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Gristmill: Out of the Blocks

Wed, 05/10/2023 - 18:18
At last year’s Geneseo Early Season Invitational.
Baylis Greene

“Those are mine, you know.” So said Nat Sawyer, sprinter and hurdler on Buffalo State’s women’s track team, to a Geneseo dude unknowingly about to step into her starting blocks. They’d been left along a chain-link fence, so, what the hell, he grabbed them.

On paper, Sawyer’s just a freshman biology major from Schenectady, but in person she seems like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. Her words, though, were immediately followed by a comradely, “If you use ’em, you better win.”

He didn’t. Caleb Clarke, out of either central casting or Oswego County, was third in the decathlon’s 110-meter hurdles at the SUNY Athletic Conference championships Saturday, but it was a good race in a day full of them. Sawyer, for instance, tied a tall, intense Geneseo sprinter, Gwen Shepardson, in smoking to a conference-record 13.87 in one of their several head-to-heads, the 100-meter hurdles.

And so it went. Sunshine. Temps around 60. Facilities ringed by greening hills. A voice over the loudspeaker breaking from the sporting action to crack wise about food dropped off in a storage shed. “The Panera delivery is for coaches only!”

This was Oneonta, where, in another upstate Americana downtown, Main Street is so narrow, the buildings so encroaching, traversing it you could be rafting through a red brick canyon. It out-Bradburys Bradbury, if you’ve ever seen the film version of “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

Back on campus and in search of coffee, should you venture into the Starbucks in the attractive student union giving onto a pond and fountain, you might find yourself thinking, “SUNY’s kinda underrated.”

As a parental unit with a kid at Geneseo, a gem of a campus with the feel of a small liberal arts college, I’m biased, but you have to admit, the State Legislature’s recent rebuffing of Governor Hochul’s tuition hike does remind you: Hey, fools! Tuition’s only seven grand!

About Buffalo State, I’d never heard of the place until they tried to get my daughter to run there, but now it’s the kind of school I root for, beyond the orange-and-black team colors and the Bengal mascot; from the hard-knocks industrial city, Midwestern in spirit, to the remarkable diversity, helping kids into the middle class. Onward and upward.

As for alums, Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo, is a natural, but, for you art nuts out there, Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman both? It’s the kind of biographical detail that sends respect and credibility skyrocketing. Princeton would not. 

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