Nisky runners among Section II athletes who enjoyed banner season

Amelia Kokernak, left, takes a selfie with Niskayuna 4x800 relay teammates Sydney Smith, Charlotte Kokernak and Abigail Spiers after their third-place finish at the New Balance Nationals Indoor track and field meet. (Photo provided)Amelia Kokernak, left, takes a selfie with Niskayuna 4x800 relay teammates Sydney Smith, Charlotte Kokernak and Abigail Spiers after their third-place finish at the New Balance Nationals Indoor track and field meet. (Photo provided)

JIM SCHLITZ
Gazette Sportswriter

NISKAYUNA — In late winter, as temperatures plummeted with the approach of spring, records fell to Section II individuals and teams.

Niskayuna High School girls capped a sensational indoor season at the recent New Balance Nationals Indoor track and field meet at The Armory in New York City.

Junior Charlotte Kokernak and seniors Sydney Smith, Abigail Spiers and Amelia Kokernak joined for a 9:11.58 to take third in a stacked 4×800-meter relay and earn All-American status.

That performance was among three school records established at the season-ending national meet and among nine school records set this winter by the Niskayuna girls.

“I can safely say this is the best and deepest team I’ve been a part of,” said Niskayuna coach Jason DeRocco, who has been with the program for 17 years.

The 4×800 group had hit 9:14 twice this season before their final effort. One of those earlier runs came at the state meet in Staten Island, where Niskyauna placed second (9:14.99).

“We wanted to get the school record, and get a top three,” Smith said of the Silver Warriors’ goals for the national meet. “We trained hard and did a lot of endurance stuff. At the end of the season, we cut back. We wanted to taper so we could run our best.”

Niskayuna earned All-American honors (top six finish) in the 4×800 for the second year in a row. Erica Wasserbach joined with Smith, Amelia Kokernak and Spiers for a fifth at the national event in 2017. That lineup had set the then-school record (9:12.98) earlier that season at the Millrose Games.

“It was a tight race,” DeRocco said of the 4×800 record performance on March 10. “No one had a weak leg. There was a pack of seven teams, and at the end we were able to pull away from the pack. We almost took second. It was awesome.”

Also at the national meet, senior Megan Daviero joined with Amelia Kokernak, Spiers and Smith to gain All-American status with a sixth in the distance medley relay. They set a school record (11:57.23), as did Spiers with her 14th in the 2-mile run (10:51.31).

Spiers (3,000, 9:58.83, sixth) and Amelia Kokernak (1,000, 2:53.37, sixth) set school records at the state meet.

“The amount of hard work and miles they put in was extraordinary,” DeRocco said. “The seniors ran captains practices. They put a lot into it. They made it happen. The whole team.”

Niskayuna’s superb season included a third straight Section II Division II team title, with 149 points, 45 more than runner-up Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.

“I told them we’re going to have a target on our back,” DeRocco said of the sectionals. “Our sprinters stepped up. Our jumpers stepped up. It was a full team effort. Everyone was involved in the points.”

About the Author

Erin K. O'Neill
Erin K. O'Neill is the Web Editor at The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, NY.