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We are the champions: Honoring Sullivan West’s athletes

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LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — According to ancient Greek lore, in the 23rd book of Homer’s “Iliad,” Achilles organized funeral games to be held in honor of his friend Patrokios, who was slain during the Trojan War.

History recounts that a series of eight events were conducted on the fabled Plains of Troy. During the Pan-Hellenic Festivals, the only prizes awarded to the champions were wreathes woven of leaves; olive at Olympia, laurel at Delphi, pine at Isthmia and parsley at Nemea.

On Thursday, June 13, Sullivan West celebrated its own brand of champions with the Spring 2019 Sports Awards Presentation. In addition to recognizing the season’s outstanding scholar athletes, trophies were presented to the year’s most valuable players, along with several other prestigious awards presented across the broad realm of high school athletics.

In kick-starting the program, athletic director David Franskevicz recalled last season’s year-end presentation where he stated, “Let’s hope we never have to endure another season like the one we just had,” a reference to inclement weather that spring.

“I guess no one really heard this, because this spring wasn’t as bad as last spring… it was worse,” he said this year. “The teams and their coaches and players all persevered.”

Franskevicz offered “special congratulations” to Isabel “Izzy” Nearing and Joseph Joyce Turner for being selected as Sullivan West’s 2019 Scholar Athletes. The pair were just two of the area’s 49 student athletes who qualified for New York State Scholar status by achieving a GPA of 90 or better in the classroom—“the most amount of athletes we’ve had on record in one season,” he said.

In addition, Franskevicz noted that the baseball, girls’ track and girls’ golf teams were named scholar teams, a designation granted when at least 75% of the team averages a GPA of at least 90.

Then it was time for a few well-deserved bows and accolades in the form of glittering trophies.

In high school athletics, it seems every sport has a standout. This year, the girls’ outdoor track team racked up the honors.

Josef Seidl coaches the girls’ track and field team, which won the 2019 Division 4 and Section IX Class D titles. “In fact, they have not lost a meet since the month of April 2014,” he said. Over a span of five-and-a-half seasons, their winning streak in dual meets has grown to 36 consecutive meets. In addition, the girls’ indoor and outdoor teams have won 11 division titles, four county championships and seven Section IX Class D and B titles.

Seidl said of these postings, “In doing so, they have accomplished more than any other athletic program in the history of Sullivan West. Many of these girls have been with the program for the past four or five years and represent the heart and soul of the team.”

As he presented the track sprints MVP trophy to Tallua Gann, Seidl said, “This young woman has been blessed with a great deal of natural ability, but her success on the track is greatly attributed to her remarkable competitive spirit. Her outstanding efforts in the Section IX championship resulted in three gold medals for the 400m dash, the 800m run and the 1500m run, and a fifth straight Section IX title for the team. She is one of the top runners in the history of Sullivan West.” At the state qualifier, Gann posted a school record of 58.56 in the 400m dash. In the states, she took fourth place in the event.

In the run-up to presenting the track hurdles MVP, Seidl said of Samantha “Sam” Becker, “This tenacious young woman approaches her goals with a work ethic and drive that is unmatched. Her dedication to personal excellence has made this gifted athlete one of the elite sprinters and hurdles in Section IX track and field and in the state.”

Competing in her first season in the 100m hurdles, Becker shattered the school record “with a blazing 15.11 seconds” and was tabbed division and section champion in that event. In the 400m hurdles, she topped her own school record several times and was crowned OCIAA champion for the second straight season. At the Section IX championship, Becker won the 400m hurdles and took home gold in the 100m, 100m hurdles and the pole vault. At the state qualifier, she picked up three  medals and a ticket to the National Track & Field Championships in North Carolina.

Becker was called back up on stage to receive the coach’s award for female athlete 2018-2019.

In introducing the recipient, Seidl shared his definition of what makes a great athlete: “ who contributes most to her team… who achieves at the highest levels in her sport and, as a result, leads her team to numerous championships.”

Becker closes out her high school career with some rather impressive stats: 11 division championships, four county championships and seven Section IX Class D and Class B titles.

“On the individual side, she is the most accomplished female track athlete in school history,” added Seidl, noting Becker holds school records in the 55m dash, 55m hurdles, indoor 400m dash, 400m hurdles, 100m hurdles, indoor pole vault and is a member of the school’s record setting 4 x 100 relay team.

“It was her unbridled desire to be the best, and the willingness to sacrifice countless hours of hard work that eventually brought her to the level that she is today,” he said, “her determination to be the best never seems to have an end. No matter how high she rises, she strives to ride higher.”

Ron Bauer is Sullivan West’s veteran helmsman of boys’ track and field. “We were a very young team with only two seniors on the team… showed great improvement throughout the year,” he said before adding that during the Section IX championships, Sullivan West placed second, outscoring 19 out of 20 Class C and D schools, taking home a total of 26 medals.

The Milt Gaebel Awards were established in 1995-1996 in the former Jeffersonville-Youngsville School district in the days prior to the three-way merger that created Sullivan West. His long-standing philosophy was “if what you are doing is worth doing, you need to give at least 100%.” In honor of “Milt’s determination, perseverance, dedication and loyalty to sports,” the Sullivan West athletic department recognized Josephine Martinez as the female recipient of the 2018-2019 award, while Eric McBride received the 2018-2019 award for male athlete.

In addition to the records set by the girls’ outdoor track and field team, the varsity girls’ golf team was named Division Champions. Several teams were selected as NYSPHSAA scholar teams.

The 2019 David Curreri Memorial Scholarship Award was presented to Sabrina Martinez by Dawn Curreri.

David Curreri passed away at the age of 26, after graduating Narrowsburg High School, OCCC and SUNY Cortland. While at Narrowsburg, he was inducted into the National Honor Society and, according to the event program, “played almost every sport and achieved the honor of being on the 1999 Narrowsburg Indians basketball team which captured the Western Sullivan League championship.”

The 2019 Billy Moran Scholarship was awarded to Isabel “Izzy” Nearing by Moran’s youngest sister Megan Moran-Eggleton, a Sullivan West graduate. The annual award was created 36 years after the graduate of Delaware Valley High School and Union College was lost to the world by a drunk driver in 1981 during spring baseball training in Florida. The committee aims to select a recipient that is not only “an outstanding student athlete, but someone who best exemplifies the many other exceptional qualities that Billy possessed.”

During her sports career at Sullivan West, Nearing captained her soccer, softball and basketball teams, and will graduate third in her class with a 97.75 GPA. Before handing out the trophy and sharing a few comments from Nearing’s coaches and teachers, Moran-Eggleton said, “Clearly another strength of yours is your drive in life… You are not willing to accept anything but the best.”

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