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Wednesday, March 21, 2018: Plan allows wheelchair athletes to score points

   Leading off today: Having already made a giant leap into inclusion with its Unified Sports offerings for students with intellectual disabilities, the NYSPHSAA is moving closer to an innovative program to bring wheelchair athletes into mainstream track and field competition.

   Meeting last week, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association officers gave approval to a one-year pilot program for participation in meets by wheelchair competitors this spring. It could be OK'd as a permanent program when the NYSPHSAA Central Committee meets in July.

   With the impetus being the recent participation in modified track and field by two wheelchair athletes, the NYSPHSAA pulled together a plan that draws from one that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has had in place for quite some time. The state's track and field coordinators, ADs and coaches at the two schools and the families of the two athletes were consulted as the details were worked out.

   The rules kick in once the appropriate medical documentation is supplied and the school applies for a special accommodation. The short version of the scoring goes like this:

   If there's one wheelchair athlete, he or she will be competing against the clock or the tape measure in the 100, 400, 800 and 1,500 (or 1,600) meters, shot put or discus. By meeting the standard (for example, 1:40 in the boys 400 meters), they earn a point for their team.

   If there are two competitors, the winner scores two points per event and the runner-up one. For three or more athletes, the scoring is on a 5-3-1 basis.

   In the postseason, the top finisher will advance to the next level of competition.

   A-L's Martin dies: Longtime Allegany-Limestone girls basketball coach Frank Martin died Wednesday while hospitalized following a surgical procedure.

   Martin's team played in the NYSPHSAA girls semifinals last weekend, losing to Syracuse Academy of Science at Hudson Valley Community College.

   Martin guided A-L to nine Section 6 championships and won 302 games beginning with three seasons at Archbishop Walsh, where he was also the principal for a year. He also coached girls volleyball and tennis.

   Education was a second career for Martin. He was a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who moved into the Southern Tier in 1997 to run the St. Bonaventure University ROTC program.

    • Retired Pearl River coach Joe Ryan died Sunday at the age of 73. Ryan coached a variety of sports, including rolling up 240 wins in boys basketball.

   Stupid human tricks: The Central Square school district has closed its sports stadium after an unspecified number of adults caused "significant damage" to the field and track while clearing snow last week, the superintendent said.

   Superintendent Thomas Colabufo said video footage shows several adults broke into the locked gates at the stadium and caused the damage with power equipment not designed to be used on the artificial turf.

   The incident was reported to State Police.

   Colabufo did not elaborate on the extent of the damage. He said the stadium will likely remain closed for the remainder of the spring sports season.


   Speaking of vandals: A California high school baseball team has had to postpone scheduled home games after its stadium was stripped for copper.

   KESQ-TV reported all the copper was stripped from the field's light fixtures. The initial estimate of the damage was $2,200.

   Police reported two other area schools were similarly targeted this year.

   Coming and going: Catching up on a few developments with coaches:

    • Jason Dudzinski has stepped down after two seasons as boys basketball coach at Fayetteville-Manlius as his kids, ages 10 and 14, get deeper into sports themselves. Dudzinski was a longtime Henninger assistant who replaced Tom Blackford.

    • Jake DerCola is Rome Free Academy's new football coach. The former Clyde-Savannah quarterback had was 28-10 in four seasons at Utica Notre Dame and replaces Ted Swavely, a former RFA lineman who resigned after a 21-55 mark in nine seasons.

   He's the grandson of Nick DerCola Sr., a legend at Clyde-Savannah where Jake's father now coaches.

    • Batavia Notre Dame's new football coach is Joe Zambito following the retirement of Rick Mancuso. Zambito was an assistant at Elba from 1999-2006 and joined the Notre Dame staff in 2010.

   Remembering PK: It dawned on me this week that I technically was wrong for a good many years when I scolded parents for thinking their kids might be recruited by colleges based upon write-ups in newspapers.

   I can accurately say so now, but it wasn't true while Phil Kahler was still coaching women's basketball at St. John Fisher College up until a decade ago. Kahler, who died this weekend at the age of 84, was decidedly unconventional in many of his ways, and recruiting was one of them.

   I covered some of Kahler's best teams around 1988-90 and sat with him in his office a few times. There were always out-of-town newspapers laying around because that's how he kept track of what was happening in Pennsylvania, Ohio and parts of New York. If a girl got her name in a headline on Saturday, it was a pretty sure bet she got a letter from Kahler in her mailbox by the following Friday.

   Trust me, it worked. Fisher's bench was often better than many Division III starting lineups and he retired with an astonishing 797-175 record.

   Here's a classic PK-ism behind some of those wins: Fisher always hosted one or two in-season tournaments each year, and Kahler always tried to make sure Fisher drew the toughest of the three potential opponents. His rationale? He didn't want the coach of a talented team to be able to scout his Cardinals in the semifinals.

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