June 9, 2007


‘It’s all good’ at Senior Games


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Within minutes after completing the 400m dash, 71-year old Willie Murphy, of Rochester, dropped down to rip off 10 one-armed push-ups at the Empire State Senior Games. She competed in three races on a 90 degree Friday at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.

Sports Editor

Before she hit the turf to reel off a series of one-handed push-ups, prior to offering up flexed biceps for an inquiring scribe to squeeze, the ever-ebullient Willie Murphy made this sassy proclamation.
“I am 71 and it’s all good,” she said moments before stepping onto the SUNY Cortland Sports Complex track for the 400-meter run Friday afternoon at the Empire State Senior Games.
She was striking a pose while offering this bit of grandiose self-promotion, bedecked in a gray t-shirt inscribed with the words “Murphy Track and Field” and doing what most of the folks on hand for this fourth day of competition were doing: smiling and having a good time.
The start of the track and field portion of Empire State Senior Games, that are spending their sixth consecutive June in Cortland, is always a special place to be. The afternoon gathering is always filled with energetic competitors of all shapes and sizes and ages and dispositions. All seem to have a story to tell, too.
With Rochester resident Murphy, there was the tale of how she spends time working out in front of her television running on her in-house apparatus with three-pound bar bells in each hand while watching the Jerry Springer Show.
“When my legs give out, my arms take over,” was the running secret shared by Murphy, who was making her 12th appearance at the Empire State Senior Games and was competing in the 100-meter dash, the 400-meter run and the 1,500-meter race. This workload came on a day where a multi-colored umbrella provided her some relief from a bright sun that raised the temperature at the stadium to well over 90 degrees.
Before taking second in her race, she showed off some more of her push-up routine, this time touching her nose to the turf before rising up with legs crossed. “Not many people can do these,” she stated.
Not too many athletes here can claim to be of Olympic caliber, either. But that was not the case for Brooklyn’s Lorna Ford.
She had a relatively smooth circuit in running off with her 400-meter heat, an event she ran in during the 1976 Summer Olympic Games held in Montreal. She had also been on a relay for the USA during the infamous terrorist-troubled 1972 Olympic Games in Germany.
The 54-year-old was still pensive and quiet before hitting the track and displaying her world-class stride. She was still feeling a few butterflies, was anxious to see how much was left in the tank in her first meet since retiring from the sport several years ago.
There was also Sue Nesbihal from Long Island, a 58-year-old who was urged on by fellow competitor Bridget Pawelczak at the end of her 100-meter heat before reaching the finish line.
Neshibal, who is legally blind, appreciated the vocal support.
Pawelczak and Nesbihal had hit it off the previous day, both having competed in the 5K road race.
“I told her she could do it and I wanted her to beat me,” said Pawelczak, who hails from Alden in Western New York. “I told her she could do it.”
Nesbihal had gotten into running thanks to her husband George Codero, an outstanding athlete in his own right who won Empire State Senior Games gold medals in his age class in the 5K and 10K runs. “I would follow my husband around to races and it was either compete or get bored out of my mind,” she said.
Then she began losing her eyesight about five years ago, due to a genetic disease. She quit running at that point, but has now resumed competing in a variety of track events even though the task is much harder than before.
“I would out-run my sight and fall,” said Nesbihal of why she stopped running. “Even here, towards the end, I started feeling dizzy. I have to look down and try to follow the white lines when I’m running and at the end they were crossing on me.”
That is the kind of special people who you run into at these Games.
This track meet features the serious senior athlete, like John Brooks from Poughkeepsie.
Raised in Brooklyn where he competed in track in high school, Brooks turned some heads with an 11.8 clocking in the 100-meters. He works out four or five days during the week, and once a week has retired John Jay High School track coach Steve Perks offer his expertise.
Brooks just came from the Connecticut Senior Games, where he captured a 100, 200m and 400m winning trifecta. Here in against Empire State cohorts, he was hardly pushed —which was fine with him.
“I don’t mind. When you run someone is always going to try to beat you, but you can go out and have dinner together afterwards. It all just good fun,” said Brooks. “Some of us are faster than the rest, but we‘re all here to help each other out.”
In contrast to Brooks is the more casual athlete, like Cortland’s Dick Finn. He did not do much serious training before taking the track in the 100-meter dash.
“Maybe I should have worked out,” Finn mused after being disappointed with a 21-second clocking that triggered thoughts of some 10.3 clocking in his youth. Of course, this senior softball player prepared for this sprint ony by walking a few laps around a track earlier in the week. The performance put some doubts in his mind that he would return this afternoon for a 200-meter effort.
But just being able to compete is the fun part for most.
Just ask 85-year old Elsie Adams of Homer, wearing a tee-shirt that listed all of the Empire State Senior Games she participated in since 1983. She reaches in her purse and pull out the medals she has already won in shuffleboard, horseshoes and in the 5K walk, having trimmed 10-minutes off her 5K time of a year ago. She also pulls out a piece of paper with jottings about the silver medal in the discus and bronze medal in the shot put she won at the 1992 World Senior Games.
‘Take anything away from me, but don’t take the games,” said Adams, a fixture at this event who is a favorite of fellow competitors. “I have so many friends still here. When I die I tell them I will have quite a funeral, and they all say they will be long gone and I will still be here competing.”
Competing is what it’s all about. That’s even if, as in the case of Brooks, there is no one to push you to lower times. Even if, as in the case of Adams, there is no one competing in your age group. “You still have to go out there and do it,” she says.
Which brings us back to Push-Up Queen Murphy, who cites moderation as the reason she continues to thrive. She also points out there are more to these games that competition.
“Saturday night we’re going to party,” she declared. “We seniors know how to party.”





Van Ingen, Dryden High relay golden

KINGSTON — It was a golden day for five local competitors at Dietz Stadium in Kingston for the New York State Division II Track and Field Championships Friday.
Marathon Central senior Erik Van Ingen took individual gold running off with the 800-meter run while the Dryden High senior contingent of Taylan Allmendinger, Matt Trevits, David Pargh and Rex Hollenbeck blistered the field in the 4x100-meter relay event for first-place honors.
Van Ingen set a new school, Interscholastic Athletic Conference and Section 4 record time of 1:52.18 to win the title. It was the first start crown for the Olympian standout after coming close in both track and cross-country during six previous state meet appearances. The previous record was 17 years old and set by Mike Granger of Elmira Southside, who was at Dietz Stadium Friday to watch his record be broken.
“I was really happy to finally get a state championship,”said Van Ingen. “I started in the inside box and I was even with one other guy from the outside box. We ran the first quarter in about 55. We were even at 500 meters and I finished passing him on the backstretch. I was able to pull away in the final 150 to 200 meters.”
“Erik had a nice finish,”Coach Todd James added. “His final 200 meters was around 27 and some change.”
Allmendinger got the Purple Lions off to a quick start in the 4x100 relay. Clean handoffs to Trevits and Pargh set up a final pass of the baton to Hollenbeck for a strong finish and a new IAC and school record time of 43.02 seconds. The D-II state title is the first for the Purple Lion boys ever at the state meet.
“We made three small adjustments in the hand-off zones that paid off and lowered our time Friday,” said Dryden coach Lee Stuttle. “We will make one more little adjustment today.
“The guys, their parents and the coaches were all very excited about the win,” Stuttle added. “Their final goals for the season were to win the state title and qualify for the Federation race. They did that. The guys were ready physically and mentally for the race.”
All five are back in the Federation finals today for those events. Van Ingen will also run in the 1,600m event today looking for more gold at 1:40 p.m. He is the second-seed in Division II, 16th-seed in the Federation.
“I think I will be okay,” said Van Ingen of running the 800m at 10:40 this morning and the 1,600 later. “We will see how it goes. I should be fine.”
In other individual competition Friday, Trevits placed second in his 200m heat and qualified for the D-II final with a time of 22.40, setting a new school record in the process. Hollenbeck placed third in his 100m dash heat, but his 11.31 time was fifth quickest of the two heats and earned him a spot in the D-II final today. Coach Stuttle said both guys are hoping to finish no worse than second place today.
Homer Central junior Heather Wilson placed fifth in the Division II in the 800m run with a time of 2:16.47. Her time, three seconds faster than her seed time (2:19.77), did qualify her for the Federation 800m championship race today.
Dryden senior Lindsey McCutcheon wrapped up her career with a ninth-place finish in the Division II long jump, one spot better than her seeded spot. McCutcheon had a best leap of 16 feet-two inches.
Purple Lion sophomore Tara Brenner cleared the bar at 9-6 in the pole vault, which earned her a tied for fourth in Division II and a tie for 18th in the Federation in her first-ever state meet appearance.
“Lindsey missed the finals by one-quarter inch,” said Stuttle. “That was disappointing, but she was pleased to finish higher than her seed. She really capped off her career with a nice senior season both indoors and outdoors.
“Tara just missed 10-feet,” Stuttle added. “She nearly cleared the bar, but brushed it on her way down. We thought the bar would stay up, but it didn’t. I think the heat did bother her and Lindsey to some degree.”



Dragon Dougher drafted

SUNY Cortland senior pitcher Jimmy Dougher was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 24th round of the professional baseball draft on Friday.
Dougher is the ninth Cortland player to be drafted by a major league team, all since 1994.
This past season, right-hander Dougher earned first team Division III All-America honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association and was the national “Pitcher of the Year.” The Liverpool native finished the year with an 8-2 mark and led Division III pitchers nationally with a 0.63 ERA. He allowed only 46 hits and seven walks and struck out 74 batters in 86 innings.
The lanky 6-foot-7 Dougher was named the SUNY Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year in each of his final three seasons at Cortland. He completed his career tied for second in school history with 24 victories.
Toronto has two minor league teams in Central New York — the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs and the short-season, Class A Auburn Doubledays of the New York-Penn League.
Cortland finished fourth in the national, going 2-2 in the NCAA Division III World Series over Memorial Day weekend. Coach Joe Brown’s squad finished 42-7, capturing both the SUNYAC regular season and playoff titles.
Pat Venditte, the Creighton pitcher who has earned national acclaim for throwing both right-handed and left-handed, was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 45th round Friday.
Venditte had been projected to go anywhere from the 10th to 20th rounds, but he said he told scouts that he planned to return to Creighton for his senior season.
“I really never intended on signing this year, so I was surprised they took me,” Venditte said. “I fully intend to be back at school.”
Venditte said the Yankees called him around the 30th round and asked how much money it would take to sign him.
“It would be more than I would have gotten,” he said. “I never even set a price.”
He said he didn’t expect a second call from the Yankees.
“I guess they’re taking a chance that they can sign me this summer,” he said.
Venditte said Creighton coach Ed Servais told him recently that if he stays in school, he would be on scholarship for the first time next year.
The first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference reliever was 8-2 with four saves as a junior. He led the Bluejays with 95 2-3 innings and 99 strikeouts.



Section 3 trio all in finals

All three of Section 3’s remaining girls’ lacrosse teams were winners Friday in their respective state semifinal contests at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
Skaneateles, the two-time defending state Class C champion, rolled past Section 1’s Nanuet 19-4 to improve to 21-1 and earn its berth in the title contest, which will be played at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Shannon Tierney had four goals and an assist and Stephanie Rice four goals for the Lakers, while Libby Johnson had three goals and two assists and Jenna Lotkowictz three goals and an assist. Goalie Gigi Vaughn made two saves, while Heather Mullen had six. Hannah Frey had three goals and Brianna Straut 12 saves for Nanuet (13-6-3).
The second C semifinal, between Section 5’s East Rochester (16-4) and Shoreham-Wading River (17-3) from Section 11, was postponed by Friday night’s storm until 2:30 p.m. today.
In Class A, West Genesee was perfect in 23 games heading into today’s 9:30 a.m. state championship tilt after beating Section 1 champ Lakeland-Panas 12-4 behind four goals and two assists from Sarah Kuonen. Chrissie Hanley and Colleen Bubnack had two goals each, and goalie Kelly Fucillo stopped seven shots. Rosemarie Fazio had two goals for Lakeland-Panas (21-2).
The Wildcats were to vie with Farmingdale (16-4) from Section 8, an 8-5 winner over Section 5’s Penfield in the other semifinal, for the crown. Melanie Raso had three goals and two assists to pace Farmingdale, while Janine Hillier had two goals and two assists, Candace Rossi two goals and goalie Lauren Maksym 13 saves. Lauren Schoenberger scored twice, Emily Thon had a goal and three assists and Annie Smith stopped nine shots for Penfield, which finished 19-2.
Carthage was to go against Garden City from Section 8 in today’s noon Class B final after dispatching Section 1 representative Yorktown 14-5 Friday to improve to 19-5.
Katie Ferris scored seven goals and added an assist for the Comets, while Theresa Staab had five goals and two assists and Katherine Deronda two goals and two assists. Goalie Amber Neibacher stopped nine shots. Kate Tessi and Jaimie Morrissey scored twice each for Yorktown (16-6-1), which got 12 saves from Marissa Bonitatibus.
Garden City upped its record to 19-1 with a 6-2 semifinal win over Section 5’s Brighton behind two goals and an assist by Erin Brennan, two goals by Brittany Wilton and five saves from Emma Quailer. Brenna Bauer and Sarah Ballatori had a goal apiece while Ellie Hilling turned aside seven shots for Brighton (19-2).
State title games for the boys are being played today at Cicero-North Syracuse, featuring Jamesville-DeWitt and West Genesee.