Nisky trio wins boys’ race at Ekiden

Runners take off during the girls' varsity race during the Ekiden Invitational in Niskayuna on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)Runners take off during the girls' varsity race during the Ekiden Invitational in Niskayuna on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

BY MICHAEL KELLY
Gazette Sportswriter

NISKAYUNA — John Sharkey, the Niskayuna girls’ cross country head coach, had a succinct summary for what has made the Niskayuna Cross Country Ekiden Invitational a success.

“It’s a fun meet and kids like to come to it,” he said. “Basically, it’s a cross-country relay race.”

This year’s Sept. 5 running of the Ekiden proved the coach right. More than 400 athletes competed at this year’s event, and the sounds of cheering spectators and teammates were ever-present throughout the eighth running of the meet that takes place at Iroquois Middle School and serves as one of Section II’s first offerings of the fall sports running season.

Niskayuna began running its Ekiden as a way of introducing a different type of competition to the Section II scene. The event combines three runners from a school to run together in a relay format, and athletes compete for top individual time and top team time. Only one athlete from a three-person team runs at a time, and rather than passing a baton, runners wear a sash while competing and pass it onto a teammate to start the next runner’s turn.

Niskayuna's Julia Sexton competes during the Ekiden Invitational in Niskayuna on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

Niskayuna’s Julia Sexton competes during the Ekiden Invitational in Niskayuna on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

As one of the kickoff events of the year for Section II running, Niskayuna’s Ekiden only asks its varsity competitors to run 1.5 miles, while freshman athletes do a mile. Niskayuna boys’ head coach Jason DeRocco said the shorter distance involved with the race serves a valuable purpose, as it allows the sport’s many rookies a chance to compete for the first time without having to run the lengthier distances most area courses ask for from athletes.

“Some of our kids have never run a race before, they don’t get it yet, so we wanted something more low-key, something different,” said DeRocco, whose boys’ entry of Spencer Amorosi, Joseph Quinn, and Charlie Ragone won the varsity team race with a time of 23:32.60, edging a Shaker trio’s 23:32.80.

For the girls’ race, a team from Colonie finished in first place. Individually, Colonie’s Jake Johnson came in first place on the boys’ side with a mark of 7:25.70, while Shenendehowa’s Julia Zachgo was the leader for the girls at 8:35.02; from Niskayuna, the top male individual was Ragone (third place, 7:28.90) and the top female was Lexi Sciortino (16th place, 9:20.37).

From left, Niskayuna boys' cross country's Spencer Amorosi, Charlie Ragone, and Joseph Quinn are shown after winning the team title at the Ekiden invitational in Niskayuna on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. (Photo courtesy Andrew Canavan)

From left, Niskayuna boys’ cross country’s Spencer Amorosi, Charlie Ragone, and Joseph Quinn are shown after winning the team title at the Ekiden invitational in Niskayuna on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. (Photo courtesy Andrew Canavan)

In all, 133 three-person teams competed at this year’s event, while some athletes competed only as individuals to bring the total numbers of competitors at the meet above 400. Besides the Niskayuna sports booster club, the event receives assistance from Fleet Feet Sports and Saucony.

For the coaches, the meet provides the valuable tool of getting an individual split for each runner, who is out on the course without his or her usual teammates pace alongside of while running. DeRocco said what’s more important, though is that the race’s team-based results and low-key environment is conducive to building team spirit.

“You’re not out there running a 5K up and down hills,” he said. “This is shorter, you get to let your younger teammates see what the sport is all about, and your older kids can tell their younger teammates, ‘Congratulations, you finished your first race.’ It builds camaraderie to start the season.”


While the Niskayuna boys’ trio of Spencer Amorosi, Joseph Quinn, and Charlie Ragone won the varsity boys’ race, here are the top-five individual finishers from Niskayuna for this year’s Ekiden. (Athletes are listed with their time and place)

BOYS

Charlie Ragone: 7:28.90, 3rd

Joseph Quinn: 7:52.70, 9th

Spencer Amorosi: 8:11.00, 19th

Colin Ross: 8:23.20, 29th

Cedric Brownewell: 8:31.60, 35th

GIRLS

Lexi Sciortino: 9:20.37 16th

Samantha Padula: 9:36.68, 25th

Rebecca Cropsey: 9:44.96, 30th

Amelia Kokernak: 9:45.80, 31st

Katie Showers: 9:48.20, 34th

About the Author

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is a sports reporter for Your Clifton Park and Your Niskayuna, weekly print publications of The Daily Gazette. Kelly grew up in Clifton Park and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2006. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Kelly's work has been honored by the New York News Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. His work has previously been featured in The (Amsterdam) Recorder, The Saratogian, and Albany Times Union.