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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
ELMIRA — Flag football may be a new sport for the Elmira Express, but there are some very familiar faces that will be on the field when the team plays their first game today.

As an emerging sport dual participation is allowed through this year and the Express have taken advantage with a number of multiple sport athletes on the roster.

“It is really cool that the state is doing the dual participation thing and we are trying to take advantage of it,” Elmira coach Jimmy McCauley said. “We are being flexible with our practice times, we have been going a little bit later so the girls are able to make it to their softball practices and games, lacrosse and track and I think the girls have been doing a phenomenal job as far as showing up with positive attitudes and a lot of this is new for a lot of these girls. New way of doing things. And, also new words. The vocab that goes with football, a lot of these girls have never heard.”

McCauley, who is also the boys’ football coach, isn’t surprised that athletes are taking advantage of playing multiple sports this spring.

“I am thinking back to when I was a senior in high school,” he said. “I would have loved to have played two sports at the same time, why the heck not. The percentage of people that go on to play college sports prior is very small, so your window of actually playing competitively is not big, so why wouldn’t you take the opportunity of doing this.

“It works out for us, with my family and varsity football, I’m still able to fit all those in because of our practice times. Thank Goodness, the beautiful new stadium, we have lights where I’m able to practice a little bit later and it’s doable. I’m very happy with the girls, very pleased, they have been enjoying it, it’s been fun.”

While not a lot of athletes get a chance to play in college, the Express have multiple girls on the roster who will play at the next level.

Just among the seniors, Emma Beach is going to play D2 lacrosse at Spalding, Tierney Krawczyk is going to play D3 soccer at Elmira and Payton Ross is committed to play Division I sports as a runner at Canisius.

“When the dual participating thing came out, obviously when you are building any team you want the best of the best,” McCauley said. “We were pretty happy with the amount of girls and the people that came out. I think it shows a l lot about Elmira. I think we have very competitive people that make up Elmira High School.”

There has been a little bit of balancing schedules for many of the players on the team, but it’s worth it.

“Very crazy, but we manage it,” Ross said.

“It’s been very time consuming, but it is fun,” said Ja’Nyah Harris, who also plays basketball in the winter.

While there are plenty of kids doing two sports in the spring, like Ross, who is also a standout on the softball team, and Beach, who starts on the lacrosse team, there are also a lot of athletes who play in the fall and winter, but didn’t have a sport in the spring to play.

“”It’s been fun to stay busy since I don’t play a winter sport,” said Hannah Lambert, a key member of the Elmira volleyball team. “It’s been fun to be with a bunch of friends I’ve never played sports with.”

Krawczyk is a star soccer player for the Express, but she doesn’t play sports in the spring and this is something new.

“I have only done one sport in the beginning (of the year) so I would have had the rest of the year to do nothing,” she said. “I’m getting to meet new people and we are all trying to figure out how to do this together.”

For McCauley, who knows many of the male athletes through coaching football, it’s fun getting to know all the female athletes at the school.

“Really, it’s been fun,” McCauley said. “I have enjoyed all the practices and the time to get prepared. Same sport, different vibe. Totally cool. I was really looking forward to getting to know some of our female athletes here at Elmira High School. I know most of the guys, so it’s just really cool to see the girls in their competitive environment, it’s cool.”

For many of the players it was a chance to try something different and new.

“I like doing something different for the first time,” Ross said.

“Senior year, something new to give it a try,” Harris said.

“It’s a fun environment for us with different faces,” Lambert said. “I think it’s awesome they are finally doing girls football and we are part of the first team.”

Lambert loves having some of her teammates from other sports on the team.

“It’s definitely fun to be with teammates that I played with in the fall doing a new sport with them,” she said.

Being a part of the first team is special for all the players.

“We are a part of history,” Harris said.

“It was just like a new thing our school has never done it before,” Krawczyk said. “It’s the first time so it would be fun being part of it, and I’m a senior.”

The whole thing is different for everyone as the sport is brand new to everyone.

“A lot of it when you are coaching varsity football, by the time they are varsity you expect them to know certain things, we try not to, but sometimes you take things for granted. But, here with the girls that’s definitely not the case.

“This is brand new for everybody. I kind of am enjoying it because it’s kind of opening my eyes up to how I would do things with the boys maybe a little differently as far as like starting at that ground level. It’s been absolutely a blast.”

For some of the girls on the team they don’t have a big background in following the sport coming in, so everything is a bit new.

“I watch a little football, but it’s mostly new to me,” Lambert said. “It’s fun, but it’s also hard at the same time. It’s a fun new environment for us with different faces.”

Others have always watched the sport and thought of being a part of it.

“I watch a lot of football,” Ross said.

Ross doesn’t do track as she starts on the basketball team in the winter and softball team in the spring, but her background as a cross country runner, which has led her to run D1, has her prepared to fun in football.

“It definitely is a lot, but cross country has prepared me,,” she said.

While there are a lot of girls who play multiple sports on the team, there are also many who are new to playing sports at Elmira.

“It’s fun for the people that don’t play any sports and they decided to come out and do a sport for fun,” Ross said.

There will be some of the same rivalries from other sports, with Corning and Horseheads having teams. In fact the Express open the season tonight with Corning.

For McCauley it’s fun for the girls who are new sports to see the rivalries, but it’s also fun for the ones who play other sports to see what football games are like.

“Same sport, same kind of set up, but just a different vibe,” he said. “I’ve been really looking forward to it. We are trying to carry over things we do in boys football into girls football. The traditions and things we hang our hats on and the girls are doing a great job.

“We have been trying to tell them, and even the girls who play other sports, there is nothing like scoring a touchdown on a Friday night making those lights dance. There is nothing like picking off a pass Friday night. There is nothing like it. It’s a different vibe, so we are really looking forward to it.”

The Express are ready for today’s season opener against the Hawks, at 7 p.m.

“I’m very excited,” Krawczyk said. “It’s like nervous and excited. You don’t know how it will go and you hope you remember everything, but it’s very exciting.”
IN PHOTOS: Elmira’s players go through practice. . . PHOTOS BY BRIAN FEES

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