Jul 27, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For the third time, the Empire State Games took a trip to Binghamton and the Southern Tier. And for the host Central region, it proved to be a welcome sight.
Central teams, shut out of gold medals in recent years, had vast improvement on that front, winning a pair of team championships — one in open men’s soccer, the other in scholastic men’s ice hockey. It also earned a heavy dose of silver and bronze medals in sports ranging from tennis to lacrosse.
And on an individual basis, there was even more reason to smile. Local athletes left golden marks on the track, in the swimming pool and atop the wrestling mat, and several places in between.
Much was made, before this 31st edition of the ESG, about the fact that the Central men’s scholastic team’s title in Rochester in 2006 was the lone team crown gained by anyone in Central’s light blue colors in the last three years. Each of the 74 other titles went to the other five regions — Western, Adirondack, Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island.
It took just three days of activity in Binghamton for that to change, thanks to a strong Central men’s hockey team that started fast and never got beat in five outings as it dethroned long-time power Western in a round-robin format at Broome County Community College.
Central beat Long Island 4-2, blanked Adirondack 4-0, won 2-1 over Hudson and ripped New York City 4-1. By Saturday night, everyone else, including Western, had lost twice, clinching Central’s gold.
But still, Central added an exclamation point on Sunday, topping Western 3-2 on Mike Montagna’s goal with 12 seconds left. Great work by Skaneateles’ Keith Buehler (he had a point in every game) and Ithaca-area goaltender Andy Iles helped pace Central’s winning run.
Back at SUNY-Binghamton, site of the most ESG activity, Central grabbed the open men’s soccer crown with an exciting, aggressive attack and defense that improved as the show went along.
First, Central ripped Western 4-1, then used a trio of second-half goals Friday to rally past Hudson Valley 3-1 before shutting out Long Island 1-0. To cap it off in Sunday’s championship game, Central used goals by Shaman Mason and Joseph Bailey to beat New York City 2-0 and take its place atop the medal podium.
Other Central teams had chances to take gold, too — three of them, to be exact.
In men’s lacrosse, Central survived a three-way tie for second place at 3-2 to reach Sunday’s gold-medal game, only to get trampled 14-3 as Long Island finished on top again.
After an undefeated run to the finals, the Central scholastic men’s basketball team picked the worst time for a drought, falling behind 48-18 in the first half against Western and ultimately taking an 88-65 defeat. And in scholastic women’s basketball, Central lost a tough 69-62 overtime decision to Hudson Valley.
Still, they all won silver medals, as did Central’s scholastic men’s tennis team after a surprising 4-1 run, and the men’s open gymnastics team earned its own silver. Plus, Central teams in scholastic women’s soccer, volleyball and lacrosse all won third-place games for bronze medals, as did the softball team with a three-run seventh inning to rally past Hudson Valley.
Turning to individual excellence, plenty was on display at the SUNY-Binghamton track, where local stars gained seven gold medals and a whole lot of ESG records were broken in ideal competitive conditions.
Pulling off a rare double, Marcellus running sensation Chris Stogsdill won both the 5,000 and 1,500-meter scholastic runs — on the same day. And this came after Canastota’s Allison Lasnicki dominated the scholastic women’s 5,000 for a gold of her own. Central also rallied to win the scholastic women’s 4×100 relay.
On Friday, ex-Henninger star Andre Britton won the open men’s 200-meter dash, Solvay’s Heidi Armstrong prevailed in the open women’s javelin and Christina Acquaviva rolled to victory in the open women’s 100 hurdles.
Turning to scholastic wrestling, Central sneaked in a freestyle gold medal when Elijah Graham, from Fowler, won at 275 pounds. The locals did even better in Greco-Roman matches as Baldwinsville’s Anthony Finocchiaro (115 pounds), East Syracuse-Minoa’s Dustin Moss (165 pounds) and Morrisville-Eaton’s Alex Meyers (192 pounds) all took gold.
In scholastic (15 and under) swimming at SUNY-Cortland, West Genesee teammates Ben Seketa and Carson Elias both reached the top of the medal podium.
Seketa won the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke events on consecutive nights, and nearly added a third title but had to settle for a silver in the 400 freestyle. Elias, meanwhile, had his victory in the 100-meter butterfly after finishing third in the 100 breaststroke behind Seketa, and they both aided Central teams in winning bronze medals during the relay events.
And on a wonderful Saturday at Whitney Point’s Dorchester Park, Tim Davis (from Skaneateles Falls) and Mike Wolfson (from Baldwinsville) won three medals each in kayaking, including a gold shared with two others in the four-man 500-meter run.
One time, Central made headlines for the wrong reasons when it open women’s basketball team (who won its first game over Long Island 92-45 and had a real chance at a gold medal) got thrown out for violating conduct rules while on the SUNY-Binghamton campus. Also, a 72-year old ESG Masters swimmer died Saturday while competing in the 1,500-meter freestyle at Owego High School.
Next year, the ESG heads back to the Hudson Valley for a second go-round (they went there in 2005 before) and, in 2010, it goes to Buffalo.