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Desiree Keegan

Shannon Brazier scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Undefeated Ward Melville has a target on its back, and the girls lacrosse team’s 17-4 crushing of Smithtown West May 8 only made it larger.

Hannah Lorenzen prepares to make a pass to the front of the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Everyone is out to get us,” Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said. “I think this was probably one of our best games that we’ve played this season — connecting every pass, strong in transition, looking for each other. They were looking one step ahead. We knew where everyone was going to be and a good majority of our goals were assisted, which shows how well we’ve jelled and come together as a team.”

Senior Hannah Lorenzen scored three of the first five goals for the Patriots, who continued to win draw after draw to gain crucial time of possession against the No. 3 Bulls.

“They just passed to me and I was able to finish,” Lorenzen said. “I think the draw is a big part of it. We get possession and it leads to more opportunities to score.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Samantha Tarpey’s saves in the first half also played a large role in the team’s success.

“Making those saves keeps me going and my confidence up,” she said. “It keeps team morale high.”

As the team dominated through the final minutes of the first half, three other Patriots got on the board, and Lorenzen added her fourth goal of the game, before Smithtown West scored three straight.

Jillian Becker moves the ball through defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville sophomore Alexis Reinhardt closed out the half with the final goal to put her team up 10-3.

“We felt it was going to be a bit of a tougher matchup,” Kilkenny said. “I’m not downplaying my kids’ skills at all, because I feel when they play together they’re unstoppable. We controlled every step of this game, and I’m proud of them for that.”

With 13 players on the score sheet — Reinhardt, Shannon Berry and Shannon Brazier scoring two goals each — the chemistry between the team that put up 17 goals and 10 assists seems unmatched.

“We don’t have a few key players — our team is deep. We can all score; we can all play,” Lorenzen said. “We worked a lot on clearing and having people drive through and on our feeds off the draw. We moved the ball well in practice.”

Shannon Berry shoots. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Lorenzen is a part of six sets of sisters on the team, but to the senior, the entire team is her family.

“I think having those bonds and those connections help — we trust each other and believe in each other and the sisterly intuition is there,” she said. “But we all feel like sisters.”

Kilkenny said her team is right where it needs to be, and with its 15th straight win, she’s excited to see where the Patriots go.

“You don’t want to peak too soon, but we’re continuing that high level of play— the timing of this game is great,” she said. “We’re certainly enjoying the ride, but we keep ourselves down to Earth. They need to play each game like it could be their last.”

Lorenzen doesn’t see the season ending any time soon.

“We feel we have a little bit of an edge,” she said. “We might have a target on our back, but we can take the competition.”

Rocky Point and Mount Sinai faced off in the Suffolk County baseball championship game in 2016, and though the schools are rivals, they’re on the same team once a year to honor Susie Facini.

A Rocky Point High School graduate, Facini died in November 2011 at 19 years old of a sudden heart attack. Without warning, she felt her heart race, and passed out just seconds later. Despite efforts of her mother, Bernadette, a registered nurse, Facini was unable to be revived.

Susie Facini’s parents, Bernadette and Pete, during the fourth-annual Live Like Susie baseball game and fundraising event. Photo by Bill Landon

The Rocky Point alumna had an immediate impact on everyone she met. Her reach was so strong, that over 3,000 people came to her one-day wake. As a result of her death, 18-year teacher Andrew Aschettino, head coach of the Rocky Point baseball team, felt compelled to host a baseball game in her memory.

“She was genuinely concerned for other people — she was the happiest person,” Aschettino said. “With a smile, she always had something nice to say about everybody everyday. Everyone was happier just by being around her, and that’s what we’re trying to spread.”

Rocky Point assistant coach Eric Strovink said Aschettino called up their good friend and Mount Sinai baseball team’s head coach, Eric Reichenbach, in 2014 to ask if his Mustangs would compete in a yearly game in Facini’s honor.

“Reichenbach said, ‘We’re in for as long as you guys do this,’” said Strovink, a Shoreham-Wading River graduate. “That’s pretty impressive.”

The two teams faced off May 6 in the annual Live Like Susie game, which raises money for a scholarship in Facini’s name. There’s no requirement for the student who receives the scholarship except that they be a kind and giving person.

“It’s extremely heartwarming,” Facini’s father Pete said of the event. “This is a community that came together to make something great out of something that is so sad and tragic. Susie represented nothing but kindness and that message transcends what has happened. These people here recognize it, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Mount Sinai tops Rocky Point

By Bill Landon

Although the matchup was in the name of a good cause, someone needed to come out on top, and with a five-run sixth inning put Mount Sinai’s baseball team ahead 9-2 at Ridge’s Fireman’s Field.

Mount Sinai senior Dan Deckert’s bat cracked first, drilling a home run over the left field fence and bringing home classmate Will Esposito for an early 2-0 lead. Mount Sinai junior George Rainer took a healthy lead off second base, and senior Alex Giantonnio helped bring him home for a three-run lead with a shot to deep right field.

Rocky Point junior John Rosman took the egg off the scoreboard for the Eagles, sending the ball through the gap and sending home senior Shane Owensby to make it a two-run game, 3-1.

The Mustangs found themselves in trouble in the bottom of the third inning when senior Robert Lindstrom walked a batter to loaded the bases with one out. Lindstrom focused in on his next two batters, and escaped the inning without letting up a run.

The team found itself in trouble yet again in the bottom of the fourth, but this time, the Eagles capitalized, with a run coming in off a walk with the bases loaded to cut the lead in half, 4-2.

Then, Mount Sinai’s bats caught fire in the top of the sixth with a pair of unearned runs, and followed it with a bases-clearing three-RBI single for a 9-2 lead and the win.

Rocky Point hit the road May 8 for the first of a three-game series against Sayville, coming up just short 5-4. The Eagles will host Sayville and Mount Sinai will host Elwood-John Glenn May 9 at 4:30 p.m.

He and his wife said they enjoy seeing that even though the current students and members of the baseball team may not have known their daughter, they’re excited to be a playing in such a special game.

“These boys never knew her, and we’re very proud,” Bernadette Facini said. “Sometimes I’ll be out shopping and I’ll see one of the kids from Mount Sinai with a purple bracelet on that says Live Like Susie or they’re wearing a Live Like Susie T-shirt, so we are so humbled by the kindness. She was adored by so many and she was just a joy to be around. She literally went from group to group to group — there were no outsiders in her life — and that’s why we keep the kindness award and scholarship going in her name.”

Reichenbach said he’s also proud to be part of the event.

“Our communities are so close — the kids all know each other — so it’s just good people getting together for a good cause,” he said. “I know [Susie Facini] was a big part of coach Asch’s life. It’s a great way to keep her memory alive.”

Parents donate food for the event, and in return for the free food, there’s a suggested donation toward the scholarship. Last year, $1,000 was raised, and with an even larger turnout at this year’s game, Aschettino said he’s hoping for an even bigger scholarship.

Cassie Rando, last year’s recipient, was home from college and attended the crosstown matchup. Bernadette Facini pointed to her as a reason why the family and the baseball teams keep doing what they’re doing. But Aschettino pointed to the Facinis as the real motivators.

“It’s a classic case of where the apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” he said. “Their son Andy is also a great kid — they’re just great kids from a great family.”

Rocky Point students and Eagles’ team members like Brian Forbes feel the same way.

“It just shows how we can all come together as a family,” the senior said. “[Mount Sinai doesn’t] have to do this, but they do. That shows how great they are.”

Senior Matt Pendl said he likes seeing the two teams continue to come together each year with mutual respect and admiration for a beloved community member.

“This is so important — it shows that there’s more important things in life than just baseball,” he said. “We had a blast celebrating the memory of someone who was just a great individual. I was not fortunate enough to know Susie, but my three older brothers who went to this school were fortunate enough to know her, and all I’ve heard is that she was an amazing person. This event is just a great way to remember her.”

To donate to the Live Like Susie scholarship, contact Rocky Point High School at 631-744-1600 or visit the school at 82 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road.

Bill Landon contributed reporting

Shoreham-Wading River assistant principal Kevin Vann will be replacing retiring Albert G. Prodell Middle School Principal Linda Anthony this June. Photo from Kevin Vann

Kevin Vann will be returning to his roots this June.

The now assistant principal at Shoreham-Wading River High School will be reentering middle school doors, but this time as principal of Albert G. Prodell Middle School.

“I feel a strong sense of loyalty to Shoreham-Wading River,” Vann said. “The district gave me my first opportunity as an administrator, and I think I’ve developed some great relationships. I thought this was a great opportunity to stretch my wings a little bit and still stay connected to a community that I really have a lot of respect for and enjoy working with.”

Albert G. Prodell Middle School Principal Linda Anthony will be retiring at the end of this school year. Photo from Linda Anthony

Vann will be replacing retiring principal Linda Anthony, who has been at the helm for the last 11 years. An English teacher in Japan for four years, she took a unique approach to special education and at-risk students, also living in California before returning to New York.

Anthony said she’s fortunate for the extended stay that helped her move the Prodell middle school in the right direction.

“A lot of different instructional practices were put into place in the middle school, the culture of the middle school changed quite a bit — I was able to hire about 40 percent of the staff,” she said. “With so many years you can really initiate change, sustain change and then lock change.”

Some of the changes she made include increased collaboration with teachers and the level of rigor for students.

Anthony has a long history with art, and upon retirement, hopes to get back to her roots, too. She also said she wants to assist in some way with the refugee crisis.

After working with Vann, and attending a weekend conference with the soon-to-be principal, Anthony said she knows what he’s capable of doing in his new position.

“I think he will be an outstanding principal and I think he really is the best possible choice,” she said. “He will take the school to the next level. I have full confidence in that.”

Dan Holtzman, principal of the high school, said the last decade has been productive and meaningful, especially having Vann at his side the entire way.

“He has been my right hand, my support, and even more importantly, my friend,” Holtzman said. “We have worked tirelessly in creating a safe and welcoming learning environment for our students, and I am very proud of the outcomes. I think this transition will prove to be a smart move for the district and Kevin. The strengths he will bring will be an asset to the middle school. I could not be happier or more excited for him.”

“There’s a tremendous amount of change kids go through at that level physically, socially and emotionally. We’re looking to make kids feels supported and know there’s adults in the building that care about them, and try to give them good opportunities to develop and to learn.”

—Kevin Vann

Vann began his career in education at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, working in the business world prior to earning a job teaching social studies in the Patchogue-Medford School District. He also worked on a grant for the Office of Safe and Healthy Students while in Pat-Med, and was the dean of students at Shoreham-Wading River High School. In both capacities, he said the administrative and disciplinary actions he learned to take will help guide him in his new position. He also earned a master’s degree from Touro College in educational leadership.

Prior to him working in the district, there hadn’t been a tenured administrator in over a decade. Anthony, Holtzman and Vann helped change the Wildcats culture.

“There was a lot of turnover — a lot of inconsistency and a lot of uncertainty with students and parents — so we worked hard to create a culture of acceptance, and a student-centered environment where the students could always come talk to us,” Vann said. “We wanted to have an open line of communication.”

To assist with that, the district brought back an advisory period, where for 15 minutes in the middle of the day, kids can connect with teachers. Advanced Placement training for educators was also added to increase subject concentrations, and the College Board has recognized the school as a result.

“We wanted students to know that their opinions and ideas were respected, and when dealing with parents we wanted them to know our goal was to create the best environment possible for their students to succeed,” Vann said. “I think that really has happened.”

Now, he said he’s hoping he can carry down what he’s learned as assistant principal at the high school, while continuing the current successes already put in place.

“I know they have a highly-engaged staff that’s connected to the students, so I’d look for any opportunity I have to continue to foster that growth,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of change kids go through at that level physically, socially and emotionally. We’re looking to make kids feels supported and know there’s adults in the building that care about them, and try to give them good opportunities to develop and to learn.”

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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Dylan Pallonetti moves the ball around the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville’s boys’ lacrosse team suffered a stinging defeat to end their season- opening four-game winning streak against rival Chaminade April 8, dropping the tough nonleague battle 7-5.

“We didn’t play as best as we could against Chaminade,” senior attack Jack Purdy said, adding that despite the Patriots’ 9-5 bounce-back win over West Islip April 10, to increase the team’s League I win streak to five, more work still needs to be done. “We’re still trying to look for the best game possible. We’re still looking to fire on all cylinders on defense, offense and faceoffs.”

Zach Hobbes challenges a West Islip defender as he moves the ball toward the net. Photo by Desirée Keegan

In the first half of the win over West Islip, junior attack Matt Grillo had his fingerprints all over the game. He scored the first goal of the game, assisted senior midfielder Eddie Munoz on the next, and found the back of the cage off a feed from sophomore attack Dylan Pallonetti later.

“We prepared by watching film on West Islip and looking for their plays and certain techniques they use on the field, and how to counter those techniques,” Munoz said of his team’s readiness. “But it was so close in the first half.”

West Islip came back to tie it, 3-3, but Grillo scored an unassisted goal for a hat trick with three seconds left in the first half.

“I think both of our faceoff guys did very well and so did our goalie,” Munoz said. “I think as a whole we played for each other and gave great effort.”

Matt Grillo and Dom Pryor celebrate a goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville came out firing from the opening minutes of the second half, and at the 10:51 mark, a Perry Cassidy save, one of the senior’s 10 for the game, sparked junior midfielder Zach Hobbes’ unassisted goal. He bulled his way up the middle between two defenders to the front of the cage to extend the lead. Minutes later, Pallonetti scooped up a Grillo rebound and gave his team a 6-3 advantage. Cassidy ended the quarter with a save to preserve the third-quarter shutout.

“It felt good to dominate a little bit,” Munoz said of the second half.

Senior midfielder Dominic Pryor was next to get on the scoreboard. Catching West Islip off guard, he saw the open lane, and instead of passing, made his way toward the cage and fired away.

“It was great to seal the win in the second half against a team that’s more than capable of coming back when they are down,” Pryor said. “My team was able to focus on possessions in the second half, and overall playing team offense and defense, not relying on any individual. The chemistry this team has is very special and I think that will continue and grow throughout the year.”

Purdy had a hand on the next two goals, assisting Pallonetti, who had an open look after Purdy skipped passing to the middleman.

Jack Purdy passes from behind the goal to Dylan Pallonetti, who scores on the skip pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I knew he was open,” Purdy said of Pallonetti. “He did a good job of reading the defense and getting in the right position. I gave it to him, and he took a good shot to the top left.”

Despite West Islip finally breaking through in the second half, with back-to-back goals with four minutes remaining, Purdy helped stabilize the game. He passed from behind the cage to Munoz at the front of the net for the final goal of the game.

“Eddie Munoz made a good shot right in front of the crease that saved me,” Purdy said. “It wasn’t the best pass, but a good goal.”

The senior attack said he hopes his team can continue to work on coming out strong, to be able to keep a new streak running through the remainder of the season.

“We need to step it up a little bit in the first half,” Purdy said. “We let up a few goals that we shouldn’t have, and we need to hold onto the ball better on offense, move it around and get better shots. We try to get out and score, put a bunch of goals in, dodge hard and look for the open seams in the defense. Coach said when we play to our best abilities we can win any given game on the schedule.”

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Miller Place's Jack Walsh celebrates a goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Not even halfway through the season, the Miller Place boys’ lacrosse team already has the same amount of wins that it ended with last year, turning its program worst record in 2016 into the best start in team history this year.

On April 10, in a battle of undefeated teams, the Panthers produced their seventh straight win, a 10-8 edging of Mount Sinai, to remain perfect at 7-0, with a 5-0 streak in Division II. Last season, Miller Place finished with a 7-9 overall record.

Miller Place’s Anthony Beck moves the ball into Mount Sinai’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We knew they were going to come prepared for us and play tough, so we stuck to our game plan and made them try to beat us,” Miller Place senior midfielder Anthony Beck said. “It feels good to come out and take the battle of undefeated teams, and take the win from a crosstown rival.”

Miller Place junior attack Anthony Seymour put the Panthers on the board less than a minute into the game with a quick shot to the top left corner, and Beck followed him up with a shot straight up the middle after the ball was rotated around the cage while Miller Place looked for an opening.

“We pushed the ball really well, we possessed for the most part and we played as a team,” Beck said. “We didn’t try to do too much and we stuck together.”

The Panthers continued to pounce with a balanced attack, as next to light up the scoreboard was junior attack Patrick Doyen off a pass from Seymour.

Miller Place forced several turnovers, and Mount Sinai called for two timeouts in the first to try and shift the tempo. With 3:35 on the clock, Mount Sinai senior midfielder Jason Shlonsky rocketed a rebound past an unprepared Matt Leen for the Mustangs’ first point.

Beck added another unassisted goal for a 4-1 advantage at the end of the first 12 minutes.

Miller Place’s Jack Walsh and Mount Sinai’s Jason Shlonsky fight for a loose ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s been unbelievable how we’ve came together since the first day of practice,” Beck said. “This is a group we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been playing really well together.”

Miller Place senior attack Jack Walsh scored next, laying out across the front of the net and scoring while in mid air. Head coach Keith Lizzi said with the loss of senior midfielder Kevin Gersbeck to injury, he told his team everyone needs to up their game to fill the hole, and they’re doing it.

“Jack stepped up — and he’s been doing that all year — he’s one of the top scorers in the county,” Lizzi said. “And Anthony Beck has just been so consistent between the faceoffs, defense and offense. He’s our No. 1 utility guy out on the field.”

Mount Sinai seniors Nicholas Cesario and Nicholas Rose closed the gap, before Beck, grabbing possession off the faceoff, re-extended the margin with his hat trick goal, bringing the score to 6-3 at the halftime break.

“It felt good to dominate the faceoff ‘x,’ get my team some extra possessions and score some goals,” he said. “We’re undefeated right now, we’re taking it one game at a time and we hope to keep it that way.”

Miller Place had a slower second half. They were outscored by Mount Sinai 5-4, but always remained a few goals ahead. Leen, the senior goalkeeper who finished with 12 saves, helped preserve the lead and Walsh also chipped in with two goals and two assists.

“It’s my last year, so I’m trying to get out and do as much as I can,” Walsh said. “We were a little sloppy at times, but we’re all best friends, so there’s a lot of chemistry here.”

Mount Sinai’s Jason Shlonsky races ahead of a swam of Miller Place defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai wasn’t without its shining stars in its hard-fought comeback effort. Shlonsky finished with three goals, senior midfielder Robert DeMeo added two goals and two assists, and junior attack Joe Pirreca finished as the assist leader, scoring once and aiding in three others.

Lizzi said although it hasn’t been easy to complete, an already total turnaround from last year, the main motivation has been the Panthers desire for revenge from last year. They’ve already beaten some of those teams this year, like Comsewogue, Sayville and Elwood-John Glenn.

“We’re trying to take it one game at a time, and although the pressure continues to build, this is a group that’s handled it,” he said, adding that with seven Division I college commits and three-year starters the experience has paid back dividends.

Harborfields is next on the schedule, and revenge is on tap after Miller Place lost to the Tornadoes in double overtime last year. The Panthers will travel April 12 to compete in the 11 a.m. matchup.

“Certain games you have circled on the calendar, and this year, that’s one of them,” Lizzi said. “We won a lot of tight games this year that we lost last year, so these kids are playing with a little chip on their shoulder — with something to prove.”

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Gary Kulik, an educator and coach for the last 30 years at Mount Sinai High School, has been named a “Distinguished Teacher of 2017” by the Harvard Club of Long Island.

“This award honors teachers who transform lives,” said Dr. Judith Esterquest, the Harvard Club of Long Island’s chair of the distinguished teachers selection committee. “Devoted teachers like Gary Kulik offer Long Island students deep expertise, extraordinary talents and countless hours of attention. By capturing the minds and imaginations of our children and preparing them for challenges that were unknown even a few decades ago, these teachers shape the future of our country.”

Gary Kulik, a calculus teacher at Mount Sinai High School, earned the Harvard Club of Long Island’s distinguished teacher award. Photo from Michael Voltz

Kulik, the first from the district to be honored with the award, has been teaching calculus classes at Mount Sinai High School for the past 26 years. Prior to, he taught in the middle school for a few years. A graduate of Stony Brook University with a BS in applied math, he enjoys coaching the high school and middle school math teams.

Kulik also did graduate work at Stony Brook, earning a Master’s Degree in Coaching and Athletics. He is known for having coached the middle school football team since joining the district, and for coaching the basketball team for 15 years. Whether in academics or on the field, he is always there to coach students. He speculates he has written over 1,000 letters of recommendation for his students.

Kulik has a son who is a land surveyor specializing in laser scanning and a daughter who is a high school biology teacher. He was an actuary for a short while before starting his teaching career.

“Mr. Kulik is a beloved figure throughout Mount Sinai; his room is full even when he is not teaching” said Patrick Hanaj, a Mount Sinai High School alum who is expected to graduate from Harvard College in 2020.

“He consistently has the most alumni visit him each year,” Hanaj added. “Kulik forms lifelong connections to his students through programs like the 10-Year Letter, in which he personally mails letters to alumni from their 12th grade selves.”

When Superintendent of Schools Gordan Brosdal learned of this award, he described Kulik as “taking great pride in his work and the Mount Sinai school district.”

“Gary Kulik consistently establishes a culture of respect and trust in his classroom, while he maintains high expectations for all of his students.”

— Gordon Brosdal

“He believes the role of the teacher is the single greatest factor on maximizing student achievement,” Brosdal said. “Gary Kulik consistently establishes a culture of respect and trust in his classroom, while he maintains high expectations for all of his students. Gary’s classroom is engaging and exciting. Because he empowers his students to develop the ability to ‘think about their thinking’ and to learn independently. I enjoy visiting his classroom to watch him work his magic.”

Mount Sinai’s High School Principal, Robert Grable calls Kulik a consummate professional, adding the teacher plans and facilitates instructional designs that reflect a confidence in his students’ learning abilities.

“His students are active participants in the process, thus motivated to assume ownership of their learning,” he said. “Whether it be to receive extra help or simply to chat about life, Mr. Kulik is available for his students.”

Kulik will be one of 12  Long Island teachers honored at the Harvard Club of Long Island’s annual University Relations Luncheon on April 30. At the ceremony, the Harvard Club of Long Island will announce the Distinguished Teacher of 2017 who will also receive a scholarship for a “Harvard experience” at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass. Past winners of the scholarships have enhanced their teaching by sampling the resources available to Harvard students — meeting with faculty, visiting research laboratories, rare book archives, and specialty museums.

The 10-mile route that the Port Jefferson Station to Wading River Rails to Trails project will take. Image from Legislator Anker's office

As hundreds packed the auditoriums of Shoreham-Wading River and Miller Place high schools the same sentiment reverberated off the walls — there’s not only a want, but a need for a safe place for children to ride their bikes.

After the deaths of two local children, the desire for the Rails to Trails project to push forward was prevalent among the Port Jefferson Station, Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Sound Beach, Rocky Point, Shoreham and Wading River residents who live along the proposed 10-mile trail.

“I don’t know if this trail is going to move forward 100 percent, but so far it’s picking up momentum,” Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said to the March 29 group in Shoreham. “We need the ability to ride bikes in a safe place, the ability to take a walk or push a baby carriage in a safe place.”

Residents listen to questions and answers during the meeting at Shorheam-Wading River High School. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The legislator, who is propelling the project, brought members the Suffolk County Department of Works and engineering company NV5 to her first general meeting to gather public input and answer questions.

“I need to hear what you want, because I’m here to make it happen,” Anker said.

Steve Normandy, project manager with NV5, discussed the flat surface and location being conducive to a trail.

“There’s over 1,600 rail trails nationwide over 20,000 miles,” he said. “They’re good for biking, hiking, walking, safe travel to school, and studies have shown businesses thrive and home values increase, it improves air quality and enhances sense of community.”

On March 28, the county Legislature unanimously approved a negative New York State Environmental Quality Review Act determination for the proposed 10-foot-wide trail, which would be opened from dawn to dusk. The adoption of negative SEQRA determination means that there is no anticipated environmental impact for the project.

The path will have paver markings and mile-markers for county miles, as well as emergency services to locate those in need. It will also meet Americans with Disabilities Act slope requirements. The design report was submitted to the state Department of Transportation in February. If design approval is received this summer, final design plans will be prepared in the next year in the hopes of received final design plan approval from the NYSDOT in winter 2018.

Currently, the plan is that construction will begin in spring 2019, for a fall 2020 finish.

“We’ve met with quite a few partners and discussed a bunch of different aspects of maintenance, but the biggest issue we anticipate is really going to be cutting the grass,” said county Department of Public Works chief engineer, Bill Hillman. “We’ll be asking the community for help, to pitch in with a lot of the different maintenance aspects.”

The hope is that a not-for-profit like the Friends of Greenway, which maintains the Setauket to Port Jefferson Greenway Trail, will form to beautify and preserve the attraction.

Kaitlin Brown, who moved to Wading River five years ago, said she entered the area because she loved the trees.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker responds to questions from the audience. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I want to pledge my support because I think it’s a wonderful component that our community doesn’t have, and it needs,” she said, adding she is willing to help mow and maintain the piece of property, which is owned by LIPA. “I found my house on the map, and it looks like one day when I have kids, they’ll be able to get from our house through back roads to the trail, and then take the trail to the high school.”

Judy Black, who has lived in the area for 47 years, said she’s been hoping the trail would become a reality from day one, back in 2001 before plans derailed, and again in 2011 when Anker tried to revive the idea.

“I so hope we can come together and make this happen,” she said. “With a son that rode his bicycle all over the place I was always worried about him.”

She explained how she once saw a cyclist fall on North Country Road trying to maneuver around a construction sign. She was in need of medical attention, and when examiners arrived, they asked her why she was riding along a major road.

“But where else do you ride your bike?” Black said. “We need a safe place to ride, to walk with friends, to expand our community connection, and I’m so for it.”

The ideas weren’t without opposition.

There were some like 10-year Rocky Point resident Mary Anne Gladysz, who said she’s felt like she’s been kept in the dark.

“I’m not in favor of this at all,” she said, although adding she would probably be in favor of Rails to Trials if she didn’t live near it.“This is in my backyard 24/7; you come for an hour-and-a-half walk and then you leave. I’m here all the time.”

Some of her concerns included if the trail will take property from homeowners, if cesspools will be affected and what issues her dogs barking toward the trail could bring.

Hillman and Anker reassured her that she will not be losing property, and cesspools will not be affected. As for dogs barking and noise ordinances, Hillman said it’s an issue Gladysz would have to take up with Brookhaven Town.

The trial currently doesn’t have any guardrails, fences, beautification elements, toilets or lights budgeted into the $8 million plan.

Those who would like to see where the trail will be located in relation to their homes could view individual hamlet maps during the meeting. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Anker said she is working on a plan to protect privacy along the path, and said Eagle and Girl Scouts typically do beautification projects, which could include adding benches and other useful things along the trail.

Others still worried about safety and other crime-related issues, were soothed by Sgt. Walter Langdon of the Suffolk County Police Department, and 7th Precinct COPE officer Mike Casper, who said there has been “little to no crime” at Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail, but added that there will still be a police presence along the path.

By the end of the first meeting, those like Rocky Point resident Cory Fitzgerald were heard loudest, and supported by other community members for their opinion of the trail.

Fitzgerald has daughters aged 8 and 6, and both love riding their bikes.

“We take trips to Cape Cod every summer and the rail trail up in Cape Cod is phenomenal,” he said. “My girls ride their bikes more in that one week than during the entire year in Rocky Point. The roads in Rocky Point are very narrow and hilly, so I want to give my girls that opportunity to ride whenever they want. We’ve been waiting for so long — I’ve been told this was coming and I’ve been so excited and the girls really want this to happen. It’s going to be great for our community.”

Residents in favor of the trail, which some like Wading River resident Bruce Kagan are naming the “Tesla Trail,” because it will lead to the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, were unanimous on the biggest topic of discussion: kids.

“This is the most deadly county for injuries and deaths for pedestrians and cyclists,” Kagan said. “There’s no place for our kids. Let us do this for our children and our children’s children.”

The new state standards limit the amount of pitches an athlete can toss in a given day, while allotting a certain period of rest time for each increment of pitches. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

With elbow injuries running through all levels of baseball at an almost epidemic-like rate, baseball coaches in New York will now have state mandated standards to adhere to in handling their young pitchers. Although a step in the right direction, some coaches don’t think the new rules go far enough.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association unveiled its first stab at guidelines coaches and their pitchers need to follow last December. The regulations include pitch counts — there’s now a cap of 105 in a single day at the varsity level — and nights of rest needed for various pitch-count tiers, before a pitcher can return to the mound.

File photo by Bill Landon

“Action by the NYSPHSAA Executive Committee is a giant step forward in doing our part to protect and support our student-athlete baseball players,” state baseball coordinator Ed Dopp said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor and adjust the pitch-count rules in an attempt to always improve opportunities for our student-athletes and address safety as best we can.”

Pitch counts are also in place for junior varsity and middle school pitchers. Junior varsity players cannot exceed 85 in an outing.

Four nights of rest are mandatory for varsity players throwing between 96 and 105 pitches. Three nights are required for those throwing between 66 and 95 pitches; two for 31 to 65 pitches; and one for up to 30 pitches. The limits change in the postseason, where the maximum pitches allowed at the varsity level jumps to 125.

“These pitch-count rules are a Band-Aid on a problem that is 2 feet wide,” Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci said. “What makes these doctors think that it’s alright for a young kid to throw three days in a row, while it’s under a certain amount of pitches, but Mariano Rivera, who is a trained professional, can’t do it? Big leaguers don’t pitch on the third or fourth day.”

Petrucci also pointed out the fatigue pitchers endure when throwing a particularly strenuous frame, say 30 pitches in one inning, noting the rules don’t take that into account. He also had a problem with the fact that freshmen and seniors, all adhere to the same rules.

“You can bring up an eighth-grader and he can throw 105 pitches on varsity — it doesn’t make much sense,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said. “It should be about development.”

File photo by Bill Landon

Another imperfection is pitching on any mound other than in a high school game is not taken into consideration — when a student-athlete practices, warms-up, if he takes part in an outside league, travel team or showcases.

“One of the biggest criticisms is the amount of outside baseball that kids play,” Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said. “It’s difficult to keep track of, but it’s about communication. I’ve encouraged kids to ask their travel coaches to communicate with me. It’s going to be a necessity.”

Centereach head coach Mike Herrschaft said the speed at which a pitcher throws should also be taken into consideration.

“There’s a correlation between how fast they throw and the rest they need,” he said. “If I had a kid throwing in the 70s and everything’s healthy I might feel comfortable with them throwing 105 pitches and going on the sixth day, where if I had a kid throwing 90 mph, I’m never comfortable with them pitching on the sixth day.”

For some schools, especially those in the lower leagues, the pitchers are typically the best player on the team and play multiple positions when they’re not on the mound. This too can wear out an arm, and isn’t measured in the first round of rules.

“I never let my pitcher catch or my catcher pitch,” Herrschaft said. “Those have been my standards, especially more recently with the increase in Tommy John surgery and concerns.”

For schools like Kings Park, they need to have athletes play multiple positions. But most coaches try to limit their throwing in one way or another, or give those players more rest.

“To totally get them out of the lineup I think it’s impossible,” head coach Mike Luzim said. “It would negatively impact the normal day-to-day lineups and getting a team prepared to win.”

File photo by Bill Landon

Other new rules include if any pitcher at any level reached the count limit in the middle of an at-bat, he will be allowed to finish that hitter; both teams are required to track pitches on the official NYSPHSAA form and confirm after each inning; and at the game’s conclusion, a pitch count form will be signed by both team’s coaches or designated representatives, and a record will be used to determine which pitchers are available for future games.

“There’s room for manipulation,” Klee said. “It should be put in a database where everyone can see it.”

An app called GameChanger is one that tracks this, and other stats, and is used by many coaches across Long Island, like Klee and Luzim.

“Virginia and Kentucky both mandate that high school teams use GC for this very reason,” Game Changer representative David Kennedy said. “We would love it if New York did the same. It would streamline the process and allow each team to oversee pitch counts for players.”

Luzim said it could eliminate discrepancies that could make a difference throughout the season.

“Right now, everything goes by the home book, so if there were a number that was off by one or two pitches it goes back to the home book, and what if the home book is off by one pitch? And that’s a 95 instead of a 94? That could change the number of days and that could lead to problems or arguments,” he said. “I think there will be a million different scenarios that come up this year that will have to be looked at.”

Other tricky scenarios include a game postponed due to darkness and doubleheaders. Currently, when it comes to doubleheaders, a hurler competing in the first game cannot pitch in the second.

“It would be reasonable to have a kid close the end of the first game and then maybe pitch a couple of innings in the second game,” Rosen said.

File photo by Bill Landon

Klee disagreed.

“I think that if they throw once that day they shouldn’t come back — it’s dangerous,” he said. “I would be an advocate for making it even stricter, meaning less pitches and more rest.”

He also doesn’t like the wording of a “nights” rest, which was changed from a days rest. To him, there’s a loophole there that could count the night after the game as all the rest that’s needed.

Luzim said he’d like to see a cap on the amount of pitches per week.

“You can still end up throwing in a kid who pitches 95 pitches, right below the last level, and they could come back on the Thursday game and throw 105 pitches on that Thursday,” he said, “Then, they could really come back on that following Monday. So they could really end up throwing over 300 pitches in one week.”

For now, the coaches are just happy to see New York is trying to regulate the game to protect players.

“I get that they’re trying to address the problem, but we need to address the problem with more substantive thinking,” Petrucci said. “I think people today don’t trust the coaches. We’ve been doing this quite a while. Us coaches care about these kids, and we’re going to continue to push for their safety.”

Across from left, David Ebanks, Michael Barnum, Abigail Jones and Logan Aybar were named Middle Country school district’s students of the month for March. Photos from Middle Country school district

The Middle Country Central School District honored students of the month for March at a recent Board of Education meeting.

Centereach High School senior David Ebanks, Newfield High School senior Michael Barnum, Dawnwood Middle School sixth-grader Abigail Jones and Selden Middle School sixth-grader Logan Aybar were recognized for their academic and athletic achievements, perseverance and positive attitudes.

“Each month, it brings all of us here at Middle Country Central School District such joy to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of our students,” Superintendent of Schools Roberta Gerold said. “Watching our students grow brings an overwhelming feeling of fulfillment. Their successes here are just the beginning, and we can’t wait to watch all they accomplish in the months and years to come.”

Ebanks was chosen for his academic excellence and consistent “can-do” attitude — even in the face of obstacles. Teachers and administrators have recognized him as a respectful young man who walks around the school with a smile on his face, brightening the days of all who interact with him. Despite his wide range of successes academically and in extracurricular activities, he has remained humble.

Last month, he was honored during the Town of Brookhaven’s Black History Month celebration, recognizing him for his outstanding academic accomplishments throughout his high school career. Ebanks continued to thrive academically even while challenging himself by enrolling in college-level statistics and English courses during the current school year. Due to his hard work, he will graduate this June with an Advanced Regents diploma.

Ebanks has also left an invaluable mark on Centereach High School through his efforts as a peer tutor and his active role in the Bible club.

Barnum’s journey during his time at Newfield has been one of great success and resilience. Following his freshman and sophomore year achievements, both in the classroom and on the basketball court, he received unimaginable news in March 2015. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He spent the next 11 months keeping up with his academics through home teaching — even while facing intense chemotherapy treatment.

His diagnosis never altered his steadfast commitment to his studies and trajectory of excellence. He is in remission, and will be graduating on time this June with a potential to graduate with over 18 college credits.

During her first two quarters of middle school, Abigail has maintained a 98 GPA, with high honor distinction, and is an active member of jazz band and art club. Outside of school, she finds time to participate in dance, Girl Scouts, volleyball and piano. Her favorite subject is science, because of the hands-on experiments and interaction with her peers.

Logan’s academic excellence during his first two quarters as a middle school student earned him high honor roll. Although he enjoys all of his classes, his favorite class is math because he relishes the challenge of solving complex problems. He is an active participant of the science club and also enjoys attending after-school fitness intramurals. In his free time, Logan plays in soccer and basketball leagues and volunteers to prepare and deliver meals to homeless shelters. He is recognized as an attentive, genuine student who is a pleasure to have in class.

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