The Salamanca girls track and field team set a high bar in 2016, one that coach Laurie Lafferty-John knows will be difficult to match.
The Warriors won both the CCAA Div. 2 regular season and CCAA meet team championships thanks to nine seniors and what Lafferty-John considers “tremendous” depth. Her team now includes 22 athletes and 13 more are set for the first modified girls team in years.
“It gets to be a bigger challenge each year to entice young people to be part of something that requires commitment,” she said. “There are so many distractions these days with work, club sports, home obligations and the list goes on. With that said we are pleased with our numbers and with the overall character and work ethic of the kids we have. We see a lot of potential and possibilities if they are willing to work for it.”
Sophomore Mushirah Sheppard returns as a New York state qualifier in the pole vault, but should make an impact and several events.
“Mushirah has gained a lot of muscle and strength this year,” Lafferty-John said. “She is just plain fast, but also has the ability to go long. She dominates almost every event she competes in. It will be fun watching her dabble in some new events this season and see what she can do.” Senior Bailey Dineen also qualified for sectionals in the pole vault. Junior Lauren Crouse leads the throwers working with new assistant coach Gene Oyer (a 1991 Salamanca alumnus and varsity record holder in the discus).
This year’s team is marked by a stronger junior class, including fourth-year varsity “utility player” Elizabeth Stewart, mid-distance runner Brianna Sherwood and distance runner Michelle Pierce. Lafferty-John also noted senior Adrianne Cook and junior Sophie McKenzie have become valuable “task masters” helping lead the field events.
“They have been so valuable in mentoring the less experienced athletes,” Lafferty-John said. “We are really looking to this groups experience and understanding of our team culture and expectations, as they will be instrumental in helping us get to where we need to be.”
Freshman Aly Hill can compete “almost anywhere,” Lafferty-John said, including sprints and longer distances. Eighth grader Ryleigh John leads the long distance as the top 3,000 runner.
Classmates Crystal Clark, Jayla Rasha, Kylie Schumaker and Marla Warrior return to the varsity after competing as seventh graders.
Varsity rookies include Holly McGonigle and her sister, Amber.
Salamanca’s competition in CCAA Div. 2 includes Chautauqua Lake, Randolph, Silver Creek, Portville and Allegany-Limestone.
“We are approaching this season as a ‘season of growth,’” Lafferty-John said. “We will really be focusing on individual accomplishments and personal records as we progress towards the championships. We have several girls who can qualify for the sectional championships and a few who could reach the next level of the New York State Championships. We have done a lot of cross training to start the season hoping to keep them healthy yet continuing to develop their endurance and eventually we will transition to speed.”
n After her Salamanca boys track and field team took a step back in 2016, coach Michelle Hill said the Warriors are still in a “rebuilding phase,” but have some encouraging signs entering this spring season.
The Warriors lost senior captain Anibal Santiago, an accomplished sprinter and hurdler, to graduation, and have a thin 2017 senior class, but overall, numbers are up for the Salamanca boys.
“We are very young,” Hill noted. “The seniors that I do have are seniors that are doubling with other sports so a lot of my strength is going to be with some of our underclassmen. Our numbers alone over the last three years have very gradually climbed, so that is so incredibly positive.”
This year marks the long-awaited return of Salamanca modified boys and girls track teams. In recent years, seventh and eighth graders had competed with the Salamanca varsity. Now, the hope is more middle-school athletes can compete at that level.
“When you think about it,” Hill said, “you’ve got seventh graders who are competing, those that have tested and passed, competing against grown young men. So it’ll be phenomenal in their development.”
Seniors include Derek McClure, who returns to track after previously playing baseball but will double with golf, and first-year Calvin Williams.
The team’s leaders include junior middle-distance runner Nick Johnson, junior pole vaulter and sprinter Jeremiah Shoup (who missed last track season after knee surgery in the winter) and sophomore long/triple high jumper Tyler Hedlund.
Salamanca has most of this month to sort out its lineup, participating in scrimmages April 6 at Franklinville and April 19 against Cattaraugus-Little Valley before its first official dual meet April 25 at Chautauqua Lake. That’s helpful this year for the boys team, which is sorting out more newcomers than returning letterwinners.
“A track meet runs so much different that a soccer game,” said Hill, also the varsity girls soccer coach, “where I’m on the sidelines and I say ‘You’re going into this position’ and I get to watch everybody. Whereas track you have so many different areas and them not knowing how to get to the start of their race. (The scheduling) was hopefully to initiate some of our newcomers into how a track meet runs, so when the first meet comes they’re feeling confident and comfortable with that atmosphere.”
The 2017 Salamanca varsity track and field schedule:
(All meets 4:30 p.m., unless otherwise indicated)
6 — at Franklinville (scrimmage), 4 p.m.
19 — Cattaraugus-LV (scrimmage), 4 p.m.
25 — at Chautauqua Lake
27 — at Wellsville, vs. Alfred Almond, Wellsville, 5 p.m.
29 — at Wellsville pentathlon/steeplechase, 10 a.m.
2 — Randolph
5 — at Hornell Invitational
9 — at Silver Creek
13 — at Wellsville Spring Day, 10 a.m.
15 — at Portville
19 — Super 8 Meet
20 — CCAA Pentathlon/Steeplechase, at Southwestern, 10 a.m.
22 — Allegany-Limestone
26 — CCAA Championships, at Dunkirk, 4 p.m.
27 — CCAA Championships, at Dunkirk, 10 a.m.
2 — Section 6 Championships, at Strider Field, Jamestown, noon
3 — Section 6 Championships, at Strider Field, Jamestown, noon
9 — NYS Championship, at Union Endicott, 11 a.m.
10 — NYS Championship, at Union Endicott, 10 a.m.