Above The Rest

As Mitchell Moore took in the vast and hectic scene that was the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Cicero-North Syracuse High School just about this time last year, Jamestown coach Steve Sipior couldn’t help but notice something different about the youngster, who was then still just a sophomore.

“He got the taste for the state meet then,” Sipior recalled. “Just to make the trip to Syracuse (to see friend and teammate Taylor Bennett) when he hadn’t qualified was big, and then we talked about it and I asked him, ‘Is this where you want to be next year?'”

You can guess what the answer was.

Call it drive, call it ambition; call it whatever you like. Moore, for whom everything had finally clicked just a few short weeks before when he raced to a fifth-place finish at the Section 6 Championships, had it to a greater degree than he ever had before.

Need proof?

After having played basketball the two seasons prior, the junior decided this time around to focus entirely on track, and he honed his skills during the winter indoor season, working out, training, getting stronger and, along the way setting a new school record in the 55-meter hurdles.

“His winter of preparation was a huge part (of his success this year in outdoor track and field competition) as far as technical work, base work and having more time in the weight room,” Sipior said.

So when outdoor season finally came around, Moore was nigh unbeatable – and in the process, it soon became clear that he was the obvious choice to be this year’s The Post-Journal boys track and field athlete of the year.

“That’s a no-brainer,” Sipior said.

First, he kicked the season off on the right foot when he set a new standard in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at the Olean Invitational, finishing the race in just 55.76. In that same meet he also took the 110 hurdles in 15.66, and earned a coveted Fay Cousens Memorial plaque as one of the most outstanding athletes.

Next, he took part in the highly-competitive Falconer Invitational, and when all was said and done he had been selected, yet again, as the meet’s most outstanding athlete, having captured the 110 hurdles, the 400 hurdles and the 200-meter dash.

The Red Raider was the only competitor to win three events.

And he kept on winning; more often than not three or more events – his main focus was on the 110 and 400 hurdles and the triple jump – a meet.

“He’s pulling in 15 or 20 points per meet for us,” Sipior marvelled at the time. “It’s been amazing.”

All in all, Moore, who at one point during the season was ranked No. 6 nationally amongst high school juniors in the 400 hurdles, would lose just one race – a 110 high hurdles contest against Frontier – during Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division 1 dual meet action.

“It was a rare occurrence for Mitch to lose a race,” Sipior said. “He’s not a machine, but he was very, very, very good.”

Moore continued his run late into the season, taking a pair of events at the Super 8 Meet of Champions and then besting the competition in the Section 6 State Qualifier by a whopping three seconds when he finished in just 55.97.

The time, which earned him a place in the upcoming state meet, was the culmination of that year-long dream.

Moore would take eighth at states, finishing in 56 seconds flat.

With another season on the horizon, the Red Raiders’ goals haven’t diminished in the slightest, and he’s already looking at improving on last year’s finish. That, and perhaps setting a few more records a long the way.

“One of the kids who keeps coming up is Will Cole,” Sipior said, referring to the Section 6 record-holder who set the 400-hurdles mark in 2008. “Cole is a guy that people still talk about in hushed tones because he was such a phenomenal athlete.

“But school records, meet records, section records – Mitch wants them all.”

And given what he’s accomplished to this point in his career, it’s wouldn’t a surprise if he got them.