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Homer quartet hopes to benefit from familiarity

NYSPHSAA Track and Field

Four Homer Central athletes will be in familiar surroundings when they compete at the New York State Public High School Division II Track and Field Championships Friday and Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

Schools with an enrollment in grades 10-12 over 600 compete in Division I and schools with an enrollment under 600 compete in Division II.

Trojans seniors Grant Stokoe, Andrew Swenson and Kollin Van Wagenen, along with junior Teddy Mercer, will be competing in the 3,200-meter relay for a second straight year. Homer freshman Jed Swayze is the alternate and would compete if one of the four isn’t unable to run that day.

The quartet ran at Union- Endicott High School in last year’s state meet posting a time of 8:21.90 to place eighth in Division II and 21st overall. At last Thursday’s Section 3 State Qualifier, the four posted a new school-record time of 8:09.24 at C-NS as the team took first place in Division II and third overall. They are the fifth seed for Saturday’s race at 2:05 p.m.

“The 4×800 relay has delivered all year,” Homer coach George Schneider said. “So far this year they have won the indoor and outdoor league and sectional championships and broken the indoor and outdoor school records. Over the course of the indoor and outdoor seasons, the team has a combined 86-4 record against all competition and are undefeated against small school competition. The state meet will definitely be a change in the level of competition. The team will enter Saturday’s race seeded fifth in Division II with the goal of a podium finish.”

Stokoe will actually get a jump on the competition, as he will run in the 800m final Friday at 3 p.m. He posted an overall victory in the event with a time of 1:57.49 at the Section 3 State Qualifier.

“I think I like them,” Stokoe said of his chances. “My seed time isn’t actually what I ran in an 800 before. I think my seed should be faster and it isn’t. I think I can stay up with the top guys. My chances are looking pretty good.”

At C-NS last Thursday, Stokoe bolted into the lead immediately, dominated the first 400 meters and was never challenged over the second 400 meters.

Asked if he can repeat that effort, he laughed and said “I will see how I’m feeling. I’m not sure yet. It might work again or it might not. A different strategy might work. It’s all about feeling it out from my personal experiences.”

“Grant is currently the number two 800 runner in school history and hopes to change that position on Friday,” Schneider said. “He has yet to lose an 800-meter race this spring and hasn’t really had a close race all spring. He will enter Friday’s race seeded fifth in Division II.

The top six finishers earn a place on the podium. I would not be surprised to see Grant break the school record and finish on the podium.”

As for Saturday, the 4x800m relay team has Stokoe competing in his fifth state meet while it is the fourth trip for Mercer.

For Van Wagenen and Swenson, it is their second trip.

Stokoe and Mercer have competed in both the cross country and indoor state meets this season. Overall, all four have gained valuable experience.

“That atmosphere is still the same,”Mercer said. “Getting the experience is great.”

“Usually we are one of the fastest teams at meets,” Swenson added. “It was an eyeopening experience last year. We realized we were small fish. We are a lot wiser this year.”

As for the 8:09 they ran at the qualifier, Van Wagenen and Stokoe think they can post a faster time as a team.

“I certainly can,” Van Wagenen said. “I didn’t run a personal-best in the state qualifier. I am looking to go a lot faster.”

“I like our chances,” Stokoe said. “Last week at the qualifier, one of our guys didn’t run his whole potential. He knows he can run faster and we all think we can run faster as a group. I think our chances are looking pretty good.”

The Homer athletes also had these comments on their expectations at the state meet.

Stokoe: “I think it helps since I’ve gone to a few state meets now. I got used to the atmosphere. Everyone is really good. You feel like you belong there. I think that will help with our confidence as a relay team.”

Mercer: “I am expecting a medal this year. I hope that going back with three guys who are seniors that we can get a public school or federation medal. That’s really the goal this year.”

Van Wagenen: “It certainly helps to have some experience going in. I think we can grab a medal. We are seeded in a medal spot so we hopefully we can do a bit better and be a little faster.”

Swenson: “Right now we are seeded fifth and we are looking to do better than that. With our relay order, I don’t think we will run into any mismatches where we could end up way behind. We’re not going to spend the whole day up there to avoid the heat, not get dehydrated or burned out before we compete.“

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