Nisky relay team moves to top of charts

The Niskayuna High School team of Amelia Kokernak, Erica Wasserbach, Abigail Spiers and Sydney Smith celebrate winning the Eastern High School girls' 4x800 meters relay title at the Millrose Games on Saturday in New York. Photo via Mile Split Twitter account.The Niskayuna High School team of Amelia Kokernak, Erica Wasserbach, Abigail Spiers and Sydney Smith celebrate winning the Eastern High School girls' 4x800 meters relay title at the Millrose Games on Saturday in New York. Photo via Mile Split Twitter account.

BY JIM SCHILTZ
Gazette Sportswriter

Niskayuna ran the fastest time in the nation this season in winning the Eastern High School girls’ 4×800-meter relay Saturday at the Millrose Games at The Armory’s New Balance Track & Field Center.

Senior Erica Wasserbach and juniors Sydney Smith, Abigail Spiers and Amelia Kokernak joined for a 9:12.98, bumping Shenendehowa from the No. 1 spot in the United States.

“I was more nervous than they were,” Niskayuna coach Jason DeRocco said. “All week they knew they could do it. They had a goal and they went out there and achieved it.”
DeRocco believes it was Niskayuna’s first track performance ever at the 110-year-old Millrose Games.

“Everyone seems to think that,” DeRocco said. “We may have had some throwers in the past, but on the track, we think they’re the first.”

Niskayuna came from behind to win, with John Jay-Cross River taking second (9:16.21) and Goshen placing third (9:16.45). Shenendehowa placed sixth (9:21.79), with one of its top runners, Hannah Reale, opting for the New Balance girls’ mile where she finished seventh.

“We went from fifth to fourth to third and Amelia closed it out,” DeRocco said. “I’m so proud of those four girls, and our team in general. They’re all so supportive of each other.”
Wasserbach ran a 2:20.03 leadoff leg, Smith clocked a personal-best 2:18.57, Spiers finished her split in 2:20.52, and Kokernak was timed in a personal-best 2:13.88.

“There was some traffic and that might have cost the other two girls a PR,” DeRocco said. “There was some jostling going on, but the stick got passed around. When they weren’t where they wanted to be, they figured it out.”

Saratoga Springs and Colonie placed first and second, respectively, last year in the Eastern High School girls’ 4×800.

“They take you down to the PSAL gym to wait for your race. It’s like a holding area,” DeRocco said. “When we walked up to the track I’m thinking, ‘This is for real. We’re at the Millrose Games.’ ”

Shenendehowa ran a winning 9:14.68 last Saturday at The Armory Track Invitational for the then-No. 1 time in the nation. Niskayuna was third there with a 9:16.87.

“We think it’s amazing that in a 10-mile radius you have the top two [4×800] teams in the nation,” DeRocco said. “They [Shenendehowa] have a great team.”

Saratoga Springs sophomore Kelsey Chmiel led for the first four laps and eventually placed third in the New Balance girls’ mile with a time of 4:51.49, just behind Olivia Becker of South Lakes (4:51.27). Abbe Goldstein of Germantown Academy won in 4:49.06.

Reale, a junior, clocked a 5:01.36.

Lizzie Predmore was the last Shenendehowa girl to compete in the high school mile in 2010 and placed third. Hannah Davidson was the last Saratoga female to run the mile in 2008 and placed fourth.