March 5, 2013
In terms of concentration of activity, no moment in the winter sports season tops the first weekend in March. State championships get handed out in indoor track, gymnastics, bowling, boys swimming, even rifle.
Meanwhile, ice hockey started its state playoffs, and for the Section III champs, one improbable journey continued, while another ended in an all-too-familiar way.
CBA/J-D is in the state Division II final four. Say that a few weeks ago, and it would have drawn blank stares, or snickers, or outright laughter.
No one's laughing now, though, after the Brothers followed up three road wins to gain the sectional title with a trip to the Buffalo area that resulted in a 4-2 victory over West Seneca West, who sat atop the state rankings.
Ryan Durkin scored twice to put his side in front 2-0, and Pete Dziergas and Sam Muller added the late tallies that sent CBA/J-D to a semifinal this Saturday morning at Utica Memorial Auditorium against Beekmantown, from Section VII.
It only figures, after a late-night game in Buffalo, that the Brothers would get the morning shift in Utica, hoping it can reach a state final against John Jay-Cross River or St. Lawrence that, shockingly, will be played at midday. After getting one less hour of sleep due to Daylight Savings Time. But CBA/J-D's overcome a lot already. Why not a couple of more hurdles?
West Genesee wishes it was still playing. What is it about the Wildcats and multi-overtime state playoff games? First Williamsville North in 2011, then Suffern in 2012, and now this, a 3-2, three-overtime defeat to Rochester McQuaid in the Division I regional.
Don't blame Henry Burns - he stopped about 45 shots before McQuaid's Jack Hildenbrand deflected Jared Tallo's shot past him in the third OT. The fact that WG got this far with just three seniors bodes well for 2013, though Robby Michel departs.
And you have to like the Knights' chances in Utica, since Williamsville North and Suffern both parlayed those epcohal wins over WG into state titles. McQuaid takes on Massena, while Niagara-Wheatfield squares off with Saratoga, who upended Suffern to end their repeat hopes.
At least local fans could take solace in the state titles it earned elsewhere, starting at Webster Schroeder (also in the Rochester suburbs), where Mexico diver Nick Rodriguez capped off his marvelous high school career with a come-from-behind performance to capture the state title.
Rodriguez went from fourth to first in the final round to finish with 504.55 points, beating Addison's Nick Fleet by 10.15 points for the top spot on the podium. He grabbed the title that eluded Liverpool stars Garrett Clarke and Nick Burdo in the races.
Clarke did take fourth in the 100 breaststroke, while Burdo got fifth in the 100 freestyle and the Warriors broke a school record in the 200 medley relay. West Genesee's Collin Zapisek broke his own school mark in the 500 freestyle.
Down at Cornell University at the state indoor track meet, it was just like swimming, with just one Section III state title - earned by a very familiar name, Nick Ryan, as the F-M senior superstar roared to victory in the mile in a time of 4:14.02.
All of the close calls were on the male side, too, from Nottingham's unexpected second-place turn in the 4x200 relay (it finished less than a second behind Mt. St. Michael's) to Baldwinsville's Alec Peinkofer getting second in the 1,000-meter run, winning his heat in 2:30.36, but watching Cory McCarty (Elmira) edge him out in 2:29.90 in the final heat.
West Genesee's Laura Leff, the top seed in the girls 1,500-meter run, could only manage a fifth-place finish. Leff, along with Cazenovia's Ashley Winn (sixth in the 55 sprint) and Liverpool's Ore Akinpelu (sixth in the 300 sprint), snared top-10 results in an otherwise quiet meet for the locals.
It was anything but quiet on Long Island, at Smithtown East, where New Hartford's Meghan Pflieger managed to win the all-around state girls gymnastics championship with a total of 38.45 points. She also helped Section III win a close battle for the team title, aided by Jensen Todd (fifth), Taylor Riley (12th) and Jenna Zakala (18th), who all had strong routines at key moments in the meet.
During the state bowling championships at Strike-N-Spare Lanes in Mattydale, another Section III athlete had the top effort - ESM's Beth Piston. In the All-Star portion on Sunday, Piston accumulated a pinfall of 1,415, averaging better than 235 per game, which beat the entire individual field.
Team-wise, it was South Colonie (boys) and Middle Country (girls) triumphant, with the Camden boys doing quite well in its state tournament debut with a third-place finish as Fulton's girls settled into fourth place. All had a good time, though, and all are champions already. The state honors just add an extra-special touch.