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Ward Melville High School

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.

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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.

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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.

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Pondering the circle of life and all that

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor receives honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, at the Icahn School of Medicine commencement, held at Avery Fisher Hall in May. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

I went to my first graduation at two. My father was receiving his Master’s in Public Administration and, according to my mother, I spent the duration of the ceremony on her lap, kicking her with my white patent leather shoes.

Since then, there have been more graduations than I can properly recall — including my own — and along with an upgrade in footwear, my attention span has also much improved.

To be fair, most of the graduations I attend these days are for work, which means that I should be paying attention if I’m to properly report what occurred.

But this year, in addition to the ones I covered, I had my daughter’s moving-up ceremony from kindergarten, which marked the end of her time — and our family’s time — at the school she and my son attended for preschool and kindergarten. (Yes, there are a lot of emotions there, but I am not going to cry. Sniff!)

And, I attended my cousin Crystal’s graduation from Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, where she received her Master’s of Public Health degree. (This is my “baby” cousin, whose kindergarten “graduation” I’d attended back in the ‘90s). And though this graduation was almost three (!!) hours,  it left me inspired, hopeful and with a sense of how interconnected we all are.

One of the speakers, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist, vice provost at University of Pennsylvania and leading bioethicist and health care policy reformer, practically scandalized the audience when he said something to the effect that no one remembers the speeches given at graduation. After a brief moment of indignation, I thought back to my graduations and realized that he was absolutely right. Yet, I remembered the gist of his words without the luxury of jotting them down. What made his words — and those of the medical school dean, Dr. Dennis Charney — memorable was that though they were talking about medicine and health care, they were also addressing universal truths.

Dr. Charney moved the audience by telling of the heartbreaking loss of an infant with an incurable disease. His expression of powerlessness despite the resources and knowledge at his disposal was made all the more painful when he revealed that the child had been his granddaughter. But what he wanted graduates to take away from his personal pain was the idea that they could build on the knowledge of others. He told graduates to stand on the shoulders of those who had come before them to find cures.

These are words that can resonate with us all as we strive to add to — or improve on — what pioneers in our own areas of expertise have discovered, invented or created. We also do this when we stand on the shoulders of  family members who sacrificed so that our dreams could be bigger.

As for Dr. Emanuel — did I mention that he’s Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s big brother? — his words were just as wise. He said even if you are a great doctor, if the system is broken, your patient can still be harmed. Again, this is not a sentiment unique to medicine. This holds true in government, education, the judicial system and even the media. But this holds even more sway coming from a man who has worked within the system and has dedicated much of his career to fixing it. When we call on doctors and policy makers or other members of society to see beyond themselves and to work to fix what’s broken around them, we are reminded that we are a part of a larger network.

This idea of how knowledge is passed on and then used to sometimes inch, or even propel, ourselves forward came full circle at last Sunday’s Ward Melville High School graduation. The valedictorian — who will be attending my alma mater — gave a moving speech highlighting the talents of his classmates. He mentioned several of them by name before moving on to acknowledge the guidance of his junior high and high school teachers and, of course, all of the parents.  He closed by urging his classmates to pay it forward. Though he didn’t say it in the way Charney did, he was telling the class of 2015 to allow others to stand on their shoulders.

Though most people don’t really enjoy all the sitting and listening and waiting, graduations are momentous occasions because they are a chance to look back before moving forward. They reinforce the bonds we have with those who have helped us, and they inspire us to be the boost that guides others to success.

This philosophy couldn’t have been more apparent as all doctors were asked to stand and recite the Oath of Maimonides with the new Icahn graduates. My Uncle Donald began his medical career as a resident at Mount Sinai and now, at his daughter’s graduation, he represented knowledge and experience.

The moment was sentimental and it was also a proclamation. It showed that we achieve with the help of others, and we achieve by helping others.

 

 

 

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Umbrellas, usually necessary to ward off blazing sun, protected spectators from light drizzle as Ward Melville High School honored around 600 graduates Sunday.

Graduating seniors took their places in bleachers set up alongside the high school’s entrance, which still featured the “Journey to Neverland” backdrop from Thursday night’s prom.

Salutatorian Jayne Green told the women in the audience to remember they were not alone and that as half of the population, women should unite and work together. If they did, she said, “Nothing can stop us.”

Valedictorian Eric Wang shared his moment at the podium with his classmates by mentioning many of them and their contributions by name.

From state athletic champions to talented performers, innovators, “extraordinary leaders,” “patriots serving the country” and those always ready to offer a lending hand, “Each and every one of us is exceptional,” Wang said.

He then urged his classmates to “pay it forward” and channel their energies into their future endeavors.

Following student government president George Zenzerovich’s presentation of the class gift were words from Principal Alan Baum and school board president William Connors. The rain subsided in time for Baum and assistant principal Rosanne DiBella to hand diplomas to the members of the Class of 2015.

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Ward Melville senior shortstop Brianna Dade tosses the ball during practice Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

With just two seniors on the Ward Melville softball roster, first year head coach Joseph Burger will lean on the under classman to make a significant contribution, as the Patriots field two juniors, four freshman and three eighth graders, to help make some noise in League I this season.

Burger, who coached at McGann-Mercy last season, knows he’s got his work cut out for him as he looks to build a program with a very young squad in a preseason where all of his practices have been indoors.

“We haven’t been outside yet, so we’ve only been able to hit in the net — you don’t get the same kind of grounders that you get outside,” senior shortstop Brianna Dade said. “It’s not the same feel and it’s a lot harder; you’re in a closed area you’ve got the [overhead] lights so it’s totally different.”

Burger said that his team will fundraise in the off-season to travel to Disney for spring training, which will become part of the Patriots preseason preparation.

“We’ve made changes already,” Burger said. “We have new dugouts, new uniforms, new helmets; which is all part of our new direction [we’re headed in]. I coached a travel team for 10 years where I took my team to Disney several years and it’s a way to show the team how this is a year-round program. It adds value and it’s a good way to recruit players.”

Although Burger said softball isn’t as big at Ward Melville as other sports, his girls put in a lot of effort and are ready to win.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t be successful with softball,” Burger said of the sports lower popularity. “These girls work hard, they’re fast, they aim to please, they don’t take anything personal and they listen to direction and act on it.”

Ward Melville senior left fielder Mary Garr winds up to throw the ball across the gym during practice Monday. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville senior left fielder Mary Garr winds up to throw the ball across the gym during practice Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

Dade said that although there are a lot of younger girls on the team, she thinks its small stature and speed will be an advantage as the Patriots play a lot of small ball.

Kristina Maggiacomo, an eighth-grader, will be tested right from the season opener as a starting pitcher and infielder. Despite starting two eighth graders, senior left fielder Mary Garr was optimistic about her teams’ chances of success this season.

“Every team we’ll face this year will be a challenge, but our pitching is definitely better and we try our hardest,” Garr said. “You have to play at 100 percent with every pitch, with every catch and with every throw if you want to win.”

According to Burger, the team’s leaders are Garr, junior first baseman Natalie Rodgers and junior pitcher Lauren Vivenzio, who will also be counted on to anchor a young pitching staff.

Burger said that if his team plays strong defense, and doesn’t hurt itself with errors, the Patriots can expect to win every time they take the field. Rodgers agreed, adding that she sees every girl giving each practice 100 percent.

“I think we have a lot of potential,” she said, although concerned about the lack of outdoor practice. “The ball’s slower on the dirt, but in here [on the gym floor] it really rolls, so it’s faster and it’s hard on the outfielders. You really can’t practice catching fly balls because of the ceiling.”

The young squad will be tested in its home opener on Thursday, when the patriots host Commack at 4:15 p.m.

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Jimmy Kickel looks up the field to make a play. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

With 17 seniors returning to this year’s Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse squad, the team said it is confident that it can once again achieve the state championship-like caliber it had in the 2012-13 season, when the Patriots went 21-0-1 and won the school’s first state title since 2000.

“We have a ton of senior leadership, which is important and what all of the great teams have,” senior midfielder Jake McCulloch said. “Our chemistry is something that really stands out.”

A significant amount of this season’s returning players were also on that state championship-winning team, which should be a boost even despite 13 seniors graduating at the end of last season. Despite the small hiccup last season, the Patriots still said they are ready, and hungry.

“I think we underachieved a little bit last season, quite honestly, but we also had a significant amount of injuries,” head coach Jay Negus said. “In terms of looking forward, I’m very optimistic with this group. We have a great group of senior leaders and the initiatives that this group has taken thus far, in terms of shoveling the field by themselves, the way they warm up, the way that they’re practicing; they’re all business.”

The Patriots finished last season with a 13-6 overall record and 10-4 mark in League I play, losing in the quarterfinals of the Suffolk County Class A playoffs to West Islip, 7-5.

The boys said they are using the disappointment as motivation this season, and Negus said he has taken notice.

Jake McCulloch maintains possession in a game last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Jake McCulloch maintains possession in a game last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“They look really good, they’re whipping the ball around, they’re focused and they’re really absorbing all the stuff we’re throwing at them this early on,” he said. “Right now we’re hitting the ground running and we’re very excited about the season.”

Senior attack Danny Bucaro said the team has been going over the offensive plays and positioning in practice, and working on the simple things like ground balls, endurance, catching, throwing and shooting. The team only has two weeks to prepare for the start of the season, because of the weather, which Bucaro said differs from years past, where the team normally had three weeks to practice.

“We have to work hard all the time and give 110 percent effort,” he said. “The only thing that will bring you success is working hard. The young guys have a lot of talent and it’s really nice that we click in all aspects both on and off the field.”

As a result of this, McCulloch said he thinks the offense is going to improve because of the depth, which leads to more options to score.

Negus said Bucaro and McCulloch would be leading the way on that front.

“They are the two focal points of the offense that also lead by experience and get the rest of the guys on board,” he said, also noting other strong senior returners like midfielders Jimmy Kickel, Mike Cusmano and John Burgdoerfer, who he’s hoping will also contribute on offense.

On the other side of the field, senior Tommy Reilly is returning from back surgery, according to the coach, and will join forces with senior Michael Cirrone, junior John Day and sophomore Andrew McKenna to solidify the defensive end.

John Burgdoerfer makes a pass. File photo by Desirée Keegan
John Burgdoerfer makes a pass. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“We’re really focusing on the conditioning aspect, especially early on, to get the guys ready so that they’re in shape and that the injuries don’t happen,” Negus said. “The athleticism and the speed that this group has from offense to defense is something that is really going to help us separate from the competition.”What will also distinguish the team is the stiff competition the boys will be up against. Negus said he is following his pattern from last season and scheduled nonleague games against top teams Chaminade, West Islip, Ridgefield and Yorktown.”It’ll allow it to be the sort of litmus test for us to see what our strengths and weaknesses are,” he said. “When you go against a powerhouse like Chaminade, those things stand out right from the start.”After a scrimmage against Miller Place, the team’s first test will come in the form of Chaminade, on March 21 on the Patriots’ home turf.

Negus also kept these scheduled games as a result of the league realignment, which removed games against some top teams like Suffolk County champion Smithtown East.

“We scheduled a really difficult nonleague schedule to prepare us for that playoff push against some of the teams we’re not going to see during the year,” Negus said.

McCulloch said he is excited for the challenges ahead and is looking forward to going against high caliber teams that will show the Patriots what they need to do in order to achieve their goal.

“Even if we do come out ahead, they expose our weaknesses, and it’s better to get them out against good teams like that, and then we can work on them in practice, but playing the best competition brings out the best in us,” he said. “I think just playing as a team and the friendships that we build this year will be important, but a state championship is obviously the biggest goal.”