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Mount Sinai

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Mustangs win second consecutive Long Island title with 7-5 win over Cold Spring Harbor

Senior midfielder Erica Shea crouched along the sideline below the stands and whispered as she pulled up her hands to pray.

“Let’s go,” she shouted, after stepping out onto the field and clicking her stick against those of her teammates. “Can’t lose,” she and her team said as they exited the huddle before the start of the game.

Her prayers were answered or maybe not even needed, but either way she’s right — her Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team can’t lose. The Mustangs played a man down for the last 10 minutes of the game and, despite letting up three goals in that span, still came away with the Long Island Class C championship title with a 7-5 win over Cold Spring Harbor on June 5 at Stony Brook University.

The team proved that defense still wins championships.

“We’re always defense first,” head coach Al Bertolone said. “We have a very strong nonleague schedule — we were in a lot of tough games. Our kids learned how to play gritty and tough in these moments.”

Mount Sinai scored three goals to open the first half. Immediately following a Hannah Van Middelem save just minutes into the game, sophomore attack Camryn Harloff scored first after carrying the ball down the back side of the field for a goal. Senior midfielder Caroline Hoeg scored off a Shea feed minutes later, and junior attack and midfielder Leah Nonnenmann tacked on the third unassisted with 18:35 still left in the first half.

After a brief hiccup in which the senior goalkeeper let up a rare goal, senior attack and midfielder Meghan Walker dumped the ball in up front off a pass from Nonnenmann, after the junior couldn’t squeeze past defenders, pulled back and saw the open look for Walker.

Next, junior midfielder Rayna Sabella took the ball from the left side of the goal and passed it up to Harloff on the far right post. She sent the ball flying into the netting for a 5-1 advantage.

“We knew that [Cold Spring Harbor] wanted to come out and crush us because last year they lost to us in triple overtime,” Harloff said. “So we knew we had to come out stronger and have that intensity to beat them.”

Sabella added a free position goal to extend the lead to 6-2, but Cold Spring Harbor was able to pull apart the defense just for a brief moment to draw within 6-3 after a good goal.

“We game-planned pretty well — on defense we knew their personnel and we knew who we had to stay strong on at all times,” Sabella said. “Throughout this season we’ve been known as a ‘second-half team,’ so we knew in order to win we’d have to pick it up in the first half and keep that momentum throughout.”

Shea added to the offensive onslaught when she pressed against the defense and sent a buzzer-beating shot rocketing into the cage to end the half.

“We knew we had to give 100 percent the entire time because we knew they weren’t going to give us any let-ups,” she said. “We had to go full throttle.”

The second half started slower, and Mount Sinai found itself plagued with yellow cards, being down a player for two minutes at a time on several occasions through the 25 minutes. Cold Spring Harbor scored two goals but calm is contagious, according to Bertolone.

“We were poised and we pulled it out,” he said.

The Mount Sinai team had graduated a significant amount of talent following last year, and had its fair share of doubters heading into this season.

“No one thought we could do it, but we thought we could,” Harloff said. “We believed in ourselves. No one thought we would get here and it feels great to prove them all wrong.”

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Mustangs drop game to Wantagh, 3-1, after winning program's first county title

The Mount Sinai baseball team huddle outside the dugout. The Mustangs fell to Wantagh, 3-1, in the Long Island championship game. Photo by Alex Petroski

Pitching and defense were the keys to the Long Island Class A baseball championship game Saturday. In the end, Wantagh had just enough of each, and Mount Sinai was left to wonder what might have been.

The Warriors defeated the Mustangs 3-1 behind a complete game, one hit, zero earned run pitching performance by senior Bobby Hegarty at the Police Athletic League Complex in Holtsville. Hegarty got the best of Mount Sinai senior Sam Kessler on the mound. Kessler also went seven innings; scattering five hits and one walk while striking out seven.

Mount Sinai senior starting pitcher Sam Kessler hurls the ball off the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski
Mount Sinai senior starting pitcher Sam Kessler hurls the ball off the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski

“He’s been tremendous all year long,” Mount Sinai head Coach Eric Reichenbach said of his pitcher after the loss Saturday. Kessler pitched the Mustangs to the championship game with seven innings of two-hit ball to close out a two-game sweep of Rocky Point in the Suffolk County Class A championship series on May 26.

“It’s another game where basically he dominated,” Reichenbach said. “He didn’t give up an earned run. We didn’t play stellar defense behind him, and that’s kind of been our bread and butter all year long — pitching and defense.”

The fact that the Mustangs’ “bread and butter” failed them will probably make Saturday’s result a little tougher to swallow. The Warriors scored the first run of the game in the third inning after an error and two singles loaded the bases with one out for senior designated hitter Will O’Brien.

O’Brien hit a shot to deep left field, which was run down by Mount Sinai outfielder Paul Gomes. The eighth-grader made an outstanding running catch, slamming into the fence for the second out. O’Brien was credited with a sacrifice fly. After a stolen base, sophomore Anthony Fontana singled to right field to put Wantagh up 2-0. Both runs were unearned.

“I thought I didn’t have my best breaking ball early in the game,” Kessler said after the game. “I think that’s where I got in trouble in that third inning a little bit. I made the adjustments, but it was just one of those days. Not much you can say — they played good and came out here and beat us today.”

Kessler settled down and retired 12 of the next 13 Warriors hitters. Mount Sinai answered the Wantagh rally in the bottom of the third, getting men on base via an error and a single. With one out and men on first and second, Wantagh failed to turn a double play and an errant throw by Wantagh second basemen Mike Derham allowed the Mustangs to cut the lead in half. Hegarty didn’t allow another base runner after the third. He retired the final 12 Mustangs he faced to secure the Long Island championship.

Mount Sinai’s Sam Kessler takes a strike from Wantagh’s Bobby Hegarty. Photo by Alex Petroski
Mount Sinai’s Sam Kessler takes a strike from Wantagh’s Bobby Hegarty. Photo by Alex Petroski

“Hats off to the other team, and to Hegarty,” Reichenbach said. “He threw a nice game. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap.”

Wantagh scored their third run on Mount Sinai’s third error of the game in the seventh inning.

The Mustangs captured their first-ever Suffolk County Class A championship title this season, though, so Saturday’s disappointing result didn’t stop Mount Sinai from reflecting on a special season.

“It’s hard now because the game just ended, but it’s still a tremendous accomplishment by the school and these kids,” the head coach said. “We’ve never won a Suffolk County championship before. We got one this year and it’s just unfortunate we won’t be going any further.”

Kessler will head to West Virginia University to pitch in the Big 12 Conference in the fall.

“It’s a great season all around,” Kessler said. “We took this team farther then we’ve ever been before. It’s a shame things ended the way it did. There’s a great group of guys here and they’ll be back next year.”

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After back-to-back Suffolk County titles, Mustangs fall to Clarke, 7-1, to end season

The Mount Sinai softball team fell to Clarke, 7-1, in the Long Island championship on June 3 at Hofstra University. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

One year ago, the Mount Sinai softball team reached a new milestone, achieving a level of success the likes of which the Mustangs had never seen.

“This is the best softball team Mount Sinai has ever had,” head coach Tom Tilton said. “They won the conference, they won the league and they won the county championship — something that has never been done before.”

Sabrina Burrus reaches out to grab the ball behind the plate. Photo by Bill Landon
Sabrina Burrus reaches out to grab the ball behind the plate. Photo by Bill Landon

Looking to repeat last year’s success, the Mount Sinai softball team went undefeated in its conference for a second year in a row, finishing atop League VI with a 12-0 record, which earned the team the top seed in the Class A bracket.

After a first-round bye, the Mustangs picked off No. 4 Hampton Bays and took down No. 3 Islip, the only team that had beaten them in a nonleague contest earlier in the season, sending them to the loser bracket, only to play the Buccaneers again in the semifinal round. In back-to-back games, Mount Sinai beat Islip for the school’s second consecutive county title.

A year ago, it had never been done before. And this season, they did it again.

Mount Sinai’s roadblock last year was the Long Island championship, and this year it would be no different. The Mustangs faced Clarke at Hofstra University Friday afternoon, and fell 7-1 to end a remarkable season.

Mount Sinai fell behind 2-0 after one inning of play, and the Mustangs struggled to find a rhythm, making a pitching change in just the bottom of the second inning. Eighth-grader Kelsey Carr took over on the mound after Clarke loaded the bases, with the Mustangs trailing by three runs. It was an error-riddled inning, and Clarke capitalized on each mistake, scoring four unearned runs to jump out to a 6-0 lead.

Hailey La Giudice throws from third. Photo by Bill Landon
Hailey La Giudice throws from third. Photo by Bill Landon

The Mount Sinai bats were quiet over the next two innings, but would get the goose egg off the scoreboard in the top of the fifth.

With runners at first and second, senior third baseman and catcher Sabrina Burrus smacked a sacrifice fly to advance the runner at second to third. Sophomore catcher and third baseman Hailey La Giudice stepped into the batter’s box and battled the pitcher as the count grew full, and ripped the ball through the gap to right field, plating Carr.

With runners on first and second, sophomore Emma Wimmer drew a walk to load the bases, but the opportunity was squandered as the Mustangs went down swinging to end the inning. From there, the Mustangs bats went silent. The team was unable to mount another rally from there.

“We prepared to hit the faster pitching because we know what she brings,” Tilton said of Clarke’s pitcher. “There’s no two ways about it, but I didn’t anticipate making six errors in the first two innings. Today we were very nervous and we haven’t shown that all year. Today that killed us. You can’t give up five unearned runs to a pitcher like that and expect to win.”

Losing only two seniors to graduation, Tilton said he is optimistic about next season.

“We’re a very young team,” he said. “We’ll be back next year.”

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“We wanted to prove everyone wrong that doubted us, and we did.”

That’s what Mount Sinai junior goalkeeper Hannah Van Middelem had to say following her Mustangs’ 6-5 win over previously undefeated Bayport-Blue Point Tuesday, which earned the girls’ lacrosse team the Suffolk County Class C title.

Van Middelem came up with nine key saves to help her team to victory.

“I felt really confident because my defense was channeling outside shots, which helped me,” she said. “Our defense played great and the draw circle was amazing. We got almost every single ground ball.”

Van Middelem made her first save of the game just 30 seconds into the contest and senior attack Rebecca Lynch made the first goal off a free position shot. A Bayport-Blue Point yellow card left the team down a player, and sophomore attack Camryn Harloff took advantage of the penalty when she scored off an assist by junior attack and midfielder Leah Nonnenmann.

“We kept cool, calm and collected and took it like every other day,” Nonnenmann said. “We did our work, we adjusted to everything we needed to, we did it all. Communication was key and never letting our heads go down, no matter what.”

After Bayport-Blue Point’s Kerrigan Miller scored to cut the deficit, she forced a turnover, and a yellow card on a slash left Mount Sinai down one for two minutes.

Despite missing a player, Van Middelem wouldn’t let up the lead that easily, batting away a free position shot before Kelsi Lonigro evened it up for Bayport with 12:49 left in the half.

With 8:28 left, Bayport scored again, but a penalty prior to waved off the goal. Harloff attempted the next shot, but the ball bounced off the right post. Less than a minute later, senior midfielder Caroline Hoeg scored on a free position shot to give the Mustangs a 3-2 lead.

“It was all intensity,” she said. “We all knew what we had to do, we game-planned amazing, our coaches were on top of everything we had to do to beat them and we came out here and that’s exactly what we did.”

But Miller and Lonigro, two of the Phantoms’ strongest players, also weren’t going to go down without a fight. They scored back-to-back goals to give their team a 4-3 advantage heading into the halftime break.

“It’s a very intense rivalry, but it’s a good rivalry,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “I’ve had great wins, and this is probably one of the best. We had a tough nonleague schedule, we lost to them straight-up the first time and we did some different things this time and the goalie played great. She’s an All-American type, which is what you need.”

Hoeg said despite the lead loss, her teammates knew to keep their heads in the game.

“Once they got the lead, we were a little down, but we knew we had to pick it right back up and come out here hard and do what we do,” she said.

Harloff had a shot saved to open the second half and Van Middelem made two straight saves, her second of which led to a Mustangs goal. After she passed the ball to Harloff, the ball was carried up to the front of the cage, where it was passed to junior midfielder and attack Rayna Sabella, who scored the tying goal.

Nonnenmann, trying to get a goal all afternoon, finally hit her mark when she swiveled around defenders in front of the cage and dumped in the go-ahead goal.

“I was a little off the first couple of tries and I was getting in my head, but I cleared everyone out, played my game and I finally pulled it out,” she said. “We’ve been working so hard and the hours and hours of practice we put into it was all for this.”

With 4:53 left to play, sophomore attack Meaghan Tyrrell passed the ball to Hoeg from 15 yards out, and a good goal gave the team a 6-4 advantage, despite Bayport’s defense being tough to penetrate.

“Once we got the lead, we knew it was ours,” Hoeg said. “From the huddles to the girls on the sideline, everyone cheering, we knew it was ours and we weren’t going to let it slip away.”

Bayport then wound up with the ball. The first of several free position shots was high and Van Middelem tipped the second away and made a save on the third to keep the game in the Mustangs’ favor.

Mount Sinai mostly maintained possession thereafter, but the stifling Phantoms defense forced a turnover that led to a breakaway goal with 41.6 seconds left to play.

Another Bayport yellow card left the Mustangs in control, and Tyrrell held onto the ball until the clock expired.

“This one is special,” Bertolone said. “We battled adversity, we did everything right. We’re young in some spots, but a lot of those kids were on the field last year. Hoeg played very well, she was tough all day, [senior midfielder Erica] Shea has been excellent all year. The kids really stepped up and came through for us.”

After losing to Bayport 10-2 in the regular season, and after a goal with one second left in the game gave the Mustangs a 10-9 win over Shoreham-Wading River in the semifinals, the girls now know anything is possible. Mount Sinai, at 15-3, has won eight straight games and looks to take the streak all the way back to the state finals, which the team won last season.

Mount Sinai faces Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship on June 5 at 2:30 p.m. at a location still yet to be decided.

“This game helps us going forward,” Van Middelem said. “We felt really confident — we just believed in ourselves. We still feel confident. We can take it all the way.”


Video by Wendy Mercier  

An excavator recently tore down the home at 182 Shore Road in Mount Sinai, which has been in poor condition for the last four years after being damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

The storm flooded the property near Satterly Landing and the owner sold it to New York Rising, a program that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) established to help homeowners affected by Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

The Town of Brookhaven purchased it last fall and, now that it is torn down, will allow nature to take over, as the space is not suitable for reconstruction of a home.

The home formerly at 182 Shore Road near Satterly Landing. Photo by Giselle Barkley
The home formerly at 182 Shore Road near Satterly Landing. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“[There] will always be a problem with flooding, so we’re just going to incorporate it into Satterly [Landing],” Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said previously.

Brookhaven is also evaluating another property on the block that has been around for two decades, examining it because of issues with its structure.

The science, technology, engineering and math program, in which students work with Stony Brook University professors to further their education, will return to the district. File photo

Students in the Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson school districts will keep taking their talents to the next level.

Thanks to state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) securing more funding, the joint science, technology, engineering and math program will be staying around for another year.

LaValle got $25,000 for each district to continue its partnership with professors at Stony Brook University to further the students’ learning and better prepare them for the future.

“I think the world today and the jobs today are in the STEM areas,” he said. “So we want to make sure that they have a good running start so that they can, when they apply to college, have an easy transition.”

Port Jefferson superintendent, Ken Bossert, said he’s happy the senator has been a strong supporter of the program, and said that so far the partnership with the schools has gone seamlessly.

“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for our students,” he said. “The program has been extremely well received and well attended. There’s been a good deal of collaboration and a good deal of learning is taking place. It’s given by Stony Brook professors and they use equipment in the labs and are exposed to higher levels of learning that we can’t replicate on the high school level.”

The Mount Sinai superintendent, Gordon Brosdal, said after meeting with the senator to discuss the future of the program, he found out that his district and Bossert’s would be able to receive the same amount of funding they’ve received the last three years, to be able to maintain it.

“I would like to praise Sen. LaValle for being on the ground floor of this program, encouraging and supporting those partnerships like the Mount Sinai-Port Jeff STEM project,” he said. “We’ll keep up the partnership. It’s very positive and he is very supportive.”

LaValle said he likes the enthusiasm for the program in both school districts.

“There’s interest — that’s why we’re going to continue it,” he said. “It’s popular with the administrators and, most importantly, with the students and their parents.”

Bossert appreciates the senator’s support.

“Without the grant money that Sen. LaValle has made available for us, we would’ve had a difficult time initiating any program like this,” he said. “I think it’s something that has gone very, very well and has the opportunity for even further growth, so I’m hoping that the positive trajectory continues.”

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Mustangs score five unanswered goals in second half to secure 6-5 win over Shoreham

Mount Sinai teammates huddle around Meaghan Tyrrell after she scores what would be the game-winning goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai’s motto this season has been “proving people wrong.”

And again, the girls’ lacrosse team did just that. Despite being down 5-1 at halftime, the Mustangs rallied back to score five unanswered goals en route to a 6-5 win over Shoreham-Wading River in the game’s final minutes Monday.

Mount Sinai's Caroline Hoeg scores over Shoreham's Sophia Triandafils. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Caroline Hoeg scores over Shoreham’s Sophia Triandafils. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It was a great turnaround,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “Everything that you wanted to have happen in the first half happened in the second half. It was the way I thought we could play.”

But the girls came out flat.

While the Mustangs had trouble getting started, the Wildcats were off to the races. Isabella Meli and Erin Triandafils tacked on two goals each, and Mikayla Dwyer scored once while Jesse Arline assisted twice, to put Shoreham up 5-0.

With 3:28 left in the first half, Mount Sinai senior midfielder Caroline Hoeg dodged opponents as she made her way up the middle and scored unassisted to break the ice for her team.

“I think we started off rocky, but we came out at halftime and knew what we had to do,” she said. “Everyone knew they had to play for the girl next to them and we played our hearts out.”

Mount Sinai's Camryn Harloff reaches between Shoreham defenders for the loss ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Camryn Harloff reaches between Shoreham defenders for the loss ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Hoeg helped win possession off the draw to open the second, and from the left side of the cage, passed to junior midfielder Lisa Nonnenmann who scored through traffic up top.

“It’s a gut-check time,” Bertolone said of his team being down. “I told them, ‘are we just going to let someone come in and push us around? Are we going to respond?’ And they did.”

At the 11:12 mark, sophomore attack Meaghan Tyrrell took matters into her own hands when she swiveled around the back of the cage and fired a shot across the front of the net to the far left side. Minutes later, she passed the ball to Hoeg up the middle, who beat out defenders and bounced in a shot that close the gap, 5-4.

“At halftime, our coach was pep-talking us and our captains were great,” she said. “When we came out we knew we had to win the draws to come back, so that was our motive.”

Bertolone called for a timeout and before sending his team back onto the field, the girls shouted “heart,” and continued to play with a lot of it.

The Mustangs won possession off the next draw, and although Nonnenmann had a free position shot soon after, she failed to capitalize. At 3:50, she got another shot, and made it count, tying the game 5-5.

Mount Sinai's Erica Shea makes her way around Shoreham's Isabella Cortes. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinai’s Erica Shea makes her way around Shoreham’s Isabella Cortes. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It was nerve-wracking but we’ve been working really hard this season and it was just great to get out there after we dug ourselves into a little bit of a hole to really work all together, settle the ball and pull it out,” she said. “I think we practice more than anyone else around, we get down to business and it helps us get the job done.”

With 2:06 left on the clock, the Mustangs proved that hard work pays off. From outside, Hoeg passed to Tyrrell at the front of the net, who bounced a shot into the open right side after a goalkeeper misstep, for the 6-5 lead.

“Caroline knew I was open, she knew that was the play, and I saw the goalie’s stick come out and I thought she was going to save it, but I got in there, went around her and shot,” she said. “It was very nerve-racking, but it also felt really great.”

Bertolone called for another timeout, and told his team, “You don’t want to lose this after coming all the way back. We need to win this draw.”

The Mustangs won the draw, and despite turning the ball over, forced a turnover and held the ball until time expired.

Mount Sinais' Leah Nonnenmann makes her way to the cage ahead of Shoreham's Erin Triandafils and Megan Daly. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mount Sinais’ Leah Nonnenmann makes her way to the cage ahead of Shoreham’s Erin Triandafils and Megan Daly. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The 2015 state championship-winning team is hoping to get back to Cortland this year, and the team’s resiliency may take them there.

“We practice for days like this,” Hoeg said. “This is what we have to do if we want to get to the next level and we want to get back upstate. We knew that we all had to come together and show people that we can come back from losing our top players and prove people wrong. That was the motto this year — coming out and doing what people think we cant.”

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program’s future at Mount Sinai may be nonexistent if the school can’t get the necessary funding. File photo by Barbara Donlon

By Kevin Redding

In 2013, the Mount Sinai School District and Port Jefferson School District partnered up for a new college-level program that would give their high school students an opportunity to study a wide range of science-oriented subjects and utilize the available resources at Stony Brook University.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program was set up largely due to the efforts of the districts’ superintendents, Gordon Brosdal of Mount Sinai and Kenneth Bossert of Port Jefferson, and New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) — who helped fund the program through grants since its inception. Now entering its third year, the STEM program — which consists of about 20 bright students in total from both high schools and lasts a few weeks each semester — includes four workshops, covering a wide range of topics that include botany, physics, computer modeling, electrical engineering and penguin research. Students get early on-campus experience at Stony Brook University, working under professors and advisers, and learning to apply their skill sets through research and hard work to make an impact on the world.

“Beyond just the cool things and getting us passionate about science, it’s taught us [amazing] life skills,” says Ben May, a junior at Mount Sinai who’s been in the program for two and a half years. “When I came to high school, I wanted to [pursue] politics. What these courses have taught me is that not only could I help the world by passing legislation, but that I could pass laws based on my knowledge of science, and the environmental issues I’ve learned, to help the general population.”

Even though the program itself is extremely beneficial, its future is not quite secured.

After New York State passed the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014, which allocated $2 billion for school districts in the state to help provide students with the most up-to-date educational technology like Apple computers and tablets in the classroom, mostly in anticipation for online testing, LaValle’s grant for STEM per school district took a drop: $25,000 became $12,500. Since the program is not funded by the district’s budget, the two school districts pay for it themselves from the money LaValle supplies them. Without LaValle’s additional funding, the school districts must put it up to a budget vote, leaving the decision of whether to keep the program going or not to people who may not fully appreciate what the program does.

According to Brosdal, the trimmed funding might get them through the year, but it’s still worrisome. There’s also added uncertainty when it comes to the continued partnership between Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson — their transportation splits are making the program very costly. Bossert is leaving Port Jefferson to become superintendent at Elwood school district, and there’s no guarantee that his replacement will share his views on the importance of the STEM program.

“We rely on [Port Jefferson] and we’ve enjoyed this relationship with them, but the new superintendent might have different priorities,” Brosdal said. “You never know, and we don’t know if LaValle is going to continue the funding. That was a warning sign last year when our funds were cut in half.”

Brodsal said he hopes the funding does not end, because if it was unsuccessful from the start, he believes Stony Brook would have cancelled it instead.

“They wouldn’t let us back on the campus if they didn’t see that the money went to good use, but they do, and it’s a good experience, so I’m hoping it continues,” he said. “I would love to continue the STEM program, but if that’s not possible, I’d like to give money to form a science research club first, before we make a science research class. … to see if we have student interest. That’s my plan at present.”

Brosdale will meet with LaValle at the end of the week for an update on the funding situation, as well as find out who will be the new superintendent at Port Jefferson.

Event attendees learn how to use Narcan to counteract opioid overdoses. Photo by Giselle Barkley

By Giselle Barkley

Parents and students alike walked out of Mount Sinai High School knowing the ugly truth about heroin and opioid use and addiction. But they also walked away with a lesson about Narcan.

Event attendees learn how to use Narcan to counteract opioid overdoses. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Event attendees learn how to use Narcan to counteract opioid overdoses. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The school district held it’s first “The Ugly Truth” presentation on Tuesday in the Mount Sinai High School auditorium. Suffolk County Police Department officer George Lynagh, EMS officer Jason Byron and county Medical Examiner Michael Caplan tackled the origins of heroin and trends among addicts over the years. Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also spoke at the event.

But residents didn’t simply learn about heroin on the Island, they also left with their own Narcan kits after Byron led a Narcan training class. According to Sgt. Kathleen Kenneally of the police department’s Community Response Bureau, Narcan, also known as Naloxone, was successfully administered around 530 times since the opiate antidote was introduced to the police department in July 2012.

Narcan, which reverses the effect of heroin or other opiate-based overdoses, can be administered via an injection or nasal spray. Mount Sinai resident Susan Matias said the spray is a friendly option for community members.

“Here, it’s introduced through the nasal passages — there’s no harm done, you’re not afraid of administering a needle and/or sticking yourself in the moment of chaos,” Matias said. “I think that’s why people are more open to partake and participate in the training.”

The nasal spray also makes it easier for people who still have a stigma about drug addicts and users. Byron reminded residents that the face of addicts has evolved and they’re not the only ones in need of drugs like Narcan.

“Sadly, the connotation is, we think people that could have overdosed are dirty when really it doesn’t have to be,” Byron said. “For opiate overdose, it doesn’t mean that it’s someone addicted to heroin. It could be somebody who’s possibly on pain management for cancer, end of life care, hospice care. It’s not the stereotypical — I hate to say it — junkie. That’s not what we’re seeing out there.”

According to Caplan, in the last few years, drug addicts who’ve overdosed on the substance have gotten younger and younger. The rate of opiate overdose deaths has increased by 140 percent since 2000. Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are responsible for 80 percent of these death rate increases.

Fentanyl, which some dealers or users will mix with another drug like heroin, is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Combining this drug with others can make it difficult when administering Narcan.

“One of the problems with Fentanyl is, because it’s so potent, because it acts so fast, you may need to give multiple doses of Naloxone,” Caplan said.

According to Lynagh, the police department is starting to see higher levels of Fentanyl. He added that in his more than three decades as a police officer, the drug is one of the more addictive drugs he has seen. Lynagh added that heroin was initially introduced to combat morphine addiction.

“We don’t have too many people addicted to morphine now,” Lynagh said. “We have this heroin addiction, so sometimes we mean to do something well or combat a drug or something bad, with something else that’s bad.”

Bob Koch, above, of Koch Tree Services in Mount Sinai, hangs up the flags each year for Heritage Park’s “Parade of Flags.” Photo from Fred Drewes

Bob Koch is no stranger to giving back.

The single father of three and owner of Koch Tree Services in Mount Sinai is known for his generosity and willingness to always lend his services, or just a helping hand.

“I get emotional talking about him, because he’s just such a wonderful person,” daughter Kara Koch said. “Anybody he meets, he always gives them a chance and makes sure to think the best of them. He really goes above and beyond for everybody and anybody.”

According to Bob Koch’s son Jeremy, his grandfather started the business and his dad took over, working on some major jobs while heading the company. Bob Koch helped clean up Battery Park in Manhattan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, planted trees and plants at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, helped local businesses plant trees for Christmas tree lightings and he does basic maintenance and upkeep around the area. He donates much of the time he spends on these community projects.

Bob Koch and two workers plant a dogwood and other trees along the Avenue of America. Photo from Fred Drewes
Bob Koch and two workers plant a dogwood and other trees along the Avenue of America. Photo from Fred Drewes

Nick Aliano Sr., who owns Aliano Real Estate in Miller Place, said Koch helped plant a nearly 30-foot tree at the Aliano Shopping Center to honor his son Robert, who was run over by a car and battled through a long recovery. Despite the first tree dying and the replacement tree almost succumbing to the same fate, Koch made it his goal to keep the tree alive.

“He wanted the tree to make it — it was his mission,” he said. “It would cost thousands and thousands of dollars to do what he did, and we didn’t ask him for a favor; he offered it. He’s a special guy. Behind the lines, Bob is putting back into the community. A lot of people don’t even see it. That’s the kind of guy he is. He doesn’t make an announcement about it.”

The Miller Place Fire Department holds an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the tree, which Robert Aliano lights, and where Koch is mentioned for his generosity for the wonderful things he does for his community.

At Heritage Park, Koch sometimes sends his crew in to help with landscaping and cleaning up, according to Heritage Trust Office Manager Susan Peters.

“Everything he does here has been totally volunteer,” she said. “He has made the park more beautiful and more inviting, and he’s done so many things that we couldn’t afford to do.”

Fred Drewes, who has also donated a lot of his own time to landscaping the property, said the environment Koch has created at the park will be admired for generations to come.

“I feel grateful and blessed by his willingness and graciousness to help make our small local park seem so large and enjoyable for so many people,” he said.

At “The Wedge,” Koch has donated and planted trees along the parking lot, as well as a tree for an annual lighting around Christmas, and helped with the planting of trees along the park’s “Avenue of America.”

There is also a Parade of Flags that is arranged on national holidays. Koch’s daughter Katie once asked her father if waking up early to hang flags for each state “drove him crazy.”

“He responded, ‘You know Katie, one thing that’s important is you always give back,’” she recalled. “He always made that a big thing. It’s never a job to him.”

Bob Koch, of Koch Tree Services in Mount Sinai, hangs up the flags each year for Heritage Park’s “Parade of Flags,” above. Photo from Fred Drewes
Bob Koch, of Koch Tree Services in Mount Sinai, hangs up the flags each year for Heritage Park’s “Parade of Flags,” above. Photo from Fred Drewes

She finds that positivity and care is contagious: “He’s such a hard worker,” she said. “The man sometimes works six or seven days a week and still has time to give to his family and the community, and he does it with a smile.”

Carmella “Miss Mella” Livingston of Miss Mella’s Footsteps to Learning, a child care center in Coram, said Koch donated time to take care of her property and planted a tree in honor of her late husband.

“He’s taken care of it all as a good community gesture,” she said. “Besides being very community-oriented, very generous and very kind, he’s also very upbeat, very happy. He’s definitely an asset to the community, but also as a dad. It’s a beautiful thing to see someone who is so giving.”

Although he works quietly, neighbors have taken notice.

Katie Koch recalled driving down the street with her father last year, slowing down for a sign someone hung up on their front porch: “It said, ‘Thank you Bob Koch for everything you’ve done,’” she said. “I remember thinking how proud I was that that was my dad. He’s the most selfless person I know.”

According to Kara Koch, who is an office assistant at Koch Tree Services, her father has inspired his family and everyone in the community to always be positive and the best you can be.

“He’s taught me how to love, how to care, how to be responsible, how to be successful,” she said. “Seeing what he does, it makes me want to be the kind of person he is, and if I can be half the person he is, I’d be a very happy girl.”