Wednesday, June 23, 2010

'Vliet's 4x100 relay team returns to quiet homecoming in the Arsenal City

Watervliet's 4x100 meter relay team won a New York State Division II championship a few weekends ago at Vestal High School, near Binghamton. (Photo courtesy www.vliet.neric.org).

I had a brief story on the relay team that ran in Tuesday's paper (read that here) but I've since caught up with a few of the other team members and wanted to add their notes.

The team, seniors Vlad Myschuk, Jamal McPherson, Ahshad Thompson and Melique Garcia, along with junior alternate Chris LaRoche, struggled with two handoffs in the championship race, which was a bit of a shock to them and coach Erick Bernard.

"We struggled with the handoffs," Garcia said. "We always seem to have them down pat in the meets. They were the worst we've ever had. We're usually perfect."

And despite their accomplishment - a track and field state title in any event was a first in school history - the reception at home has been pretty chilly. Part of the problem was that school is just out of session (the seniors graduate Thursday), but it's also that Watervliet's track and field teams have never receiving top billing in the Arsenal City. A long history of dominance in football, basketball and baseball make them the predominant sports at the school.

For the wrestling program, bowling and track and field all seem to be on the way up at Watervliet.

"Nobody pays attention to the track team," Garcia said. "We got hoodies and coach got us a gold baton that will get our names engraved on it. We're also getting a plaque. I mean, we were the first team in school history to ever win the states."

The team's success at the state meet the past two years has done one thing, however. It's made officials in the community give serious consideration to the possibility of building a track around the football field at the high school campus. It be easily done. To build a track at the school, the Cannoneers would have to find a new place for a baseball field, since the outfield and the football field overlap - something that wouldn't work with a track ringing the football field.

Still, not having a track was one of the reasons the team members gave for developing their skills.

"The second time (at the state meet) was a lot easier," Myschuk said. "We don’t have a track at the high school and we all ran indoor. We run in the basement in the winter and that helps with our starts. We also go up and down the hills at school. All of that helps us explode and it pushes us harder."

It will be interesting to see how these athletes fare in college as they pursue sports goals.

Thompson will play football at Mount Ida College in Massachusetts.

Myschuk and Garcia will attend Hudson Valley Community College for their core courses, but both are hoping to run competitively in college in the future, perhaps at UAlbany.

One of Watervliet's few track and field alumnae who continued to run at the college level, Brittany Eveleth, just finished her sophomore year at UAlbany.

You can find more information on www.vliet.neric.org

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