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Comsewogue

Members of the community gather at Jackson Edwards’ Terryville home July 31 to welcome him home from a lengthy hospital stay in Maryland to battle leukemia. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

After more than four months of treatment battling acute myeloid leukemia, a blood and bone marrow cancer, 11-year-old Jackson Edwards returned home Monday from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland to the sound of a Terryville fire truck honking and the cheers of friends and family.

“I don’t know how to put it — it’s such a wave of emotions,” Jackson’s mother Danielle Edwards said. “We’re happy, finally. Jackson’s a little nervous because he’s so far away from the hospital and he’s thin from the treatment, but he’s happy to be with his people.”

Jackson waives to the crowd assembled at his home. Photo by Kyle Barr

Tired from the long trip and overwhelmed by the number of people who had shown up for the surprise homecoming, Jackson only stood outside for a few minutes July 31, waving to his friends and family before heading back inside. They had taken a 6-hour drive to get back to Terryville from Johns Hopkins.

“[Jackson and his mom] had no idea what was here,” Jackson’s aunt DeeDee Edwards said. She had helped plan the surprise homecoming, and was in charge of keeping the mother and son in the dark. “Jackson was counting the stoplights until we got here, and he was so overwhelmed by all the people who came to support him.”

Though the drive home was long, the real difficulty for Jackson and his family was the more than 100 days he spent in Baltimore fighting the rare form of cancer.. Jackson has always been a charismatic young man, according to his family. He’s a typical 11-year-old — he loves wrestling and football. His favorite comic book and show characters are Captain America and Optimus Prime. In December 2013 Jackson was diagnosed with AML. It was the start of an arduous treatment process that saw Jackson go into remission in May 2014.

Around Christmas 2016, Jackson started to feel sick again, and after taking him to Stony Brook University Hospital, the family learned that the his disease had returned and he had relapsed. In April he was transferred to Johns Hopkins in Maryland where he underwent a long and painful process of chemotherapy in preparation for a later bone marrow transplant. Meanwhile, friends and family worked hard to fund raise and help Jackson’s mother in finding options for his treatment.

Deirdre Cardarelli, a friend of the family, worked hard to help throw the surprise welcome for the Edwards’. For months Cardarelli was co-running the StayStrongJackson Facebook page alongside Jackson’s mom, and she was instrumental in forming a T-shirt drive and an Easter egg hunt to support the family’s travel and medical funds. The Facebook page and all the other social media efforts helped galvanize the local community in its support of Jackson, even those who were not necessarily close to the Edwards’..

Onlookers for the surprise homecoming brought signs of support to hold. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I don’t know the family personally, but our oldest, Michael, is in the same school with Jackson,” said community member Yoon Perrone. “We bought the shirts to support the family and we wanted to be here. I can’t imagine one of our own children having the disease.”

For the bone marrow transplant the family had to find a donor that was as close of a match as possible. Rocco Del Greco, a friend of the family, said he felt a deep need to help the young man and his family once he learned of the cancer’s relapse.

“Since I was not so emotionally connected to their son I was able to channel my anger for what happened to the young man,” Del Greco said. He helped to jump-start a YouCaring page to crowd fund for Jackson, which managed to raise more than $8,000. Del Greco  also managed several bone marrow drives during the search for a suitable donor. From January to early April, Del Greco helped facilitate for almost 1,800 people to test their DNA for matches to Jackson.

Finding a sufficient match was not easy for the Edwards’. Jackson’s mother had a 50 percent match from her own marrow. She served as the donor, and the transplant was successful. After about a month-long recovery, the doctors said he was safe to continue treatment from home.

The process kept Jackson away from school and friends and forced him to endure weeks of treatment, including chemotherapy. Jackson was not able to attend his fifth-grade graduation ceremony from elementary school in the Comsewogue School District, but his older brother Cortez James “C.J” Edwards walked up on stage in his place. Jackson’s mother said that while the treatment process and lengthy hospital stay did get tough, her son powered through it by making new friends.

Members of the community gather at Jackson Edwards’ Terryville home July 31 to welcome him home from a lengthy hospital stay in Maryland to battle leukemia. Photo by Kyle Barr

“He met a whole bunch of new people, because he’s very charismatic, and he stole a bunch of other people’s hearts,” she said.

The transplant has left his immune system weak, and for another eight months Jackson is restricted from coming too close in contact with other people while he heals. This will prohibit him from attending school for several months, but his mother said they plan on continuing his education with tutoring.

Though he said he is excited to eventually go back to school, for now Jackson celebrated a Christmas in July, including a tree and presents surrounding it. He was unable to celebrate Christmas with his family when his cancer relapsed back in December.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 47,000 people were diagnosed with leukemia in 2014, the most recent year on record with data on leukemia.

Receives innaugural USA Fencing National High School Coach of the Year honor

Fencing coach Jeff Salmon receives the first USA Fencing High School Coach of the Year award from former Penn State University head coach Emmanuil Kaidanov. Photo from Jennie Salmon

Jeff Salmon is an accomplished fencer in his own right, but he now he has proof that his prodigies are receiving coaching that is second to none in the United States.

The acclaimed fencer and head coach of the boys team at Ward Melville High School was named the inaugural winner of the USA Fencing High School Coach of the Year award.

“The word honor doesn’t even come close,” said Salmon, a Mount Sinai resident and owner of Mission Fencing Center in Rocky Point. “It’s a cool award, it’s an amazing honor and it makes you reflect on a lifetime of work.”

Jeff Salmon teaches his daughter Olivia out on the strip. Photo from Jennie Salmon

Eighteen individuals from high schools in six different states were nominated for the prestigious award.

Under Salmon’s leadership, Ward Melville’s teams have continued a winning tradition, including capturing the 2016-17 Long Island championship. The program has maintained a 158-match winning streak that ranks among the most impressive in interscholastic athletics nationwide.

“Jeff’s done so much for the kids here, but promoted the sport throughout Suffolk County, the state and the nation,” Ward Melville athletic director Peter Melore said. “Jeff’s a fantastic coach and he’s been honored in so many ways on local levels, it was time for him to be recognized at the national level.”

The Comsewogue High School graduate who originally competed in foil made the switch to sabre at Penn State University. Although he was a Suffolk County champion and Empire State Games gold medalist while he was a Warrior, the switch proved to work in Salmon’s favor.

“The Penn State team had strong foilers and could use a sabre fencer,” he said. “I was a little disappointed with my achievements in foil, so I was willing to accept the new challenge. It benefited me to switch and I adapted quite well.”

During his years as a Nittany Lion, he trained under Emmanuil Kaidanov, a five-time U.S. national team coach and Wes Glon, an Olympic and World Championship coach. Salmon placed in the top 12 as an individual in the NCAA championships and was one of two sabre fencers chosen for NCAA training at the German Olympic Center in 1987. He was an assistant coach for the Penn State fencing team during two national championship seasons before he brought his expertise to Ward Melville by starting a fencing club in 1995. In 1999, by popular demand, the club became a varsity team.

His athletes are consistently among the top on Long Island, and his team has won 13 league, county and Long Island titles. Salmon has won Suffolk County Coach of the Year honors seven times and USA Fencing Long Island High School Coach of the Year three times, but this is his first national achievement, one that many said they thought was long overdue.

“I wasn’t surprised because I know never to be surprised by what he does. His vast pool of knowledge and understanding of the sport and his nature of innovation is everything you need in a coach.”

— Danny Solomon

“I know he is one of the best coaches in the country, so it is a no-brainer to choose him,” rising Ward Melville senior Danny Solomon said. “I wasn’t surprised because I know never to be surprised by what he does. His vast pool of knowledge and understanding of the sport and his nature of innovation is everything you need in a coach.”

Solomon, who is a county champion, has also won four national championships, including at this year’s Junior Olympics, one international competition and many national and international medals. He is a two-time USA Fencing cadet team member and has gone to the cadet world championships twice.

He credits all of his success to his, at times, intimidating coach.

“I was terrified of him,” he joked. “Imagine being a seventh-grader seeing this huge, scary, bald guy flailing swords around. It would scare anyone.”

But the sabre competitor said things drastically changed over time.

“He is the reason I am the fencer I am today,” Solomon said. “He has definitely pushed me everyday. He can be both serious and friendly, but is always trying to get the best out of you.”

Soon-to-be University of Notre Dame freshman Jack Rohan agreed.

“He always tries his best to relate to his fencers to the point where he is not a coach but a friend,” he said. “He has been a huge contributor to my improvement in fencing and definitely deserves such an award.”

The sabre fencer, who joined the Patriots in eighth grade, was named All-Long Island last year after finishing with the best record in the county (35-3). He also won gold in sabre at the Jeff Wolfe Holiday Tournament.

His older sister Alexa played for Salmon, so Rohan was familiar with his longtime coach, and said he decided to give up focusing on his primary sport, lacrosse, to fence.

“On the Ward Melville team we commonly refer to him as ‘the magic’ since talented fencers may graduate, but he is always able to put together a championship-caliber team,” Jack Rohan said of the decorated coach.

Jeff Salmon with acclaimed protégé Danny Solomon after he won the Konin Cadet World Cup in Poland last year. File photo from Ward Melville school district

Melore, who stepped in as athletic director a couple of years ago, is proud to have Salmon as part of the program.

“He’s poised, professional, smart, passionate about the sport and really good with the kids,” he said. “He’s a great teacher of the sport. A lot is done in preparation, before and during matches, and he knows just when to give support and strategy to our athletes. It’s reassuring to have a veteran, and rapport is everything. We’re very proud he have this great program and tradition that Jeff built and I feel confident that our kids are getting taught the right way.”

Salmon said the joy he gets in seeing his students achieve their goals means more to him than any award or achievement.

“As the years went on, I found that I had a lot more satisfaction just changing the kids lives and building the confidence in them and having them grow as human beings,” he said. “Certainly the tool is fencing, but I find that that’s been the real joy in the journey.”

He reflected on similar ideas when he gave his acceptance speech, after receiving the award from his former coach Kaidanov.

“Not everyone is going to be an All-American, not everyone is going to be an Olympian, but what we do as high school coaches is take kids that have their hat over their head, their hands in their pockets, and we have them stand up straight and be confident in themselves,” he said. “This sport is hard — really, really hard. Parents really need to understand how hard this is mentally, physically. And that little success that they had makes them the men and women that they become. It gives them the confidence to go on in life — whether they achieve great things in fencing or just get that ‘E’ [lowest fencer rating] that they’ve been wanting so badly. It’s so important.”

Vice President of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce Donna Boeckel, on left, and Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright, on right, with the scholarship recipients. Photo by Kevin Redding

The North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce last week awarded $1,000 scholarships to local high school graduates heading to college to pursue their dreams this fall.

Each of the seven students, Benjamin May, Kira Gresser and Mathew Yonks from Mount Sinai; Alexa Tammone from Comsewogue; Angela Bonafede from Rocky Point; Emma Dell’Aquilla from Miller Place; and John McCarrick from Shoreham-Wading River were winners of the chamber’s highly competitive, districts-wide essay contest. Each was recognized for his or her academic achievements and community service.

“I think sometimes we as a community — the parents and the chambers — need to sit down and stop for a moment to let each and every one of you know that you’re doing a great job,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said during an awards ceremony at Don Quijote restaurant in Miller Place June 19. “While you’re in college, know that you have the entire community supporting you as you move forward. You guys soared — you’re shining stars and we look forward to having you as a continued part of the Town of Brookhaven.”

May, who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania to study economics and international relations, wrote in his essay about his experience as an environmental advocate at Mount Sinai High School — where he founded the Environmental Outreach Club. He said he was thrilled to accept the scholarship.

“I knew the competition was really strong for this one, so when I heard back about it, I was very humbled and honored,” May said. “I know the money is going to help me get a college education, so I’m very happy.”

Tammone, who has led several variety shows and programs at Comsewogue to benefit charities, will pursue a degree in music education at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“[Music] is something I’m very passionate about and I want to share my passion with others — I’m very honored to be recognized,” she said.

Rocky Point’s Bonafede, who will be studying baking and pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island after years in the BOCES culinary arts program, said it was a big relief to hear she’d been chosen.

“Everything I’ve been working toward is finally paying off,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of community service events, like giving food to people in need, car washes, fundraising — I’m excited to be making my big dream come true.”

Dell’Aquilla, a volunteer at Mather Hospital, said, in her essay, taking care of her epileptic brother growing up helped her realize she wanted to study nursing at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

McCarrick, an honors student, athlete, Eagle Scout member, and junior firefighter in the Shoreham-Wading River district, said he will be using his scholarship money to pay for school supplies at SUNY New Paltz, where he will major in mechanical engineering.

While a senior at Mount Sinai, Gresser, who will study human-based law at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, held several fundraisers to help build a water well in Africa for the organization Strides for Africa.

“It’s really nice that there’s something like this because a lot of people do a lot of good and hard work and don’t really get much for it,” Gresser said of the scholarship.

Yonks, who plans to pursue nursing at the University of Buffalo, has been a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and the Eagle Scouts. As a senior, he built garden boxes and planted vegetables that were donated to needy families in local areas.

“I’m just proud to be a member of the community, and I always like to help whenever and wherever needed,” he said.

Donna Boeckel, vice president of the chamber, along with chamber corresponding secretary Carol Genua, sifted through the dozens of essays that poured in from each district. Boeckel said the chamber has spearheaded this contest every year for the last 20 years and raises the money through town fundraisers.

“These recipients had submissions that outshined all the others,” Boeckel said. “We’re very proud of them — they really took it to the next level.”

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By Bill Landon

Despite leading by three goals entering the fourth quarter — giving the No. 2-seeded Eastport-South Manor boys’ lacrosse team a run for its money — No. 6 Comsewogue was outscored 6-1 in the final 12 minutes, to fall 10-8 in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals May 26.

It wasn’t an easy road for the Warriors, which made the postseason with a 6-8 record in league play, and got in because of power points earned against top-seeded teams, according to athletic director Matt DeVincenzo. But Comsewogue showed resiliency, and knocked off No. 3 Harborfields with a 6-5 win May 18, and continued to battle through the bracket Friday.

Sophomore Sean Kennedy got things going for the Warriors when he spotted Nick Donnelly jumping out front from behind the cage, and flicked the ball to the junior, who buried his shot. But the Sharks answered back quickly. Kennedy found senior Ryan Dorney on the cut minutes later, but again Eastport-South Manor had an answer.

Sophomore Tom Heller — making 11 saves on the day — had his hand full protecting the net, and prevented several shots from passing him by to keep the score tied heading into the second quarter.

Senior Will Snelders ripped a shot from 35 feet out to put his team out front, and junior Richie Lacalandra scored off a feed from Dorney to extend the lead. The Warriors kept attacking, and Snelders sent a pass to junior Sean Power, who was able to redirect the ball to the back of the cage off a flick pass for a 5-2 advantage with 7:51 left in the first half.

Twenty seconds later, the Sharks’ Brandon Stiles sent a shot just inside the pipes, but the Warriors stymied any attempt at a comeback, as Lacalandra and Snelders scored unassisted goals to put Comsewogue up 7-3 with two minutes left.

“Everybody doubted us all year,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said. “We didn’t get a lot of accolades — we’re just a group of blue collar kids — and I’m proud of them.”

Eastport-South Manor’s Ryan Weiss scored with 31 seconds on the clock to cut the deficit to three goals by the break. And after discussing with their coaches, two different teams entered play in the third quarter, as the defenses battled to a stalemate.

Things changed drastically in the fourth, and Eastport-South Manor’s Tom Szalkowski ended the scoring drought in the opening minutes, and teammate James Sherwood split the pipes 20 seconds later to pull within one goal, 7-6.

Kennedy found Donnelly again on a cut across the cage for an insurance goal, but the Sharks wiped it away by tallying four unanswered goals off faceoff wins.

“The faceoff ‘X’ was bad in the fourth quarter — we made a couple of mistakes clearing the ball,” Mitchell said. The head coach put the blame on himself for the outcome.

“That’s on me,” he said. “As the coach, to not make an adjustment on the faceoff when I could have — I take that one because I need to put them in the best position to succeed.”

Mitchell, whose team finishes its season at 7-9 overall, continued to convey pride for a team that accomplished what it did, extending its postseason and battling to some close games this season, like 7-6, 9-8 and 11-10 losses to No. 4 Mount Sinai, No. 3 Miller Place and No. 1 Shoreham-Wading River, respectively.

“They’ve worked hard,” Mitchell said. “And they’re going to be successful in whatever they do in life because of how hard they worked and the lessons they’ve learned [playing] Comsewogue lacrosse.”

The evening of May 16 was a good one for school boards across New York State, as residents cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of district budgets.

According to the New York State School Boards Association, the average proposed school district tax levy increase in 2017-18 will be 1.48 percent, more than half a percentage point below the acclaimed 2 percent property tax cap. It is the fourth consecutive year the tax cap growth factor will be below 2 percent.

Here’s how school districts on the North Shore of Suffolk County fared:

Commack
According to the Commack school district’s website, the district voted 2,019-555 in favor of the $187,532,818 proposed budget. Carpenter edged out Janine DiGirolamo 1,363 votes to 1,059, and Hender narrowly beat April Pancella Haupt 1,240 to 1,148.

Comsewogue
Comsewogue residents voted 789 in favor and 208 not against the $89,796,337 budget. Incumbents Ali Gordon and Jim Sanchez won back their seats in an uncontested race, with 882 and 846 votes, respectively.

Harborfields
Members of the district voted 1,224 to 249 for the $84.4 million budget. In a tightly-contested race, David Steinberg and Christopher Kelly won the two open seats with 800 and 741 votes, respectively. Sternberg won back his seat, while the third time seemed to be a charm for Kelly. Laura Levenberg finished with 623 votes while Anila Nitekman totaled 467.

Hauppauge
The Hauppauge school district passed its $107,965,857 budget 811-308, and its capital reserve fund proposition 869-248, according to the district’s Facebook page. James Kiley and Lawrence Craft were elected to the board of education, with 803 and 797 votes, respectively.

Huntington
Residents passed the $126.2 million budget and capital reserve proposition, according to the district website. Trustees Jennifer Hebert and Xavier Palacios were re-elected to three-year terms.

Kings Park
The Kings Park community passed its $88.5 million proposed budget with 1,360 yes votes to 533 no. Incumbent Joe Bianco won back his seat with 989 votes, while challengers Katy Cardinale and J.P. Andrade finished with 733 and 110.

“I just feel great,” Kings Park Superintendent Tim Eagan said. “The budget passed with 72 percent approval. I’m just happy that the community is very happy with what we have going on here, and it’s just great to have their support. We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years. We’ve been 70 percent passing or higher.”

Middle Country
Residents chose to pass the $243,590,487 proposed budget 1,658-418. Runners Dina Phillips (1,523), Ellie Estevez (1,380) and Doreen Felmann (1,512) won their uncontested board of education seat races, with 17 write-in votes.

Miller Place
Voters passed the $126.2 million budget 763-162. With no challengers, Lisa Reitan and Richard Panico were elected with 726 and 709 votes. Other write-in candidates totaled 23 votes.

Mount Sinai
The $59,272,525 budget was overwhelmingly passed by residents, 1,007 to 251 and the library 1,111 to 144. Incumbents Robert Sweeney (1,013), Edward Law (866) and Peter Van Middelem (860) won back their seats, while Michael McGuire almost doubled his total from last year, finishing with 597.

“I’m very happy that it passed,” Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “We have great programs here. We can maintain those programs. We made the AP Honor Roll two years in a roll. Almost every team right now is in the playoffs, our music program is better than ever, so to keep those programs is great, but we’re not resting on that. Now we can get to work on our elementary reading program, bolstering that, we have a new principal coming in who has high expectations. There are programs we want to put in place that a lot of our kids need in the elementary school.”

He was disappointed with the turnout, though.

“I’m not happy,” he said. “We’re 200 lower than last year. We have 9,000 eligible voters. I’d like to see 500 to another 1,00 approve it so we have everyone together.”

Northport-East Northport
Northport-East Northport residents said “yes, yes, yes.” With 2,074 votes for and 636 against, the $163,306,840 budget passed, while support was also strong for the capital reserve expenditure, with 2,197 votes for and 512 against. This will allow the district to use capital reserves to fund additional projects including resurfacing/replacing two tennis courts and replacing the fence at William J. Brosnan School, installing new operable gymnasium windows at East Northport Middle School, replacing circuit panels at Northport High School, replacing auditorium seating at William J. Brosnan School and replacing classroom ceilings at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School. Donna McNaughton beat out Thomas Loughran for the lone seat up for grabs with 1,750 votes to Loughran’s 769.

Port Jefferson
Community members passed the nearly $43 million proposed budget 338-74. Renovations and upgrades using the capital reserve funds was also passed, 368-43. Incumbents Adam DeWitt and David Keegan were re-elected to serve three-year terms, with 357 and 356 votes, respectively.

Rocky Point
Rocky Point residents voted to pass the $83,286,346 budget with 663 saying yes, while 246 said no. The district also sought voter approval to access $3,385,965 million from its capital reserve fund in order to complete facility renovations across the district. For that proposal, 600 voted for and 312 against.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our proposed budget and capital improvement plan,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “The educational enhancements included in this budget are ones that we believe will further support the needs of Rocky Point students while also providing them with opportunities to succeed at even greater levels, while still maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbent board of education member Sean Callahan and newcomer Joseph Coniglione, who is principal of Comsewogue High school, were elected with 713 and 641 votes, respectively.

Shoreham-Wading River
Voters approved the $74, 842,792 budget 1,112 for to 992 against, and passed the capital reserve fund with 1,282 yes’ to 813 nos. The people are calling for change, as Katie Anderson (1,318), Henry Perez (1,303), Erin Hunt (1,279) and Michaell Yannuci (1,087) won seats, while James Smith (1,015), Jack Costas (563) and John Zukowski (524) missed the mark. Yannucci, who has previously been on the board, will be taking the one-year seat left by Michael Fucito, and both incumbents have been ousted.

Smithtown
The community passed the proposed budget with 2,241 yes votes to 693 no. Incumbents Gledy Waldron and Joanne McEnroy, who were running unopposed, won back their seats with 2,095 and 2,090 votes, respectively.  Matthew Gribbin defeated incumbent Grace Plours with 1,835 votes to Plourde’s 1,155.

Three Village
Three Village residents voted 1,708 for to 719 against the proposed $204.4 million budget. With no challengers, incumbents Jeff Kerman, Irene Gische and Inger Germano won back their seats with 1,805, 1,794 and 1,753 votes, respectively.

For voters in both the Port Jefferson and Comsewogue school districts, what’s old will be new again. Incumbent Adam DeWitt and newcomer David Keegan will be the only two names on the ballot May 16 for those living in the Port Jeff district with two seats open. Bob Ramus, a nine-year board member, announced earlier in 2017 he would not seek another term. Residents in Comsewogue will also see two names running for two open seats. The candidates are incumbents Ali Gordon and James Sanchez.

Port Jefferson School District

Adam DeWitt. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Adam DeWitt will be elected for his third term on the Port Jefferson board of education. He was first elected in 2013 on an interim basis, then won a seat during the 2014 to begin his first full term. The 42-year-old principal in the Longwood school district lives in Port Jefferson and has two children who attend the district.

He said he initially decided to run four years ago because he was concerned at the possibility of the district losing a substantial amount of revenue based on a legal battle with the Long Island Power Authority and the Port Jefferson Power Station, and is still committed to working on it.

DeWitt praised his colleagues on the board for the environment he has seen develop during his time serving.

“That’s another reason I want to continue to be on it … we created a system of efficiency and collaboration,” he said.

He said one of the things that has happened during his time that he’s proud of playing a part in is the district’s updated rules on transgender students use of bathrooms and locker rooms as of April 2016. The new policy allowed students to identify in their records how they would like their gender to be identified.

David Keegan, 47, has been an information and technology sales professional for the last 24 years. He is currently an area sales manager at Cisco Systems and a resident of Belle Terre.

“As an avid reader of American History I have come to appreciate and understand the importance of civic responsibility and commitment to community,” he said in an email. “As a Port Jefferson community member and parent to two children in the district, I am keenly interested in helping to assure the district continues to strive to provide a world-class education for all of our children.”

He also referenced the situation with LIPA as a deciding factor for his engagement with the school board, though there are other things he said he hopes to help accomplish in his first term, like expansion of STEM opportunities for students.

Comsewogue School District

Ali Gordon. Photo from Ali Gordon

Ali Gordon began her time on the school board in 2011. She is begining her third term in 2017. Gordon currently works as a senior advocate for the Suffolk County Office for the Aging. The 45-year-old has lived in Port Jefferson Station since 1999 with her husband and three of her four children, two of which are still attending Comsewogue schools.

Gordon said she originally ran for the position as an extension of her own advocacy and activism in local government. She spent several years in the PTA for Terryville Elementary School and even organized letter-writing campaigns for the district to address local issues in education with elected representatives.

She shared why she decided to run again this time around.

“I’m running again because Comsewogue has made incredible strides toward providing all of our students with a well-rounded, student-centered education, but there’s always more that can be done,” she said in an email. “Within my next term I look forward to advocating for Comsewogue to secure permission from New York State to officially be part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, and expanding opportunities for students to earn college credit during high school.”

James Sanchez. Photo from James Sanchez

James Sanchez is the vice president of the Comsewogue board.

He is 62 years old and has lived in the district for 27 years. He works at the Port Jefferson Ferry as a dock master. He was first elected to the board in 2011 and said his goal when he first decided to run was to do anything he could to foster high student achievement through optimum, responsible use of taxpayer funds.

During his tenure he has served on the budget and finance, buildings, grounds and maintenance and board and district policies committees.

Sanchez shared some of his goals for his upcoming third term in an email.

“Developing a safe and secure school in which we have the mindfulness to protect all against bullying, harassment and discrimination is essential for providing a student friendly classroom,” he said. In this way we can create a safe and supportive school environment.”

Shoreham-Wading River's Sophia Triandafils pushes her way into Comsewogue's zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Don’t blink, or you might miss her.

Senior Sophia Triandafils won the opening two draws, and, off feeds from senior Sam Higgins, scored twice in the first 35 seconds, to propel Shoreham-Wading River to a 12-7 nonleague win over Comsewogue April 18 in a girls’ lacrosse tilt.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Sam Higgins passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We’ve been playing together since we were really tiny,” Triandafils said. “We’re always looking for each other on the field.”

Her teammate agreed that their strong bond is an asset.

“Over time we’ve just picked up on each other’s tendencies and she somehow always finds a way to get open for me, and vice versa,” said Higgins, who had one goal and four assists in the game. “I try to keep my feet moving and give quick passes. I also try to draw defenders by driving and that usually opens people up.”

Triandafils and sophomore Isabella Meli took advantage of early opportunities, and junior goalkeeper Gabby Cacciola made four key saves while the Wildcats built a 7-0 lead.

“Our transitions were great today,” Triandafils said. “No one was hesitating. We were really pushing it.”

By the time Comsewogue senior Jamie Fischer scored the first of her two goals with 8:21 left in the first half, Triandafils and Meli already each had hat tricks.

“This team is super, super athletic, they’re fast, they’re quick, they anticipate the next play, so the speed and agility is definitely something that puts us up on other teams — getting a jump on the draw, ground balls, even anticipating the slides defensively — and it helps us play a lot better,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Brittany Davis said. “Last year we played Comsewogue and they really gave us a run for it, so I told the team to not underestimate them.”

Comsewogue goalkeeper Brianna Blatter reaches to make a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By the end of the first half, the Wildcats (5-1) enjoyed a 10-2 advantage, with Meli scoring her fourth goal with a second left on the clock, but the Warriors (6-2) came out battling in the second.

“It takes a minute to wake up,” Comsewogue head coach Michelle Ceraso said. “But they only let up two goals in the second half. They’re picking it up.”

Comsewogue kept the host team on defense through most of the 25 minutes, scoring three unanswered goals while Shoreham-Wading River struggled to keep possession.

“I think we became a bit complacent on offense, but our defense stayed strong and our goalie saved us a few times,” Higgins said. “I think it really exemplifies the strength our entire team has. Our speed definitely gives us an advantage in transition and riding. I think it forces the other teams to work harder and make them more tired, which we try to take advantage of.”

Cacciola made four big saves, two on Fischer, to preserve a dwindling lead. She finished the game with 12 saves, one short of her season high, while Triandafils’ and Meli’s four goals were season highs.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Isabella Meli regains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We played a lot of defense in the second half, and I didn’t love it, but I think we learned a lot to take with us,” Davis said.

Her team is also learning that it can contend. After what Davis considered the program’s first real winning season, with an 11-3 Division II record last year, the only thing that stood in the Wildcats’ way was a tough Mount Sinai team. The Mustangs handed Shoreham-Wading River two of its three losses, both by one goal in overtime — the second eliminated the team from county final contention.

This season, the Wildcats had to face the Mustangs early — in the first game of the season — where Shoreham-Wading River turned the tide to come away with the one-goal win.

“We’re finally starting to realize our potential and everyone’s filling into their roles,” Higgins said. “I think we have a real chance this year.”

Davis said she thinks success can get in her player’s heads, but it’s something they’re building upon. She said she thinks if the team, which returned all but two starters, can get over that and remain focused, they’ll be the team to beat.

“Winning is kind of new to them, so they hold back a little bit,” the head coach said. “Each one of them is a huge piece to the success we’ve had. This team is something special. Their character, their heart, their hustle is completely in this.”

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Erica Hickey gets a base hit. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s softball team continued its winning ways when the Warriors jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and never looked back, outscoring Islip 10-4 April 3 to improve to 3-0 this in League VIII.

Emily Whitman throws an Islip runner out at first sitting on the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

The Warriors bats went to work from the opening pitch, and although Islip threatened in the bottom of the second, the team failed to capitalize with a runner on third. In the top of the third, Emily Whitman hit a homerun over the centerfield fence to put her team out front, 4-0.

“I thought they were stronger from last year even though they lost a lot of key players, but this year we came ready to win, and we did,” she said. “Our hitting — we were definitely all over that pitcher today.”

Islip broke the ice in the bottom of the third, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly, but couldn’t maintain the momentum, stranding two runners at the end of the inning.

Alyssa Bono’s bat cracked next, as she slammed her own first pitch past center field for a 5-1 lead.

“I thought we would have a good game against Islip — we lost twice to them last year when I was on JV so I knew this would be a hard game to win,” Bono said. “I thought we played well all around.”

Taylor Graves kept the inning alive when she ripped a double into deep right field, plating teammate Erica Hickey for a 6-1 advantage. Whitman kept the inning alive and smacked the ball through the gap in right center for a double that brought home Graves. Whitman took off to third base and narrowly beat the tag, looking to finish what she’d started. Julia Keller was up next, and patient at the plate. She found one she liked, and jumped on it, knocking a home run over center field for a 9-1 lead.

Alyssa Bono catches an infield popup. Photo by Bill Landon

“I thought they’d come out a lot stronger,” Keller said of Islip. “We came in as the underdog, and we won. We’ll keep on hitting, but it’s our team bonding that wins games.”

Whitman took over on the mound for starting pitcher Alexa Murray in the bottom of the fifth, and retired the side in order.

Comsewogue went back to work threatening in the top of the sixth inning with runners on first and second, and as Murray stepped into the box, Graves was caught stealing to end the inning.

With their backs against the wall, Islip loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth following a pair of walks. Another walk sent home a run, a base hits scored two more to trail 9-4. With two outs, Islip drilled one right at Whitman, who was knocked down but able to stop the ball. Sitting on the ground from behind the mound, she made the throw to first in time for the out that ended the inning.

“Emily Whitman is unique — she’s one of the best players in the county and I’ll go to battle with her every time,” Comsewogue head coach Jason Surdi said. “When you have someone like Emily Whitman on your team, you have a chance to win every single game.”

Taylor Graves makes a play. Photo by Bill Landon

With Patricia Kelly on second, Donna Scarth got the job done as she laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved Kelly over to third, and Hickey finished it with a base hit that brought home another insurance one.

“This is a big win for this team — Islip is a perennial power, they’ve been in the county finals the past two years,” Surdi said. “I don’t know when the last time that Comsewogue has had a win against a county finalist — it could be 20-25 years so this is a big win for this program.”

With three outs left in the game, Islip would not answer as the Warriors handed the Buccaneers their first loss of the season.

“We’ve had a great start to the year,” Surdi said. “We have a lot of young players that have stepped up and right now we’re kicking on all cylinders.”

The team will play another powerhouse in Sayville April 5 at 4 p.m. Comsewogue will then travel to Rocky Point April 10 for a 10 a.m. matchup before hosting Miller Place at the same time April 12.

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Nora Gabel scores two points on a putback. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Comsewogue girls’ basketball team dropped its second-to-last game of the season to Sayville Feb. 7, 51-44, on senior night, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort from the Warriors.

Sam Collins prepares to take a shot from beyond the arc. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think we came out really strong, got them a little nervous — on their heels a little bit,” senior Sam Collins said.

That’s because she was swishing shot after shot from beyond the arc. Collins scored all nine of her team’s first-quarter points on 3-pointers, and added another at the start of the second.

“I work so hard on it and when I get an open shot I’m happy to take it,” she said. “It helps my teammates and it’s hard to contest a shot like that.”

Her coach likes what he’s seen from his four-year starter as well. Collins has racked up 43 3-pointers this season.

“She makes a living out there,” Comsewogue head coach Joe Caltagirone said. “She can post up too, but with the 1-3-1 defense that [Sayville plays] it was suited for her to stay out on the wing and take the open shots when she had them.”

The game, which was Comsewogue’s first home loss of the season, was tight through most of the first half. Collins’ fourth trey countered a Sayville 3-pointer, and junior Nora Gabel scored a field goal that put her team out front 14-11, but Sayville always had an answer, or two, and by the end of the first half Sayville had a 24-18 advantage.

Sayville’s defense intercepted multiple passes and won its fair share of battles on the boards, but junior Hannah Dorney grabbed multiple rebounds for Comsewogue, and forced a few turnovers herself.

Hannah Dorney carries the ball into Sayville’s zone after forcing a turnover. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We softened their defense, we broke it down pretty good and got some good looks, but our shots didn’t fall,” Caltagirone said. “Hannah has been a great addition off the lacrosse team. We had to play their style with the aggressiveness and working baseline to baseline, which she helped with. I was pleased with their effort.”

Heading into the halftime break, Collins said her team talked about ways to make sure the game didn’t slip away.

“We wanted to move the ball a lot more to make them move because they’re eventually going to get tired,” she said. “If we take the first available shot, it’s easy for them to play defense, but if we wait the whole shot clock and get the best shot possible, they can’t do anything about it.”

At first, it worked. Senior Megan Turner drew a foul and sank both of her free throws, Gabel added a 3-pointer and Dorney scored a field goal to regain the lead for Comsewogue, 25-24. Despite the team’s best efforts, Sayville always had a response. Gabel and junior Georgia Alexiou added four points each in the third, but the Warriors fell behind 45-41. and that was the closest they would get.

“As the game progressed we lost it a little bit, then we came back, but there wasn’t enough time on the clock,” Collins said. “We communicate well, we didn’t give them easy baskets, we made them work for it, and we moved the ball.”

Sofia Colocho drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Caltagirone honored Collins, Turner, Brittany DeLeva, Lauren Gray and Christiany Pizarro before the game as part of the senior night festivities.

“It’s bittersweet — I’ll miss them,” the head coach said. “Some are three- and four-year players I’ve been coaching for a while and they mean a lot to the program. I’m happy for them, but I’m sad to lose them.”

Collins was also emotional.

“I never thought this day would come,” she said. “I wish we could’ve gotten the win, but I know we played our best, and that’s enough for me.”

She said despite the loss the energy is high heading into the postseason, and Caltagirone said he believes in the squad’s ability, noting how this season compared to last. The Warriors are winning the close games and aren’t letting teams back into games, something he said is big for the team.

“They do the hard work,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that we can play with anybody. We’ve shown we can play with anybody.”

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Shot put throwers Andy Suarez and Billy Grosse finished second and third, respectively, at a meet at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus Jan. 29, both tossing over 50 feet. Photos by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue has never had a thrower capable of hurling a shot put over 50 feet, that is, until this winter boys’ track and field season. In fact, there are two Warriors —Andy Suarez and Billy Grosse — who have been breaking the school record meet after meet this year, and Jan. 29 was no different.

Reno Molina finished third in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.87 seconds. Photo by Bill Landon

The seniors placed second and third at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Grosse had set a new school record with his toss of 50 feet, 11 inches, but it was short lived. Suarez sent his first shot put 50 feet, 8 inches, but came up moments after Grosse, and set a new record with his second toss of 50 feet, 11.25 inches.

After the last meet before the Suffolk County finals, the two remain ranked in the Top 15 throwers in the state.. Both will have their work cut out for them come then, because Kings Park’s Dan Byrne ruled the day with a toss that measured 56 feet, 9 inches.

“If I’m not throwing as well as I know I can, I’ll go off to the side and practice my form,” Suarez said. “I listen to what my coach is saying because I can’t look at myself, but he watches very closely.”

Comsewogue head coach Brad Posnanski said he knew the duo had the potential to throw as well as they have been, and said all season long the two have only pushed each other to work harder.

“Last year Billy Grosse threw 48 feet, 10 inches, and Andy Suarez had thrown 47 feet,” he recalled. “Earlier this season they both got better and better. Andy was the first to throw 50 feet, and then Billy threw 50 feet and we’ve never had that. They’re both great friends so to have two throwers over 50 feet is something pretty special.”

Travis Colon finished the 55-meter hurdles in 8.55 seconds for sixth place. Photo by Bill Landon

The meet, titled “Last Chance,” was an opportunity for the athletes to better their performance to gain a higher seed before the county championship, and other Warriors also made their presence known.

Coming back from a minor injury, sophomore Reno Molina clocked in a 6.87 seconds in the 55-meter dash to finish third behind Miller Place senior Bick Niemcyzk (6.85) and East Islip senior Andrew Moschetto (6.83). Sophomore Travis Colon took advantage of that opportunity, placing sixth overall in the 55 hurdles with a time of 8.55. He’s already an All-League competitor after placing sixth in the League IV championship last year.

“Reno Molina is a pleasant surprise,” Posnanski said. “Where he is in the county speed-wise, and he has the best chance to make a statement in the counties next week. My hurdler [Travis Colon] has made tremendous improvements with his technique with hard work and just sticking with it.”

Posnanski said he has been impressed with his younger runners on the team, who’ve bettered their times all season long.

“I have such a young team, so I didn’t have any expectations,” the coach said.

But Matt Krieg, who placed ninth in the 1,000 in 2:56.55, caught his eye.

Matt Krieg finished ninth in the 1,000-meter in 2:56.55. Photo by Bill Landon

“He’s tough when he runs and he’s a competitor,” the head coach said of his Warrior. “He won the freshman championship meet this year.”

Sophomore Brandon Bailey clocked in at 1:39.96 in the 600, for 22nd overall.

The county championships are will be Feb. 4 at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood at 10 a.m.

Grosse said he and his teammate will be ready.

“It’s all about repetition — we’ll get as many throws in as possible, lift some weights and then rest a day or two before the counties,” he said. “Andy was running and only began throwing this season, and having him around has been more important than anything, because without him, I wouldn’t be pushing myself the way I am.”

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