Weekly Feature

2018-06-07 / Sports

Puskar punches ticket to state track meet


Nino Rivera of Orchard Park runs the first heat of the 100-meter dash at the Section VI State Qualifier at Niagara Falls High School Friday. 
Photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Nino Rivera of Orchard Park runs the first heat of the 100-meter dash at the Section VI State Qualifier at Niagara Falls High School Friday. Photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Cal Puskar extended his high school career for one more week. The Orchard Park senior won both the 800 and 1600-meter events at the Section VI State Qualifier Meet at Niagara Falls High School this past weekend. He ran a season best 1:54.08 in the 800-meter and 4:22.29 in the mile.

“I definitely expected him to win both the 800 and the mile,” Orchard Park coach Chuck Mancabelli said. “His 800 of 1:54 was definitely faster than he has ever run. That was unexpected. It’s also unexpected to run that fast when you’re all by yourself. He won by a few seconds. Winning like that when you’re all by yourself was definitely impressive.”

Puskar will now finish out his high school career this coming weekend in the state meet at Cicero North Syracuse High School.

“I want him to win the mile,” Mancabelli said. “He’s capable of it, and I want to see him go out in style. I think he’s got one of the top two or three times in New York state. He’s fully capable of it. That’s what I’d like to see.”

Jim Bertulfo took fifth place in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.49 seconds, surprising even himself.

“That was definitely a surprise,” Mancabelli said. “We were on the bus and I was like, ‘Hey Jim, guess what you have to do?’ and he was like, ‘What?’ and I said, ‘Come back tomorrow and run the 200.’ He was a little surprised. He’d been running the 400, 100 and 200, so we took the 400 out of the occasion. He became one of the stronger runners during the last half of the race because of that.”

Meanwhile, Kegan Mancabelli was second on the pole vault with a clearance of 12 feet-6 inches. He had to deal with some intense wind during his final runs.

“The wind was blowing,” Chuck Mancabelli said. “One time you’d go down and it would be at your back, and the next time it would be at your face. It was a real swirling wind. It was real difficult. He was through 12-6 clean, and his first attempt at 13 feet he got a good tailwind, and he got a little deeper in the mat than we predicted. Then the second time, the wind was in his face and he barely got off the ground. He barely made it into the mats. As a coach, I was sitting there trying to predict what the next wind was going to be like so we could adjust the standards. We just had him too far in again.”

The eighth-grader did not qualify for the state meet, but certainly has a bright future. He’s already a record holder and one of the best in the state.

“That was a little disappointing that he didn’t win and get to states,” Mancabelli said. “It would have been nice to have him there. But if you think about it, he’s got four more years to get there. I don’t see a situation where he won’t get there in the next four years. I was disappointed, but he’s also an eighth-grader, so I was very proud of his season.”

Caden Jenson was third in the discus at 141 feet-8 inches, and fourth in the shot put at 47 feet-3 inches.

Tino Mancabelli also had a strong meet, taking second in the pentathlon at 2,990 points, breaking a school record.

“I was really proud of his second day effort,” Mancabelli said. “In his 1500, he broke the school record. He ran 4:37 in that. That was a PR for him by 10 seconds. He went out that first lap and put himself in contention to break 4:30. He just didn’t have it down the home stretch of the last lap.”

In all, 23 Quakers qualified for the meet, and many impressive performances were turned out. Jack Heraty was eighth in the 3200-meter run at 10:07.70. Tino Mancabelli was eighth in the 110-meter hurdles at 15.98 seconds. John Lander was fifth in the high jump at 5 feet-10 inches. Nino Rivera was fifth in the long jump with a leap of 19 feet-10.5 inches. Rivera was fifth in the pole vault while Louis Irazarry was eighth in the event and Breck O’Connor was 12th.

“I think, despite the oppressive heat on the first day and oppressive wind on the second day, they had a heck of a meet,” Mancabelli said. “They really finished their season off on a high note.

“We had four guys in the top 12 in the pole vault at sectionals. That just speaks volumes to how they work hard together to make each other better. That was a very proud moment for me as a pole vault coach to see that many kids do so well.”

Now that the season is over for all but one, Mancabelli will bid farewell to the first senior class that he saw go all the way through high school. While it will be tough to replace this senior class, the younger kids on this team should give the program hope going forward.

“I got kind of choked up on the bus ride. I’ve been at Orchard Park for four years and we have a good group of seniors there,” Mancabelli said. “I knew the majority of them, with the exception of Cal, would probably be competing for the last time. I just love those kids so much. I got into the Orchard Park thing four years ago to help my oldest son, but I just fell in love with the whole group. It was sad to see the last time with those guys.

“We’ve got a great group of sophomores, I’m looking forward to the future. They all really came through in the end at the meet where you are supposed to PR. Everybody seems ready to do that.”

email: tnigrelli @beenews.com

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