Jack Andrejko, Josh Foley, Brandon Nguyen, Ian Denny, Julien Brownlow, Curtis Merrick, Griffin Merkling
R.J. Romeo, Luke Valenti, Chris Catalano, Colin Kelly, Will Mackenzie, Jason Boule
Here is a top 10 for the Web site for the Inside High School Sports show for the week of January 23…
- Now a timetable is emerging as to when we might know the ultimate fate of winter sports. Early this week the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced that it would have a meeting of its Executive Committee on February 3. Up until now NYSPHSAA had not changed anything since its announcement late last year that there wouldn’t be winter sports state championships, hoping that somehow state officials would change the “high-risk” designation given to basketball, ice hockey, wrestling and volleyball which had kept everyone in those sports sidelined. Now there’s a couple of weeks where the hope of decreasing infection numbers and hospitalizations could lead to a change of heart at the top.
- In case that didn’t work, a loose coalition of athletes, coaches, athletic directors, parents and a few state politicians are coalescing around a “Let Them Play” campaign that is gaining adherents with each passing day. It gained another ally when newly elected state senator John Mannion voiced his support for legislation essentially asking for all sports to resume, citing both the need to boost the mental health of kids not allowed to take part in extracurricular activities and a chance at scholarships for the best of them. Also, Mannion, a former schoolteacher, noted that travel teams in those high-risk sports have continued without the rigid social-distance and masking rules schools would need in order to go forward.
- Even bigger for this burgeoning let-them-play effort, from a Central New York perspective, was having Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon publicly advocate a full return to high school sports during Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing. Citing the decreasing infection rate and fewer people in the hospital, along with the steady pace of vaccinations, McMahon in particular emphasized the fact that schools have never really served as spreaders since the fall, and expressed his confidence that schools could take all the safety measures necessary. He also reinforced the mental-health perspective expressed by others, that kids playing sports are engaged in healthy life habits, which sure beats staying at home.
- Somehow it all seemed to work, too, because on Friday the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that high-risk sports activities could begin on February 1 pending the approval of health officials in each of New York State’s counties. This is bound to create a long series of meetings next week across the state among schools, their athletic directors, superintendents and other interested parties as to whether they can pull off some kind of winter season. But this was where all the pressure put on by students, parents, coaches, ADs and state politicians paid off – to at least have a chance to see basketball, ice hockey, wrestling and volleyball next month and then Fall Sports II, with football, in March and April.
- Yet another event proved a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic when it was announced early this week that the boys and girls basketball state Federation tournament was canceled for the second year in a row. This was a long-time event played in Glens Falls in the week following the NYSPHSAA championships and stayed in Glens Falls even when the boys state final four spent three years in Binghamton. The Federation tournament was slated to move to Fordham University’s historic Rose Hill Gym before the pandemic hit since so many of the participating teams are from New York City or Long Island, and the hope is that the tournament will still take place there come March of 2022.
- In the meantime, we now have a boys swimming season underway. In order to have a head-to-head meet last weekend and have it in a single venue, Jamesville-DeWitt/CBA and Baldwinsville were each designated two lanes at the J-D pool so that there would be minimal interaction between the teams, plus the usual masking, social distance, no high-fives or hugs, and no spectators. Led by two wins apiece from Nathaniel Wales, Nathan Chen and Bobby Diel, J-D/CBA prevailed 91-81, a day after Fayetteville-Manlius won its opener over Oneida 94-78 at Cazenovia College, the Hornets seeing Lucas Wieres and Eric Bang each win twice, Bang actually getting in a dead heat with Ben Rabin in the 200 freestyle.
- It was here that Liverpool’s powerful boys swim team entered the fray this week, hosting Baldwinsville at the Warriors’ new revamped facilit. The Warriors recorded a 94-77 victory led by returning stars Griffin Merkling and Jack Andrejko, and it was Merkling in particular who dazzled. In the 100-yard backstroke, Merkling’s time of 52.71 seconds broke the pool record to go with a quick 1:47.75 in the 200 freestyle and help in two different relay victories. Andrejko, who also took part in two winning relays, swept the sprint races, the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, going 51.17 seconds in the latter of those two events as the Warriors again figured to be favored in every single meet this winter.
- Now we will find out if Christian Brothers Academy graduate Stevie Scott III will make his way to the National Football League. After a tremendous junior season where he led the Indiana Hoosiers to its first top 10 AP ranking in 50 years and a New Year’s Day bowl bid, Scott declared himself for the NFL Draft. At 6-foot-2 and 231 pounds, Scott actually had his best statistical season as a freshman when he gained 1,137 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Better talent around him meant that Scott’s numbers went down the next two years but he got more valuable especially late in games. Scott ended up with 2,543 career rushing yards, ninth all-time on Indiana’s list, and his physical gifts would work with any NFL team.
- In a somewhat related note, another famous former running back from Central New York made news. Michael Hart, of state championship fame at Onondaga in the early 2000s, was serving as running backs at Indiana where Stevie Scott III flourished. But when there was a staff shake-up among Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Hart’s college alma mater, Michigan, the running backs coach job for the Wolverines opened up – and Hart accepted, so like Scott he is leaving Bloomington, but heading to Ann Arbor, where he is still the program’s all-time leading rusher with more than 5,000 yards and is absolutely vital to trying to bring the Michigan program back to prominence after it suffered a rare sub-.500 record in 2020.
- Much closer to home, the running duo of Tully’s Brooke Rauber and Cicero-North Syracuse’s Kate Putman continues to pile up honors without an indoor track and field season here. Last weekend, at the Virginia Showcase in Virginia Beach, Rauber won the 1,000-meter run, her time of two minutes, 49.29 breaking the Section III record of 2:50.90 in that race set four years ago by Fayetteville-Manlius’ Olivia Ryan. And Putman, who is Rauber’s training partner, took second place in 2:53.75, moving from fourth place in the final 200-meter lap as Rauber allowed others to set a quick pace before taking the lead midway through and then pulling away. Rauber also was second in the one-mile run in 4:49.06 as Putman finished 14th.
Would you like to get more involved in our show?
The best way is to meet up with our Road Crew: they’re always traveling around to games looking to stay in touch with our proud local sports community!