As much as track and field is an individual pursuit, there is a strong team aspect, even if someone who hefts the equivalent of a cannonball may not have much in common with a wispy distance runner or a springy jumper.
Championship teams need contributors from all of these areas, and this week’s Gazette fantasy draft explores the prospect of assembling well-rounded squads from the Section II annals that wouldn’t have had to rely heavily on any particular event for scoring points and earning medals.
With that in mind, we broke it into six categories: sprints, middle distance, distance and hurdles on the track, and jumps and throws in the field. Drafters were required to pick one from each category, in any order.
Unlike sports like baseball and football, with clearly defined player positions, track and field can introduce plenty of gray area when trying to identify an athlete’s singular best event. In some cases, that’s near impossible, as sprinters cross over into jumps, or runners excel at a wide range of distances.
So we allowed for some wiggle room. Generally, the sprinters did the bulk of their work at 200 meters and shorter, middle distance was roughly in the 400-800 range, and distance was 1,500 and longer.
Credit must go to the section2harrier.com website for its ongoing service as a resource of archived meet results and leaderboards.
Besides staffers Michael Kelly, Jim Schiltz and Mike MacAdam, we welcomed a familiar voice (and his vast knowledge of Section II track and field history), retired assistant sports editor Rick Stellrecht, to fill out the cast of drafters.
On the lead leg of this relay, Jim Schiltz has the baton:
Schiltz selects … Nicole Blood, Saratoga Springs (distance)
A multiple state and national champion while at Saratoga Springs, a nine-time All-American while competing at Oregon and a record-setter at both the scholastic and collegiate levels, Blood was a lock for first-class induction into the Capital Region Track, Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2018.
Her credentials include a trio of state outdoor 3,000-meter championships from 2002-04, and she won the indoor version of that race four times while contributing to several state title-winning relays. While outdoor achievements are the focus of this draft, I cannot ignore the Millrose Games Mile victories she posted as a freshman and sophomore in 2003 and 2004.
At Oregon Blood was a four-time Pac-12 champion and a three-time Academic All-American, and she went on to run professionally. Her entire running resume which includes a pile of eye-popping cross country achievements could fill a page of this newspaper.
MacAdam selects … Mia D’Ambrosio, Schalmont (sprints)
It took me all of seven seconds to make this pick … and Mia D’Ambrosio was still faster than me. (She ran a 6.95 to win an indoor state championship in the 55 meters at Ocean Breeze on March 7.)
She also breezed her way to the top of the Section II all-time outdoor leaderboard in the 100 and 200 in 2019, posting an 11.89 at the state qualifier at Shenendehowa, and a 23.94 in the Emerging Elite division at New Balance Nationals Outdoor in North Carolina.
That meet has been rescheduled for the middle of July, so D’Ambrosio still has some hope of salvaging something out of this outdoor season, but will be heading back to North Carolina either way. The senior has committed to attend North Carolina State.
Stellrecht selects … Deshaya Williams, Saratoga Springs (throws)
One of the few Capital Region athletes ever to claim an NCAA Division I championship, record-breaking weight thrower Deshaya Williams hooked up with a stable full of distance runners to turn Saratoga Springs into a dominant team power in the late 1990s.
Williams won state titles in the shot put (indoors and out) and discus while shooting atop the all-time Section II leaderboard with performances that have yet to be matched. Her 166-0 in the discus in 1997 is nearly 11 feet ahead of the next mark, and her 47-2 in the shot one year later is well ahead of the No. 2 all-time effort of 44-8 1/2.
Williams’ NCAA discus crown, the first in any event by a Penn State woman in track and field, came in 2003, and her mark of 55.42 meters (185-1) still stands as a school record for the Nittany Lions. The three-time All-American and three-time Big Ten champion also set indoor school records in the shot put and 20-pound weight throw.
She was a U.S. Junior National and Junior Pan Am Games champion coming out of high school and twice competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials while pushing her career best in the discus to 58.78. She also owns PRs of 15.70 in the shot, 58.18 in the hammer and 19.85 in the weight throw.
Kelly selects … Kyle Plante, Colonie (middle distance)
A member of the Greater Capital Region Track & Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame’s inaugural class, the 2012 Colonie High School graduate won area, state and national championships during her high school career between the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Along with all those championship wins, Plante set numerous Section II all-time best marks. Among those marks, Plante’s all-time best marks that still stand as No. 1 in the outdoor season in individual events are in the 400-meter dash (53.32), 400-meter hurdles (59.76) and pentathlon (3,603).
Overall, as either an individual or with a relay team, Plante won 10 state championships during her high school track career.
Kelly selects … Leah Moran, Holy Names (jumps)
Section II’s all-time best mark in the long jump?
That belongs to Moran, at 19 feet, 11 inches.
Section II’s all-time best mark in the triple jump?
That belongs to Moran, at 40 feet, 1/2 inches.
During her high school career, the Stillwater native won four state championships and, most recently, her career saw her take a win in the Big Ten Conference’s indoor meet in the long jump and second place in the triple jump.
Stellrecht selects … Ysanne Williams, Albany (middle distance)
An athlete whose record-breaking performances have withstood the test of time, Ysanne Williams sits in the top 10 in nine events on the all-time Section II lists, indoor and out, more than two decades after graduating from Albany High School. But the best was yet to come as she took off on the international stage to compete for her native Jamaica in the 2008 Olympic Games after a sparkling college career at UCLA.
Williams’ high school checklist includes 400-meter state outdoor titles as a sophomore and junior, followed by a state 800 crown as a senior when her time of 2:09.21 ranked fourth in the country. She also won the state indoor 600 two times. Her Section II outdoor record of 53.87 in the 400 held up for 15 years, and she has not yet released her grip on indoor standards of 55.14 in the 400 and 19-5 3/4 in the long jump.
Williams’ career continued to rise on the West Coast, where she was UCLA’s No. 1 800 meter runner as a freshman and was a five-time All-American with numerous PAC 10 and NCAA championship meet placings. She won both the U.S. Junior Championships and Pan American Juniors in the 800 in 1999, and whittled her PR down to 2:02.28 on the international circuit on the way to Beijing.
MacAdam selects … Kelsey Chmiel, Saratoga Springs (distance)
Kelsey Chmiel may have been the latest to arrive on the scene, but the star-studded Section II all-time leaderboards for girls’ distance events starts with her.
Having just completed her freshman year at North Carolina State, the Saratoga Springs graduate left behind a list of achievement taller than the tallest evergreen on her home course at Spa State Park.
Indoor, Chmiel is No. 1 in the 1,500 (4:25.45), mile (4:45.55) and 3,000 (9:26.28), which was a national class record for sophomores when she ran it win the state meet in 2017.
Outdoor, Chmiel owns the 1,500 (4:23.81), 3,000 (9:18.09), two-mile (9:59.62, the only sub-10:00 on the list) and 5,000 (16:18.57). One highlight from her junior season was a 4:49.22 1,600 anchor leg at Penn Relays to give Saratoga a victory in the distance medley relay, for which Chmiel won relay athlete of the meet. The Blue Streaks were in seventh place when she took the baton.
She bolstered her national-caliber status again as a sophomore by winning the Eddy Meet in 9:18.09, and although she was runner-up in the outdoor 3,000 at the state meet as a junior and senior, it took Sports Illustrated’s 2018 national high school athlete of the year and NYS record holder Katelyn Tuohy of North Rockland to do it.
That’s OK; they’ll be N.C. State teammates next fall.
Schiltz selects … Shelly Choppa, Glens Falls (jumps)
Swayed by four state championships and a state outdoor high jump record that has stood for decades, I choose Glens Falls star Shelly Choppa with my second pick.
She cleared 6-feet even as a sophomore to set the state record, and was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. by Track and Field News. She went 6-foot again as a junior, and soared 6-3/4 to break her mark at an invitational meet in Illinois in June of 1990. That height, at that time, also stood as the national record for scholastic girls.
Choppa was the lead high jumper at Arizona State where she secured All-American honors, and her 6-0 outdoor and 6-1/2 indoor there still rank among the universities’ all-time leaders. With a resume also stocked with league and Section II honors, she was an obvious choice for first-class induction into the Capital Region Track & Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame.
Schiltz selects … Diana Richburg, Lansingburgh (middle distance)
Lansingburgh graduate and Capital Region Hall of Famer Diana Richburg is one those gray-area athletes who excelled in the 400- to 1,500-meter range.
You can call her a middle distance runner or a distance runner, but be sure to call her fast. The stat that has always stood out to me is the handheld 2:03.7 which she produced as a senior in 1982, which set a state 800 record that lasted 32 years and still stands as Section II’s all-time best by four seconds. She also held the state 1,500 record for 29 years. She won state outdoor titles in both the 800 and 1,500.
Later in her career she set the U.S. record twice in the indoor 1,000 and was several times the national outdoor leader in the 800, one time after popping a 1:59.61 at Villanova’s Jumbo Elliott Invitational.
Richburg qualified for the 1984 Olympics in the 1,500 with a third-place finish in the trials, and just missed making it in the 800 as well with a fourth in the trials. She won 1,500 titles at the 1985 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and at the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival.
MacAdam selects … Summer Pierson, Niskayuna (throws)
When Summer Pierson threw the discus, it kept going, and going …
Much like her career, which extended well beyond high school and college to include four appearances in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials from 2000-12.
The state champ from Niskayuna moved to No. 1 (154-0) on the Section II all-time list in 1996, and although that didn’t last long (Deshaya Williams surpassed her a year later), Pierson remains at No. 3 24 years later.
After high school, she became an All-American at Stanford University and remained active in her sport for years, finishing as high as sixth (186-0) at the Olympic Trials in 2008, after having reached 199-5 that spring. As recently as 2015, she won the NACAC championship in Costa Rica with a throw of 185-9 3/4.
Stellrecht selects … Rhonda Phillips, Mont Pleasant (hurdles)
Powerful out of the blocks and smooth to the finish, Rhonda Phillips used talent and technique to carve her niche in area track history, setting seven Section II records and winning four state championships at Mont Pleasant more than 35 years ago.
Put 10 barriers in her path, and Phillips would not flinch. Her state meet winning time of 60.46 in the 400-meter hurdles stood up as a section record for 17 years, and her best of 14.2 in the 100-meter highs was not bettered for 15 years. Her indoor 55-meter high hurdle mark of 8.3 topped the charts for 13 years. And Phillips was much more than a hurdler, displaying a range that included a 1:33.7 in the indoor 600 — still the all-time area record — and a 2:10.07 in the outdoor 800 that couldn’t be topped for another 14 years.
That versatility made Phillips a natural as a pentathlete and heptathlete, first at Purdue and then at LSU, where she won Southeast Conference championships, placed in the NCAA Division I meet and was named an All-American in both 1988 and 89 with hurdles as her high-scoring event. She helped the Tigers win three NCAA team championships. In 1988, Phillips got her 400-meter hurdle time down to 58.9 and competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Kelly selects … Madalayne Smith, Saratoga Springs (hurdles)
A versatile star, Smith starred the most as a hurdler, as the 2010 high school graduate won multiple state championships in the 100-meter hurdles. An All-American hurdler, Smith — who later competed at UConn — also won state championships in the 55-meter dash during the indoor season, and was an All-American selection during both the indoor and outdoor seasons as a sprinter and hurdler.
A decade removed from high school, Smith’s name remains a constant among the top of Section II’s all-time best lists. Smith is No. 1 in the 100 hurdles at 13.72 seconds and No. 3 in the 100-meter dash at 12.0 seconds. In the 100 hurdles, the difference between Smith at No. 1 and Ichabod Crane’s Ame Boham at No. 2 is the same as the difference between Boham and the No. 24 all-time best mark.
Kelly selects … Jill Shippee, Shenendehowa (throws)
Shippee won area titles in shot put, discus and weight throw, and her all-time Section II-best mark of 196 feet, 2 inches is . . . oh . . . nearly 60 feet ahead of the next-best mark.
While Shippee won state championships, she also won multiple national championships in throwing events before heading onto a career at the University of North Carolina where she’s been an All-America selection. Shippee, too, has competed in international events.
Stellrecht selects … Sarah Palmer, Schuylerville (jumps)
Sarah Palmer may not have hit that elusive six-foot mark as a high jumper, but look at her consistency and championship-caliber performances from eighth grade to her senior year in 2011 at Schuylerville, when she won the Division 2 state outdoor meet title five times and added a pair of Federation wins.
Palmer, a four-time Eddy Meet winner, immediately raised eyebrows with a leap of 5-8 1/2 that still stands as the state record for freshmen, and she improved to 5-9 1/4 the next year for the No. 2 mark on the all-time Section II list. She is also ranked No. 2 indoors, at 5-8 3/4, and was a three-time All-American with indoor credits including two state championships, two Federation titles and the 2011 Eastern States championship.
Also a sectional class meet winner in the pole vault, long jump and triple jump, Palmer went on to be a consistent performer at Penn State, lettering in all four seasons. She was a finalist in the Big Ten indoor and outdoor championships six times altogether and helped the Nittany Lions capture one indoor and two outdoor Big Ten championships.
MacAdam selects … Klarissa Ricks, Holy Names (jumps)
My fellow drafters looking for a sprinter perhaps were grumbling when I took Ricks as a jumper, but she put her record-setting speed to good use in the long jump, finishing her career No. 2 on the Section II all-time list both indoor (18-11 3/4) and outdoor (19-10 3/4).
A 19-1 3/4 in the 2011 state Federation final gave Ricks the championship, and was coupled with a D2 NYSPHSAA title she won with a jump of 18-11 1/4.
She was also the outdoor D2 state champ as a junior in 2010 (18-3/4).
Ricks’ PR of 19-10 3/4 came under a bright spotlight, at the 2011 Penn Relays. She capped her senior season by winning individual gold medals in the long jump and 100 meters, while also helping Holy Names win gold in the 400 relay.
She was inducted into the Greater Capital Region Track & Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2019.
Schiltz selects … Aliann Pompey, Cohoes (sprints)
Born in Guyana, Pompey moved to the United States at the age of 14 and soon after was doing great things for the Cohoes High School track team. In 1995, she won the state outdoor 400 title and set a state record (53.9) in the event. That time today is No. 3 on the all-time Section II list, and her 24.6 for the 200 is No. 5 on that list.
Pompey set the NCAA Division I indoor 500 record while at Manhattan College and, in 2000, became the institution’s first NCAA female champion with a win in the indoor 400. When she was inducted into the Manhattan College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009 she held seven school records.
Pompey represented Guyana at the Olympics in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, and five times was selected Guyana’s Athlete of the Year. She won a gold medal at the Commonwealth games and a bronze at the Pan American Games, and five times competed at the World Championships in Athletics.
Schiltz selects … Amber Stanley, Saratoga Springs (hurdles)
Saratoga girls’ track is well-known for its distance runners, but also for athletes who sprint fast and jump over hurdles. Amber Stanley is an example of the latter.
As a junior and senior in 1997 and 1998 she won state championships indoors in the 55 hurdles and outdoors in the 100 hurdles. She established all-time area bests with her state 55 hurdle win in 1997 (8.19) and with her victory in the 100 hurdles at the 1998 Eddy Meet (14.41), and those marks are currently No. 3 on the all-time area list.
Stanley displayed her versatility while lettering at Maryland, and competed in numerous events including the heptathlon, and earned All-East recognition for her efforts. She can be found on Maryland’s top-10 all-time performance lists in the 55 hurdles and 60 hurdles (indoor), and in the 100 hurdles and heptathlon (outdoor).
MacAdam selects … Elizabeth Maloy, Holy Names (middle distance)
The scoreboard for Greater Capital Region Track & Field and Cross Country Hall of Famers from Holy Names looks like … Me 2, Everybody else in the Gazette draft zip.
In picking Liz Maloy in the middle distance slot, I did venture into the gray area, allowing myself to move into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas.
She was pretty much a miler type for much of her high school career, winning the 1,500 state championship as a senior in 2003, and eventually competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 5,000.
But her middle distance ground at Holy Names included performance in the 800 that still ranks No. 4 all-time and makes her just one of five Section II girls to have cracked 2:10.
Maloy ran a 2:09.84 to win the 2003 Eddy Meet, after having missed the meet the previous two years because of an ankle injury, then, of all things, a snowstorm that canceled the meet when she was a junior.
The winter of Maloy’s senior year, she was still hitting some of the middle distances, running 1:37.23 in the 600, which was No. 6 all-time and still stands at No. 15, and a 2:51.10 in the 1,000 that topped the leaderboard for 14 years and is still No. 2.
She went on to become a four-time All-American at Georgetown.
Stellrecht selects … Courtney West, Saratoga Springs (sprints)
A number of outstanding sprinters have graced Section II tracks since Courtney West graduated from Saratoga Springs High, but she certainly reigned in the middle and late 1990s, setting area records in four events, indoors and out, and helping the Blue Streaks set section standards in relays.
Her optimal event was the 200, and West blazed to a personal best of 24.3 as a sophomore in 1996, an area mark that held up until 2012 and now stands third. The same year, she knocked off an 11.9 in the 100, a chart-topper until 2010, and her indoor 55-meter mark of 7.0 in 1997 wasn’t broken for 11 years. West was also the key player on a Blue Streaks’ 400 relay that churned out a 48.2 outdoors and held the No. 1 all-time area ranking for eight seasons. She stepped up the 400 a few times in powerful Saratoga distance medley relay performances.
In addition to ranking high on the state leaderboards each season outdoors, West’s indoor career got a flying start by winning a heat in the 200 in the National Scholastic Indoor Championships in Syracuse as a freshman with a 25.69, and she lowered that mark to 25.38 the following year when the Indoor Nationals moved to Boston. Her top time in the 300, 40.43, sits sixth on the all-time area list. West competed in indoor and outdoor track at the University of Rhode Island.
Kelly selects … Cheri Goddard, Saratoga Springs (distance)
Another member of the Greater Capital Region Track & Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame’s inaugural class, Goddard seemingly won championships in every season and at every level she competed. A 1989 Saratoga Springs graduate who later starred at Villanova, Goddard also competed at the U.S. Olympics trials among other national and international events.
While picking out just one signature Goddard accomplishment is no easy chore, this sticks out to me: Records are meant to be broken and times are recorded to be surpassed, but Goddard’s name is still up high on various Section II all-time outdoor distance leaderboards more than three decades later.
Most notably, Goddard’s mark of 9:31.9 from 1989 stands at No. 3 on the all-time-best list for the 3,000 meters … and among the top-seven finishes on that list, Goddard’s is the only one accomplished prior to 2004.
Kelly selects … Stacy Gregory, Colonie (sprints)
A state champion as an individual in the 200-meter dash and as the anchor of a 1,600-meter relay team, Gregory graduated from Colonie in 2005. During her high school career, Gregory — either as an individual or with a relay team — set numerous school records and three Section II records.
In both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, Gregory’s best times remain within the top-12 all-time for Section II sprinters.
Stellrecht selects … Caitlin Lane, Greenwich (distance)
Talk about a disruptive high school career. Caitlin Lane started with a young, talented crowd of distance runners at Argyle, switched to Saratoga Springs, spent a year and a half running for Fast Lane Track Club, coached by her father, Bob Lane, and settled in at Greenwich for her junior and senior years.
Despite the shuffle of uniforms, the end result was a championship-caliber scholastic runner who put up some impressive numbers at Penn State, as well.
The talent was there from the get-go, including 5:12.5 mile in a Colonie Summer Rec meet, the fastest ever at the time by a seventh-grader in New York State. As an eighth-grader at Saratoga, her mile time of 5:00.17 was No. 1 in Section II and her 4:33.07 for 1,500 meters was second in the area to teammate Nicole Blood.
Indoors, she set a state freshman mile record of 4:50.39 in the Nike Indoor Nationals, where she was on the Blue Streaks’ meet record-breaking 4 x mile relay. The two outdoor seasons as an independent lowered her marks to 4:27.84 in the 1,500 and 9:37.09 in the 3,000, and at Greenwich, Lane anchored the Witches to a national-record 19:16.43 in the indoor 4 x 1,500 relay, earned invitations to the prestigious Millrose Games and Reebok Boston Games high school miles and posted high state meet finishes. Add to that back-to-back state cross country meet victories.
Finally being at one school for four seasons, Lane became an All-American and consistent performer for Penn State, as evidenced by personal bests of 2:44.24 (school record) in the indoor 1,000, 4:38.37 in the indoor mile, 4:20.40 in the outdoor 1,500 and 9:15.16 in the indoor 3,000. She also helped the Nittany Lions set a school record for the 3,200 relay at the Penn Relays. Her most notable accomplishment was a first-place finish in the Big Ten Cross Country Championships in 2011.
MacAdam selects … Jennifer Petersen, Fonda-Fultonville (hurdles)
Another Greater Capital Region Track & Field & Cross Country Hall of Famer, Class of 2019.
State champion, and dozens of Section II championships — yes, dozens. Jen Petersen was so versatile that she moved comfortably into the realm of pentathlon in high school and heptathlon in college (at Michigan) and still holds the Section II pentathlon record under the new scoring charts.
The twin pillars of her performance were the high hurdles and high jump.
Indoor, Petersen moved to the top of the leaderboard in the 50 hurdles (7.5) and tied Ellakisha Williamson in the 55 hurdles (8.1). Outdoor, she was No. 2 in 1992 with a 14.3 and still ranks No. 9, will holding on to the third spot on the high jump list (5-9).
Bonus points: Her hurdling prowess kept it all in the family — father Dave was a Division I hurdler at Wisconsin, older brother T.J. is a Section II record holder and younger brother Jeff finished fifth at the 1998 state meet.
Schiltz selects … Janine Tessarzik, Guilderland (throws)
Janine Tessarzik didn’t just sweep the weight events at the 1999 state outdoor championship meet. The Guilderland senior dominated, throwing the discus 16 feet farther than the runner-up and heaving the shot put two feet farther than her nearest competitor.
Her senior year also included a sweep of the throwing events at the Eddy Meet, several other big meet wins, and a 155-1 in the discus that still stands as the No. 2 mark on the all-time Section II list. As a junior she placed second in the discus at the state meet behind Saratoga great Deshaya Williams.
Tessarzik set a program hammer throw record at Tennessee, and was third in the discus her junior year at the SEC championship meet. She attended Ashland as a collegiate senior and earned All-American status in the discus.