They began their season earlier this month with a pair of meets, and then saw their spring vacation put things on hold for two weeks. But things are about to pick up again in a big way for the Sawyers as they reconvene on the field of competition with a trip to Rondout Valley on Tuesday, April 26.
That break may prove fruitful for the Saugerties boys, who’ve dropped their first two meets to Wallkill and Onteora by a combined score of 202-75. Don’t let the scoring gap fool you, though. The Sawyers have been incredibly competitive, with solid individual performances by athletes like Brian Gaida.
Gaida, a senior with three years of track and field experience under his belt, primarily competes in the discus and shot put, but also occasionally performs in a distance running event. Gaida placed first in the discus against Wallkill in the season opener at home on Tuesday, April 5 with a distance of 109 feet, 11 inches. To hear Gaida tell it, losing a meet only makes the team want to work harder so it doesn’t happen again.
“I’m very confident this year in the team as a whole,” he said. “We have four extremely dedicated coaches that try and encourage everyone to go out and give it their all. If we win a meet, that’s excellent. But if we lose, that just shows us how much harder we have to work to get what we want.”
For Gaida, the hard work is the most likely path to success.
“The most significant thing about track and field to me is the fact that your progress in the different events is directly correlated to how hard you push yourself in practice,” he said.
Gaida said he doesn’t see competition as just facing off with opposing athletes, but also his own achievements.
“I feel that each meet I go to is equally important,” he said. “I go to each one with the intention to not just compete with the other athletes, but also with myself. It’s always a good feeling placing in a meet, but the one thing that really makes me happy is if I beat my own personal record. Beating my PR shows me that the time and effort I put in at practice is actually worth it. Also, it tells me that now I have to work even harder to beat myself once again.”
Will McCoy, another senior and fellow shot putter, has also had his share of early success, placing first against both Wallkill (41-7 3/4) and Onteora (42-11). He said he considers Wallkill the Sawyers’ greatest rival, though as he heads into his final season, McCoy noted that the boys team hasn’t always been able to give as much as they tended to get.
“Playing for SHS has been a great experience,” he said. “While our teams have never been very successful, I think I’ve grown a lot emotionally and I can gladly say that I am prepared to enter the collegiate world.”
Ron Turner has also performed well for the Sawyer boys, with three first place finishes against Onteora, including the 100 (11.2), 200 (23.3) and 400 (53.7).
Though he made it clear he’s prepared for competition this season, McCoy didn’t sound confident in the boys’ chances at success this season. The girls, on the other hand, might make more of a splash.
“I think the girls’ team has a good chance at succeeding,” he said. “The guys’ team is going to have a rough time.”
The Sawyer girls split their two opening meets, dominating Wallkill 77-55, while coming up short against Onteora 93-51. As on the boys’ team, the girls had their own share of early standouts, including seniors Kacey Gardner and Sam Peterson.
Gardner, who competes in the 4X400 relay, is also a terrific individual events athlete, winning the high jump against Wallkill (4-8) and the 200 against Onteora (27.6). A soccer player in the fall, Gardner has high hopes for the season.
“I’m actually really pumped for this year,” she said. “I think our girls’ team has a good chance at doing well. beat Wallkill for the first time in years, and the team is really strong in several areas.”
Peterson, a six-year track and field veteran with specialties in the discus and shot put, agreed.
“The team is looking strong this year,” she said. “We’ve already won one of our home meets and I think that we’ll have a good season. We have an especially strong throwing team this year and we’ve been able to push each other enough to keep improving.”
The team’s younger players who in the future will build on whatever successes the Sawyers rack up this season are also a crucial part of where they are in the present. Catherine Davis, a sophomore multi-event athlete, said she prefers track and field to other sports because it’s a combination of physical and mental ability.
“I like the fact that it has all the qualities of a regular team sport but with the exception that when you run it is not just you against the other team but you against yourself,” she said. “I feel that track is a mental sport as well because some people are too scared to jump hurdles or do pole vault so to an extent you need to be brave to do this sport.”
The members of the girls’ team have a wide range of reasons they love competing for Saugerties High. For Gardner, it’s about gratitude.
“The team is lucky to even exist this year, and that drives us all to do better,” she said. “We want to show the people of Saugerties how good we can be and how grateful we are for their support.”
Yolanda Schmadel, a junior multi-event athlete, said she likes being able to overcome expectations.
“It means I can show off what talents I have but also make our school look good,” Schmadel said. “We have more talent than people may think.”
For Davis, it’s at least partly about carrying on a tradition that’s been in her family for years.
“All of my family members went to this school and lived in this town for a very long time,” she said. “I’m proud to represent the town of Saugerties.”
After their trip to Rondout Valley, the Sawyers stay busy, with two more road meets before they return home to host FDR on Tuesday, May 10.