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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 1, 2007

Dutchmen technically eliminated

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — The up-and-down season for the Guilderland boys’ basketball team ended on the downside.

The Dutchmen took a 12-point lead with just over five minutes left in Wednesday’s first-round Class AA Section II game against LaSalle Institute. Then came the downfall.

The Cadets went on a 13-1 run over the next few minutes and tied the game, 52-52, when Khaliq Gross made a three-point basket.

Gross gave his team the lead when he made a steal and scored on a fast-break lay-up 20 seconds later.

The key moment of the run was when a technical foul was called against Guilderland’s Drew Smith after blocking a shot.

The Dutchmen were leading, 51-39, with 5:05 left in the contest. A few seconds later, LaSalle’s Guy Robichaud scored after grabbing a rebound to cut the lead to 10 points.

On the Cadets’ next possession, Robichaud went to take a shot and Smith blocked the ball and sent it sailing out of bounds. During the celebration of the play, Smith was given a technical foul and Gross knocked down both shots for the Cadets. LaSalle scored on the ensuing possession to cut the lead to six points and the momentum was in the Cadets’ favor.

Though Guilderland Coach Ron Oskinski declined to comment — saying "I don’t have much to say," — after the game, he did say that the technical foul was the turning point in the contest.

"We had a shot"

On Monday, Osinski was a little more talkative.

"I’m not certain that Drew’s technical changed the game," the coach said. "It led to four quick points. They were down 12 points and one minute or so later, they go ahead. We tried to come back but Brett got stripped. We had a shot at the end."

LaSalle would tie the game with 1:27 left in the contest and Gross broke the tie with his lay-up with 1:07 to go.

Evan Ryan gave LaSalle a four-point lead, scoring on a lay-up with 54 seconds remaining in the contest.

Smith came back for the Dutch with an inside basket to cut the lead back to two points, 56-54, with 41 seconds left.

Guilderland couldn’t catch the Cadets on their next possession and junior Brett Marfurt missed a shot then senior Mark Domaracki missed a tip-in attempt.

The Dutch were forced to foul and Gross made one foul shot with eight seconds left.

On the rebound attempt, Domaracki was fouled and he made both ends of the one-and-one to pull the Dutch within one point, 57-56.

Gross was fouled again and made the first of the one-and-one attempts. He missed the second and Smith grabbed the rebound for Guilderland and pushed the ball up the court.

He passed the ball to Domaracki who couldn’t get a shot off because he was double covered and passed the ball but time expired and so did the Dutch’s season.

Marfurt led all scorers with 22 points. Smith added 14 points for the Dutchmen and Domaracki chipped in with eight points. Taylor Walden scored seven points in his final game for the Dutchmen.

Gross scored 19 points for LaSalle. Robichaud added 17 points and Ryan scored nine for the Cadets.

Lacking leadership

Osinski was not sure of the reason the technical fouls were called on his team.

"The referee didn’t say anything," Osinski said. "I’m investigating them. The video I have is inconclusive. It showed the ball being tipped out of bounds. Each time a technical was called, I said, ‘Oh, they got a T.’ And they were on us. You can count on one hand the techincals we’ve had in the seven years I’ve coached at Guilderland."

Osinski credited Gross for taking over the game and leading his team in the final quarter. Having a leader might be the one thing that the Dutchmen lacked this season.

"I think having someone at the end is something we haven’t had in the last few years,," Osinski said. "Ever since Steve Dagostino [who graduated in 2004], we haven’t had a leader that would take over and be a coach on the floor. We had a good group of juniors and seniors this year. But I don’t know if they have it in them to make a play on defense and then step up and say, ‘Give me the ball.’"

Of course the Dutch were also missing key players for large parts of the season. Starters Smith, Marfurt, and Domaracki missed time during the season, so the starting five didn’t get a lot of opportunities to mesh during the season. Smith missed most of the season because he broke a bone in his hand after he punched a pad on the wall of the Guilderland gym after missing a lay-up during a scrimmage in November after the first two games of the season. Marfurt had mononucleosis and Domaracki missed a game while he was sick.

"I haven’t had a season that had as many things that has happened as this one," Osinski said. "I couldn’t have scripted it. This is my 30th year of coaching and the previous 29 I couldn’t tell you everything that happened this year. "

The seniors did a good job of chipping in when they needed to. Osinski credited the play of Uwane Okure, Jimmy Munsie, Taylor Walden, and Steve Doak. Those four along with Domaracki will be graduating.

Returning for the Dutchmen will be Marfurt, who is being recruited by Division I schools, and Smith, who is also an outstanding football player. He will be joined by a group of players that had success on the junior-varsity team, including Nick Kost, who played in last Wednesday’s game.

"The j.v. group has been playing together for a long time and has had success," Osinski said. "They are some good players that will contribute next year."

Defense paves way to sectional final for Lady Dutch

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND -- The defense that the Guilderland girls’ basketball team used was almost offensive. At least it was to Catholic Central.

The Lady Dutch held the Crusaders to eight second-half points and came back for a 37-32 win at the Section II Class AA quarterfinals at Shenendehowa High School on Saturday.

Guilderland played in the semifinals on Wednesday night at Hudson Valley Community College against Bethlehem, an upset winner over top-ranked Shen on Saturday.

Guilderland beat Bethlehem, 37-31. The Lady Dutch will play Saturday night at 5:15 against the winner of the Colonie-Amsterdam game.

Up from behind

On Saturday, the Lady Dutch overcame a nine-point deficit, 24-15, at halftime by using an aggressive defense and finally finding some offensive continuity.

"Our offense is predicated on holding the ball and working the shot clock down to around 10 and then going to the basket," said Guilderland Coach Frank Cacckello. "We’ll either get a good shot or get fouled. We’ll have seniors on the line when it counts."

Despite holding CCHS to three points — a jump shot and a free throw by senior Stephanie McBride — the Lady Dutch still trailed, 27-24, at the end of the third frame.

Guilderland’s defense got even stingier in the beginning of the fourth quarter, and took the lead with 6:30 left in the contest. It was the first time the Lady Dutch led in the game.

Two free throws by senior Nikki Branchini made the score 27-26 and Mary Kate O’Connell gave the Dutch the lead on an inside basket.

Branchini threw a nice pass to Meghan Carroll who made a lay-up.

After McBride made a foul shot, Guilderland added to its lead.

O’Connell made another inside basket to make the score 32-28, with 2:25 left in the contest.

Then McBride was called for an offensive foul picking up her fifth to disqualify her from the game.

The Dutch took advantage of McBride’s absence. The Crusaders missed the senior who will be playing at Division I Wagner College next year.

"Very tense"

And though Lauren McCormick made an inside basket — the first field goal of the frame for CCHS — with 43 seconds left, Guilderland made five out of six free throws down the stretch to seal the win. O’Connell made one, Kristin Pezze made two, and Branchini made the final two that put the lid on the outcome.

"It was very tense," Pezze said after Saturday’s game. "Our defense led us to the win. In the second half, we knew where we were and had a big gap to fill. We came out and left it all on the table.

"Our offense was setting up way out," Pezze added. "We made adjustments to move it in. We attacked and got to the line."

McBride led all scorers with 17 points. But the next top Crusader scorer had six points.

Pezze led the Dutch with 12 points. O’Connell scored seven, Branchini added six, Tricia Loux chipped in with five, and Carroll scored four.

"We switched offenses," Cacckello said. "We were in an overload situation with Mary Kate, Nikki, and Kristin. We wanted them to have the ball. We wanted Mary Kate underneath in rebounding position"We came out aggressively. The kids out there needed to do that.

"We knew Stephanie was in foul trouble. That is a situation we didn’t want to be in. We pressed a lot and we jumped back into it. We worked hard to get back to be put in that situation."

On to the semifinals

It will be the first trip to Hudson Valley and a spot in the sectional semifinals since 2005, where they made an appearance in the finals, but lost to Colonie.

"I go back to the team that first went to Hudson Valley," Cacckello said of his 2004 team. "We beat Maginn and they are eerily similar. We were in foul trouble early. We were diving on the floor to beat them. What a game."

Guilderland advanced to the quarterfinal game with a win over Schenectady last Wednesday. The Lady Dutch used a strong first half to win, 46-37.

The scrappiest player for the Lady Dutch was junior Danielle Burns. She guarded McBride for most of the game.

"D. Burns was outstanding," Cacckello said. "Kristin did a good job guarding McBride, too, but we wanted to free her up to play more offense. That was a Division I player she played."

The Dutch ran into foul trouble late in the game, as Branchini, Pezze, and Carroll had four fouls in the fourth quarter.

"We were able to keep them on the floor," Cacckello said. "I told my assistant Jim Mazzone that we are throwing it all on the table and we are playing to win the game."

"I didn’t have any doubt that we would win," Pezze said. "We were going to do what we could to win. We put it all out there."

And that resulted in Cacckello’s third trip to Hudson Valley in his six years as the Lady Dutch’s coach. It will also be Pezze’s third trip to the final four.

"I’m so happy to be going back my senior year," she said. "It’s great to go to Hudson Valley. We haven’t been there in two years. It’s a good trip."

"Growing up, Glens Falls is the boys’ basketball chapel," Cacckello said. "Hudson Valley means the same thing to the girls. We made it our goal. It means we are in the top four of Section II Class AA. It’s an unbelievable accomplishment. But we’re not in this thing to finish in fourth place. It’s exciting. We know we can win this thing."

Dutch cheerleaders champions

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Flying Dutch cheerleading squad repeated history this past weekend.

The Dutch, long a powerhouse in the area, also showed they can have success nationwide as they won the co-ed division at the Contest of Champions national competition at The Walt Disney World Resort’s Wide World of Sports.

The Dutch edged out a squad from Florida to take the title Saturday after spending a week in the Sunshine State.

A full length-feature will be in next week’s paper.

— Tim Matteson

Lady Bulldogs cast own spell on witches

By Tim Matteson

BERNE — The Lady Bulldogs went into Saturday’s Class CC quarterfinal game at Mechanicville High School with revenge in their hearts.

The BKW girls’ basketball team upset Greenwich, 65-51, on Saturday night to avenge a loss earlier in the season to the Witches and to earn a spot in the semifinals that took place Wednesday at Burnt Hills High School.

"We got out early," said BKW Coach Tom Galvin. "They cut it down to four in the third quarter, but we made a nice run and we persevered. We had a buzzer beater by Katrina Yakel at the end of the third quarter to give us the momentum back. The score was down to six and that put it back to eight. It showed that it was our night. I was like, ‘We’re not going to lose now.’"

The Bulldogs played loose in the fourth quarter and had a lot of confidence as they cruised to the win, Galvin said. They outscored the Witches, 18-11, in the final frame.

"The dark horses"

"Offensively, it was the best we’ve played in a long time," the coach said. "We attacked and ran. We hit jump shots. Our offense clicked like it hasn’t in a long time. We had different contributors. Different people stepped up at different times."

"It’s so amazing," said senior Co-Captain C.J. Vincent. "We came out real strong. Krim [Brittany Krimsky] and I were talking about that before the game. At practice the night before, we said, ‘This doesn’t feel like our last practice. This is not our last night in this gym.’ And we really showed it."

"We were really excited," said Krimsky, the team’s other co-captain. "We wanted to win so bad. We didn’t want to be out."

It was the best game Galvin’s seen since his team dominated Class C in two trips to the state semifinals.

"We haven’t played a better game in probably the last three years of me coaching," he said. "We were waiting for this game, since last year when we lost to Hoosic Valley in the quarterfinals by one point. We should have beat them."

Greenwich came into the game as the number-three seed but had its two top players foul out in the fourth quarter. BKW is the sixth seed in the Class CC tournament.

"We are the dark horses," Vincent said.

"No one expected us to win," Krimsky added. "There was no pressure."

"That helps us a lot," Vincent chimed in.

"We’re not uptight," said Krimsky, finishing Vincent’s thought.

But the Bulldogs came into the game knowing they could beat a team they had lost to in a Christmas tournament this season.

"They beat us in a Christmas tournament," Vincent said. "We had nothing to lose. We’re the sixth seed. We laid it all out there. Every girl did."

"We were on a big court and our defense set the tone," Galvin said. "From the get-go, we were geared up for them. A lot of these girls have been on league championship teams on junior varsity or varsity.

"Sectionals are a different story. I told them that. During the season, we play a tough non-league schedule."

"A big shot"

Andrea Van Dyke led the Bulldogs with 20 points. Krimsky scored 14 points, Anna Kusler added 12, and Vincent chipped in eight points.

Tabitha LaVigne led the Witches with 18 points. Carrie Smith added 15. Both fouled out in the fourth quarter.

But it was Yakel’s shot at the end of the third quarter that might have been the biggest of the year for BKW.

"It was a big shot," Vincent said. "It got the momentum going. We went on a run. They came back, but we shut them down and we fouled out their two best players."

Krimsky and Vincent saw the successful teams that BKW fielded several years ago, and want to forge their own success.

"We want to keep it alive," Vincent said.

"We want to keep Berne’s reputation alive," Krimsky added.

"We were looking at the banner in the school and we said that we wanted to put more words on the banner again," Vincent said. "We were like, ‘How many more words can we put up there.’"

"We want to put more words on the banner," Krimsky agreed

The Bulldogs, Galvin feels, are playing their best at the right time of year.

"We’ve come together and are playing great basketball when we should be," he said. "It’s not like we had a chance to beat them and not shoot well. Everything fell into place. We wanted to win the league title, but we didn’t. But we won 14 games during the league season and those helped us prepare for the second season."

And the Lady Bulldogs hope the second season will continue for a little while longer.

"Like Krim said, we have nothing to lose," Vincent said. "No one wants to go home yet. We’re still pumped."

"We’re not sick of it, yet," Krimsky concluded.

Lady Blackbirds looking to learn from tough season

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — Last Tuesday’s loss might be hard to handle for the players on the girls’ basketball team, but it shows that they are taking the right steps to getting back to the tradition of winning at Voorheesville.

The Lady Blackbirds, who, up until the last two seasons, were one of the best small-school basketball teams in the area, lost in the first round of the Section II Class B playoffs. But it wasn’t without a fine performance.

Voorheesville lost in overtime to Hudson, 64-59.

"It was a close game," said Voorheesville Coach John McClement. "But honestly, it was poorly officiated. There were a lot of officiating mistakes. We were up six in the second half and were in the double bonus [for foul shots]. We took one of what should have been two foul shots; we missed, and they let the play go. They scored quickly and we threw a quick pass; they stole it and scored again, before we could get the officials’ attention that we should have taken two free throws. The officials said that they couldn’t take the points off the board. Instead of being up seven, it was a two-point game.

"It changes how we have to play," McClement added, "and how they play. It’s most damaging. Four points is four points."

Hudson tied the game and sent it to overtime, and then there were more problems at the beginning of the extra session.

"They lined us up wrong for the jump-off in overtime," McClement said. "We win the tap and we’re trying to set our offense. They realize the mistake and they got to the alternate possession with the ball. We don’t re-jump, and they get the ball."

"We had our chances"

Although McClement was upset with the officiating mistakes, he knows that his team still could have done some things better to try and win the game.

"Despite those occurrences," the coach said, "we had our chances. We needed to hit shots. We had a chance to win the game. We had an opportunity at the end of the game and had a chance to win. I felt we’re the better team. Things just didn’t break our way that would enable us to win."

Voorheesville forced 38 turnovers in the game and only committed 24.

"From that standpoint," McClement said, "things should be bright for you."

McClement was pleased with his team’s performance as they were the 12th seeded team in Class B and Hudson was fifth.

The Blackbirds finished the regular season with a 5-15 record.

"I’d say we played a good game," McClement said. "We played well enough to win. You take away the officiating errors, but the officiating didn’t cost us the game. I didn’t know what to say to the kids. There were big errors, but we played well enough to have a chance to win the game.

"They hit free throws at the end to win the game," McClement added of Hudson. "It’s hard for the kids to understand that they had a chance to win."

What McClement hopes his players understand is that they made another step in getting the program back to being one of the top in Section II. The Blackbirds won eight straight titles in Class CC and won titles in nine out of 10 years. The last came in 2004, though the Birds were finalists in 2005.

Voorheesville only won two games last season and also lost to Hudson in the first round of the sectionals.

"Working to get better"

This year’s version of the Blackbirds were very competitive in games this winter, despite only winning five games.

"Especially in the second half of the season," McClement said. "We played teams the first time around, and the margin of difference was in double figures. The second time around we lost to teams by four points or six points. We absolutely played better in the second half of the season."

McClement said it is just a matter of cleaning up their play, especially in crucial situations.

"We made mistakes that still hurt us at times," the coach said. "We had chances to win games. Late turnovers hurt us. We played well enough to win some of those games.

"Against Mechanicville, the first time they beat us by 20, the second time it was a four-point game and we had a chance to win it late. Schalmont, we played two close games with Schalmont, and they are the second-seeded team in Class B. Against Cohoes, the margin was 22 the first time. It was seven points the second time because we had to foul late.

"It was very encouraging," McClement added. "We are consistently working to get better. Our won-loss record has no indication of the huge improvement we made, as individuals and as a team."

The players on the team were disheartened by the outcome of games this season, it’s a sign of the team’s competitive spirit.

"The kids are disappointed by the outcome and our record," McClement said. "They have to understand that they did get better. They had a lot of fun, despite our record and they came together as a team. And that doesn’t always happen, especially with a team that’s not above .500."

"Future is bright"

Most of the team will return next year. There are only five seniors on the team — Sarah Belenchia, Kelly Larsen, Jenna Massaroni, Alyssa Schultz, and Kara Zimmerman.

"We have eight returning players," McClement said. "We’ll get Erika Schultz back from an injury. We also have some kids coming up that should be able to contribute right away as juniors. That is something we are looking forward too. We get our top two scorers and top rebounder back. The future is bright. Still it is so close to the end of the season, especially with teams still playing. It’s hard to look to the future and where we are at."

The junior varsity and freshmen teams had good seasons, McClement said. They should be able to play at the varsity level next season and to continue the tradition.

"Our goal every year is to get to the sectional finals," McClement said. "That is something that is attainable. I feel bad for the seniors. They wanted to get back there. They certainly wanted more. I wanted to make sure that they understood that they are part of the Voorheesville tradition. They wanted to go deeper in sectionals. But they are a lot better than how they finished."

ADK skates to bronze medal at ESGs

By Tyler Schuling

LAKE PLACID — The final women’s hockey match of the Empire State Winter Games, an all-out battle for the silver medal between Central and Adirondack, resulted in a 1-1 tie.

Western New York, a perennial powerhouse, clinched the gold this year after Adirondack knocked it from its top perch last year.

Trailing 1-0 in the third period on Sunday, rowdy Central fans cheered their team on, rousing the players to action.

After a scoreless first period, Central was slapped with multiple penalties in the second. With Central players in the penalty box, Adirondack stayed in control throughout, with Adirondack goalie Kaitlin Branon of Plattsburgh looking on as her teammates fired shots on the Central goal.

Central goalie Kathleen Hedges saved 14 shots. One went by during the succession of power plays, as Kelly Moore, of Bloomington, scored for Adirondack with 7:43 remaining in the period, assisted by Danielle Lennox of Massena.

In the third period, Central stayed out of the penalty box and got aggressive. Stephanie Nadler, of Black River, scored with just 4:49 remaining in the game, her third goal of the tournament.

Branon had 10 saves in the game, 43 for the tournament. Hedges had 21, with 80 on the weekend.

Central finished the tournament with a 3-0-2 record, and Adirondack finished at 2-1-2. Adirondack won the bronze, Central won the silver, and Western, which also finished at 3-0-2, won the gold.

Through injury, Roosa on target for gold

By Tyler Schuling

LAKE PLACID — Nothing stops Darwin Roosa. Not weather. Not age. Not injury.

At 57, Roosa is still going strong. He celebrated his 25th year of competition in the Empire State Winter Games this weekend.

A biathlete and cross-country skier, Roosa, who lives on Bozenkill Road in Altamont, was in top form at the games, competing in three events, and winning a gold and two silver medals.

In a year marked by adversity, he tore a tendon in his rotator cuff, an injury he believes was the accumulation of years of training and competing. After surgery, he rehabbed at Altamont Physical Therapy, where, with the help of Brian Thornton, he got back in shape.

Prior to the games this weekend, Roosa was unsure of how well he would hold up. "I didn’t know how well my shoulders would work," he said after competition. He was very pleased with his performance — his marksmanship and condition — and said that his shoulder hadn’t bothered him throughout three days of competition.

In his first outing at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Complex, Roosa displayed excellent marksmanship, hitting 14 out of 20 shots Friday, winning the gold. He completed the 12.5-kilometer race, which included four shooting stops, at 1:03:53 in the grand masters division. John Valera, of Windsor, N.H., was just behind, finishing at 1:04:16 and winning the silver, and James Mattingly, of Theresa (Jefferson County), finished at 1:04:57, winning the bronze.

Mattingly outraced Roosa on Saturday, finishing the 10-kilometer sprint event, which included two shooting stops, at 30:45; Roosa was three minutes behind, finishing the race in 33:44.

Roosa finished strong on Sunday morning, winning the silver in the 5-kilometer freestyle cross-country skiing event, finishing at 19:00. Thomas M. Moffett, of Peru (Clinton County) won the gold, finishing at 14:56, and Steve Smith won the bronze, with a time of 19:20.

Having competed and trained for half his life, Roosa’s years of experience aid him on the slopes. During the biathlon events, his rifle strapped to his back, Roosa approaches targets throughout the course and evaluates his heart rate.

"I know intuitively if I’ve gone too fast," Roosa said, adding that, before taking a shot, it may be a good idea to wait for his heart rate to drop. He called waiting before pulling the trigger "a good investment."

To shoot effectively, a biathlete needs to calm his heart rate down to between 120 and 130 beats per minute.

If a shooter misses, he has to make a penalty loop, which can take anywhere from 30 to 35 seconds.

"This year, it has been difficult training on snow," said Roosa. Since winter came late this year, Roosa trained using roller skis through December and part of January. Using roller skis on pavement is very similar to snow skiing, he said, and "is very close to the real thing, in terms of strength and aerobics."

Roosa said a good night of sleep before races is important.

"They’re not terribly long," he said of the races, "but they do take a lot out of you."

Roosa is a member of the Helderberg Rod and Gun Club in Knox and also belongs to the Saratoga Biathlon Club, one of five biathlon clubs in the state.

He said he competes because he is fascinated by the mental and physical aspects of biathlon, the athletes pushing their limits much of the time, then slowing to take careful aim at a target.

Camaraderie with biathletes from around the state, he said, also keeps him connected.

"It’s very satisfying," Roosa said, "to meet people from around the state of all ages and to promote the sport."

He plans to compete next year and will train in the summer, doing trail runs, events similar to the biathlon, where athletes run instead of ski through the courses.

Roosa was a nominee for the New York Biathlon Hall of Fame in 2006, and placed fifth in voting with 21 percent of the votes. This year, his nomination will be carried over, and inductees will be announced in March.

Della Roccos make games a family event

By Tyler Schuling

LAKE PLACID — The Della Rocco family was out in full force last weekend in Lake Placid, making the journey from the Capital Region to the Empire State Winter Games.

Gale Della Rocco, a sophomore at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, made her third consecutive appearance at the winter games and won three bronze medals. Her brother, Taylor, a seventh-grader at Berne-Knox-Westerlo, participated for the first time.

Gale and Taylor’s uncle, Michael Della Rocco, of Altamont, is a veteran of the games, still racing at 55. His wife, Jullian, said she is "really impressed" with him.

On Saturday, the three Della Roccos competed in all snowshoe racing events — the 100-, 200-, 400-, and 1,500-meter races — at Paul Smith’s College, just outside of Saranac Lake. Sunday, the Della Roccos ran the 5 kilometer race at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Complex.

A Berne native, Gale Della Rocco won bronze medals in the 1,500 meter, the 400 meter, and the 200 meter races.

In past years, she said, she trained for the games by running in hayfields. Because there wasn’t any snow this year, Della Rocco said, she trained for the games by running on pavement. She is studying art education, spending much of her time in the studio.

Her goal for next year is to improve her times. "To get a personal best time," she said, "is very rewarding."

She got involved in snowshoeing after her mother, Margaret, read in the newspaper that try-outs were being held at the Berne soccer field. Gale said she was shocked that she qualified.

Gale said she "forced" her brother, Taylor, to compete this year. She added that competing by herself, knowing none of the other competitors, is lonely. Last year, she said, she raced with her other brother, Tommy.

"She told me to do it, but I’d already made up my mind I was going to race," said Taylor Della Rocco.

"I got involved in snowshoeing because my brother [Tommy] did it last year, and my sister did it the year before that, and I thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll do it,’’" he said.

Taylor ran cross-country for BKW in the fall, and will be running track beginning in March.

He called the winter games "a great experience." This weekend, he said, he "met a bunch of friends."

After competing in the games, Taylor said he will "most likely" compete in the future. He said he has no preference for either long or short races.

"I like them all," he said. "It’s a really good thing," he said of the winter games. "I think more kids should do it."

Lombardis, coach share love of figure skating

By Rachel Dutil

LAKE PLACID – Caley Vangelis loves to teach. Christina and Stephanie Lombardi love to skate.

The sisters with their coach took part in the Empire State Games figure-skating competition this past weekend.

The Lombardi family – Christina, 14; Stephanie, 12; Isabelle, 10; and their parents, Tom and Laurie – live in Slingerlands, and traveled north to Lake Placid for the festivities.

Vangelis, who lives in Guilderland, has been coaching the Lombardi sisters since the learn-to-skate lessons Christina first started about nine years ago, she said.

Christina and Stephanie wore blue and red Empire State Games athletic suits, and bright smiles, as they spoke with The Enterprise before their Saturday-night competitions.

"I want to just skate my best and have fun," Stephanie said.

"I really want to land my double-double" I don’t want to fall," Christina said.

We’re hoping for "clean skating," Vangelis chipped in.

All three Lombardi girls were excited to be at the games. "It’s been really fun," Mrs. Lombardi said.

Isabelle also skates, and is coached by Vangelis. "She’s ready now," Mr. Lombardi said of his youngest daughter’s eagerness to participate in the games. Athletes must be at least 12 years old to qualify, he said, so she’ll have to wait two years.

The girls have "worked very hard and come a long way in the field," Vangelis said. "I’m really excited about these guys."

Vangelis had accompanied her students to the winter games previously, but it’s been a few years since she’s been, she said. "It was fun for me to get back out there."

Vangelis was herself a figure skater. She said she reached a point where "my body couldn’t handle it anymore."

She really enjoys choreography, and, about 10 years ago, she "decided to start learn-to-skate lessons," she said. People then started to request private lessons, she said.

She currently has four skating students, three of whom are the Lombardi sisters.

The Lombardis "are an extremely dedicated family," Vangelis said. "It’s great to see all three of them have such a passion for skating."

Vangelis has a close relationship with the girls. They generally practice about seven hours a week, and she is with them at competitions, and supports them in their various extracurricular school activities.

The girls are "very active in school," Vangelis said. "They’re multi-talented."

They attend the Academy of Holy Names in Albany.

"Best of both worlds"

Vangelis teaches eighth-grade math at Farnsworth Middle School in Guilderland.

"It’s the best of both worlds," she said of her two teaching jobs. "I love teaching."

During the day, Vangelis teaches her favorite subject, and, in the evening, she teaches her favorite sport, she said. "I really enjoy it."

Stephanie and Christina competed at the intermediate level, the lowest level of the games. They usually compete at a lower level, Vangelis said.

It’s "wonderful" that they competed at a higher level than they are used to, she told The Enterprise.

Christina’s stage presentation and her artistic ability are her strong points; Stephanie is always very steady, with no nerves, Vangelis said of her students.

Christina placed seventh out of 14 skaters. Vangelis said her performance was "very respectable."

"Stephanie went out there and held her own," she said. She placed 12th out of 13.

Gina DiNapoli, also of Slingerlands, competed in the Intermediate Ladies C figure skating competition. She placed 12th out of 15.

"I think it was definitely an adrenaline rush," Vangelis said of the experience.

"They represented New York State" It was definitely a confidence boost," she said.

Christina said that her performance "went really well" It was really fun."

"A lot of fun"

Christina remembers the first time she went skating, at the Empire State Plaza. She said she skated with double-runner skates – skates with two blades that act like training wheels.

"I couldn’t get off the ice, I liked it so much," Christina told The Enterprise.

Stephanie said that she started skating because Christina "really liked it."

"It’s one of my biggest activities," Stephanie said of figure-skating. "I always look forward to it."

"I liked the whole experience," Stephanie said of the Empire State Games. "It was really big and fun."

She said she is proud of her performance. "I skated pretty good."

All three Lombardi sisters thought that the opening ceremony was one of the most exciting parts of the weekend.

The ceremony, modeled after that of the Olympics, gathered together the 1,100 athletes with around 2,000 spectators. Isabelle’s favorite part "was the lighting of the torch."

"It was a lot of fun to walk in with all the other skaters and athletes," Christina said.

Stevens performs the art of speedskating

By Rachel Dutil

LAKE PLACID – Rob Stevens wasn’t really much of an athlete in high school.

"I was more into art," he told The Enterprise.

Things have changed in the 30 years since he graduated.

Stevens, 50, spent last weekend with his wife, Judy, and their two daughters, Emily and Chloe, in Lake Placid; he participated in the speed-skating competition at the Empire State Winter Games. There were about 37 speed skaters from around the state, he said.

"It was one of the best things I’ve ever done," Stevens said of the experience. " It was great to have my family there," he said.

After 25 years, Stevens found himself again competing in the Empire State Games. His first go at the games was in 1982; he competed then in cycling during the summer games.

The summer games rotate locations from year to year. In 1982, the games were held at Syracuse University, he said.

"It was interesting to go back 25 years later and do the winter version," Stevens said. "Speed skating is a very typical off-season sport to cycling."

"I was very pleased," Stevens said of his performance. He shaved two seconds off his best times, and ‘that’s huge," he said.

Stevens said he has been a cyclist for 25 or 30 years. He started speed skating about six years ago, shortly after moving to Guilderland, he told The Enterprise.

Stevens, who is a network administrator for the New York Department of State, became involved with the Capital District Speed Skating Club where he skates about twice a week, after a co-worker told him about it, he said.

What appeals to him about speed skating, Stevens said, is that it "requires a lot of endurance and skill."

The mix of the equipment, speed, and "the tiniest bit of danger" really grabs him, he said.

He now considers speed skating his "primary sport," and cycling his "secondary sport," he said. "It’s weird how things work."

Stevens said he finished "in the middle of the field." He is hoping to return again next year, he said. His goal is to "keep progressing skill-wise," and to become "more and more competitive," he said.

Speed skating takes a "high degree of skill," Stevens said. "It doesn’t pound your body to death."

"Speed skating is for all ages," Stevens said. Two skaters in their late 70s skate at the Capital District Speed Skating Club, he said.

Howard Ganong is 78, Stevens said. He was the Connecticut State speed-skating champion, and holds a world record in long track for his age group, Stevens said.

At the Empire State Games, "There was of course the 20-year-olds with the 50-year-olds," he added.

Though cycling has been around longer, "Speed skating is more cutting edge," Stevens said.

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