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Monday, May 18, 2015: Benjamin erases 1977 state record in 400 hurdles

   Leading off today: If your lasting memory of Paul Lankford's athletic exploits is his decade-long career with the Miami Dolphins beginning in 1982, then keep on recalling him in that fashion -- because you can no longer think of the Farmingdale alum as the boys state record-holder in the 400-meter hurdles.

   Mount Vernon senior star Rai Benjamin broke the record Sunday at the Westchester County Championships on Sunday at Byram Hills with a time of 50.45 seconds. Lankford had run :50.52 in 1977 in an athletic relic of the Cold War -- the USA vs. USSR Juniors dual meet in Richmond, Va.

   Benjamin also sprinted to victory in the 100 meters and ran on the Knights' winning 1,600 relay.

   Hall of Fame coach dies: Retired wrestling coach Stanley Riggs, who compiled an amazing record at Peru, died Tuesday from injuries sustained in a Columbia, S.C., accident several days earlier, The Press Republican reported.

   He was 75 years old.

   Riggs was also Peru's athletic director from 1984-97 and an official in three sports, but he was most often recalled for his teams' 245-5-1 record in dual meets before he stepped down in 1995. He was inducted into multiple halls of fame after finishing with 18 sectional championships and guiding Peru wrestlers to 23 podium finishes at the NYSPHSAA championships.

   Among his inductions was the New York State public High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

   "I say he's on the Mount Rushmore of coaches, not just in the North Country, but in the state," said Scott Woodward, a former cross country and track coach at the school.

   Could he be first pick? Garrett Whitley can't break the record for earliest selection of a New York high school player in the Major League Baseball draft, but the Niskayuna outfielder might just tie it if Baseball Prospectus is right.

   The senior center fielder has been projected as a first- or second-rounder, but the mock draft released by the website May 11 projects Whitley as the No. 1 overall pick. The only other New York player to earn that distinction straight out of high school was Shawon Dunston, taken by the Chicago Cubs out of Thomas Jefferson High in 1982.

   Baseball America's mock draft pegs Whitley going to the Tampa Bay Rays as the No. 13 pick.

   The No. 1 pick on June 8 belongs to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who've scouted Whitley extensively this spring, with The Daily Gazette in Schenectady reporting 1993 World Series hero Joe Carter represented the MLB team at a recent game against Ballston Spa. That same week, Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart attended a practice to watch Whitley hit.

   "The Diamondbacks are here all the time. They've been around a ton," Niskayuna coach John Furey told the paper. "They've been here a lot -- and their next pick (after No. 1) is 43rd."

   If picked at No. 1, Whitley could command a signing bonus of as much as $8.617 million, the paper reported. However, Baseball Prospectus speculates part of Arizona's interest in taking Whitley at No. 1 is that he can be signed for a substantially lower figure.

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   As a projected high pick, Whitley has been invited to attend this year's draft.

   New York high schools have not produced a top-10 pick since Dunston; the earliest pick since has been Manny Ramirez of George Washington High in the PSAL to the Cleveland Indians in 1991 at No. 13.

   The earliest picks behind Dunston since the draft began in 1965 are:

  • No. 2, Rick Manning (Niagara LaSalle), Cleveland Indians, 1972
  • No. 3, Martin Cott (Buffalo Hutch Tech), Houston Astros, 1968
  • No. 3, Tommy Bianco (Sewanhaka), Milwaukee Brewers, 1971
  • No. 4, Tim Cole (Saugerties), Atlanta Braves 1977
  • No. 5, Richard O'Keefe (Yorktown Heights), Brewers, 1975
  • No. 6, Andy Van Slyke (New Hartford), St. Louis Cardinals, 1979
   Only nine New York high school seniors have been taken in the top 10. The last player selected in the top 20 was Marlboro outfielder Dee Brown at No. 14 by the Kansas City Royals in 1996.

   Draft trivia: The 1971 draft may have been the gold standard of New York high school baseball, with four prospects taken in the first 18 picks. Besides Bianco, Ed Kurpiel of Archbishop Molloy went to the Cardinals at No. 8, Tom Veryzer (Islip) was taken 11th by the Detroit Tigers and Frank Riccelli (Syracuse CBA) was scooped up by the San Francisco Giants at No. 18.

   Extra points: Utica Notre Dame has named Olivia Tooley its new girls basketball coach. She replaces Mike Plonisch, who coached the team for six seasons with a 104-31 record, three Section 3 championships and a 2014 NYSPHSAA title. Plonisch was informed this winter that he would not be brought back for next season. Tooley, 22, has most recently been a three-sport coach at Emma Willard School in Troy.

   Andover baseball coach Rich Gill will retire this spring at the conclusion of his 38th season at the Section 5 school.

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