TRR photo by Ted Waddell

Scholar athletes Leizel Schlott, left, and McKinley Bernitt

Sign me up, coach

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — On Wednesday, June 6, two graduating Sullivan West seniors signed on the dotted line, announcing their intent to attend a couple of nearby colleges where they will continue their education and further their sports careers.

The rites of passage were held in the high school library and witnessed by fellow seniors, coaches, staff and members of their respective families.

McKinley Bernitt, an 18-year-old soon-to-be graduate with magna cum laude honors, will be trading in her Lady Bulldogs uniform for one featuring the logo of the Pacers at Marywood University, an NCAA Division III Catholic liberal arts center of higher learning in Scranton, PA.

At Marywood, she plans to enroll in the pre-physician’s assistant program, unique in that it is a combined graduate program.

As a 10th grader at Sullivan West, Bernitt was asked to play on the girls’ varsity soccer squad, but she declined to stay with her JV team, a team that went to regionals the following season.

During her high school sports career, Bernitt played center midfield in soccer, was a forward in basketball, played softball as a junior and in her final year competed in pentathlon events in track and field.

“Being a student athlete has shaped me into the person I am,” she said. “Sports have given me a reason to go to school every day, and have pushed me to work hard and keep my grades up. Not only this, but as an athlete I have created lifelong friendships with my fellow teammates.”

Bernitt went on to say that sports “have taught me many important life lessons, like how to win and be humble, and also how to take failure and use it as a stepping stone to success.” She added that both her teammates and coaches “gave me the confidence to believe in myself and follow my dreams.”

Eighteen-year-old Leizel Schlott signed up to play softball for the Falcons at Lackawanna College, a liberal arts institution in Scranton, PA that offers both two- and four-year courses of education.

After Lackawanna, she is considering transferring to Wilkes University to get a degree in international studies, and while at the junior college will be enrolled in the four-year college’s USAF ROTC program.

At Sullivan West, Schlott served in many leadership roles: co-president of the student council, NHS officer, SADD chapter president, student representative of the board of education and student representative to building leadership team.

In sports, she played varsity softball for five years, basketball for a couple of seasons and varsity soccer since her sophomore year.

“Sports teaches respect, patience, sportsmanship and time management,” said Schlott when queried about the importance of balancing academics with athletics.

On hand to witness her affixing her John Hancock to the letter of intent were Lackawanna’s head softball coach, Jeff Pittsman, and assistant helmsman and pitching coach, Tom Rudzinski, who stepped up to the plate to welcome Schlott as a future Falcon.

Last year, Lackawanna, an NJCAA school, won the Region XIX title, and missed going to the College World Series by a single out.

Envisioning that Schlott will continue anchoring the plate as a catcher at tne college, Rudzinski said after the ceremonies, “Everyone raves about pitching, but you’d better have top people behind the plate… it’s crucial in softball.”

Dr. Nancy Hackett, superintendent of schools at the “Home of the Bulldogs,” said of the pair of female student athletes whom she has known for the last six years, “They’re outstanding kids… great athletes, leaders, amazing girls.”

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