The United States women's luge team took first and second, respectively, at an international start race Saturday in Italy.
Julie Clukey, of Augusta, Maine, defended her singles title with a combined time of 14.247 seconds. Ashley Walden, who was third in the race last year, was second in 14.462 seconds. Tatjania Huefner of Germany was third.
Remsen's Erin Hamlin, the reigning singles World Champion, was seventh with a two-run time of 14.788 seconds.
The Poland and Hamilton Central boys soccer teams, the area's best high school rivalry in any sport since 2005, open the scholastic soccer season next week at Herkimer County Community College.
The Tornadoes and defending Class D state champion Emerald Knights play at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 4 in the first of three high school games at Wehrum Stadium. Two other games follow at 1 and 3 p.m. and I'm waiting for confirmation on the match-ups.
The class of the unnamed HCCC high school day belongs to Poland and Hamilton. It's interesting the schools open against each other, though the result may not say much about the quality of either team at the end of the season.
"It lets your kids know where they need to be," Poland coach Greg Haver said.
The teams will play again at the end of the month at Waterville High School. With a realignment of Center State Conference boys soccer divisions, Poland and Hamilton are no longer league opponents. Poland remains in CSC III. Hamilton moves to CSC II.
"There's nothing like opening with a game like that to let you know where you are, to get things exposed," Hamilton coach Brian Latella said.
Hamilton and Poland have played nine times in four years including last year's Section III Class D final won by Hamilton (1-0). The Emerald Knights rode the victory, just their third against Poland in the nine matches, to the state title 15 days later over Chazy.
Poland, the three-time defending Class D champs until the loss to Hamilton last November, made state finals appearances in 2005 and 2007, and lost to Chazy in both games.
As was given to me, the new CSC boys soccer alignment affects divisions II and III. There is no change in Division I (Frankfort, Ilion, Herkimer, Mohawk, West Canada and Adirondack).
CSC II is now eight teams (two groups of four) with additions of Morrisville and Hamilton. Haver said geography was the reason beyond the move, which was the first for the super conference in about four years.
Group 1 is: Mount Markham, Waterville, Cooperstown and Sauquoit Valley.
Group 2 is: Hamilton, Morrisville-Eaton, Sherburne and Canastota.
CSC III is a five-team league: Poland, Old Forge, Owen D. Young/Richfield combine, Little Falls and Remsen. In addition to Hamilton moving out, Oppenheim combined with St. Johnsville and moved to Section II.
Until Wednesday afternoon, the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta didn't mean more to me than a place to work.
Three of the last four years, I covered area boys high school soccer teams in NYSPHSAA Final Four matches on Hall of Fame fields. And I've been to the Hall for induction weekends but I didn't have time to soak in what the museum has to offer.
On Wednesday, I had a chance to roam through the museum and look at the artifacts and displays. I'll tell you more about the visit in a story that will run in Monday's Observer-Dispatch.
Some highlights: finding out about the origin of the name 'soccer,' a Pele jersey, Walter Bahr, Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm and why the Hall and museum are in Oneonta.
There are no more Reinas playing soccer at Notre Dame.
Dana, the youngest member of the Mohawk Valley's first family of soccer, has moved on to play at LeMoyne College where she joins big brother Angelo. Dana is a freshman forward. Angelo is a junior forward on the men's team.
"My mom has empty nest syndrome," said oldest Reina sibling Dominica Paladino of her mother Crystal Reina.
That leaves Paladino as the only Reina remaining with the Jugglers. The 2001 Notre Dame graduate and former St. John's University player, is in her second full season as coach at her alma mater.
Last year Paladino coached Notre Dame to its first girls soccer sectional title and to a state regional game. Dana was a big part of Notre Dame's success. She scored 29 goals and had 10 assists. Dominica misses her sisters, but is in a good place in a "rebuilding year."
"Coaching some of these girls is like coaching my sisters," Paladino said.
Angelo Reina and Dana Reina aren't the only area athletes playing at LeMoyne. Angelo has two former area standout players as teammates: Ed Rosenburgh (Poland) is a sophomore defender and Justin Fredsell (New Hartford), a University of Buffalo transfer is a junior forward.
I've always been interested in the psychology of coaching.
How does a coach handle all of the personalities? Which athlete can you push? When does an athlete need a pat on the back?
I'm equally curious about a coach's management of a team. Issues such as scheduling practices, when to go all out in practice and when to rest. In a time of year known for hot weather and two-a-days, I asked one coach about how she schedules pre-season practices.
"I can get a whole lot of work in in three hours," VVS field hockey coach Wendy Seifried said.
Seifried should know. She is in her 31st year coaching field hockey, 25 at VVS. Seifried's VVS teams have been to the state Final Four twice including last year. She knows of schools that do two practices per day. Seifried occasionally goes to double sessions, using an evening practice as a scrimmage. Generally doubles are not practical.
"The kids are used to it, one long session," Seifried said. "These kids have jobs, there are transportation issues. The morning is cooler and you have to re-stretch them in the afternoon."
USA Luge team manager Fred Zimny said the physical skill tests are very important to determining a young athlete's success in luge.
Fifty-eight boys and girls ages 11-to-14-years-old participated in the USA Luge slider search program in Utica over the weekend. In 24 years of the slider search, this was the first time Utica was a stop on the schedule. The success of Remsen's Erin Hamlin had a lot to do with the sport coming to her home county so area residents could get an idea of what luge is all about.
Sliding down the Cornelia street hill on rollerblade sleds wasn't the only activity for the young sliders who came downtown Saturday and Sunday. Zimny and other USA Luge staff members also administered physical skills tests: pull-ups, flexibility, medicine ball toss and a standing jump.
"They're important," Zimny said. "Through the years, we've started to weigh the physical scores more."
Zimny said Hamlin is smaller and not as heavy as many of her competitors. Hamlin is listed at 5-feet-7 inches and 143 pounds in her bio on the USA Luge web site. Zimny said for singles sliders, which Hamlin is, athletes should be taller with lean weight. Hamlin's strength is the way she handles a sled.
"She is extremely good on a sled," Zimny said. "She is so soft (smooth) on a sled, she does well."
Returning from a beach vacation late last week, I found myself covering a winter sport: luge.
Remsen's Erin Hamlin visited her home county over the weekend, and Hamlin brought with her some friends from USA Luge. Hamlin, U.S. National Team manager Fred Zimny and four U.S. Junior National Team members were in Utica Saturday and Sunday for USA Luge's slider search program.
The slider search, in its 24th year, is the primary recruiting tool for luge - a sport that doesn't attract as much attention as other Olympic sports. Because of Hamlin, the sport has received plenty of coverage locally, including in the Observer-Dispatch. Hamlin's recent success - the World Championship victory in Lake Placid in February - made Utica ripe to be a slider search site.
Thirty-six boys and girls ages 11-14 attended the clinics Saturday and 58 young athletes was the final total after Sunday's clinics. O-D news reporter Dan Miner wrote in his story for Monday's paper the Utica events went so well USA Luge officials are considering a return next year.
"I'm very happy," Zimny told me following Saturday's clinics. "The second group (in afternoon) was smaller but we saw better quality."
One of those Saturday afternoon sliders was Katie Shelhamer of Cold Brook. I don't see luge with an educated eye like Zimny or Hamlin, but Shelhamer looked good going down the Cornelia street hill.
"It was really fun," Shelhamer said. "It felt natural."
It's too early to tell if Shelhamer's comfort level on a sled will get her invited to a screening camp later this year. She did all she could to get a call back. Shelhamer came back for a Sunday session. Zimny said the slider search has three more stops before they consider 500 athletes for 50-75 spots in the screening camp.
"We saw some kids we'll be inviting back," Zimny said. "We saw some Erin Hamlins today."
I've never seen grass so green. The wall in left field is green, not as sharp as the grass but it's famous. The white of the home team's uniforms looked brighter against these backdrops.
There are plenty of things wrong with baseball. Fenway Park in Boston isn't one of them.
Sure, a beer in the old pahk is $7.50. A tiny portion of chicken tenders and spicy fries - really good spicy fries - is $8.50. And on a hot summer night such as Monday, the place was an oven around my seat tucked behind home plate.
Oh, but what a place to watch a game. I haven't yet been to Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium or Yankee Stadium, just three of the MLB stadiums I very much want to see. I hope those parks match my vision.
I wouldn't say Fenway is nice. Apparently, Fenway is lacking the ammenities and luxuries compared with stadiums built in this century. There is little room to walk around, though I did find a nice spot with a cool breeze and a view of the Prudential Building.
For baseball watching, it's a great old park. We couldn't see the massive digital scoreboard in center field from our seats, 20 rows up behind Victor Martinez's right shoulder. The roof hung too low. It didn't matter.
We saw fans in the center field bleachers start the wave in the early innings and we joined in when it reached our section. We saw the 37,000-plus fans, desperate for the team to snap a 6-game losing streak, rise each time one of their guys hit a ball deep into the outfield. We heard them cheer with relief when three Red Sox circled the bases in home run trots and when one scored on a game-winning sac fly.
My uncle Paul, cousin Paul, his sons Connor and Matt and I saw the field at Fenway Park Monday night. We didn't need to see anything more.
One of my colleagues doesn't subscribe to Sports Illustrated because he's hesitant to take on additional bills.
"With the ponchos, sweatshirts and other gifts, you can clothe yourself in an SI subscription," one of our co-workers said, mostly word-for-word.
Why can't you sleep under a special SI gift?
How about, as the company's special gift to us with each new subscription, putting a certain number of famous covers on a quilt or blanket? Then, when a sports fan goes to a game on a chilly evening, or falls asleep on the couch watching his favorite team, the SI subscriber can do so covered by history.
For an extra price, say $9.99, the fan gets to choose magazine covers for his blanket or quilt. It's a personalized gift, better make that price $19.99.
I'm a sentimental sports fan. I melt at the sight of a 1980 Miracle on Ice video clip, Pete Sampras climbing into the Wimbledon stands, or the final scene from 'Field of Dreams.'
It's not surprising that I would've saved a national sports magazine from 2004. There were four smiling faces on the cover of the late-fall issue, and one of those was David Ortiz.
Ortiz is the latest noteworthy name found to have used a performance-enhancing drug. Manny Ramirez, Ortiz's former Boston teammate, also apparently used PEDs. There will be more players, for sure. Sadly, the effects of the so-called 'steroid era' won't be fully understood for many years. Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) will be the most influential group in recording how this time in baseball history is regarded.
On the cover of my old magazine, Ortiz was pictured with three then-Red Sox teammates and the World Series trophy - the first for Boston in 86 years. This week, Ortiz was identified as one of the 100-plus players to have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. His smile, or those of Johnny Damon, Curt Schilling or Pedro Martinez does not make me shiver remembering what I thought to be the second-greatest moment in American sports history.
Barry Bonds' 756th home run nearly two years ago to the day also fails to move me. Footage of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, both of whom were thought to have contributed to the resurgence of baseball 11 years ago with a magical home run chase, also fails to bring up true emotion.
I can't get sentimental from those moments. They leave me numb.