By Collin Bolebruch
Runners, throwers and jumpers have the opportunity to qualify for higher competition every meet. Track and field athletes put in the hours yearlong, all motivated by something different. The Plattsburgh Cardinals men’s and women’s team members’ hard work and dedication to improvement all come together in May — championship month. The Cards put it all on the line in the SUNYAC Championships at SUNY Oneonta last weekend, May 5 and 6, and walked away with a lot to be happy about.
Three Cardinals went home with bling. Aislyn McDonough earned the gold medal in the women’s 800-meter run with a time of 2:15.10. She also won gold in the indoor 800. Janyll Barber took home silver in the women’s 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:00.70, the school record, and at the time, the third-fastest time in Division III. Barber is expected to compete in the DIII Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships at St. John Fisher University in Pittsford, New York. On day one of competition, Barber recorded a 100-meter hurdles time of 14.97, a personal best and the school record. Brexton Montville won silver in the men’s 100-meter dash with a time of 10.71.
The meet featured eight other SUNYAC teams: Brockport, Buffalo State, Cortland, Fredonia, Geneseo, Oneonta, Oswego and Potsdam. The Cardinals women’s and men’s teams both place sixth with 54.5 and 29 points, respectively. Geneseo finished first in both men’s and women’s. Plattsburgh’s Noah Bonesteel and Aiden Masten were awarded with the SUNYAC Elite 20 Award, given to SUNYAC Championship competitors with the highest cumulative GPA.
The first day of competition featured several decathlon and heptathlon events; the first round of multiple sprint and mid-distance events; and the final in the 10,000-meter run and multiple field events.
Multiple Cardinals competed in first-round day one events, but did not advance to day two: Mikayla Khadijah in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 17.10 and Morgan Thompson in the 400-meter run with a time of 1:03.44.
Plattsburgh had two runners compete in the 10,000-meter run: Michael Brockway, from the men’s team, finished 12th with a time of 33:39.47 and Sarah Smith, from the women’s team, finished 11th with a time of 41:36.82.
The only jumping event of the day, the long jump, featured two Cardinals: Masten from the men’s team placed 18th jumping 6.21 meters, and Michaela Schaffer from the women’s team placed fifth jumping 5.39 meters.
Plattsburgh fielded two men’s team members and no one from the women’s team in the hammer throw: Jorge Cabrera’s best throw placed him ninth, measuring 41.82 meters and Spencer Trudo’s best placed him 15th, measuring 34.49 meters.
Kaitlyn Bjelko was the lone women’s team thrower on day one. She competed in the javelin throw, placing eighth and recording a throw that measured 29.41 meters.
Plattsburgh sent one athlete for the men’s decathlon and two for the women’s heptathlon. The men’s team’s Thomas Gilbo recorded numbers in five decathlon events on day one: the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.10, the 400-meter run with a time of 57.31, the long jump with a measurement of 5.76 meters, the shot put with a throw of 9.33 meters and the high jump with a measurement of 1.67 meters.
The women’s team members competed in four events on day one. Marissa DeLuc finished the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 17.93, the 200-meter dash with a time of 27.77, the high jump with a measurement of 1.41 meters and the shot put with a measurement of 8.91 meters. Katie Bergé finished the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 19.11, the 200-meter dash with a time of 29.66, the high jump with a measurement of 1.41 meters and the shot put with a measurement of 6.17 meters.
Day two of SUNYACs included the conclusion of the decathlon and the heptathlon; the final short-, mid- and long-distance runs; relay and hurdles runs; and the rest of the field events.
Gilbo finished the decathlon, completing the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 17.15, the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:51.21, the discus throw with a measurement of 27.62 meters, the pole vault with a measurement of 2.50 meters and the javelin throw with a measurement of 34.92 meters. Gilbo placed ninth out of nine competitors overall, with a score of 4,889.
DeLuc and Bergé both finished the heptathlon. DeLuc competed in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:43.62, the long jump with a measurement of 4.96 meters and the javelin throw with a measurement of 22.38 meters. Bergé did not finish the 800. Bergé finished the long jump with a measurement of 4.09 meters and the javelin throw with a measurement of 13.64 meters. DeLuc placed fourth out of seven competitors with a score of 3,539, and Bergé finished seventh with a score of 2,192.
Plattsburgh had runners in two different distance events, including the 5,000-meter run and the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Marissa Colvin from the women’s team finished the 5,000 with a time of 19:38.28, and Logan Van Buren from the men’s team finished it with a time of 16:21.31. Two Cardinals recorded times in the steeplechase, including Ginny Lucchetti with a time of 12:55.50 and Erik Kucera with a time of 9:54.38.
The Cardinals had a team in each relay event. In the women’s 4×100-meter, Schaffer, Morgan Thompson, Deanna Zoch and Jasmine Piper had a time of 51:00. In the men’s 4×100-meter, Jordan Williams, Charles Cypress, Cameron Giuliano and Masten had a time of 43.83. The men’s 4×400-meter featured Justin Kumrow, Nick Gelsomino, Cypress and Bonesteel, who recorded a collective time of 3:30.01. The women’s 4×400-meter featured Thompson, McDonough, Piper and Lucchetti, who recorded a collective time of 4:24.46.
Barber was the only Cardinal to compete in a hurdles final. Alongside her second-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles, she finished the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 15.12.
Plattsburgh fielded competitors in two different short-distance events. In the 100-meter dash, behind Montville’s second-place finish, Cypress had a time of 10.87 and Williams had a time of 11.02. In the 200-meter dash, Montville finished with a time of 22.20 and Cypress finished with a time of 22.45.
Two Cardinals ran in two mid-distance events, including McDonough’s win. Bonesteel was the lone Cardinal in the 1,500-meter run, finishing with a time of 3:59.86.
Teams ended the day with field events. Plattsburgh had four athletes record measurements in three different events: Schaffer in the triple jump with a measurement of 10.67 meters, Piper in the discus throw with a measurement of 36.10 meters, Becca Christie in the high jump with a measurement of 1.47 meters and Bjelko in the shot put with a measurement of 12.71 meters. Aidan Tous was slated to participate in the shot put and discus throw, but was unable to attend SUNYACs because of an illness, and received a “did not start”.
After McDonough crossed the finish line first during the 800-meter run, the first emotion she felt wasn’t pride or accomplishment, but rather one of relief. This moment was a long time coming for her.
McDonough has competed in the 800 in the SUNYAC indoor and outdoor championships and the AARTFC indoor and outdoor championships consistently since 2019. She qualified for the 800 in the DIII NCAA Indoor National Championships in 2022.
McDonough’s indoor gold win this season, her fifth and final year, was the first of her career. She recorded a time of 2:16.37 and qualified for regional competition at The Armory in New York City. In the regionals 800 a week later, she ran what she called the worst race of her life. Her time was almost six seconds slower, at 2:22.31.
“Going into this year, I feel like I just kind of let the pressure really build up and my mentality was suffering because of that. I was just very anxious and nervous before every race,” McDonough said. “I have very high expectations for myself. I know the work I had been putting in wasn’t really equating to the times I was running.”
Anxiety is something McDonough has been dealing with since her senior season. She felt intense pressure before every competition. Her mind was on regionals before the first meet of the 2023 outdoor season.
McDonough had been struggling to hit times this season that she knows she’s capable of. Before SUNYACs, she failed to record a time under the 2:20.00 mark. It all came together for her last weekend.
“All of the doubt and all of the ruts that I felt like I had been hitting just finally paid off and came together,” McDonough said. “I felt like I didn’t waste my time taking a fifth year, because I didn’t have to compete this year.”
McDonough thinks back to the race she qualified for nationals in and how she “didn’t care about anything” during it. To prepare herself for races, McDonough has been attempting to “channel that energy” she felt, applying her care-free mentality to deal with her anxious feelings. She has also been journaling and repeating affirming mantras to put herself in the right mindset for competition.
As a fifth year student, McDonough knows one of her next races is her last. So do Cardinals like Bjelko and Tous. When she leaves the program, she knows it’s in good hands. Performances from first-year athletes in the SUNYACs like DeLuc’s and Cypress’ give support to that opinion. Head Coach Andrew Krug agrees.
“The backbones of our team, for the last couple of years, we lose them to graduation at the end of the season, so knowing that we have a promising future is great,” Krug said. “There are big things to come from people like Mikayla Khadijah, Marissa LeDuc, Charles Cypress, Tom Gilbo and many others.”
Cardinals looking to compete in regionals have two more opportunities. Plattsburgh currently has two last-chance qualifying meets scheduled. The team will send athletes attempting to qualify to the CNY Fast Chance Meet in Utica, New York, hosted by Utica College May 14 or the Widener Final Qualifier in Chester, Pennsylvania, hosted by Widener University May 15.
Plattsburgh now turns its head to the next stage of competition: regionals. The program is sending 14 Cardinals to the AARTFC Championships at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. The number is almost triple last year’s five qualifiers. Some Cardinals qualified for multiple events, but may not compete in them all.
Qualifiers include Barber in the 100-meter hurdles, the 400-meter hurdles and the 200-meter dash; Bjelko in shot put; Bonesteel in the 800-meter run and the 1,500-meter run; Brockway in the 10,000-meter run; Cypress in the 100-meter run and the 200-meter run; Kucera in the 3,000-meter steeplechase; LeDuc in the heptathlon; McDonough in the 800-meter run; Montville in the 100-meter dash; and Schaffer in the long jump and the 4×100-meter dash on a team that also includes Thompson, Zoch and Piper.
Assistant Coach Jordyn Naylon called regionals a “fun bonus.” Without team scoring and national competition often being a long shot for a large group from one school, it’s a chance for everyone to record better numbers and face strong competition. Naylon said regionals isn’t an “unattainable, random, weird meet” and it will be an opportunity for everyone to have fun.