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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 19, 2012

Kids in the hall: Indoor track thrives at Guilderland

GUILDERLAND –– Most winter days after school, 70 track athletes take over the hallways of Guilderland High School. These runners and jumpers really wouldn’t have anywhere else to go, and they almost didn’t.

Back in 2010, indoor track was axed out of Guilderland’s budget; the district termed it a “repeat sport.” Coaches and athletes took immediate action to save the 2010-11 season by raising $16,300 through the Friends of Guilderland Athletics.

By the end of last season, Guilderland had proved its worth in the sport. Catalena Diamente, Dejana Harris, and Anthony Toffenetti competed at States, and Diamente did well even, placing sixth in the triple jump. Also, Harris had broken Guilderland’s all-time record for the 55-meter hurdles.

Still, the district, faced with closing a sizable budget gap, was holding onto the “repeat sport” tag as the budget for 2011-12 emerged. So, athletes decided to take a stand, 10 of them going up in front of the school board last spring to express opinion about why the sport should be funded and why its not actually a “repeat sport.”

They spoke of how different it was than spring track and field and many gave heartfelt, personal account of how the team had changed their lives for the better.

The board listened to the arguments and reinstated indoor track back into the budget for this season. What did the board realize?

“It keeps us focused and in shape,” said Harris at practice on Friday. She had attended meeting after meeting to make sure the board had gotten the point. “There’s nothing else for us, really.”

Nico Turek, who also spoke in front of the board last spring, said that indoor track leads to better results outdoors because athletes can build a base during the winter. “This is a safe haven from the winter weather elements,” he said. “It’s hard to motivate yourself to go running because it’s freezing outside. But, inside, weather is never a factor.”

There’s a social aspect, too. Athletes are doing work at practice, but they’re also conversing and helping each other.

“Indoor is completely different than outdoor, but people who aren’t involved wouldn’t see that,” said Gabby Delbene. “You’re just more focused when you have a sport in your life.”

“It’s a camaraderie thing, too,” said Anna Pickett, who placed 12th in the 1000-meter run at the Dartmouth Relays with a time of 3:08 on Jan. 7. “Some of us are really close.”

Coach Pete Wachtel remembered watching Toffenetti, a 2011 graduate, get up in front of the board and tell it from the heart. “He said, ‘I’m not the best student, but indoor track helped me a lot,’” Wachtel said. “Where else do you get that from?”

Giving the kids all the credit in the world, Coach Dave Kosier was very impressed by what the athletes had said last spring. They sold it, and the board bought it. “They represented how important this is to all of us,” Kosier said. “It’s a valuable part of the education process.”

While his athletes were speaking to the board, the thought of too little, too late had crossed Kosier’s mind. “I was kind of surprised when they put us back in the budget, but I’m glad they did,” he said.

Indoors, with a usual schedule of one meet per week, athletes have more time to work on technique. This is a big advantage for field events, like pole vault, which has now been brought indoors at Guilderland for the first time in at least 10 years, Kosier said.

Pete Cure, who also coaches pole vault outdoors, takes the Dutch vaulters over to Colonie High School for practice. The best vault for Guilderland this season was 10 feet by Kendra Lizotte at the Darmouth Relays.

Guilderland is just glad that it didn’t have to raise thousands of dollars on its own just to compete in a sport that keeps their heads straight.

“You hate to see sports get cut because kids can learn responsibility, moral lessons,” Kosier said. “It’s nice to be back, representing Guilderland.”

— By Jordan J. Michael

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