FULL SPEED AHEAD

JOHN D'ONOFRIO/STAFF Lockport High School indoor track sprinter Kahniya James is one of three Lady Lions who will compete next week at the 2020 state meet on Staten Island.   

LOCKPORT — The “breeze” you might feel at next week's state indoor track & field championships at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island might not be coming from the Atlantic.

It might come in the form of Lockport's Kahniya James, who's not only among the favorites in next week's state finals of the 55 meter dash, she recently ran the seventh fastest time in the entire country so far this season.

James and fellow LHS juniors Sydney Nowicki (1,000m) and Skylar Pointer (shot put) will make triumphant back-to-back returns to the 2020 New York State Public High School Athletic Association Indoor Track & Field Championships on March 7. 

It's James' third straight state meet appearance indoors and fourth overall. She set a new Section VI record in the 55m dash of 0:07.02 in winning last week's Section VI  championships at Houghton College. That not only tied her for the fastest time recorded in the state this season, it ranked her seventh in the entire United States.

“It's a great feeling — a very overwhelming, great feeling to have,” James said of her outstanding national, Top 10 accomplishment.

James is listed as the favorite in this year's state finals. Among her biggest rivals will be Schalmont junior Mia D'Ambrosio, who's also ran a 7.02 in the 55m this season, as well as McKinley senior Markira Garner, who posted a 0:07.07 two weeks ago; and Tapestry Charter's Jada Kenner (0:07.09).

“The pressure's definitely on, especially if you want to PR or make it onto the podium,” James said of the state meet experience. “It's a lot of pressure, but it's a lot of excitement.”

Fifty five meters equates to roughly 60.15 yards. According to ahletic.net, the fastest 55m time in the country by a girl so far this season has been 0:06.87 seconds by freshman Shawnti Jackson of Wakefield HS in North Carolina. The second fastest this season is 0:06.88 seconds by sophomore Moforehan Abinusawa of Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania.

James said she's hoping to break seven seconds at states and win a title, as is Lockport's long distance specialist Nowicki, the perennial Section VI girls cross country champion.

Nowicki returns to state indoors this winter — her 11th career state meet appearance —  but in a different event than in previous years.

“I was focussing on the 1,500 meters at first, but then I ran the 1,000 once and I was like, ‘This is definitely just better.’ ” Nowicki said. “I felt better mentally and physically when I was racing and I just kind of found a love for it. I changed training a little, but but I love the 1,000.”

Nowicki won the VI title in the indoor 1,000m run in 2:55.88, which ranks her 11th in the state, heading to Ocean Breeze. She also qualified in the 1,500m with a second-place finish in 5:00.30. 1,000 meters equates to roughly 1,100 yards, and 1,500 roughly to 1,640 yards.

Pointer placed 39th in last year's state finals — in the weight throw. This year she qualified for states in the shot put and is hoping to top that finish.

“I placed third at sectionals but I had the state mark, so I'm going back next week,” she said.

East Aurora senior Serena Pagano won the VI title in the shot put with a throw of 40 feet, 8 inches. Lancaster junior Natalia Surdej was second (40-00.0), followed by Pointer with her personal best throw of 37-08.50. 

“I did pretty well at states last year for my first time,” Pointer said. “It's a lot bigger, there's a lot more throwers and the circles are different. My goal is to place higher than I did last year in the weight throw.”

Among other local athletes who have qualified for state indoor track championships next month are Niagara Falls' senior Abraham Averhart, who streaked to first-place finish in the boys sectional finals of the 55-meter dash in 6.69 seconds.

Follow veteran US&J sports reporter and editor John D'Onofrio on Twitter at @JohnD'Onofrio7.

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