverpool girls. With the boys Northstars, sheer numbers always helps, but so does having Mark Broughton and Shawn Webb to sweep the sprints as a foundation. With the girls Warriors, it's always about Ore Akinpelu, who earned wins in the 300 and 600 as teammates Juliana Basla and Morgan Mahoney prevailed in longer races.

J-D claimed both parts of the OHSL Freedom division. Zach Liebmann, between the sprints and pole vault, took a lead role, as usual, for the boys Red Rams, but the J-D girls really had to battle to hold off Homer, getting a sprint sweep from Ally Fox and key wins from Rachel Fairbanks (1,000), Emilee Carpenter (1,500), Sierra Vasiliou (long jump) and Patrece Martin (triple jump) to hold on.

The OHSL Liberty/Patriot meet was all Cazenovia on the girls side, who made it two league titles in as many weeks with 131 points. Winn and Clare Costello continued their sprint domination as Winn posted the fastest 55 and 300 times of the entire show and Liz Pittman piled up points in field events.

Then you had a rare tie in the boys Liberty/Patriot meet, Solvay and Westhill/Bishop Ludden each getting 93 points to share neighborhood and league bragging rights.

For that, they can thank, on the Bearcats' end, winning sprinter Nick Cometti and Brian McLeod, who got 26 points from a first and two seconds in jumping events. And on Westhill/Ludden's end, it was simply a matter of piling up points on the oval, both in long and short events as Casey Bunce won the 1,000.

With the indoor track folks now getting ready for this week's sectional championships at SRC Arena, it was the wrestlers' turn to take over on Saturday with five sectional class titles to hand out.

At C-NS in the Class AA meet, it was all Baldwinsville, for though the Bees only won two of six championship matches (from Kevin Paul at 120 pounds and Brian Honsinger at 220), it lost three other finals by a single point and covered the mats with top-four finishes, all adding up to 235 points as CBA/J-D took second and F-M's Pat Quinlan, the champion at 132, grabbing Most Outstanding Wrestler honors.

Fulton, far off its usual dominant form, still won the Class A meet it hosted over Indian River, 221.5 points to 177.5 points, snaring wins from Mitchell Woodworth (106), Brandon Hill (132) and Derek Owen (220) to finish on top again.

The sectional Dual Meet champions, South Jefferson, grabbed 260.5 points in the Class B meet at VVS, far too much for Phoenix (198 points) and the rest of the field. Five different Spartans - Caleb Beach (106), Jon Crast (132), Dan Smith (170), Logan LaFlamme (182) and Ryan Charlebois (195) - got victories, though it was the Firebirds' two-time state champ, Nick Tighe, who was MOW.

General Brown, second in the Dual Meet to South Jefferson, was second to no one in Class C at Hannibal, getting 194 points to Holland Patent's 165. Titles went to the Lions' Tyler Silverthorn (160), Colton Erb (170) and Corey Gaffney (220), with Port Byron's Cormac Green as MOW after winning the 132-pound division.

Finally, there was the Class D meet at Sandy Creek, and this time the host Comets, even with 182 points, had to cede the throne to Dolgeville's total of 218.5 points. No less than six Blue Devils - Noah Handy (99), Dan Fox (106), Andrew Dillenbeck (113), Triston Engle (152), Richard Lyon (160) and Kasey Foster (182) - went to the top of the podium.

And all of this followed, by a week, three different league championship meets. South Jefferson, bent on making coach Pat Conners' farewell season as rewarding as possible, won the Frontier League meet at Carthage, again leaving General Brown second, as they did in the Dual Meet.

Meanwhile, Phoenix's move to the OHSL Liberty/Patriot division was rewarded with a league title at Cazenovia, where the Firebirds edged Port Byron, 230 points to 204, and in the Center State Conference meet at Whitesboro it was Holland Patent getting just three more points than Dolgeville, 145 points to 142, though it was two Adirondack wrestlers, brothers Derek and Tyler Spann, that were MOW selections.

All of this leads to SRC Arena and this Saturday's overall sectional championships to see who gets the golden tickets to Albany for the Feb. 22-23 state meet. It should be a fun day.

Oh yes, and there's girls volleyball playoffs to talk about, at least for those who haven't moved to fall schedules. Five Section III tournaments get underway this week.

In Class A, ESM, featuring Rachel Aird and Kaitlyn Shaughnessy, and Whitesboro lead a six-team field with byes straight to the semifinals next Tuesday. Class B has Marcia Laidlaw's Canastota team on top, with Adirondack, South Jefferson and Chittenango rounding out the top four seeds.

Class C split, with 17 entrants. In C-1, Tully is a formidable top seed that could streak to the title without a ton of resistance, while in C-2 there's at least three solid favorites with Morrisville-Eaton, Sandy Creek and Dolgeville. Finally, in Class D it would be quite fun if the top seeds held so we could see how no. 1 Stockbridge Valley and no. 2 Living Word held up against each other.

That's a lot of stuff to digest - and see, no hoops and no pucks? That will change, though.

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