ENDICOTT — For Melina Ortiz there is something about being the underdog that she relishes.
During indoor track and field she’s multiple times been to states after not being seeded to do so.
On Wednesday she earned her first trip to outdoor states the same way.
Seeded third in the 400 meters in Division II, Ortiz won the race, beating everyone from both classes, with a time of 58.79 seconds.
“It’s been a hard season, those Trumansburg girls are incredible,” Ortiz said. “I knew it was going to be a good race, and I’m not going to lie, I was a little worried going into it.
“I did what I have been training for this whole season, and it paid off and luckily the weather finally cooperated and I got a good time in. My first time going to states in outdoors and it’s really exciting.”
For Ortiz there is just something about not being the top seed in a race.
“I don’t know why, but for some reason I do better when I’m not seeded high up there,” Ortiz said. “I don’t know if it’s pressure, but I know I have someone to chase and someone to push after and I just keep my eyes on them and run as hard as I can and hope eventually I’ll be in front of them.”
Making her first outdoor state meet is special for the Waverly junior.
“I am thrilled,” she said. “Indoor is a great experience, it’s been fun, but I have no idea what an outdoor state meet is like. It’s going to be a great experience. It’s going to be different than indoor, but still the same great atmosphere, great competition. I’m going to see a lot of fast girls and hopefully get a PR and maybe even break the school record, I don’t know.”
One thing that makes going to states even more special for Ortiz is having teammate Cora Smith (3000 meters) make it for the girls and Isaac Chandler (pole vault and 110 hurdles) and Dylan Ward (800) for the boys on the first day of two days of the state qualifier.
“It’s incredible,” Ortiz said. “I have to say, I guess I’m a little biased, but the Waverly track team puts in so much work. There is never a time that people aren’t pushing themselves and each other. They are so supportive, I can’t tell you how many hugs I got going back to the bleachers. I will literally stop my warmups to watch my teammates.
“I want to thank my coaches and teammates for their endless help and support throughout the season, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Smith earned her first trip to states winning the 3000 meters overall with a time of 10:24.64.
A year ago Smith led her division most of the race and was caught toward the end. She wasn’t about to let that happen this year.
“I really focused on redemption from last year and making sure I didn’t get beat that last 200,” Smith said.
Smith knew she had a group of runners on her shoulder the whole way, but she also knew she had to keep pushing.
“It was very tough, it was mentally challenging and physically, but I thought I could work through it.”
The biggest competition in her division was Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton seventh grader Ethne Degan, who was third overall in 10:29.11.
“She was competition, like I had last year, and I thank her for that,” Smith said. “I was glad I had someone pushing me, some of the other meets have been lesser competition.”
Smith now has some pressure off her shoulders as she gets ready to run the 1500 meters today.
“It takes some pressure off me, so I’m happy about that,” Smith said. “It will be good competition.”
After what happened last year at the state qualifier, Smith was more prepared this year.
“I made sure to prepare better this year and know how to run the race better,” Smith said. “Pacing myself and knowing when to kick it in at the end.”
Ortiz is into the finals today in the 200 after finishing fifth in the prelims in 26.60.
Sheridan Talada was seventh in the 3000 in 10:52.62. In the shot put, Kennedy Wheeler of Waverly was fifth at 32-feet, 7 1/4-inches.