Tags Posts tagged with "Ward Melville High School"

Ward Melville High School

Gerry Mackedon has become a swinging success, finishing qualifier nine strokes ahead of second

Gerry Mackedon swings away during a St. John’s University tournament. photo by Big East/Stephen B. Morton

By Desirée Keegan

Gerry Mackedon can be found swinging his golf club until the sun sets.

Once the Port Jefferson native’s shift is over at the local country club, the St. John’s University sophomore takes time to perfect his game.

“Gerry spends six or seven hours a day maintaining his game and training for his tournament schedule,” said his father Bill Mackedon, a Professional Golfers’ Association of America head golf professional at Port Jefferson Country Club. “During the summer months, unlike with most kids, there’s really been no taking the summer off. He’s very dedicated to giving himself the opportunity to, and improving, his skills to become the best golfer he can be.”

Gerry Mackedon competes for the Red Storm as a freshman. Photo from St. John’s Athletics Communications

Gerry Mackedon is coming off some recent successful tournaments, and is currently competing in the New York State Men’s Amateur Golf Championship at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course to prepare himself for the USGA U.S. Amateur golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, Aug. 14 to 20.

Last month he won the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship sectional qualifying round at Huntington Country Club with a 131 36-hole performance — nine strokes under par and ahead of the second-place finishers at even par.

“I am deeply honored by this accomplishment and hope I can represent Port Jefferson Country Club by playing my best golf ever,” Mackedon said in a country club statement. “I am extremely thankful to all of the members who have shown me support in many ways during the last few weeks.”

Winning by that margin is something St. John’s University head coach, Mal Galletta, said is an impressive achievement.

“No matter what his score is in relation to par, to win anything by nine shots in golf shows tremendous ability to put yourself way ahead of the competition,” he said. “His ability to go low, too — it really shows that he’s not just comfortable with winning by one. Not many players can do that or have that mind-set, and I think that’s going to bode well for him in his future.”

Mackedon also placed first at the Michael Hebron championship, the Long Island Golf Association’s top amateur stroke play, Aug. 1 at Bethpage Black.

“It’s nice to play a tough golf course like that — Riviera is a tough golf course as well,” he said. “I still have a lot of work to do so playing well in that tournament gives me some confidence.”

“He was always a top player and he’s so focused and very dedicated to the game.”

— Bob Spira

Mackedon began swinging the club seriously at the age of 10, but was a tri-sport athlete at Ward Melville, playing baseball and basketball.

“I think children should play multiple sports,” the standout golfer’s father said. “It enhances their abilities in each. I think it helped in his development as a golfer.”

Although the swing for baseball is different than golf, the Ward Melville graduate tried out for the varsity golf team in seventh grade, and made the team.

“His stroke was good and he had a great straight ball — at that stage he just needed to work on his mental game,” Ward Melville head coach Bob Spira said. “He was always a top player and he’s so focused and very dedicated to the game.”

Mackedon captured the Suffolk County individual title by shooting a 145, three strokes over par, and also led Ward Melville to its second-straight Suffolk County team championship his senior year. He finished second in the state tournament — one stroke behind first.

He also competed in the renowned American Junior Golf Association circuit, where he shot an average of 77.3 per round, and placed first in both U.S. challenge cups — the Long Island and Northeast junior classics. He took second place in the 2015 Met PGA future series at Bethpage Red, finished third in the 2015 Met PGA future series at Eisenhower Park White and carded a 64 to post another first-place showing at the Met PGA junior event.

“He has a natural talent and that ability to make it look easy.”

— Mal Galletta

“Gerry’s ability to go low is very special,” said Jim White, a Port Jefferson Country Club member and former Long Island caddie scholarship winner. “To win U.S. Amateur sectional qualifying medalist honors by nine strokes is unheard of. He’s a great kid.”

Bill Mackedon said he and his son practiced on his short game for the first two years as the young golfer’s body changed month to month, before adding to his repertoire.

“The initial training and development was to make him an outstanding player around the greens,” the father said. “Then we worked on his full swing and training him to play at the highest level he could possibly play at.”

The head pro said his son’s determination never wavered.

“He stayed within the Mackedon realm when it comes to instruction, but he’s a student of the game,” he said. “He studies the swing — he does what he needs to do. In my opinion, he out trains and outthinks most athletes on the golf course and I think that’s why he’s been so successful.”

He learned from not only his father, who won numerous PGA section events and three player of the year awards while still holding three course records, but also from his grandfather, a head professional for more than 35 years.

Gerry Mackedon winning the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship qualifier at Huntington Country Club. Photo from Bill Mackedon

Galletta said he sees the work put in, as his athlete came away with a one-hole playoff win for the Connecticut Cup Championship in October — just a month into his college career.

“He has a natural talent and that ability to make it look easy,” he said. “Besides his playing record, I was really impressed with the length he can hit the ball, even in high school. He’s committed to the team and wants the team to win just as much, if not more than he’d like to see himself win.”

His achievements have helped him proudly continue his family’s legacy.

“My wife Michele and I are very excited of this segue into possibly playing beyond college golf,” the college coach said. “I think it’s the beginning of a very bright future for Gerry.”

At the Riviera Country Club, he will be competing in the USGA championship won by the likes of Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

“I just hope Gerry enjoys the experience out there,” Galletta said. “Even people who are just part-time golfers, or even those who don’t know Bill or Gerry, should rally around him and be proud of that fact that someone is doing well enough at that age to compete on a national level. It’s a top-notch professional championship setup, and having competed in it myself I know it’s a different feeling than anything else he’s ever competed in. I hope he takes it all in and if he puts his head to the fact that he can do well, besides just thinking about the fantastic achievement of qualifying, I think big things are coming his way.”

Ward Melville High School students and their families will have access to a drug and alcohol counselor starting this upcoming school year. File photo by Greg Catalano

The Three Village Central School District is taking a proactive stance to battling drug and alcohol abuse in the community.

In May, residents approved the district’s $204.4 million budget for the 2017-18 academic year, which includes the addition of a certified drug and alcohol counselor. Heather Reilly accepted the position, and sat down with school administrators last week to discuss short-term and long-term plans that not only involve offering one-on-one counseling, but also educational programs in the schools and local area.

Catherine Taldone, director of school and community partnerships, said Reilly will spend one day a week at each of the two junior high schools, and split the rest of the week between Ward Melville High School and the district’s alternative high school, The Three Village Academy. The district is also developing a plan for the counselor to work in conjunction with health class teachers to create a program for sixth-grade students.

Taldone said the time had come to hire someone to address the growing problem.

“In order to help those students and recognize the problems we are seeing in our school district, as well as the problems that are being seen in every school district right now, we felt that it needed and required someone with a specific background and training to address those young people and work as well with families to see if we can make some changes and help some students get the help that they need,” she said in a phone interview.

Heather Reilly has accepted the position of drug and alcohol counselor in the Three Village Central School District. Photo from Heather Reilly

Reilly, a licensed social worker with a master’s degree in forensic psychology, said she has two years of substance abuse counseling, which will be her main focus in the district, along with prevention. She has worked with the Long Island-based nonprofit WellLife Network, which focuses on healthy recovery and wellness, and also has experience conducting screenings for mental health and drug courts. Children can come to the counselor even if a family member or friend is an alcoholic or addict. She said she is looking forward to reaching out to local agencies and developing a program rounded in research-based practices.

“It’s a very proactive approach as opposed to waiting for there to be an even bigger issue,” she said of the district’s decision to hire a counselor. “I’m very excited to be part of a new program — something that we can really get off the ground and really impact the community in a positive way.”

Reilly will also be available to families and faculty, and will be educating teachers, who she describes as “the first line of defense,” about the signs to look for and trends that sometimes include slang words to refer to drugs.

Reilly said treating children with substance abuse problems is different than working with adults, and it’s important for students to have someone they can trust and receive reliable information from.

“I think with children or adolescents, there’s less thought of the consequences in the future,” she said. “Their brains really aren’t developed in that way yet. It’s really important to come at students in a very nonjudgmental way. It’s normal to have these thoughts of curiosity and experimentation, but you really need to give them knowledge so they can make the most informed decisions. You’d be really surprised how little students know about the long-term consequences.”

The local problem with drugs is something Ward Melville High School Principal Alan Baum said he never shied away from. In 2014, he was trained to administer Narcan, a medicine used to reverse the effects of opioids. After his experience, he had the high school staff trained in its use. Now, all secondary school teachers and nurses in the district have also been trained. Three Village aims to have elementary school teachers qualified in the near future.

Baum said more than 10 years ago there was a substance counselor through BOCES, but the position was removed. He is pleased that the district has now hired someone that can focus on the drug and alcohol issues facing the community. Both Baum and Reilly said another problem is vaping, which is the practice of inhaling or exhaling vapors produced by an electronic cigarette, a device that can also hold marijuana.

Although the principal said he has not seen an increase in the number of kids addicted or seeking help, and has never had to have Narcan administered within the confines of the school buildings in the area, he thought the hiring of a counselor was still a necessary move.

“Just like any other suburban area, this is an unfortunate fact of life that exists no matter where you are,” Baum said. “It’s not unique to Three Village, it’s not unique to Suffolk County. This happens across the state and across the nation. We have a problem and I want to do whatever we can to help and tackle and address this issue.”

Cheryl Pedisich, the district’s superintendent, echoed Baum’s sentiments.

“The Three Village Central School District takes a proactive and steadfast approach to educating our students and residents about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, and has dedicated robust resources to both prevention and intervention services for students and their families,” she said in a statement. “This year, we are proud to expand upon past practices through the introduction of a certified drug and alcohol counselor and an enhanced preventive K-12 curriculum. We truly believe that it is through these initiatives and services that we are able to fulfill our mission of providing a well-rounded social, emotional and wellness program.”

Debuting gender-neutral green gowns, accented with gold stoles, Ward Melville High School’s graduating seniors took their places in front of the school’s clock tower Sunday.

A satisfying cap to the Three Village school district’s 50th year, more than 600 students received diplomas at the commencement ceremony.

Ward Melville’s principal Dr. Alan Baum reminded those in the class of 2017 that they come from a 50-year tradition of greatness and will continue the tradition because they are “unbounded and unlimited.”

Salutatorian Isabelle Scott and Valedictorian Kirti Nath celebrated the individual gifts of their classmates.

“There is no person here without accomplishment today,” Scott said. “Parents, faculty, our victory is yours, too.”

The salutatorian urged her classmates to be true to themselves.

“I hope, if nothing else, that you do the things to make yourself proud,” she said. “Your life deserves nothing less.”

Nath encouraged her classmates to look on their mistakes as opportunities to move forward or gain strength.

“We don’t have to pretend that everything in high school is easy, because that’s what makes today so uniquely special,” she said. “And even though you may not have realized it at the moment, every fall was indeed a fall forward, moving us closer to success — and, if not success, then strength.”

The class gift — additional picnic tables for the football field — was presented by Brandon Cea, student government president.

Three Village school board president, William F. Connors, had advice for the soon-to-be graduates.

“I urge you to work hard, work to your potential and believe in yourself,” Connors said.

Photo courtesy of Three Village School District

By Michael Tessler

Throughout our brief but impactful history, America’s protesters have accomplished quite a bit. From the Sons of Liberty dumping nearly $1.7 million worth of English tea into Boston Harbor (talk about destruction of property) to Dr. King sharing his dream during the March on Washington. Protests, petitions, walkouts and other acts of civil disobedience certainly have earned their chapter in the American story, not always for good reasons, unfortunately.

My first protest was back in 1999 at Scraggy Hill Elementary in Port Jefferson. Things, as you may remember, were a bit simpler back then. Before the advent of social media, before digital petitions and fake news blogs we were forced to have conversations with one another.

Esther Fusco, my former principal, had an office tucked away behind the school’s reception area. Inside she had an old-fashioned metal candy dispenser that only accepted pennies. Whenever you were called into her office, she made sure you got to crank out a handful of M&Ms. Between that and her famed “Star Assemblies,” there was a lot to love as a student.

Unfortunately, for reasons beyond the comprehension of a six-year-old, Dr. Fusco had her assignment changed by the school board and was no longer working in the school. When I heard she was gone, I went home and asked quite innocently, “Where’s Dr. Fusco?” That unknowingly became the rallying call for the first protest I ever participated in.

My mom, an impassioned activist for early childhood education, organized with other community members to picket, protest and attend meetings. This was an extraordinary lesson in civics for a little boy and one that I treasure to this day. You can imagine my excitement when almost 20 years later I hear about petitions circulating through Ward Melville High School. Young people were speaking up about an issue they were passionate about.

The new cap and gown style at Ward Melville High School. Photo from Three Village School District

To provide a bit of context, Ward Melville’s principal introduced a new uniformed graduation gown that combines the school’s signature green and gold. In the past, they had been separated by gender. However, with the school’s growing transgender and gender-fluid population, they wanted to adjust with the times. Naturally, there was pushback as it was altering a 50-year tradition.

What should have followed was a debate on the BEST method to preserve tradition while accommodating changing times and the needs of the student body. What actually transpired was unfortunately quite the opposite. Petitions began to grow and with them hateful comments about transgender and gay/lesbian individuals.

During a student walkout, several students held up signs saying “STRAIGHT LIVES MATTER” and imagery often associated with the former Confederate States. There’s a fundamental difference between fighting for tradition and using the guise of tradition as a means of marginalizing another group.

Here’s the unfortunate reality: 41 percent of transgender youth and 20 percent of gay/lesbian/bisexual youth will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Just for perspective, 4.6 percent of the general population will attempt suicide. Words matter, and if you’re wondering how those numbers got to be so staggering, look no further than the comments on some of these petitions.

If someone is willing to keep something like that a secret for their whole life, if the pain of that secret is enough cause for them to take their own life, then who the heck am I to question who they are and why? We were not born wearing blue or pink. We were born human beings and being human isn’t always easy so let’s stop making it harder on each other.

Nonviolence and peaceful demonstrations remain the second greatest force of change in this country next to democracy itself. To my young friends at Ward Melville, on all sides, keep fighting for what you believe in. Do so however, while showing respect and civility. You are stewards not just of your own rights, but those of all Americans. Just remember, “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

Seriously though, where is Dr. Fusco? If anyone sees her, please tell her Michael Tessler sends his regards. I’m 18 years overdue for some M&Ms!

Ward Melville's graduation ceremony will look a little different this year. File photo

Things will look a little different at Ward Melville High School’s graduation ceremony this year.

Gone now are the separate green and gold gowns for males and females. Replacing them, are gender-neutral green ones with gold stoles that feature the high school emblem, breaking the school’s half-century commencement tradition.

“This year, as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Three Village Central School District, we are focusing on honoring the traditions of the past, while building new traditions for our future,” Ward Melville High School Principal Alan Baum wrote in a letter posted on the school district’s website March 2.

The letter came after nearly 100 students participated in a walkout March 1, protesting the news of even the possibility of a color change.

One of the factors considered in making the decision was to meet the concerns of transgender and gender-fluid students.

“In addition to creating a unified senior class, it is our hope that creating a unifying color scheme will eliminate the anxiety that is caused by forcing a young adult to wear a gown that labels them differently than how they identify,” Baum wrote in the letter. “This decision also reflects the progressive nature of our district, our high school and our community. Through the use of the unified gowns, we are no longer separating our students by gender; rather, we will be promoting a more inclusive practice at graduation.”

News of the gown change circulated on social media Feb. 28, prompting a number of students to start petitions and participate in the walkout.

Seniors Brianna LaSita, Charlotte Schmidt and Isabelle Antos were motivated to start a petition on Change.org to support same-colored gowns. The trio sent a joint statement to The Village Times Herald to explain their motive.

“We created our petition in response to the petition that was made in support of keeping the traditional colored gowns,” the three wrote. “As it gained supporters and hateful comments, we decided we needed to support our class and protect our LGBTQA+ peers from the hateful rhetoric featured on signs during the walkout.”

Some of the signs held by students had slogans like “Straight Lives Matter” and “Don’t Tread On Me.”

David Kilmnick, CEO of the LGBT Network, a Long Island-based nonprofit, said the organization heard about the debate after the walkout. He said a few students from the school emailed his group seeking help, claiming they heard anti-transgender rhetoric spewed from students and teachers.

“Through the use of the unified gowns, we are no longer separating our students by gender; rather, we will be promoting a more inclusive practice at graduation.”

— Principal Alan Baum

The CEO said the decision to have one gown color solves the issue of transgender children feeling a sense of anxiety when it comes to choosing a color. He said when making such a decision, most feel that if they choose the color that represents their true identity, they’ll risk harassment from their peers. If they don’t choose the color, they’re “not feeling whole in who they are.”

“This is not as simple as black and white, or even about green and gold anymore — this fair debate over tradition has devolved into an excuse to promote transphobic hate speech,” the petitioner organizers wrote. “That is not what our community is about.”

As of March 8, their petition to support the same colored gowns had almost 700 signatures. One petitioner wrote on the site: “I would be so grateful if we can all leave Ward Melville more loving and empathetic individuals, we should always be working to ensure that all of our class feels comfortable every day but especially a day as special as graduation.”

A senior at the high school, who asked to remain anonymous, said many students were disappointed by the color change, especially after having already had their senior portraits taken adhering to the now-former color tradition. The school rectified the problem by notifying parents March 7 that students could retake their graduation photos at no additional cost.

According to the student, it was felt the gown change was made by the administration after consulting with only a few students.

The senior wrote that even though a portion of the student body felt the change was only based on the needs of transgender students, those upset were not discriminating against anyone, but were just hoping to continue tradition.

“My issue, and the issue that my peers that participated in a walkout protest during class today share, is that a choice is being made that benefits a minute minority of people, not the majority,” the student said. “This is an underlying theme that is playing out across the country. Lawmakers, educators and school administrators are making changes based on what a small population wants, not what the majority of the school or state or the entire nation feels is right.”

Ward Melville’s old cap and gowns were green for boys and yellow for girls. File photo by Bob O’Rourk

Jennifer Segui, who is the mother of two children at W.S. Mount Elementary School, said she was disappointed when she read a number of negative reactions on social media after the decision.

“It would have been so beautiful if the idea of the new graduation gowns had been embraced by all students and parents from the beginning,” Segui said. “Sadly, that didn’t happen. Hopefully, people can learn and move forward.”

But the anonymous student said those who participated in the protest felt as though the administration did not listen to opinions from most of the students when making the decision.

“Instead of listening to our voices, our principal brought our protest in the auditorium, and basically stifled our statements in what was a clear attempt to silence us,” the student said. “It is clear, to me at least, that the school has no intention of doing what is right. They would rather follow in popular culture than face the fact that what they are doing is blatantly unfair. Again, I carry no prejudice. I speak with the basic ideal of a democratic republic that what is done should be decided by the majority.”

Ward Melville isn’t the first Long Island school to break tradition, following in the footsteps of Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington and Island Trees High School in Levittown. Kilmnick said he feels the administration made a bold move in the right direction.

“I think we’re seeing a movement,” Kilmnick said. “Even though Ward Melville is the third school on Long Island to do this, I think we’ll see a lot more on Long Island. And we’re certainly seeing schools across the country getting rid of the separate colored gowns because they’re not inclusive for all students. What the change does, in fact, is let everyone in Ward Melville wear green and gold, from looking at the new gown, and it allows the entire school to move forward as one community, and to celebrate graduation in a safe, inclusive manner — and make graduation celebratory for all.”

A six-year-old James meets Hillary Clinton in 2008. Photo from Anne Shybunko-Moore

On Friday, Jan. 20, about 900,000 people are expected to be gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to witness Donald Trump being sworn in as the nation’s 45th president.

Among the crowd of thousands will be selected future leaders from schools across the country, including James Moore, a sophomore at Ward Melville High School, who will represent Long Island in a five-day program surrounding the historic event.

The Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit, held between Jan. 18 and 22, gives students like James the opportunity to take part in a series of workshops, seminar discussions and presentations that coincide with the inauguration, listen to world-renowned speakers — some of this year’s honored guests include General Colin Powell, the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai via video satellite, renowned filmmaker Spike Lee, former governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley (D) and Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson — and gain a perspective on local, national and global issues facing their generation.

Ward Melville High School student James Moore will attend the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. Jan. 20. Photo from Anne Shybunko-Moore

James was invited to participate in the exclusive experience as an alumnus of the Junior National Young Leaders Conference, which he was chosen to join by his elementary school teacher when he was entering seventh grade.

He served on the student council and Junior Honor Society while at Gelinas Junior High in East Setauket, received Triple C Award upon graduating sixth grade for demonstrating outstanding “Courage, Character, and Commitment throughout the school,” has volunteered at Island Harvest packaging food for the homeless and received the New York State Scholar-Athlete Team Award in 2015 as a varsity-level track runner who maintained a GPA of 90 percent or better during the season.

Additionally, James volunteers at Setauket Presbyterian Church by helping to teach Sunday school.

“Being part of history is a big part of why I wanted to go,” James said in an interview. “I’m looking forward to hearing the other side of politics, how people are seeing things from around the country, and just getting to be with people who are similar to me … it’s cool to be able to think and be part of this [moment] together.”

He said the 2016 presidential election was “surprising” and “interesting to watch.”

“I remember waking up after the election was over going ‘wow, that happened?’” he said. “[But] I’m not upset with it and I’m not going to go out and complain about it but it threw me off.”

While he said he’s excited about learning more about the political process, and hearing Yousafzai’s speak in particular, the 15-year-old from Setauket is no stranger to interacting with major politicians and voicing his thoughts on social, environmental and community issues in public forums.

In fact, as the son of two presidents of major defense and trade manufacturing companies on Long Island whose event guest lists frequently include Hillary and Bill Clinton, James has been politically engaged practically since birth.

“He’s met Bill and Hillary a few times, Congressman Steve Israel, Congressman Tim Bishop; he’s met these folks and he’s very confident and comfortable in speaking with people in leadership roles,” his mother, GSE Dynamics President Anne Shybunko-Moore, said. “James has grown up in a very aware environment … because of what I do, we’re always watching the news and talking about the issues.”

“I remember waking up after the election was over going ‘wow, that happened?’”

— James Moore

James even participated in Hillary Clinton’s campaign last February and is interested in an internship position at Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s (D-Setauket) office.

His mother said her son has a “sincere realness” that makes him a natural leader.

“He’s always been very thoughtful,” she said. “He’ll see a situation and be like ‘what can I do to help or change that?’ That’s just who he is.”

James’ father, Manufacturing Consortium of Long Island President Jamie Moore, said he hopes his son gets a “fire lit” and obtains an understanding of what he can do with his life from his experience in Washington.

“I see so many of these kids just kind of floating through, and playing Pokemon Go or whatever, and there are so many opportunities they could be doing to increase their knowledge, help out other people, help other communities and this is one of those things that will hopefully help open his eyes and give him some ideas,” he said. “We try to craft that by giving him enough experiences to get out there and try new things.”

While in D.C., James said he’ll be following his program itinerary by day and studying for his school midterms by night.

Ward Melville High School students performed ‘Sweeney Todd’ as this year’s school musical. Photo courtesy of Three Village School District
 Ward Melville High School students performed ‘Sweeney Todd’ as this year’s school musical.  Photo courtesy of the Three Village Central School District
Ward Melville High School students performed ‘Sweeney Todd’ as this year’s school musical.
Photo courtesy of the Three Village Central School District

sweeney-todd-1East Setauket: Ward Melville High School student-actors and musicians recently dazzled audiences when they took to the stage to perform the Tony Award-winning musical “Sweeney Todd.” The story tells the tale of a famed barber who returns to work above a struggling pie shop under an alias after being wrongly sentenced to life. Working with the baker, Mrs. Lovett, the pair seek vengeance against the corrupt judge who sentenced Todd and end up traveling down a path with deadly consequences. From the opening number, the cast impressed the packed audiences and kept them entertained until the final curtain call.

0 639
The Ward Melville field hockey team is all smiles after shutting out its opponent for the county title. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kate Mulham said the key to Ward Melville’s dominance is simple.

“There really is no secret. We know where we can play, our level of play and we keep it there each and every game,” Mulham said. “We take each game one at a time, we don’t underestimate anyone and we just work hard every game.”

The Patriots’ field hockey team uses that mentality to continue to shut teams down.

Kaitlin Thornton passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Kaitlin Thornton passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Even with the stakes so high, the No.1-seeded Patriots did what they always do, and shut out No. 2 Eastport-South Manor, 4-0, on Nov. 1 for the team’s second consecutive county title.

In 19 games, the Patriots allowed just six goals this season, outscoring their opponents 75-6. The game was never in doubt, as Ward Melville’s attack kept the ball in Sharks territory for most of the matchup.

Mulham rocked the box two minutes in, when Kaitlin Thornton broke free down the sideline and sent a cross pass to Mulham for the early lead.

Eastport-South Manor struggled to push the ball forward, but was met with formidable Patriots midfielders, who were able to advance the ball to their forwards.

Mulham’s stick spoke three minutes later, when she drilled one past the keeper off another crossing pass by Kerri Thornton, to put the Patriots out front 2-0.

Occasionally, the Sharks managed to push the ball past midfield, but were then met by the defense that dominated the backfield, like they’ve done all season.

With 7:48 left in the half, Mulham dished the ball off to senior Kiera Alventosa, and the midfielder fired at the cage for the score to put her team ahead by three.

Ward Melville came out in the second half much different than the first, focusing on ball control, clean passing, building time of possession and letting the clock unwind.

Lexi Reinhardt moves the ball up the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon
Lexi Reinhardt moves the ball up the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon

“We always focus on attacking together — our whole premise is to play as a unit,” Alventosa said. “I think that in the first half we were revved up on nerves and excitement, so we came out hard, gave it our all and in the second half, we focused on our possession play with our passing.”

With 6:44 left in the game, the Patriots broke the cadence when Thornton broke down the left sideline and flicked a pass to forward Lexi Reinhardt, whose shot was deflected, but still stretched the net for the final goal of the game.

“We were able to control the ball between the 25-yard lines, using our back passes to keep possession, instead of going hard towards the offense the whole time,” Reinhardt said.

Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said the fact that her team has held its opponents to such few goals, if any, this season is not just a result of her four strong defenders.

“The team defense we play throughout the field — every single one of our players is an integral part [of that defense],” she said. “They’re a very solid unit back there — it’s built of mostly seniors that have been playing together for a while — and they show great leadership back there.”

Ward Melville advances to the Long Island championship Nov. 5 at Adelphi University at 7 p.m. Ward Melville will face the either Baldwin or Massapequa. Results of that Wednesday night matchup were not available by press time.

0 879
Alex Eletto crosses the finish line at the Lynn, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Sprint. Photo by Mike Polansky

By Joseph Wolkin

Alex Eletto has been running since he was in the seventh grade, and the speed within him only increased with age.

Eletto, now 19, graduated from Ward Melville High School in 2015. Competing on the track and field team throughout his high school career, the Stony Brook-native consistently worked on improving his form.

Come Aug. 10’s annual Lynn, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Sprint put on by the Greater Long Island Running Club, Eletto appeared as if he were the Energizer bunny. That Saturday was different than any other for him. Running the 5K course at Sands Point, he roared across the finish line in 18 minutes, four seconds for a first-place finish.

“It was pretty cool,” Eletto said of winning. “I just love running. It was really special for me to win that race.”

Eletto defeated veteran runner Keith Guilfoyle from Commack by four seconds, followed by 15-year-old Jake Meyers of Plainview.

Eletto is focused on completing the race while competing with the Northport Running Club. Photo by Tina Eletto
Eletto is focused on completing the race while competing with the Northport Running Club. Photo by Tina Eletto

“It was awesome to see him win — I saw the look on his face as he was coming to the finish line,” his mother Tina Eletto said. “I think he knew he had it. Somebody was on his tail, but he was not letting up and he was pushing through. As a mom, it’s great to see that.”

Among the 271 runners in the event, Eletto stood out by making it look like he was taking a casual weekend jog. According to one of his coaches from Ward Melville, Brian Schoen, Eletto is “doing really well” after graduating.

“Alex was very focused, determined and a very hard worker,” he said of his former athlete’s high school career. “The distance guys, because they put in so much time and effort, are an extremely tight-knit group. He did an amazing job when he was with us, and Alex has wonderfully represented Ward Melville in every way. He certainly did himself proud.”

In high school, Eletto’s best result was a third-place finish in his senior year during the St. Anthony’s Invitational in May 2015, when he set a personal record of 4:45.10 in the 1,600-meter run.

“He really developed in the 11th and 12th grade,” his mother said. “After he graduated high school, he started on a team called Rolling Thunder. From there, he is now working with coach Mitch Felced. He is running with the Greater Long Island Running Club.”

Entering this latest event, Eletto never expected to earn the victory. It’s his second first-place finish; the first coming in the Heart and Sole 5K in Plainview.

But what makes Eletto’s victory so special for his family is how he got there.

The athlete is on the autism spectrum. While it is not severe, his mother noticed he acted differently compared to others when he was a toddler, and he was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, the most common form of autism, at 5 years old.

“He’s definitely an athlete, and he’s very into staying in shape and eating correctly. He just has such a great passion for the sport.”
— Tina Eletto

“He is very high functioning,” Tina Eletto said. “He has a driver’s license and has his own car. He’s such a nice person that it never really affected him during school with his peers because he was always involved in sports and he was always really friendly, and everybody was the same back.”

The disability has ended up being one that has pushed him to succeed, whether it’s in the classroom or on the field.

“He works through everything,” she said. “His perseverance and determination are so strong that he bought his own car. He worked at Stop & Shop and at a bagel store; so it doesn’t really affect him too much.”

Training during the late evening in the summer, Eletto is constantly focused on improving his skills.

“It’s a great feeling,” Alex Eletto said of being able to overcome his disability to excel in the sport he cares so much about.

Eletto is now preparing for his next venture, as he begins an internship at a nursing home in Medford, working behind the scenes.

“He loves running races,” his mother said. “He’s definitely an athlete, and he’s very into staying in shape and eating correctly. He just has such a great passion for the sport.”

Soon-to-be graduate proudly displays high school diploma at Ward Melville High School’s commencement on June 26, 2016. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

They came with cameras, air horns and even a graduate’s photo held high on sticks. These were the proud families and friends who came to celebrate the 618 students who graduated from Ward Melville High School on Sunday.

Before receiving their diplomas, graduating seniors listened to final pieces of advice from their peers, their principal Dr. Alan Baum and school board president William Connors.

Class salutatorian Ariel Long urged her classmates to take their experiences at Ward Melville and “look on new beginnings with excitement and not fear.” Jeffrey Michel, the class valedictorian, reminded them to not limit themselves to one talent or interest.

“Change starts with you,” said Dr. Baum, who quoted a number of artists, including Shakira, to remind students that failure is a part of life and a way to learn. He told the graduates to “challenge obstacles,” try again and move forward.

Social

4,737FansLike
5Subscribers+1
952FollowersFollow
19SubscribersSubscribe