BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — The incredibly successful ride Danielle Jordan has been on veered off course at the end of this winter’s indoor track and field season. This spring, Jordan said she is ready to show that the less-than-stellar close to her indoor season was just a speed bump and nothing more as she gets set for Shenendehowa’s outdoor track and field season.
“It definitely does motivate me,” she said. “I’m very excited for outdoor and hopefully I’ll do better.”
Jordan, a junior, is one of the top distance runners in Section II and has the resume to prove it with three solo sectional title wins in the past calendar year. In the 2014 outdoor track and field season, she took first place in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 10:19.29; this past fall, she was the Section II champion for cross country with a mark of 17:34.63; and, this winter, she won another sectional title in the 3,000 meters in 10:31.
But, Jordan’s winter season did not net her a spot at the indoor state championships. Battling an illness at the state qualifier meet, Jordan finished in a disappointing 16th place in the 3,000 meters with a time of 11:12.75.
“It was the worst timing possible,” Shenendehowa girls head coach Rob Cloutier said of Jordan’s under-the-weather status.
Jordan rebounded to serve as a leg for Shenendehowa’s entry at the New Balance National Indoor championships in the 4×1 mile relay — and Cloutier said he expects Jordan to be Section II’s top female distance runner this spring, especially considering her strong cross country season.
“From what the fall had set up, I think we’re both excited to see what she can do this spring,” he said.
In general, the spring season should be a fruitful one for the Shenendehowa programs. The Shenendehowa boys start their season April 14 against Columbia and the girls begin April 15 at Shaker. Jordan and the rest of the Plainsmen girls will look to defend their Section II team title, while Shenendehowa boys head coach Jason Burlingame has a roster capable of fielding a lineup without any noticeable holes.
“They’re motivated. I think we’re fired up. We lost indoor sectionals [to Saratoga Springs] by 12 points, and that [difference] is just give and take, here and there,” said Burlingame. “That is all they’ve been talking about since then — sectionals for outdoor. I really believe we’re the team to beat in the outdoor season.”
Burlingame’s group adds “six or seven” strong pieces missing from its indoor roster, but Shenendehowa will still count on seniors such as Shawn Bleichert (hurdles, sprints) and Collin Rowe (distance) to lead the Plainsmen in 2015. Bleichert won a state title in the hurdles during the indoor season, as did Rowe with his teammates in the 4×800-meter relay.
Meanwhile, Cloutier’s group will look to defend its Section II outdoor title from a year ago. Athletes such as Knowles (sprints) and Jillian Shippee (throws) will lead the Plainsmen girls this spring, and the squad has the motivation of a sectional loss to rival Saratoga Springs this winter in the indoor season.
“I think that’s fresh in everyone’s mind,” Cloutier said.
So, too, is the disappointing way the Section II portion of the winter’s season ended for Jordan. The junior said her goal is to drop her personal-record times across the board this spring — besides the 3,000 meters, she also competes at 800 and 1,500 meters — and make it to the state championships as either a solo act or with three teammates in a relay. Along the way, Jordan will get the chance to compete in a variety of high-interest invitationals as part of her team’s 2015 schedule.
“We’re definitely going to highlight a few races for her and let it crank,” said Cloutier. “It’s going to be fun.”
While there are plenty of returning stars from the winter’s indoor season for the Shenendehowa boys and girls, here are three spring-only athletes for the programs that head coaches Jason Burlingame and Rob Cloutier expect to make a big impact for the Plainsmen:
- Erik Kromer: Coming off a sectional title in his senior football season and a state title in basketball, Kromer will add depth to the Plainsmen boys’ throwing corps. Last spring, Kromer finished in fifth and 10th places, respectively, in the shot put and discus throw at sectionals. “He’s a big-time thrower for us,” Burlingame said.
- Audrey Meany: After taking the indoor season off, Meany returns for the Plainsmen girls as one of their top sprinters. The junior finished in second place at sectionals in 2014 in the 400-meter dash to teammate Sarah Knowles. “She’s one of the fastest girls in the 200 meters in school history, too, so she’ll add depth for our relays,” Cloutier said.
- Alexandra Tudor: A varsity basketball player in the winter, Tudor, a freshman, broke the school record in the 200-meter dash last year and was that event’s Section II champion. “We’re picking up quite a talent,” Cloutier said.