BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — Mateo Parzych’s head coach views the Niskayuna junior’s success this indoor track and field season as a testament to his will and desire.
“He wants to succeed,” Jason DeRocco said of Parzych at a recent practice. “In this sport, it’s you against the watch; if you don’t want it more than the watch, you’re not going to do well.”
Parzych has shown the required want this season, battling back from a knee injury to emerge as one of Section II’s top sprinters. Through the end of January, his top time of 52.75 seconds in the 400-meter dash was the third-best in the section this season, and he has also developed into one of the area’s top short sprinters.
When it started, Parzych was not sure this winter’s indoor season was going to be anything more for him than an extended tune-up for the spring’s outdoor campaign. Late in the season with the Silver Warriors’ varsity soccer squad, Parzych made a move at practice and felt pain immediately in his left knee.
“I turned and I left the knee behind,” he remembered.
He did not quite tear the medial collateral ligament in the knee, but he did enough damage to it that he missed his soccer team’s postseason and was a late starter for this winter’s running season. Parzych spent a good chunk of the indoor track season’s first few weeks in the weight room working to rehabilitate his knee, finally feeling better as the calendar turned to 2015.
“Something just clicked and I was back,” he said.
That showed quickly. At the Jan. 9-10 Dartmouth Relays, Parzych scored his season-best time in the 400 meters, establishing himself as one of the top sprinters in Section II. His time in the event was right around his marks from this past spring — a rarity considering nearly all track athletes fare better during the outdoor season.
“I wanted to get that time indoor, but I wasn’t sure I could after my injury,” he said.
DeRocco said Parzych was able to equal his outdoor sprinting time during the indoor season because of both a mental and physical toughness. Mental, DeRocco said, because Parzych did not let the challenges of running indoors — such as extra turns and less-than-savory running surfaces — detract from his performance, and physical because the junior had put in hours of labor with endurance workouts to get in top shape.
“Nobody can sprint a full [400 meters] without getting tired,” said DeRocco. “So, if you can run the 600 [meters] — which he can — you can run through the pain at the end.”
The Silver Warriors are nearing the end of their season. At present, the varsity team is in the midst of a competition break before the Feb. 15 Suburban Council Championships and Feb. 21 sectional championships. When those big meets come around, though, Parzych said the Silver Warriors will be ready.
“We’re just working as hard as we can, working on technical stuff,” he said. “We’re working on getting our handoffs right, our starts right — anything we can to improve the small things to help us do big things.”