Norwich sweeps 12th annual REK ‘Friends Forever’ Invitational; multiple records fall

Frank Speziale Photo

NORWICH – The REK Invitational seemed to go off without a hitch on Friday, May 5, save the occasional heavy session of rain – Norwich’s boys and girls earned first place team finishes, topping the Sidney Warriors and Unadilla Valley Storm.

This rain failed to slow down any of the top Chenango County Track and Field athletes, as multiple top-end records fell to the wayside during the 12th annual running of the REK.

The REK began the same way it has for the past 12 years, with a 100m memorial walk to remember the lives of Rachel Nargiso, Emily Collins, and Katie Almeter – all NHS graduates in 2000. The trio tragically lost their lives in a car accident on the campus of Colgate University in Hamilton, in November of 2000.

To note how precious life can be and to remember the three Norwich athletes who lost their lives too soon, the REK acts as a way to bring all together – 12 seasons later and one can find some of the top area Track and Field athletes competing all in one spot, in a friendly, yet competitive manor.

The Norwich boys and girls sought to dominate the home invitational, doing just that with first-place finishes on both sides. The Norwich boys earned themselves a 183 point day, besting Sidney in second-place with 67 and Unadilla Valley in third at 65. Norwich’s Zack Race took home a second consecutive year of being named the Male MVP award for the boys track, breaking four meet records on the day. Dale Lake of Morrisville-Eaton was named the Male MVP for the field events.

The Tornado girls followed suite of the boys, taking home a first-place team win with 181 points. This 181 points bested Unadilla Valley at 71 points and Greene at 61 points. Norwich’s Caroline Stewart was named Female MVP for the field events, breaking two meet records. Morgan Westerman of Cherry Valley-Springfield was named the Female MVP for the track events.

The 4x100m relay was claimed by the Norwich quartet of David Berger, Zack Race, Ky’sawn Veale and Eric Conant. The Tornado sprinters raced to a new school and subsequently the meet record when they ran a time of 44.39 for a first-place finish. Notably, the record was previously held by Josh Favaloro, Morgan Crawford, David Layman, and Patrick Taylor at 44.43 – a record set in 2011.

Claiming a second-place finish behind Norwich was Unadilla Valley – Ben Avolio, Jordan Mirabito, Alex Taylor, and Goeff Keach – who ran a time of 46.35; followed by Sherburne-Earlville in third-place at 48.98 – Hunter Zbydniewski, Michael Doeberl, Michael Giglio, and Lincoln Owen.

The ‘big men’ stepped onto the track for a shot at glory in the throwers 4x100m relay – Norwich’s top squad of Jacob Franklin, Wesley Mills, Carter Hubbard, and Zack Clipston snagged the win at 49.87 – besting Cherry Valley-Springfield at 52.03, and Unadilla Valley – Dawson Carson, James Peterson, Kyler Butts, and Hunter Butler – in third-place at 55.78.

The 110m hurdles garnered a Morrisville-Eaton champion, when Dale Lake won the event at 16.46. Sherburne-Earlville’s Owen Rodriguez climbed on the podium at sixth-place with a time of 18.30.

Norwich returned to the forefront in the 3200m relay, when Noah Bufalini, Gabe Gawronski, Connor. Nial, and Ben Ericksen took the top spot in the event with a time of 8:40.99. Coming in second-place was Unadilla Valley, as Brady George, Josh Nogaret, Alex Taylor, and Than Garry attempted to push Norwich for the win with a time of 8:54.90.

Norwich’s claim to fame in the past few months – the sprinters stepped to the starting blocks in their first individual event at the REK. The Tornado trio of Race, Conant and Berger saw solid performances in the 100m dash, with Race taking home the first-place spot. Race’s time of 11.03 not only earned him the top-spot, but smashed a meet record for the REK itself.

Coming in second through fifth – sixth-place was scratched due to injury – were all Chenango County sprinters. Second-place from Norwich was Eric Conant at 11.65, third-place from Greene was Coy Austin at 11.91, fourth-place from Norwich was David Berger at 11.94, and fifth-place from UV was Geoff Keach at 12.24. S-E’s Lincoln Owen ran an 11.7 in the preliminary round of the event but was an injury scratch for the finals.

Unadilla Valley saw their first top-finish come on the day, when Ben Avolio bested his competition in the 400m dash for the win. UV’s Avolio snagged the win in the 400m with a time of 53.23, besting Scott Tomanocy of Norwich for second-place at 53.76. Sherburne-Earlville’s Jonah Robertson found the podium at sixth-place with a time of 55.31.

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