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Centereach High School

Middle Country Central School District announced its top scholars for the class of 2021. 

Photo from MCCSD

Isabel Rodriguez of Newfield High School and Aryan Sharma of Centereach High School have been honored as this year’s valedictorians, while Ilssa Siddiqui of NHS and Priyansh Parikh of CHS have been named salutatorians.

“As we approach the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year, it is my distinct honor and privilege to celebrate the Class of 2021’s valedictorians and salutatorians — Isabel, Aryan, Ilsaa, and Priyansh,” said Roberta Gerold, superintendent of schools. “The district is immensely proud of each of you for your ambition to adapt to, and succeed in, the scholastic challenges that were presented throughout this school year. We applaud the four of you for your stellar academic achievements and commitment to the Middle Country community. We are confident that you will continue to achieve great things in the next chapter of your lives.”

Isabel carries a 102.6042 weighted GPA at Newfield with the potential to graduate with more than 40 college credits. In addition to her academic pursuits, Isabel serves as the treasurer for the Foreign Language Honor Society and vice president of the National Honor Society. She’s also a member of the Pit Orchestra, class of 2021 student government, the Leadership Club, Environmental Club, Tri-M Music Honor Society, and member of Newfield’s girls’ varsity soccer team. This coming fall, Isabel will be attending Vassar College.

Ilsaa, who is known for her incredible work ethic, achieved a weighted GPA of 102.1250 as salutatorian at Newfield. 

Coupled with her academics, Ilsaa has served as a member of Gerold’s Leadership Club, vice president of the Environmental Club, secretary of the Foreign Language Club, is currently a member of DECA, vice president of the National Technical Honor Society, secretary of the National Honor Society, and senior editor of the Yearbook Club. She has also volunteered at the Selden Mosque as an assistant teacher. Ilsaa has committed to Hamilton College where she hopes to pursue a career in either computer science or pre-law.

During his tenure at Centereach High School, Aryan’s academic fortitude has afforded him a weighted GPA of 102.00. For the last two years of his high school journey, Aryan’s academic workload consisted of all AP courses. 

His success in these courses helped him attain National AP Scholar status. Outside of the classroom, Aryan is active in extracurricular activities and community service. He is currently the GO vice president, and formerly held the position of junior class treasurer. Aryan is a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, the National Technical Honor Society, the math team, and countless other clubs which he primarily serves in a leadership capacity. 

Aryan has been accepted to, and will attend, Stony Brook University in the fall where he will study biochemistry with plans to pursue a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Centereach High School’s salutatorian Priyansh has excelled throughout his academic career and will graduate with a weighted GPA of 101.8. Priyansh’s academic workload has been punctuated with several AP courses, in which he excelled. 

He was recognized by the College Board as an AP Scholar with Distinction. Priyansh is involved in a multitude of extracurricular activities in school and in the community. In his role as GO treasurer, he played an active role in all of the activities that take place in the high school. Priyansh is also a member of the National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, DECA Club, and participated on the winter track team. 

Photo from MCCSD

Post-graduation, Priyansh plans to attend Penn State University where he will pursue a degree in computer science.

Newfield win the Suffolk III championship title in a 2-0 victory over West Islip Jun. 18. Bill Landon photo

Although the bats were cracking with runners on base, it was a defensive showcase by both Newfield and West Islip who went scoreless though 5–½ innings in the Suffolk County Conference III title game June 18.

Newfield pitcher Kendal Kendrick was dominant from mound where the senior went the distance but it was Josh Jacob’s bat that decided the game in the bottom of the sixth inning when the junior ripped a shot to left field driving in two runs for the 2-0 lead.

Kendrick disposed of the last three West Islip batters in the top of the seventh to advance to the Long Island Championship game.

 Photos by Bill Landon 

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Newfield offensive linemen Roman Aponte (L) and Charlie Clark set the tone for the “O” line in a non-conference matchup against Sachem East Mar. 27. Photo by Bill Landon

 

The Newfield Wolverines’ intended opponent West Islip, was forced to quarantine after a COVID-19 test, which resulted in an unlikely pairing of the Flaming Arrows of Sachem East a D-I team against the D-IV Wolverines on March 27. The voice from the broadcast booth said they could not recall these two teams having ever faced each other, so all the scouting reports went out the window.

Down two touchdowns it was Newfield’s Devin Aviles who provided the spark for the Wolverines on an 11-yard run to tie the game at 14, his second touchdown of the afternoon. Newfield quarterback Josh Jacob the junior rolled out the pocket and connected with sophomore tight-end Kaleb Mapp to re-take the lead with less than a minute left in the half.

Sachem East answered with 2 TD runs by Virgillio Batista with only 1 extra point between them took a 27-20 lead late in the game. It was Newfield’s Brian Akbulet’s pass out of the backfield finding Joe Hackal who turned it up field for a 37-yard touchdown run to trail 27-26. Newfield thought about going for two but opted to kick the single point after to tie the game. Sachem East blocked the point after handing Newfield a heartbreaking one-point loss. 

 Photos by Bill Landon 

Senior Co-Captain Julia Ragone clears the ball up-field for the Cougars in a 3-0 road win against Newfield in a league IV match up March 23. Photo by Bill Landon

The Cougars of Centereach left no doubt who was in charge when they traveled to their crosstown rival Newfield, scoring five minutes in off a penalty kick by Centereach senior Nicole Fabris to take the early lead. Newfield struggled to keep the ball up field and found themselves defending their half of the field when Fabris struck again with a big push up the left side where her solo shot found the right corner for the insurance goal 12 minutes into the second half. Fabris wasn’t done when she buried another penalty kick with 13 minutes left in the game for which Newfield had no answer.

The win, their third in a row lifts the Cougars to 2-2-1 in league IV for third in the standings behind Smithtown West and West Islip. The loss drops the Wolverines to 0-4-1

Both teams are back in action March 25 where the Cougars host Bellport at 4:30 p.m. and Newfield has a home game against North Babylon searching for their first win of this early season. Game time is 4 o’clock. 

 — Photos by Bill Landon

 

 

The Newfield boys fencing team had their hands full in their season opener at home where the Wolverines fell to visiting Sayville 17-10 on Jan. 16. Unlike past seasons, the gym was eerily quiet in the age of COVID-19 as no spectators were permitted. Newfield was back out on their home strip two days later where they out-paced Commack 18-9 to even their early season. 

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Newfield senior Mohab Ali captures his 100th career victory Jan. 29. Photo by Sophia Vitale

It was history in the making when Newfield senior and star wrestler Mohab Ali defeated Sachem East’s Luis Valdez Jan. 29 with an 8-2 decision to notch his 100th victory at 195 lbs. Ali’s current season record is 31-2 and his varsity career stands at 100-36. What makes the milestone all that more remarkable is Ali’s freshman year record was 3-21, according to Newfield Head Coach Douglas Lotten.

Senior Hunter Hughes who also won Jan. 29 at 152 pounds tied the Middle Country School District all-time career record at 132 wins. Both wrestlers are ranked number 1 in Suffolk county in their respective weight class. At the state level, Hughes is ranked 5th and Ali is 7th.

 

Newfield searching for that first League III victory made short work out of visiting Copiague, winning the game, 59-40, at home Jan. 4.

Eighth-grader Raiyah Reid led the way for the Wolverines throwing down five field goals, two triples and four free throws for a team high 20 points. Sophomore Gina Oliveira sank a pair of 3-pointers and three from the line for nine points, and Chinelle Nelson, a junior, banked eight.

The win lifts Newfield to 1-2 in league and 6-2 overall. Newfield was back in action when they hit the road Jan. 8 to take on crosstown rival Centereach. Results were not yet available at press time.

 

Newfield High School seniors may have had to make one last change in their schedules, but weren’t going to let a little rain dampen their mood when they took to the football field for their graduation day ceremony June 24.

Although postponed a day, parents came out in droves to cheer on the class of 2018, watching the seniors collect flowers and stop to pose for pictures after receiving their diplomas. Valedictorian Logan Ortiz and salutatorian Diogo Martins addressed the crowd for the final time as classmates.

Students also sang and showed off decorated caps before tossing them in the air in celebration of a milestone achievement.

Harborfields' Gavin Buda only athlete to be chosen to play in both Blue Chip prospects baseball (pitcher) and football (wide receiver) games

By Bill Landon

A two-run eighth inning helped Nassau County tie the game and earn the would-be go-ahead run over Suffolk in a 5-4 Blue Chip Prospect Grand Slam Challenge win June 8 at St. Joseph’s College.

With the game tied 3-3, Garden City’s Mike Handal’s RBI gave Nassau the lead, and a Suffolk error brought in the eventual game-winning run in the 14th annual game sponsored by Rawlings, proceeds from which benefit Cohen Children’s Northwell Health Physician Partners Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics center in New Hyde Park.

St. John the Baptist catcher Logan O’Hoppe hit the ball deep to right, which scored Rocky Point pitcher and outfielder Joe Grillo from second, but Locust Valley’s Thomas Eletto forced a groundout with two runners on  to earn the save.

“It was a lot of fun playing tonight with all these kids,” said Ward Melville second baseman Logan Doran, who committed to Division I George Washington University. “I’m excited about competitive baseball. I’m ready to go.”

Doran proved that when he cleanly fielded a ball rocketed in the dirt, and passed it to short stop Kyle Johnson who turned a double play with bases loaded to retire the side and keep Suffolk up 1-0 in the second.

Johnson, who will continue his baseball career with Stony Brook University, said he’s been in awe of all the effort and commitment that goes into putting together the event for senior elites.

“This game’s awesome — Blue Chip; Jim Clark, who put this together years ago — it shows how [talented] Long Island is,” the soon-to-be Newfield grad said. “You’ve seen the guys this year that got drafted and a lot of those guys played in this game, so it’s an honor to be out here.”

Suffolk made it a two-run lead in the top of the third when West Islip outfielder Jake Guercio crossed home plate for the second time. And Suffolk’s hitting didn’t stop there.

Johnson stole second just ahead of a tag with Brentwood’s Justin Aviles in the batter’s box, but Aviles’ grounder toward third was thrown home in time to get Doran for the second out. Grillo smacked the ball deep to right next to load the bases, but Suffolk couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

Plainview JFK’s Ryan Saltzman hit a sacrifice fly to put Nassau on the board in the bottom of the inning, and Plainedge’s Jason Bottari did the same to make it a new game.

With no outs in the fourth, Newfield pitcher Bobby Vath hit into a double play, but Sayville’s Jake Russo raced home from third in time to help Suffolk retake the lead. The team looked to build on its lead in the top of the fifth when Mount Sinai third baseman George Rainer took four consecutive pitches at the plate to draw a walk, but two straight strikeouts ended the inning.

“It’s a great feeling to be playing with the best players on Long Island — I really enjoyed it,” said Rainer, who signed a letter of intent to play at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “It was a great day to end my varsity baseball career. I had a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see what college has in store.”

Harborfields pitcher Gavin Buda, the only athlete chosen to play in both Blue Chip Prospects games — the Grand Slam Challenge and Empire Challenge football game — took over on the mound in the bottom of the fifth and retired the side in order.

“It’s a huge honor to be chosen [for both],” said the Hobart and William Smith Colleges-bound wide receiver. “When you look at a school like Harborfields we’re always underrated and under-the-radar, so to be nominated to play in these games and represent this school is amazing.”

Vinny Altebrando with his wife Kristie and their four daughters. Photo from Kristie Altebrando

When it comes to handling students, the teachers, administrators and faculty members at South Huntington school district have a new mantra these days: WWAD, or “What Would Altebrando Do?”

It’s a tribute to a man who, as a physical education and special education teacher and renowned varsity wrestling coach at Walt Whitman High School for the last 15 years, consistently went out of his way to make students and student-athletes’ lives better — particularly the “underdogs” that struggled in and out of school.

Vincent Altebrando was somebody who once bought a tuxedo and prom ticket for a wrestler who came from a broken home and couldn’t afford them, and then dressed in a tuxedo himself, picked up the teenager and chauffeured him to the big event. He was a beloved local whose nine-hour wake service last month drew a crowd of 3,000 people, where hundreds more had to be turned away.

Vinny Altebrando, who was Walt Whitman’s wrestling coach, on left, with state champion Terron Robinson during the state tournament. Photo from Terron Robinson

The renowned coach, a Miller Place resident who died April 20 at Stony Brook University Hospital after being diagnosed with HLH, a rare autoimmune disease, at 51, had a big heart and an infectious laugh, an affinity for belting out Beatles songs, and a tough-love competitive spirit that not only put the district on the map athletically, but helped his players beyond the sport. There really was nothing he wouldn’t have done to help his students, according to those closest to him.

“He was always about the kids,” his wife Kristie Altebrando said. “He was always doing things for them. And just when you thought it was enough because his plate was full, he found more room on it. He’s changed a lot of lives.”

Both in school and at home, she pointed out, referring to their four daughters, each of whom compete in sports, from lacrosse to volleyball and field hockey.

“With his attitude, grace, helpfulness and encouragement, it’s all made them who they are,” she said. “I just hope he’s looking down, knowing that while he was alive he was doing all this for people.”

Robin Rose, Walt Whitman’s head varsity football coach and childhood friend of Vincent Altebrando’s, said the wrestling coach had a myriad of accolades. He won the sportsmanship award at this year’s Suffolk County Wrestling Coaches Association ceremony.

 “The best compliment is that Vinny turned athletes into state winners and he helped non-athletes become winners themselves,” Rose said. “He’s a guy this district can’t replace.”

Altebrando also played a large role in launching adaptive physical education and a Special Olympics program for the district’s special needs students.

Vinny Altebrando and his youngest daughter Mirabella. Photo from Katie Altebrando

“It’s an amazing void that he leaves in the school,” fellow Walt Whitman physical education teacher and childhood friend Scott Wolff said. “He was this big, tough, sweet guy; this big center of life in the building and that’s gone now, so we’re all trying to fill a little piece of it — just by building up spirits, being nicer to each other, spending more time with the kids who are struggling. I can already feel the effects.”

Wolff and Altebrando, who was raised by his mother and older brothers after the death of his father at a young age, both went through the Middle Country school system; graduated from Newfield High School a year apart; and were hired at South Huntington Elementary School on the same day in 1994. According to Wolff, Altebrando has been the same since he first met him.

“Vinny was always the best guy to be around — fun, humble and knew how to make everybody feel comfortable and special,” he said.

Terron Robinson, 19, knows that about the coach perhaps better than anybody.

The 2017 Walt Whitman graduate first met his coach as an eighth-grader as a budding wrestler. Robinson said he’d long been cast aside by teachers and other students at school due to his family background — two of his brothers had been to prison, and he thought everybody assumed he’d wind up there as well. He lost his mother at a young age and by the time he was in ninth grade, his father and a brother died, too. It didn’t take long, however, for him to have somebody to turn to.

“In my eyes, that man [Altebrando] was like my father,” said Robinson, who, under the guidance of Altebrando, was a state champion wrestler by 11th-grade. “He saw the good side of me when nobody else did. He was always there for me no matter what. Without him, I’d probably be in a jail cell.”

Altebrando made sure Robinson always had food and clean clothes. He pushed him to do well in school and treat everybody with respect. He took Robinson to the doctor when he was hurt. The coach would even take it upon himself to drive every morning from his home in Miller Place to where his student-athlete lived in Mastic Beach, pick him up and take him to school in South Huntington — where the two of them often worked out together before classes started.

“There was no greater bond I’ve seen between coach and player than the one they had,” Walt Whitman high school athletic director Jim Wright said. “Vinny just saw him as a kid with potential, as a wrestler and also as a person. He brought out the good qualities in Terron and turned him into a citizen.”

Vinny Altebrando, on right, with his oldest daughter Anjelia, who will be attending his alma mater, Springfield College, in the fall. Photo from Katie Altebrando

Altebrando graduated from Newfield High School in 1984. He was a star athlete on football and wrestling teams, the latter being a somewhat lackluster sport in the district before he came along.

“Then it became an event to go to,” Wolff said, laughing.

Altebrando went to Springfield College in Massachusetts, where he wrestled and received a degree in physical education.

It was during a hectic commute from his first teaching job in Brooklyn that Altebrando bumped into an old familiar face — his future wife — from his high school days.

“We took the train home together and we were engaged within a month,” Kristie Altebrando said. “He was my lifeline, my go-to guy … and it’s overwhelming to see the outpouring of love from so many people for what he’s done and see how many lives he’s touched.”

Natalia Altebrando, 13, a North Country Road middle school student and goalie on a travel lacrosse team, said her father taught her on and off the field how to find courage and strength, and to be kind to others.

“He made such an impact on my life,” she said. “This has broken my heart in a thousand pieces, and the only one who would [normally] be able to fix that for me is him.”

Altebrando’s oldest daughter, Anjelia, 17, will be following in her father’s footsteps and attending Springfield College in the fall.

“He was my role model and really pushed me to work hard for what I want,” she said. “He let me know that anything is possible.”