BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Noelle Marsan did not come particularly close to winning the 100-meter hurdles at the May 8 Shen Invitational.
That did not particularly matter, either. Not one bit.
“I’m so happy with how I did,” said Marsan. “I’ve worked really hard for four years and I finally feel like I’m getting out of this what I’ve been putting in.”
Marsan, a senior on the Niskayuna girls track and field team, advanced to the finals of her event and finished in seventh place. That thrilled Marsan, who spent the first three years of her track career working her way up the ranks. Before this year, making it to an event final at an invitational had been more of a dream than a reality.
“This has taken me a while. When I first started, I came in last in everything,” she said.
That’s not the case in 2015 for Marsan, who registered a personal-record mark of 17.59 seconds in the qualifying round at the Shen Invitational. That time sent Marsan to the event’s eight-person final out of a 17-person field.
Marsan exchanged an enthusiastic high-five with coach Mike Peters following her race. While Niskayuna had other performers place higher than Marsan at the Shen Invitational, Peters said there is something special for a coach in seeing one of a team’s role players have success.
“It’s always nice to see your seniors do well with what they’ve learned over the years,” he said.
“Pretty consistently, they get better as time goes on. They understand the sport more and, in many ways, they have a greater appreciation for what it takes to be successful.”
The Niskayuna girls came in fifth place at the Shen Invitational, while the boys finished in 11th place. At a competition with deep fields of quality foes, the idea for most of the Niskayuna athletes was to compete to his or her fullest and achieve a PR like Marsan.
James Thai LaGraff, a junior, was another Niskayuna athlete to reach a new PR at the meet. Thai LaGraff finished the 400-meter dash in 55.55 seconds to shed roughly a second from his past PR.
“For me, no matter what the race is like, it’s all about the PR,” he said. “Sometimes, I’ll be in the fastest heats and I can’t win those, but I still want to my personal record.”
Thai LaGraff finished outside the top 10 at the Shen Invitational and had to race in a two-man heat. The lack of runners in his heat left Thai LaGraff to have to push himself on his own, but that was not a problem as the junior sprinted his way around the track faster than ever before.
“I still wanted to do my best,” he said.
That’s how Marsan said she felt, too. She said she took a lot of pride in coming close to matching teammate Ryan Azer’s fifth-place finish in the boys’ 110-meter hurdles. Azer and Marsan, classmates, have gone through high school working together with the hurdles, with Azer having more success at competitions.
“I’ve been so jealous,” joked Marsan. “Now, I feel like we’re competing together, too. Now, we’re equal.”
Azer said he was pumped to see one of his training partners succeed.
“It’s great to see,” said Azer. “Just seeing when we have new people come in and love doing this, it’s great.”
Marsan said she had originally been unsure if she would compete during her senior season. The attraction of finishing out her high school career with friends like Azer and coaches like Peters, though, kept her in the fold for this spring.
“I’m so happy I stuck with it,” she said.