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High school track: Canton relay prepares for bittersweet finale

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CANTON — No matter what happens Saturday afternoon, four girls who run for Canton high school will feel a bit of sadness at the state outdoor track and field championship meet.

Seniors Laura Pierce, Rebecca DelRossi and Gemma DelRossi, and junior Maria Ricalton, have become the best 3,200-meter relay in Section 10 history and the last time they will ever run together in a high school meet will be around 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

“I’m going to miss it,” Ricalton said. “It’s really hard to think that they are all going to be leaving me. I’ve seen them every day the last three years. It will be hard not to have them there to push me through practice. They are some of my best friends.”

The quartet has been a special group, setting a Section 10 record of 9 minutes, 15.33 seconds last year. They ran even faster in a non-New York State Public High School Athletic Association meet over the summer, turning in a time of 9:10, and finished second in Division II at the state meet a year ago.

All three of the seniors will be competing at the NCAA Division I level next year. Pierce, who won the state Division II title in the 3,000 last year, will run for the University of Virginia. Rebecca DelRossi will run for Villanova, and her twin sister Gemma will compete for the University of Vermont.

“That foursome right there, it’s just a wave of very good genetics that comes through once in a great while through a school,” Canton coach Barry Whiteford said. “You mix that in with hard work, which is a rarity, it’s just rare to have four girls like that. Normally it’s hard to find two, and then you find two filler runners.”

Canton enters its final 3,200 seeded third among the Division II teams with a top time this season of 9:28.60. But Canton’s top career mark of 9:10 is faster than top-seeded Bronxville’s mark of 9:11.42, so a state championship is a possibility if all goes well.

“This group here is very tough, I wouldn’t put anything past them,” Whiteford said. “I know they should (medal, top six) in the state meet. They are very capable of walking off with it. I hope they do, for the length of time they’ve worked at it, they deserve something like this.”

The usual order for the girls in the race, which consists of four legs of the 800-meter run, is starting with Rebecca DelRossi, then Ricalton, then Pierce and finally Gemma DelRossi closing the race.

“We might switch it up,” Rebecca DelRossi said. “We are not sure what we are going to be doing.”

With four talented runners like this, and lofty expectations, the pressure of making a mistake can grow with the size of the race.

“We are all friends,” Rebecca DelRossi said. “If someone does do something tactically in a race that’s bad, it’s no big deal for all of us.”

Last year’s second-place finish is what gave the group the confidence to enter this season knowing that with some hard work, and good fortune, they might be able to pull off a state championship.

“It’s been a big deal for me to run with these girls,” Pierce said. “I think we’ve all had really good preparation this year. We are all in better shape and mentally prepared for it this year, even more than last year.”

Aside from being excellent runners, the four share similar traits of hard work, both on the track and in the classroom, as well as a strong competitive drive.

“We are all good friends and that chemistry helps with running and makes training fun,” Gemma DelRossi said.

Saturday afternoon will be the last time this quartet runs together for Canton High School, they just hope that they all get to stand on top of a podium and collect championship medals. But however it ends, expect to see some tears shed.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Gemma DelRossi said. “This is our last (meet) together. We are trying to make the most of it.”

Said Rebecca DelRossi, “We have so many memories together, it’s nostalgic to only have a meet left.”

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