Cardinals’ Teams Flew High Behind Steward, Hind

There’s a truism favored by coaches, of just about every stripe, that says something like the following.

“Every year is different, and nothing is guaranteed.”

It was a sentiment offered by Randolph coach Paul Steward, even, as he discussed the season that was for his Cardinals track and field squad last Thursday evening.

The first part is certainly, and undeniable, true. No two seasons are ever exactly the same. But the second half of that old adage, you know, the part about nothing being guaranteed, that doesn’t apply all that well. For other coaches, sure. To Steward, not so much.

In fact, with Steward at the helm of Randolph, one can just about guarantee – and seldom be wrong – that no matter what different aspects a season takes on, the Cardinals will, one way or another, capture the league title by the time it’s all said and done.

History proves it.

Led by Steward, the Cardinals have captured a whopping 19 league titles over the past 23 seasons, and this year was no different as the squad – despite losing outstanding athletes like Dane Dechow and last year’s Post-Journal boys track and field athlete of the year, Anthony Schwartz – rolled to an unblemished 10-0 overall mark and 6-0 league record to clinch, for the sixth straight season, a Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 2 title.

“He’s got quite the record,” Randolph girls track and field coach Laurie Hind marvelled.

Not even the addition of solid teams like Falconer and Allegany-Limestone – both, in years past, regular contenders for the league title in Division 1 – could slow the Cardinals down.

“This year was nice because Falconer and Allegany-Limestone really upped the level of competition,” Steward said, “and it’s good to challenge the kids. It makes them all better.”

The key – this season, at least – to yet another successful year was depth.

“We were pretty solid at everything,” Steward explained. “We had a lot of depth, our middle distance runners were really strong. I could throw eight of nine different guys into the mile-relay and not feel bad about it. Our field events were solid all the way through, too, and our throws, which have (in the past) been a little weak, were actually one of our biggest strengths.

“We really didn’t have a hole in the lineup.”

The longtime coach was also quick to mention his assistants as critical to the team’s success.

“I have to mention Sean Ode, who was a big key to our success and did a nice job with the distance runners, Derek Shaw, a former athlete at Randolph, and Alicia Brennan, who (played a big part in improving us) in the throwing events, which was what made us a stronger team.”

Steward, who noted that he also benefited this year from having a large number of participants – about 48 in all – which “was one of the biggest numbers I’ve had,” knew from the get-go that he had a strong group, but it really struck home when the squad travelled shorthanded (it was the same weekend as the senior trip) to take part in the Gator Relays at Allegany-Limestone and still managed to finish second, 99-93, just behind Olean.

It was the only meet (invitational or otherwise) Steward’s crew would “lose” all year.

In addition to the team success – Randolph would win the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Championships by a hefty margin, 173-100, over runner-up Allegany-Limestone – the team also had many individual success as well.

Chief among them was Zach Jackson, a junior who raced to second-place finishes at both the CCAA and sectional meets before participating in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

“What was really sweet this year were the school records (the kids) broke,” Steward said. “Chris Doubek really go up there in the pole vault (clearing) 14 feet and Zach broke very old records, from the 1980s, in the 800 and 1,600. Those were some really great milestones.”

And he can add one more milestone to the list: a fourth selection (since the 2000 season) as The Post-Journal Boys Track and Field Coach of the Year.