By The Post-Journal Staff
Dick Gallagher, the editor and publisher of Western New York High School Sports, is arguably the best resource when it comes to evaluating high school football in these parts.
He also, by his own admission, is a big fan of Southern Tier athletes.
When he was asked in November about the success of some of the football programs in these parts, Gallagher noted: ''You're blessed. I don't know what's in the water (in the Southern Tier), but whatever it is keep feeding them the same water.''
While he was referring specifically to football, the Williamsville resident could have just as well been talking about any number of athletes in a variety of sports.
With that in mind, as we begin the New Year, let's take a look back at some of the more memorable individual and team performances of 2013.
When Christina Walter was crowned the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division 2 outdoor track and field champion in the 100-meter dash back in early June, she didn't get too emotional.
That's just not her style.
"She's not one of those to jump up and down and be crazy," Maple Grove coach Marcus Clark said of the junior with a laugh, "but you can definitely tell she was happy. She was doing a lot of smiling."
Nowadays, Walter's old-school, business-as-usual demeanor is refreshing, to be sure, but in this particular case it would have been understandable for her to go at least a little crazy; after all, just a few weeks before some had doubted whether she'd make it back on the track again that season.
But not even an early-season setback - a setback that came in the form of a stress fracture in her left leg - could stand in the way of the Maple Grove Lady Red Dragon and her lofty goals. And when Walter returned from that injury and proceeded to win not only the Section 6, but also, and impressively, the state title before placing second in the Federation race behind a sub-12 second time (breaking her own school record for the third time in as many weeks), it was a no-brainer as to who was going to be this year's Post-Journal Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
"She's got the gift you can't coach," Clark said. "She's one of those success stories where you see hard work fulfilled, because she does work hard - harder than anybody."
This is the second straight year in which Walter, who the season before last became the first athlete in Maple Grove school history to win a state title when she captured both the 100- and 200-meter Division 2 titles, has proven herself the best track athlete in the area.
"It was an awesome (season)," Clark marvelled. "She did everything she could possibly do. She had to sacrifice a lot, miss out on some invitationals and miss out on running the 200 at states again, but she still ended up being the second-fastest girl in New York State."
All together, Walter raced to a first-place finish in the state championships with a time of 12.20. Then, at the Federation race, she did even better, posting a blistering time of 11.98, which was a 24-tenths of a second shy of winner Kadecia Baird of Medgar Evers Prep School in Brooklyn.
The subject of the Connolly Cup - presented annually by the Riverside Athletic Club to the outstanding high school football player in Western New York - was never discussed this fall during the Jamestown Red Raiders' magical run to their Section 6 Class AA championship.
"We always talk about team stuff," Coach Tom Langworthy said. "Our players know about state titles and sectional titles. I don't think we've talked much about Connolly Cup winners.
"But we'll be talking about Jake Sisson."
See YEAR'S BEST, Page B2
The senior quarterback capped a record-breaking season on Saturday when he was named the WNY Player of the Year by The Buffalo News in the morning and was the recipient of the 42nd annual Connolly Cup by mid-afternoon. He is the fourth Red Raider to earn the Connolly Cup, joining Berto Amoroso (1982), David Hinson (1994) and Aaron Leeper (2000) in that exclusive club.
"When something like this comes around, I'm very grateful," Sisson said after the awards banquet at Ilio DiPaolo's Restaurant, "but without the team it would never have happened."
What happened, though, was remarkable.
Not only did the Red Raiders claim their first sectional title since 2000, but they did so in video game-like offensive outbursts.
And it was Sisson, the son of George and Kim Sisson, who engineered it all.
The 6-foot, 190-pounder completed 178-of-275 passes (64.7 completion percentage) for a WNY-record 3,184 yards and 33 touchdowns. Only Greg Paulus of Syracuse's Christian Brothers Academy (3,677 in 2004) had more passing yards in state history. Sisson's 508-yard aerial display in a Week Two shootout at Kenmore West broke another WNY record set by Williamsville South's Joe Licata in 2009 and it is tied for the fourth best in state history. On the ground, Sisson had a team-high 732 yards and 24 touchdowns. Remarkably, of the 83 touchdowns Jamestown scored this season, Sisson accounted for 57 of them.
"Jake's a worthy recipient of the (Connolly Cup)," Langworthy said. "He had a marvelous season on the field. The statistics are stand alone in regard to all the football players in Western New York. ... There are so many great athletes here, but I think the award went to the right athlete today."
The other finalists were Randolph senior running back/defensive back Chris Doubek; Fredonia junior running back/defensive back Matt McCarthy; St. Joe's senior running back Nigel Davis; Alden sophomore running back/defensive back Lyle Grant; Akron senior wide receiver/running back Austen Lauricella; South Park senior quarterback Tyler Mascio; Canisius senior running back Qadree Ollison; Alden senior quarterback/defensive back Brian Stoldt; and Cleveland Hill senior running back/defensive back Brandon Thomas.
"I think what you understand about Jake is he's the full package," Langworthy said. "Obviously, he's an excellent quarterback and an excellent athlete, but he's also a tremendous teammate and tremendous citizen, and I think you'll see in years to come the ripple effects of what he's done because anyone who is interested in football between the ages of 4 and 14 right now wants to be like Jake Sisson, and that's a great person to want to be like. The athletic stuff is secondary.
"The character stuff is what it's all about."
While his college plans are undecided, Sisson has drawn interest from Division I-AA, Division II and Division III schools.
"I'll find a school that fits me, that wants me and that has my major in it, and go from there," he said.
Before Sisson and his family left the restaurant, though, his younger brother, Andrew, took a look at the huge Connolly Cup trophy sitting on a table and then back to his older brother, who was sporting a green sport coat.
"Hey, Jake, it looks like you just won The Masters," Andrew exclaimed.
In a season to remember, that's about all the Red Raider quarterback didn't do.
"It's a great honor to be here from Jamestown to represent such a great school," Sisson said.
Chris Doubek had heard the stories from 2005, the year the Randolph Cardinals came home with their first New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D football championship.
The tales he liked the best centered around the play of running back Nick Jackson.
Finally, when Doubek was a member of the Cardinals' junior varsity team a couple seasons ago, he had an opportunity to finally catch Jackson on tape.
''I watched a couple highlight films on him,'' Doubek recalled Thursday afternoon, ''and he ran guys over and had the moves, too. It was incredible. I wanted to be just like him.''
Doubek, believe it or not, surpassed his idol, and plenty of other outstanding running backs.
For after leading the Cardinals to the state title in November, Doubek completed his season for the ages with a Section 6-record 2,536 yards, breaking the mark set by Dustin Bowser of Southwestern in 2003.
''It makes me feel good that I've accomplished what I wanted to do when I was a kid,'' Doubek said. ''I just want to keep going and see how far I can get.''
His teammates, especially his offensive line of Cody Oldro, Michael Bowers, Wesley Senn, Jeff Andrews, Pat Kibbe and Bryce Morrison, are happy to help him get there.
''It doesn't happen very often,'' Cardinals head coach Brent Brown said. ''Sometimes these running backs get all the limelight, the offensive linemen get nothing and that kind of makes them a little mad, but not with this group. Anytime Chris Doubek is mentioned he (talks about the guys up front). ... He's sincere about it and so they'll block their butts off for this guy.''
Noted Oldro: ''We all respect Chris, we like to be around him and we know if Chris is scoring, we're winning games.''
The reason for that respect, Brown maintains, is because Doubek is such a hard worker.
''He's a quiet kid, but I'll tell you what, when he has something to say this group pays attention. ... He does the right thing and has done the right thing. He's extremely focused.''
An accomplished wrestler, Doubek is deceptively strong and fast, and packs a wallop when a defender gets in the way.
''His best run was against Maple Grove-Chautauqua Lake (during the regular season),'' Brown said. ''We missed a block and a kid hit him right in the hole. Hard. He just bounced out and went about 70 yards for a touchdown.
''That was kind of a nice Chris Doubek moment.''
Oldro remembers the time on defense when Doubek, a free safety, picked up an opponent and ''threw the kid over his shoulder.''
''Defensively, nobody talks about it,'' Brown said, ''but he's in the top three in tackles. He's kind of in charge of all the defensive backs. It's like having a coach out there. He's a smart kid.''
With a berth in the state semifinal at stake today, Doubek was asked what he'd be thinking about before falling asleep last night.
Among other things, he said he would pray and then ''hope for the best.''
I'm betting on No. 43.
''He's worked so hard to do what he's done,'' Brown said. ''It didn't happen by accident.''
MCKENNA MAYCOCK, RANDOLPH
MACKENZIE SWARTZMAN, FREWSBURG
McKenna Maycock, the Randolph Central School basketball, volleyball and track star, added another eye-popping entry to her voluminous personal athletic resume on a Tuesday in July at North Carolina A&T University.
She'll be able to file it under the following heading: ''All-American.''
Sparked by personal bests in the javelin and 800 meters - the penultimate and final events - the Randolph teenager representing the Chautauqua Striders earned All-American designation for the second time since 2011 by placing sixth in the 15-16 Girls heptathlon at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships.
''She's a two-time All-American,'' Chautauqua Striders coach David Reinhardt said. ''She's gone to two national meets and come home with two medals. To come home with a medal is something quite special.''
And, just like she did two summers ago at the USATF Nationals in Wichita, Kan., Maycock, who arrived in Greensboro ranked 13th, saved her best for last.
Starting the day in seventh place after compiling 2,451 points in four events on Monday, the junior-to-be at Randolph Central School began the second day with a ninth-place finish in the long jump (16-4 for 557 points), followed by a 16th-place throw in the javelin (71-1). The latter event dropped her into 10th place overall, Reinhardt said, but what was significant was the toss earned her nearly twice as many points (320) as her best throw (164) did at the regional meet two weeks ago at Strider Field. Given the competitiveness of the 31-athlete field, every point was precious.
''Coach (Liz) Aldrich worked with me (last week) and she was patient, even when I couldn't get it right,'' Maycock said. ''She gave me little notes so I could remember everything.''
Maycock didn't need any assistance in the final heptathlon event - the 800 - winning her heat in 2:18.63 to finish second overall and come away with 803 points.
''The difference between fifth and 12th place was separated by only 100 points,'' Reinhardt said. ''She needed to go out and give her best. Just for her to go from 10th to sixth, she needed her best.''
Leading her heat for the first 300 meters, Maycock relinquished her advantage, but got it back with between 200-300 meters remaining
''McKenna made a move and went by the girl and pretty much held the lead with a little bit of a kick as well,'' Reinhardt said. ''We knew she had a great time, but with all the girls so close it wasn't until 20 minutes later when we got the scores that came down from USATF.''
The numbers didn't lie. Maycock had jumped from 10th to sixth in the standings, good enough for All-American honors. Her aggregate point total - 4,170 - was 274 better than what she did at regionals two weeks ago and just 16 points behind fifth-place finisher Tairyn Montgomery of the Los Angeles Jets. The winner was Emma Fitzgerald, competing unattached, with 4,698 points.
''When you look at the heptathlon,'' Reinhardt said, ''it's speed, it's strength, it's endurance, it's mental toughness and it's seven events over two days.''
And to Maycock, who was a pentathlon All-American in the 13-14 Girls in Wichita in 2011, it's simply an ''awesome feeling.''
''Awesome" could describe all of 2013 that way.
A few days later, Maycock and Striders teammate Mackenzie Swartzman not only became All-Americans by finishing in the top eight at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships, but they also earned medals.
Maycock won a silver medal by finishing second in the 15-16 girls 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:01.91. She was edged by Akuira Young, who finished in 1:10.79.
''If McKenna would have had another 5 feet she would have won it,'' said Striders coach David Reinhardt.
It was the Randolph resident's second All-American designation this year, and third of her career, by finishing sixth in the heptathlon last week.
Swartzman, a freshman at Frewsburg, took third place in the 13-14 girls 1,500-meter race with a time of 4:47.00.
Maycock competed in the Junior Olympics in 2011 and was an All-American in the pentathlon, but she did not participate last year. This year was Swartzman's first as a member of the Striders and it was her first trip to the Junior Olympics.
''For as young as she is, she's a very talented distance runner,'' Reinhardt said.
In all, the Striders finished with three All-Americans. In addition to Maycock and Swartzman, Jordan Powers (see below) finished fourth in the steeplechase last week.
''It doesn't happen very often,'' Reinhardt said. ''That's probably one of our highest finishes in a long time.''
For the Maple Grove girls cross country team, there is always Hope.
Sophomore Hope Pietrocarlo became the first runner in school history to capture a New York State Public High School Athletic Association individual title when she toured the 5,000-meter course at Queensbury High School on Saturday in 18 minutes, 29.5 seconds to win by nearly 24 seconds.
''It's special and Hope is special,'' Maple Grove coach Doc Rappole said. ''She ran with the girl, Sage Hurta of Hamilton, who was picked to be No. 1. They stayed together for a mile and a half and Hope decided that was enough of that and she went off and did her own thing. It was a pretty impressive win.''
In combination with teammates, Caroline Benson (21st, 19:53), Taylor Norris (23rd, 19:53.3), Grace Auer (26th, 20:01.2) and Kristen Kelemen (42nd, 20:41.7), the Lady Red Dragons finished second in the team standings, finishing with 76 points to Tully's 45. Maple Grove had won the team title each of the last three seasons.
''We gave them a run for their money, but they were the better team,'' Rappole said.
Pietrocarlo, who named first-team all-state last week for the fourth straight year, also claimed titles in the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association and the Section 6 championships and she did nothing to dispel her reputation as a big-race runner.
''She's a racer,'' Rappole said. ''There are kids who are trainers and there are kids who are racers and she's a racer.''
For the boys, Maple Grove senior Corey Wefing was the top local finisher, claiming seventh place in Class D with a time of 16:12.5, 26 seconds behind winner Jeremy Spiezio of Greenwich.
By virtue of their performances, Wefing and Pietrocarlo competed in the Federation race a week later and, during Thanksgiving weekend, Pietrocarlo ran in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional in the Bronx.
If there existed an award for the area athlete who performed best across an entire year of athletic competition, one would be hard-pressed to find someone more deserving of the honor than Jordan Powers.
Yet somehow the Southwestern swimmer, hurdler and cross country ace, who during a whirlwind 2013 competed in not one, not two, but three New York State Public High School Athletic Association state championships, still managed to make an already sweet year that much sweeter on a July afternoon.
He became an All-American.
Competing in the 17-18 men's 2,000-meter steeplechase final at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships at North Carolina A&T University, Powers ran a blistering final lap, or, more accurately, a blistering final 500 meters, passing five competitors along the way and finishing fourth overall with a time of 6:22.37.
"We had a feeling this was going to be a good race for him," Chautauqua Striders coach David Reinhardt said on Thursday evening, "especially after the time he had at the (Region 2 Junior Olympics earlier this month). He had a really great last lap, last 500 meters, and from ninth place he moved up and up and up all the way to fourth."
The time was a personal best by a whopping nine seconds.
"He is just really happy," Reinhardt noted.
As he should be, especially considering that, after running the race's first lap at a furious pace with a group of anxious competitors - as is apt to happen in an event of this magnitude - he began to fade on laps three and four (of five).
"The race started off really, really fast," Powers said, "really fast and I tried to hold pace with the leaders. I dropped as low as 10th at one point, but was able to run really well the last 400 (meters)."
"They all went out a little harder than they should have," Reinhardt added, "and he went with them but fell back a little (later on). But at the end he was able to reserve a little energy, found his groove and when those guys out in front started to fall back he found the strength to catch quite a few of them (before the finish)."
Clayton Wilson, competing with a local Greensboro club, took first thanks to his time of 6:06.66.
With his solid showing at this event, Reinhardt and the rest of the Striders coaching staff have high hopes for Powers repeat at next year's USATF National Junior Olympics.
"The thing is he's at the bottom of the age group," Reinhardt said of the 17-year-old. "Next year in Houston he has a shot, if he continues with his distance work and stays committed, of making the top three - or even winning it."
When the bus carrying the newly crowned state champion Frewsburg Bears softball team pulled into the school parking lot in the wee hours of an early-June Sunday morning, the players, along with Coach Jon Blanchard and assistant coach Tom Mott, were greeted by more than 100 people.
Speeches were made.
Music was played.
Heck, the girls on the team even danced.
And when it all finally broke up, it was after 2 a.m.
No one seemed to care.
''That's a testament to how tight this community is,'' Blanchard said.
It's also a testament to a special group of young ladies who cared more about each other than they did about a game's outcome. To them, winning was merely a bonus; being together was the important thing.
''Our goal all year was to win the next game so we could play another two days together,'' Blanchard said. ''Tom Mott and I told the girls to have fun, play the game hard, but winning and losing wasn't the most important goal for our season.''
So last week when Frewsburg traveled to Olean for the Class C Far West Regional to take on top-ranked and unbeaten Keshequa, Blanchard was given a gentle reminder before the girls took the field by his youngest daughter, Kaitlyn, an eighth-grader on the team.
''She told me, 'Dad, the most important thing is for you to have fun, so we all play our best,''' he recalled.
The Bears breezed to an 8-1 victory, earning their third straight trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four.
''I don't think we were the most talented team,'' said Blanchard, who was named the state Class C Coach of the Year, ''but we did learn how to play together and we sure did love to play together, especially in that regional game. We came in against an undefeated team and the best team in the state for five weeks in a row and we were No. 12 or 13. Our goal was to go out and have as much fun as we could.''
The girls took that same attitude with them to Queensbury, determined to continue their postseason run as long as possible.
After dispatching of Pierson/Bridgehampton, 7-0, in the semifinal - seniors Sam Mott and Alanna Blanchard combined on a no-hitter - the Bears found themselves playing for the state championship for the first time in school history against Sandy Creek of Section 3.
''Throughout our playoff run,'' Blanchard said, ''we've had five or six different heroes in five or six games, which was kind of storybook.''
The ending confirmed that dreams do come true.
Leading, 2-1, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning- Frewsburg's runs were the result of Mott's solo home run and Alanna Blanchard's single - the Bears came ever so close to seeing the victory slip away. With the tying run at third, Mott's pitch deflected off the glove of catcher Reyanne Strong. At the very least, extra innings appeared an almost certainty.
''Reyanne ran back to the fence and slid like she would into second base,'' Blanchard said. ''She bare-handed the ball and then back-handed it to Sam, who was sliding into home to block the plate. She put the tag down.''
Mott held the ball up for the umpire to see.
The man in blue made the ''out'' call.
Frewsburg was finally a state champ.
''It all worked out the way we wanted it to work out,'' Blanchard said. ''We played the games for the right reason, I believe, and in the end it paid off. I think we taught the girls a lot of things about life in the last few years.''
In turn, the girls showed their coach how building relationships transcended anything that happened on the field.
''It's not science,'' Blanchard said. ''It's life. You get to that point where you build relationships with a group of 12 other girls and you know it's not based on how you perform, but on who you are.
''We really started to believe that.''
Others took notice.
Blanchard said at the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 2 all-star meeting, Frewsburg was the recipient of the team sportsmanship award. And when the hardware was presented in Queensbury last week, the Bears came away with the state sportsmanship award for the second straight year.
''I was almost as proud winning the sportsmanship award at the states as I was winning the state championship,'' Blanchard said. ''It was really an honor to win the states, but to also be recognized by all those people at the state tournament (was something special).''
''They won the championship for themselves,'' Blanchard said, ''but what they don't know is they won it for the however many players I've coached in the last 20 years. That's really what they did.
One Sunday morning in June, Fredonia Central School baseball coach Vince Gullo's phone rang.
On the line was Pete Criscione.
Conversations between Gullo (Fredonia, Class of '85) and his legendary former Hillbillies' mentor aren't unusual. Criscione called Gullo the day Fredonia set a school record for consecutive victories this spring and then he stopped to personally congratulate his former first baseman last week after the Hillbillies captured the Class B Far West Regional.
But this latest chat was especially meaningful for Gullo because it came on the heels of every coach's dream - a state championship. Less than 24 hours earlier, the Hillbillies had defeated Section 2's Ogdensburg, 9-2, in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B semifinal game at Union-Endicott's Sylvester Field and than blanked Clinton of Section 3, 7-0, in the title contest.
''He told me how proud he was and how excited he was for me and our team,'' Gullo recalled.
For the Hillbillies, congratulatory phone calls are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Gullo was a senior the year the Hillbillies advanced to the NYSPSHAA final four in 1985, securing Criscione's first of three Far West Regional titles. The others would come in 1993 and 1996. After each of those seasons, a banner was hung on a wall in the high school gymnasium, a reminder of the program's successes.
''That's everybody's goal in baseball to get a banner,'' Gullo said. ''We know the players who have been drafted (from here) and the legacy of Coach Criscione and Coach (Roger) Moore. We've been blessed here at Fredonia.''
The blessings continued this spring as Gullo and his staff of Charlie LaDuca, Bryan Bongiovanni, Greg Smith, Tim Cowan and Brent Thompson guided the Hillbillies to their fourth Far West Regional crown since 2005 and their second state title (the first was in 2006).
''Everybody had responsibilities ... and they took them real serious,'' Gullo said of his assistants. ''We helped each other out. Every time I needed something, they were there.''
The players, to their credit, bought in.
''They just wanted to learn,'' Gullo mused, ''and they listened to what everybody said. The confidence the coaches gave our kids (was huge).''
That showed in Union-Endicott.
After trailing 2-0 early in the semifinal, Fredonia scored six runs in the third inning and one in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth. Winning pitcher Trent Thompson settled down after a rocky start and faced just two batters over the minimum over the final four innings.
In the title game, sophomore Cameron Voss tossed a one-hit shutout and the Hillbillies (26-2) won in clinic-like fashion.
''It really hasn't hit me yet,'' Gullo said.
The Hillbillies will lose seven players to graduation, but will return, among others, Voss, who finished the season 7-0 with a 1.20 earned run average. In 62 innings, he gave up 28 hits and nine earned runs. For his career, the left-hander is 12-0.
''That's flabbergasting,'' Gullo said.
Seniors Nick Hart and Jude Gardner also turned in banner seasons. Hart, who was selected a MaxPreps second-team All-American, collected 40 hits (he batted .435), scored a school-record 47 runs and stole 26 bases, while Gardner batted .430, scored 32 runs and had 21 RBIs.
''It's the end of the journey, a two-year journey with the way we lost in the regional last year,'' Gullo said. ''Next year, it will be a new journey with new players. We'll (set) our goals and see how we turn out.''
If history is any barometer, the Hillbillies will be at or near the top.
According to a Business First article released last week, Fredonia is the fourth-best high school athletics program in Western New York over the past four years.
''I think it's our community,'' Gullo said. ''We take a lot of pride (in athletics) and we have great feeder programs. Hundreds of kids (play sports) and the coaching they get at those levels instills a winning attitude.''
After winning his first state title in 2006, Gullo and the rest of that team received championship rings. Since then, Gullo has worn his ring only on special occasions. In fact, he admits to slipping it on only three times a year - Father's Day, Fourth of July and once during the baseball season.
He and Bongiovanni, a member of that 2006 team, decided to pull out their jewelry after the Hillbillies' Far West Regional victory. LaDuca, meanwhile, wore the state championship ring he earned when he coached Pine Valley to a title in 2007, for the duration of his stay in greater Binghamton.
Are they superstitious?
But when it comes to the Hillbillies' performance on the diamond, there is no mystery. In fact, after school on Monday, Gullo called a final team meeting.
''Some kids still wanted to practice,'' he said.
As Mitchell Moore took in the vast and hectic scene that was the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Cicero-North Syracuse High School just about this time last year, Jamestown coach Steve Sipior couldn't help but notice something different about the youngster, who was then still just a sophomore.
"He got the taste for the state meet then," Sipior recalled. "Just to make the trip to Syracuse (to see friend and teammate Taylor Bennett) when he hadn't qualified was big, and then we talked about it and I asked him, 'Is this where you want to be next year?'"
You can guess what the answer was.
Call it drive, call it ambition; call it whatever you like. Moore, for whom everything had finally clicked just a few short weeks before when he raced to a fifth-place finish at the Section 6 Championships, had it to a greater degree than he ever had before.
After having played basketball the two seasons prior, the junior decided this time around to focus entirely on track, and he honed his skills during the winter indoor season, working out, training, getting stronger and, along the way setting a new school record in the 55-meter hurdles.
"His winter of preparation was a huge part (of his success this year in outdoor track and field competition) as far as technical work, base work and having more time in the weight room," Sipior said.
So when outdoor season finally came around, Moore was nigh unbeatable - and in the process, it soon became clear that he was the obvious choice to be this year's The Post-Journal boys track and field athlete of the year.
"That's a no-brainer," Sipior said.
First, he kicked the season off on the right foot when he set a new standard in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at the Olean Invitational, finishing the race in just 55.76. In that same meet he also took the 110 hurdles in 15.66, and earned a coveted Fay Cousens Memorial plaque as one of the most outstanding athletes.
Next, he took part in the highly-competitive Falconer Invitational, and when all was said and done he had been selected, yet again, as the meet's most outstanding athlete, having captured the 110 hurdles, the 400 hurdles and the 200-meter dash.
The Red Raider was the only competitor to win three events.
And he kept on winning; more often than not three or more events - his main focus was on the 110 and 400 hurdles and the triple jump - a meet.
"He's pulling in 15 or 20 points per meet for us," Sipior marvelled at the time. "It's been amazing."
All in all, Moore, who at one point during the season was ranked No. 6 nationally amongst high school juniors in the 400 hurdles, would lose just one race - a 110 high hurdles contest against Frontier - during Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division 1 dual meet action.
"It was a rare occurrence for Mitch to lose a race," Sipior said. "He's not a machine, but he was very, very, very good."
Moore continued his run late into the season, taking a pair of events at the Super 8 Meet of Champions and then besting the competition in the Section 6 State Qualifier by a whopping three seconds when he finished in just 55.97.
The time, which earned him a place in the upcoming state meet, was the culmination of that year-long dream.
Moore would take eighth at states, finishing in 56 seconds flat.
With another season on the horizon, the Red Raiders' goals haven't diminished in the slightest, and he's already looking at improving on last year's finish. That, and perhaps setting a few more records a long the way.
"One of the kids who keeps coming up is Will Cole," Sipior said, referring to the Section 6 record-holder who set the 400-hurdles mark in 2008. "Cole is a guy that people still talk about in hushed tones because he was such a phenomenal athlete.
"But school records, meet records, section records - Mitch wants them all."
And given what he's accomplished to this point in his career, it's wouldn't a surprise if he got them.
No stranger to high-level wrestling - the man was a coach for the United States women's freestyle team at last summer's London Olympic games - Fredonia coach Alex Conti doesn't mince words when talking about his young freshman, Dakota Gardner.
"I believe that he is capable of winning three state championships," he said. "I believe he's capable of being an Olympic athlete."
High praise, to be sure, but in this case the youngster backs up those lofty accolades by his deeds - deeds that this season included a second-place finish at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association state tournament (the best finish amongst area wrestlers); deeds that have now made him The Post-Journal's first-ever freshman Wrestler of the Year.
"That's pretty impressive and quite an accomplishment," Conti said with a laugh after being asked to examine that achievement in the context of Western New York's solid wrestling history.
Already at 87 victories by the close of his eighth-grade season, Gardner had another outstanding showing this time around, going 46-2 (with 22 pins) to improve his total career win tally to a whopping 131 - the most ever by a Western New York wrestler (he broke former Fredonia wrestler Kenny Betts' previous mark) by the end of one's freshman season.
Along the way to achieving that impressive standard, Gardner, a 126-pounder who went undefeated in Dual meets, just about dominated whomever he stepped into the circle with.
The Randolph Lady Cardinals (22-2) ended their terrific season on Sunday by falling to the Haldane Lady Blue Devils (7-8) in three sets 19-25, 17-25, 17-25 in the New York state Public High School Athletic Association Class D girls volleyball championship match at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
The Randolph Lady Cardinals (22-2) ended their terrific season in November by falling to the Haldane Lady Blue Devils (7-8) in three sets 19-25, 17-25, 17-25 in the New York state Public High School Athletic Association Class D girls volleyball championship match at the Glens Falls Civic Center.a
After splitting sets with the Lady Blue Devils in pool play on a Saturday, the teams earned the right to face off once more in a full five-set match for the title on Sunday. While the Lady Cardinals were able to muster enough offense to claim a set off Haldane in the pool-play game, it was a different story a day later.
"We only play one Class D team all year during the regular season, and the rest of our games are against larger schools," said Haldane coach Melissa Rossano.
And that explains Haldane's sub-.500 record.
It was Haldane's fourth state title while Randolph was seeking its third. The Lady Cardinals lost to the Lady Blue Devils in the title match in 2007.
After the match, sportsmanship awards were presented to Cierra Farmer and Maycock of Randolph as well as Sara Chirico and Cunningham of Haldane.
For Randolph, McKenna Maycock finished with 17 kills and 20 digs, Alexis Terrette had 10 assists and 10 digs, Miranda Gross had six assists, and Hilary Clinger added 10 digs.
In her stellar performance, Vahos had 23 kills and 10 digs while Cunningham notched 10 kills and nine digs, Chirico had 32 assists and eight digs, and Maya Curto had 13 digs.
"Obviously you don't want to go out this way," Coach Maycock said. "But we have had a great year and I'm proud of all the girls."
With both Maycock and Vahos in line to return for their senior seasons, a rematch could be on tap next year.
"They always come to play and are a great team," said Rossano. "We look forward to playing them."
Drew Chaddock and Jake Yartz each had 76s as the Jayhawks finished in third place at the NCAA Division III?National Golf Championships in June.
Brenton Wilcox finished with a 78 and Jordy Farnham had a 79.
An 80 by Andrew Bird was thrown out.
Chaddock finished with a 223 total for 54 holes and earned first-team All-American honors.
He finished the front nine at 10-over 36 and then moved to even par with a birdie at No. 10. But he bogeyed 11 and 12, got one back with a birdie at 13, but bogeyed 14, 17 and 18.
''I was just hitting my ball in the wrong spot,'' he said about the bogeys.
Yartz, who was a first-team All-American last year, had a 54-hole total of 226 for second-team honors. And that's not too bad after playing all week with his left foot and ankle wrapped after he aggravated an earlier fracture. He admitted it was killing him on the back nine.
''I can barely walk,'' he said. ''I knew I had to tough it out.''
Georgie Gens of Fredonia Central School continued her storybook tennis season in November by earning one of the Section 6 berths in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Tournament.
Gens, a freshman and seeded 15th going into the sectional tournament at the Village Glen, lost to Nicole Kozinski of Clarence, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, putting her in the consolation round. There, Gens, who was the No. 4 singles in Chautauqua County, defeated Leighanna Hewes of Hamburg, 6-3, 6-4, to earn a spot on the Section 6 team, which traveled to Latham for the state tournament at the Tri-City Tennis Center.
A year ago, Rachel Mole of Frewsburg earned a spot on the Section 6 team that competed at Tri-City.