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Empire State Games — The Altamont Enterprise, February 19, 2009

Sapling and spruce
Tedeschi and DellaRocco take medals in stride

By Saranac Hale Spencer

LAKE PLACID — Cresting the last hill of the course, Courtney Tedeschi saw the cheering crowd and savored the moment as she ran through the straight-away and thought, “All my work is paying off.”

Tedeschi took home two gold medals and a bronze from her first Empire State Games in snowshoeing.  The Berne-Knox-Westerlo eighth-grader went out for the cross-country team in the seventh grade and went straight to varsity.

“She was someone who stood out,” said Bill Dergosits, the BKW track coach who suggested she try snowshoeing in the off-season.  His grandfather, Jack Norray, has been putting people on snowshoes for decades, getting them to compete as a group in the Empire State Games as the Hilltop Hoppers.

The Games offered a chance to meet new people, Tedeschi said, and “there was really good competition there.”

Before her first race, Tedeschi said, she was a little nervous, looking around at all the other snowshoers, most of whom were older than she.  In the end, though, she was the first to cross the finish line.  “The last 50 meters, I just had that adrenalin rush,” she said.  “It felt like… a mini Olympics.”

“I knew she had a lot of talent,” Dergosits said of Tedeschi’s performance at the Games.  BKW has a record of producing athletes, he said, and this spring should be a good season for his track team.  “It wasn’t a shock,” he said.  “I kind of expected her… to do well.”

While there are clear similarities between running and snowshoeing, Dergosits said, the latter is more challenging, with the resistance and the weather.

“It’s really different because you have so much extra weight on your feet,” Tedeschi said of snowshoeing verses cross-country running.

“It was really a tough course,” she said of the trail she was on at the Empire State Games, which were held last weekend in Lake Placid, the site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics.  Snowshoeing through the peaks and valleys, Tedeschi would sometimes think, “I’m running on Olympic soil.”

Veteran racer

Two gold medals and a silver went to a snowshoe veteran competing on the same course, in the Masters’ III division of the Games.

“It was a very good day for me,” said Michael DellaRocco, of Altamont.

His first snowshoes had a wooden frame and gut lacing, he said, the traditional kind often pictured as the quintessential snowshoe.  But, now he uses lightweight modern medal snowshoes.  He began racing when his nieces and nephews went to the Games, he said.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for all the competitors,” DellaRocco said, but he worries about the changing face of the Games.  In the wake of broad budget cuts, the state funded competition might not offer the masters and open divisions in the coming years and may begin charging an entry fee for scholastic division entrants, if the Games find sponsors at all.

DellaRocco hopes that the funding will continue and summed up the tenor of the current Games this way: “Everybody’s very supportive of everybody else.”


The following local athletes competed in the snowshoe races at this year’s Games:

— Michael DellaRocco, placed third in the open 5K race in the master’s III division, with a time of 34:56, fourth in the master’s III 1500M with a time of 8:30, won a silver medal in the 100M with a time of 17.21, and two gold medals, one in the 200M with a time of 39.37, and one in the 400M with a time of 1:38.94;

—  Taylor DellaRocco, of Altamont, placed seventh in the scholastic division of the open 5K with a time of 25:15; and

— Alyssa Wetterau, of Voorheesville, placed eleventh in the scholastic division of the 400M with a time of 2:26.50, fifth in the 200M with a time of 45.31, and won a bronze medal in the 100M with a time of 18.69.

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