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Smithtown East

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Superintendent James Grossane file photo

Traces of the potentially hazardous legionella bacteria have been found in cooling towers at both high schools in the Smithtown Central School District, Superintendent James Grossane said Thursday.

In a statement sent out to district parents and posted on the district’s website, Grossane said a state engineer collected samples Wednesday morning that confirmed “detectable concentrations of the Legionella bacteria” in cooling towers, which come into contact with their respective schools’ water systems at the Smithtown East and Smithtown West high school buildings.

The samples were collected as part of a safety precaution required by the New York State Department of Health.

The superintendent added that the incidents were isolated only to the towers and did not spread into their respective schools’ water supplies or the greater Smithtown area, and there have not been any reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria, at either school.

“The only areas affected were the cooling towers, which are now back up and running safely,” Grossane said in the statement.

The inspection came in response to the recent outbreak of illness caused by Legionella bacteria in the Bronx, in order to prevent a greater spread of the bacteria throughout the state, the Smithtown superintendent said. The Department of Health issued an emergency regulation over recent weeks requiring the registration, testing, inspection and certification of cooling towers throughout the region, prompting the Smithtown inspection and ultimate discovery of the bacteria.

The superintendent sent out an automated voice message to parents throughout the district assuring that both cooling towers were safe for students and staff at the high schools and will continue to be maintained twice monthly. Grossane also said the district took voluntary steps to complete an “offline system decontamination,” which included an additional chlorine treatment, a system drain and flush, manual surface cleaning, refilling with treated water and re-establishing treatment.

“Follow-up monitoring will be performed in accordance with the new regulation, which does include retesting as verification of the treatment,” Grossane said in the statement.

The Legionella bacteria can cause respiratory disease that could lead to health complications like pneumonia, which is sometimes fatal. Fewer than 100 cases are reported each year, typically in upstate New York, and most cases are singular isolated incidents, the Smithtown Central School District said. The bacteria exist naturally in water and moist soil and can be spread through the air from a soil or water source.

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Smithtown East senior lacrosse player Gerard Arceri has been selected to the 2016 U.S. Men’s National U19 training roster. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District

Smithtown East senior Gerard Arceri has been selected to the 2016 U.S. Men’s National U19 30-man training roster and will now compete for one of 23 spots on the final team, which will participate in the World Games next summer.

Smithtown East senior lacrosse player Gerard Arceri has been selected to the 2016 U.S. Men’s National U19 training roster. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District
Smithtown East senior lacrosse player Gerard Arceri has been selected to the 2016 U.S. Men’s National U19 training roster. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District

“Gerard has separated himself from a very strong pool of tryout participants,” said John Jez, 2016 U.S. Men’s National U19 team manager. “He possesses the qualities and skills to potentially make the final 23-man roster and assist in the efforts to bring home a Federation of International Lacrosse world championship in July.”

Arceri will participate in training and team development from Nov. 13-15 at The Ohio State University, followed by a second session on Jan. 8-10 in Bradenton, Fla.

Smithtown Central School District had the most invitees — five — of any public school in America.

Fellow East alum John Daniggelis, who now plays lacrosse at Yale University, made it to the last round of cuts with Arceri. Kyle Keenan, a 2011 Smithtown West graduate, made the U.S. U19 team the last time the games took place four years ago.

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Patrick Lagravinese hurls the ball to first base. Photo by Ray Passaro

The University at Albany is getting a special baseball player from Smithtown East next year, but if his family and coach are to be believed, they are getting a special person as well.

Patrick Lagravinese, who will be playing at Albany when the 2016 college baseball season begins, had a standout senior season playing shortstop and pitching for the Bulls. Smithtown East saw its record from 2014 to 2015 improve by 12 wins for one major reason — Lagravinese transferred back to Smithtown East ahead of his senior season after spending two years at St. John the Baptist.

Patrick Lagravinese makes contact with the ball. Photo by Ray Passaro
Patrick Lagravinese makes contact with the ball. Photo by Ray Passaro

While he was playing at St. John’s, all he managed to do was help the team win back-to-back Catholic league championships. He made the difficult decision to transfer back to Smithtown East, the school district he attended until his freshman year, despite the opportunity he had in front of him to win a third consecutive league title.

“Nothing’s better than being able to finish up your high school career with the friends and family that were there when you first started playing the sport,” Lagravinese said.

When Lagravinese decided he wanted to return to Smithtown East, he said he spoke with his parents and they supported the decision.

“He loved St. John’s but he felt like he was missing something his senior year,” Lagravinese’s dad, Chet, said. “But it wasn’t something I was going to do for him.”

The shortstop notified his head coach John Habyan, and said that phone call was “the hardest thing ever.”

“The amount of memories and relationships I made with this team will go a long way and I don’t regret any decisions I made crossing this path,” Lagravinese said.

With St. John’s in his rear view, Lagravinese was outstanding in 2015. He went 5-0 on the mound and hit .363 while playing solid at shortstop and earned an invitation to the Grand Slam Challenge, a Suffolk County versus Nassau County All-Star game.

“Senior year at Smithtown East was everything I could ask for,” Lagravinese said. “The coaches and players were great to me and made me feel like I never left.”

Welcoming him back was easy, though watching him move on will be much harder for the Bulls.

Smithtown East’s Pat Lagravinese gets up to bat. Photo by Alex Petroski
Smithtown East’s Pat Lagravinese gets up to bat. Photo by Alex Petroski

“We’re going to do the best we can to slot someone in [at shortstop], but you don’t replace a Pat Lagravinese,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said about the reality of being without Lagravinese, who he called extremely coachable and hard working, next season. “He’s unique in the fact that he’s clearly the best kid on your team, but doesn’t want any of the credit.”

Klee added that when the team heard Lagravinese was returning, it immediately raised the Bulls’ expectations for the season. It was like the team found its missing piece.

Leadership was a word frequently used by those who are close to Lagravinese. Klee said that Lagravinese being around again raised everybody’s game.

“During practices I would try my best to be a leader even though I wasn’t a captain,” Lagravinese said. “Not being a captain doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help out and take charge when needed. Kids on my team looked at me as if I was a captain and I really appreciated that.”

That is a quality usually representative of truly special players like the one that Lagravinese said he models his game after.

“My favorite player is Jose Reyes,” he said. “I would always watch videos on YouTube and try and use the same style of play. I was a huge Mets fan up until he left, and now I love watching him play on the Toronto Blue Jays.”

University at Albany head coach Jon Mueller did not immediately respond to requests for comment, though he was quoted on the school’s official site after Lagravinese’s commitment to Albany: “Pat is a smooth fielding left-handed hitting infielder with good arm strength. He comes from both a great high school
program and summer organization. We anticipate Pat having an immediate impact for us in 2016.”

Chet Lagravinese spoke with pride when describing his son, both for the player he is and the person that he has become.

“He’s one of those kids that anything I say, he takes everything with pride,” he said. “He does whatever he has to do to make things right.”

Hauppauge’s Nick Fanti winds up to hurl a pitch. Photo by Alex Petroski

The best high school baseball players that Long Island has to offer were all on the same field Monday night at Farmingdale State College for the Grand Slam Challenge presented by Blue Chip Prospects, where the Nassau County All-Stars beat the Suffolk County All-Stars, 3-1.

Smithtown East’s Dom Savino warms up before taking to the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski
Smithtown East’s Dom Savino warms up before taking to the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It’s a great atmosphere,” Joe Flynn of Ward Melville said about the experience after the game. “To come out here with all the best players on the Island, to get to compete against each other one last time before we all head off to college — it was really just a lot of fun seeing some of the talent that’s out there that we didn’t get to see this year.”

Billy Bianco of North Shore and Nassau County took home the MVP award, thanks in large part to his two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning off of Smithtown East’s Dom Savino. Bianco’s clean single up the middle drove in Chaminade’s Beau O’Connell and Division’s Anthony Papa, and gave Nassau the lead for good.

Nick Fanti, Hauppauge’s star left-hander and winner of the Carl Yastrzemski Award given to Suffolk’s best player, got the start on the mound for Suffolk County. He pitched a scoreless first inning, helped out by a smooth 6-4-3 double play started by Smithtown East’s Pat Lagravinese. The double play erased an error by Flynn at third base and got Fanti through the first, unscathed.

“It’s awesome,” Fanti said after the game about playing in the Grand Slam Challenge. “It’s a huge honor, especially to start the game off and just be around all these great players. It was a really cool experience.”

Fanti was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 31st round of this year’s MLB Draft. He will decide between beginning his professional career in the minor leagues and playing ball at Marist College.

Ward Melville's Joe Flynn tosses the ball to first for the out. Photo by Alex Petroski
Ward Melville’s Joe Flynn tosses the ball to first for the out. Photo by Alex Petroski

Suffolk staked Fanti to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Lagravinese roped a one-out single into center field, and then went from first to third on a slow roller to the hot corner by Flynn. The throw, trying to catch Lagravinese taking the extra base, was wild, which allowed him to score the game’s opening run.

Nassau tied the game in the bottom of the fifth after a lead-off triple into the gap in right center field by Papa, and a sacrifice fly by Wheatley’s Andrew Hastings, which drove Papa home. Suffolk tried to mount a comeback in the top of the seventh after Nassau pitcher Hasan Deljanin of Clarke walked the bases loaded with two outs. Deljanin struck out Mike Demarest of East Islip to end the threat, and Suffolk didn’t get another base runner after that.

Monday night was the final time that Fanti will throw to his Hauppauge battery-mate P.J. Contreras, who started behind the plate for Suffolk.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Contreras said about his four-year high school career.

The fact that the game was an exhibition only slightly softened the defeat for Lagravinese.

“Both teams work hard so it’s a tough game to play in, but we showed out and Nassau had their day today and took it over,” he said.

Smithtown East’s Pat Lagravinese gets up to bat. Photo by Alex Petroski
Smithtown East’s Pat Lagravinese gets up to bat. Photo by Alex Petroski

Lagravinese and Savino, teammates at Smithtown East, will both play at the University at Albany next fall.
“It really hasn’t settled in yet,” Savino said of completing his last high school game. “Even when we lost in the playoffs I never really felt like it was over. Even now, after this, I don’t feel like it’s over.”

Flynn, winner of the 2015 Paul Gibson Award, which is given annually to Suffolk’s best pitcher, put his electric stuff on display when he took the hill for Suffolk in the eighth. He pitched himself into and out of trouble, getting MacArthur’s Brian Perez to pop out to first base with two outs and the bases loaded.

“It feels like yesterday that I was a freshman playing my first scrimmage at Smithtown East,” Flynn said of his time playing on the Patriots team. “It [has] gone by way too fast, but it was a great four years.”

Flynn will play baseball at Princeton University starting this fall.

The end of the evening seemed bittersweet for many of the players. Fanti lamented about the fact that strangers would replace his Hauppauge teammates-turned-best friends in the fall, and Lagravinese looked forward to his next journey at Albany. Both teams exited the field to standing applause from their friends and families who packed the Farmingdale State bleachers.

Part of this year’s Smithtown AP History Conference consisted of a Junior Iron Chef competition, held in conjunction with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Photo from Smithtown Central School District

A whopping 840 Advanced Placement social studies students from both Smithtown High Schools East and West participated in this year’s edition of the Roger W. Sullivan AP History Conference, a showcase of individual and group research papers that relate to a certain theme in a specific discipline of social studies.

Students prepared papers and answered and addressed topical questions and dilemmas pertaining to food and society, this year’s conference topic.  Now in its 26th year, the conference asks students enrolled in various courses like AP World History, AP Economics, AP Psychology and more to develop compelling research projects in the form of a written paper, accompanied by a visual presentation.

A total of 30 projects, one from each AP class, were selected for panel sessions in which the project creators presented their research to fellow AP students and fielded questions about their work. Panel sessions were moderated by Smithtown AP social studies teachers with help from outside college professors.

“It’s a tremendous honor for students to be selected to present at these sessions,” said AP Psychology teacher Chauncy Cone, who coordinated the conference for High School West.

Stephen Nadramia, an AP Economics teacher, was the coordinator for High School East. Among the topics students researched and presented were farming and class socialization, the food trade’s effect on cultures, how food regulations have evolved over the years, the high cost of organic food and child obesity.

Conference participants also heard from two experts on the topic of food: Ken Albala and author Pat Willard, who served as keynote speakers. Albala is a professor of history at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he teaches food history and the history of early modern Europe. He is also a visiting professor at Boston University, where he teaches an advanced food history course in the gastronomy program. He has authored and/or edited 16 books on food. Willard has authored four books of her own, including “Pie Every Day,” which was cited by the Atlantic Monthly, Bon Appetit and Amazon.com as among the top 10 cookbooks of 1997.

Albala talked about how throughout history power can be defined as control of the food supply. Willard’s talk traced how saffron traveled from its native home in the Middle East to around the world, along the way influencing different societies and cultures — essentially everything from medicine to beauty to cooking, depending on where it surfaced. She also gave each student a bag that held a saffron corm and a few threads.

Another part of the day-long activity was a Junior Iron Chef competition, held in conjunction with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Sixteen AP History students, who were also home and career students from HSE and HSW, were selected to take part in the competition, which required them to prepare a special dish assigned by program coordinator and community nutrition educator Maryann Birmingham. Students were judged on various elements of their dishes, including preparation, presentation and taste.

According to Director of Social Studies Michael Chlystun, the conference has evolved from 128 participants in 1990, thanks to the expansion of meaningful AP offerings and a genuine growth in student interest through the years.

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The Smithtown East girls’ golf team poses for a team photo.

By Clayton Collier

The Smithtown East girl’s golf team’s undefeated season came to an end last Wednesday when the Bulls fell to Syosset in the Long Island Championship, 421-444, on the Bethpage green at Bethpage State Park.

Juniors Alexa Niven (84) and Cassie Hall (87) led Smithtown East in the loss, while fellow junior Peyton Greco and senior Natalia Schaefer both shot a 39 on the back nine for the Bulls.

Smithtown East was at a noteworthy disadvantage heading into the Long Island Championship, having never played at Bethpage, a location familiar to Syosset. Weather conditions in the days leading up to the contest limited Smithtown East to just a walk-through of the course, rather than having the opportunity to tee off prior to last Wednesday’s championship.

“They never even got to play the course at Bethpage, so that was just unfortunate,” Andrea Niven, Alexa’s mother, said. “That’s not to say that that’s why they lost, but when you’re unfamiliar with the course, I think it takes something out of it a little bit.”

Even with the disappointment of the loss, Hall said she enjoyed playing on a course as nice as Bethpage.

Junior Alexa Niven swings away for Smithtown East. Photo from Niven
Junior Alexa Niven swings away for Smithtown East. Photo from Niven

“The course was really beautiful,” she said. “I wish I could’ve played a bit better, but it was still a lot of fun playing and we played against great girls, too.”

Though Smithtown East did fall in the Long Island Championship, the girls’ golf team put up a head-turning performance the previous week en route to capturing the Suffolk County Championship, highlighted by a 78 finish from Niven, who finished second individually in the county. Additionally, Smithtown East broke the county record with an 855 two-day total, eclipsing the previous mark of 859. With the season now finished, the team said they were pleased with the year they put together.

“Overall I thought we had a really successful season,” Greco said. “We had a really strong team again this year and I think it showed in counties. Breaking the previous county total was a pretty amazing accomplishment for us.”

Niven, Hall and Greco will all be back for their senior year, keeping Smithtown East’s top three in their order for another season. Greco said she is looking forward to what lies ahead.

“I think we’re going to have another strong team,” she said. “Our goal is always to win the county championships and then see what happens from there.”

The three rising seniors have played together since middle school. Greco said head coach Bob Woods has been a big factor in helping her to grow as a golfer.

“He keeps me relaxed before counties, because they definitely get my nerves going,” Greco said. “He always tells me to take it one shot at a time and that the only important shot is the one I’m about to hit. He doesn’t just do that for me though, he tells everyone before we play. I use that not only for high school golf, but outside tournaments too, and it really makes a difference.”

In addition to the three, Hall said there are several other golfers to look out for in the 2016 season.

“I think you should be on the lookout for Jen Leddy, she’s a junior but I think she’ll be great next year,” Hall said. “There’s also freshman Sam Klee that played our No. 6 this year, as well as sophomore Jamie Werner and eighth-grader Alexa Lubomski — they would rotate playing No. 6 throughout the year.”

With the season now in the books, the team will have the summer to enjoy before gearing up for next year.
Smithtown East will lose Schaefer to graduation, who will continue her golf career at the collegiate level as she heads to Long Island University Post in the fall.

“I love how close it was to the city for internship opportunities and their business programs were impressive,” Schaefer said. “Being recruited for the golf team really sealed the deal and sold me.”

Overall, Schaefer was thrilled to have ended her high school career with a county championship after the team went 10-0 in League I heading into the postseason.

“It’s been an awesome feeling after being part of the team for so long,” she said. “Having my hard work pay off and sharing it with my coaches and everyone that’s been rooting for me has been an unforgettable experience.”

Smithtown class speakers celebrate at the county School Superintendents Association’s Valedictorian Luncheon late last month. Seated in the middle are Rebecca Cheng from Smithtown High School West and Brian Righter from Smithtown High School East with Cheng’s mother Pei Cheng and Righter’s father Glenn Righter seated along side each. Photo from Smithtown Central School District

School superintendents, administrators and parents acknowledged and honored the highest achieving students of Suffolk County’s Class of 2015 during the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association’s 21st annual Valedictorian Luncheon, held at the Hyatt Regency Wind Watch Hotel in Hauppauge.

Brian Righter from Smithtown High School East and Rebecca Cheng from Smithtown High School West represented Smithtown Central School District at the luncheon. While the Smithtown CSD does not name valedictorians for their respective high schools, class speakers are chosen to represent each building. The top academic students (with a 4.0 GPA) in each of the two schools vote on whom amongst their peers they would like to see represent them at graduation.

The celebratory event was punctuated with music provided by the Islip High School Jazz Ensemble, who performed under the direction of Steve Campanella.

Congratulating all of the valedictorians and student representatives on their hard work and academic achievements were Roberta A. Gerold, SCSSA president and Middle Country school district superintendent of schools; Susan A. Schnebel, SCSSA president-elect and Islip school district superintendent of schools; Charles T. Russo, SCSSA vice president and East Moriches school district superintendent of schools; and Lars Clemensen, SCSSA secretary and Hampton Bays school district superintendent of schools.

Keynote speaker Roger Tilles, a member of the New York State Board of Regents, encouraged the valedictorians to always put things in perspective, develop a backbone, become proactive and involved, use imagination and creativity to propel forward, and find a job that matters.

“Love what you do, and feel that it matters,” Tilles said. “There is no greater fun than that.”

Each valedictorian was called to the stage to receive a certificate and gift of recognition. During their acknowledgment, the universities they plan on attending were announced, along with their intended majors.

The impressive and prestigious list of schools included Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Duke University, Fordham University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Villanova University and Yale University. The SCSSA and its corporate partners also awarded 10 scholarships to graduates planning to pursue a career in education or social services.

By Bill Landon & Desirée Keegan

Everything Brian Willetts has worked for led up to that moment.

With 1:53 left in double overtime in front of 3,000 fans at Wednesday evening’s Suffolk County Class A championship game, Smithtown East’s Willetts bounced in the game-winning goal to seal the deal for the Bulls for their second straight county title, with an 11-10 win over Ward Melville.

“When I’m training and working hard, I’m thinking about that final shot in the county championship,” the senior attack and co-captain said. “Once it went into overtime I’m immediately thinking ‘wow, this is my time,’ and I felt, as a leader, I had to take from ‘X’ and go get it.”

Willetts racked up a hat trick on the Stony Brook University field, while junior attack Dan Rooney added three goals and an assist to lead Smithtown East.

Both teams lit up the scoreboard consistently in the first quarter, with the action starting right from the opening faceoff.

The game was tied 1-1 after the first minute of play, with Willetts flicking one in and Ward Melville senior attack Billy McGinley responding with a goal of his own off an assist from senior attack Dan Bucaro.

Smithtown East dominated the faceoff ‘X,’ and senior faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri took the ball from midfield and headed straight to the cage, scoring unassisted to give his team a 2-1 advantage.

Smithtown East’s John Daniggelis, a midfielder and co-captain, found the net next off an assist from sophomore midfielder Bobby Burns, to give his team a 3-1 lead in a game that was still less than two minutes old.

Ward Melville senior midfielder Jake McCulloch’s shot found its mark to help his team pull within one, but Smithtown East quickly responded when sophomore attack Sean Barry found the back of the cage off an assist by junior attack Dan Rooney.

“I was thinking one faceoff was going to win the game, so it was a battle at the ‘X’ there at the end.” —Gerard Arceri, Smithtown East

Ward Melville’s Bucaro scored next, and Barry and Rooney connected for another Smithtown East goal, with Rooney scoring this time, and Willetts fired a shot off a pass from sophomore midfielder Bobby Burns, as the Bulls edged ahead, 6-3.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my defense,” Willetts said. “They made stop after stop against McCulloch and Bucaro, two of the best players in the county, so our defense was just unbelievable.”

Despite all the stops, McCulloch found a way to get to goal, and stretched the net twice more for a hat trick, to again pull his Patriots within one, 6-5, with 9:26 left in the second quarter.

Goals by Smithtown East’s Burns and fellow sophomore midfielder Connor Desimone gave the Bulls an 8-5 advantage with 6:58 left in the half.

Ward Melville junior midfielder John Burgdoerfer put a point on the scoreboard off a feed from McCulloch, to trim the deficit, but Rooney found the net for a second time to bring the score to 9-6 heading into the halftime break.

The Patriots opened the second half by rattling off three unanswered goals with two coming from Bucaro, and the third from senior midfielder James Kickel off an assist by McCulloch, to tie the game 9-9.

Daniggelis dished one off to Rooney, whose hat trick goal helped the Bulls pull out a 10-9 lead to begin the fourth quarter, and McCulloch scored the lone goal of the final 12 minutes, four minutes into the final quarter, to retie the score, 10-10, which held up until the end of regulation.

The game went into a four-minute overtime sudden-death period, but it yielded no goals.

“I lost the first [faceoff] in the first overtime period,” Arceri said. “I was thinking one faceoff was going to win the game, so it was a battle at the ‘X’ there at the end.”

Smithtown East senior goalkeeper Sean Turner stood strong between the pipes during the first overtime, even through a broken helmet switch, and made save after save — each punctuated by a gasp from the stadium crowd — to keep the Patriot high-octane offense at bay.

“Turner was unbelievable, especially in the fourth quarter,” Smithtown East head coach Jason Lambert said. “We weren’t scoring a lot after the third quarter, so he kept stepping up, making save after save and standing tall in the net. I can’t say enough good things about him, because that game could’ve gone either way.”

“It was a surreal feeling to be able to get that shot off for the game-winning goal for a team that I love so much.” —Brian Willetts, Smithtown East

At the 1:53 mark in the second overtime session, Smithtown East claimed its second straight Class A crown with Willetts’ goal.

“At our last timeout, [Willetts] said he wanted the ball in the huddle,” Lambert said. “He got it and he put it where it’s supposed to go.”

Willetts was overcome with emotion for what he was able to help his team achieve.

“I practiced that shot so many times,” he said. “It was a surreal feeling to be able to get that shot off for the game-winning goal for a team that I love so much.”

Lambert said that Ward Melville always sets the bar high, adding that as long as lacrosse has been played on Long Island, the Patriots have been at the top.

“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Lambert said. “We played a phenomenal opponent here tonight. They have great players; they have all the history there. My boys believed, they didn’t stop, they kept digging and they kept fighting.”

Smithtown East will face Syosset on Saturday for the Class A Long Island Championship title at Stony Brook University, with the opening faceoff scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

The boys are excited to get another shot at a Long Island title, as the team fell in a close 13-12 match to Massapequa last year.

“I’m so happy to get back to this point; to have another chance to win a Long Island Championship, it sure means a lot,” Turner said. “It means so much [to this team] and this time, we’re going to finish it.”

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Smithtown East’s varsity kickline team poses for a group photo after winning its second consecutive national championship title. Photo from Smithtown Central School District
Jackie Gallery placed sixth in the 3,000-meter run. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District
Jackie Gallery placed sixth in the 3,000-meter run. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District

East kickline team is national champion, again
Once again the Smithtown East varsity kickline team came away victorious at the Contest of Champions National Competition in Orlando, Fla.

Under the direction of head coach Sarahbeth Cook, the team won first place in the Small High Kick, third place in the Extra Small Contemporary and fourth place in Extra Small Jazz. The team was also awarded an Outstanding Choreography Award in High Kick.

Senior Christina Montesano was awarded for placing in the top 10 in the Junior Soloists category as well. This is the 16th time that the Whisperettes were named national champions.

East track and field stars place at states

Dan Claxton took second in the high jump at the state championship. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District
Dan Claxton took second in the high jump at the state championship. Photo from the Smithtown Central School District

Smithtown High School East winter track and field competitors Dan Claxton and Jackie Gallery impressed at the New York State Championships held at Cornell University.

Claxton, the Smithtown East record-holder for the high jump, placed second in the state with a leap of 6 feet, 8 inches.

Gallery, a sophomore, placed sixth in the state in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 10 minutes, 10.08 seconds, improving upon her previous school record.

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Brian Willetts moves the ball around the cage in the Suffolk County Class A championship game against West Islip last season. File photo by Bill Landon

The Bulls have come charging out of the gate.

The Smithtown East boys’ lacrosse team proved it’s still a force to be reckoned with, dominating its season-opening, nonleague game against East Islip Tuesday, 17-6.

Last season, the Bulls went 16-4 overall, 12-2 in Division I and nabbed the school’s first Suffolk County Class A boys’ lacrosse championship; and as the team’s motto says, the Bulls are hungry for more.

“We had great leadership, we had a really close team, everyone was there for each other and it shows that we may not have had the best players in the league last year,” senior midfielder John Daniggelis said. “But we definitely had the best team, and we worked as one, which allowed us to get to the county championship, win it, and then move on to the Long Island championship.”

Despite graduating 16 seniors off the roster, many of the team’s key playmakers have returned, especially on offense. Daniggelis said five out of six starters are back this season and they possess a lot of firepower.

“We have kids that are experienced, which is something that you can’t teach on the varsity level,” he said. “We know that our offense can be very explosive and can put up a large sum of goals, and the big key is going to be on defense. We’re really buckling down and focusing and paying attention to detail so that we can hold teams to a low score.”

This vision came to fruition Tuesday as the team scored nine straight goals in the first quarter before East Islip scored its first, which helped many Bulls see playing time. Senior goalkeeper Sean Turner, who is starting between the pipes for the first time this season, made three saves and only let up the one goal before he was taken out.

“[He] played a great game,” senior attack Brian Willetts said of Turner. “The defense was busy today and it was nice to see them come together and work together, but offensively we moved the ball great, we won faceoffs — it was a great overall game and a great team win.”

John Daniggelis maintains possession in a game against Northport last season. File photo by Bill Landon
John Daniggelis maintains possession in a game against Northport last season. File photo by Bill Landon

Junior midfielder Gerard Arceri, known for dominating at the “X,” combined with sophomores Steven Cuccurullo and Brian Herber to win 20 out of 23 faceoffs in the game.

“He was phenomenal least year,” Smithtown East head coach Jason Lambert said of Arceri. “We’re pretty fortunate that right now we have three kids that take faceoffs for us that are committed to play Division I already, which is very rare and we’re very lucky, so we feel most confident, as far as having the most depth on our team, at the faceoff ‘X.'”

The team said it remains confident on offense, and it showed. Willetts, an offensive co-captain, scored five goals and added an assist in the game; junior attack Dan Rooney added two goals and four assists; sophomore midfielder Connor Desimone tacked on two goals and two assists; and Daniggelis, the second offensive co-captain, finished with two goals.

And on defense, the Bulls said they thought they needed the most work on the back end of the field. But that didn’t seem apparent during the game.

“We have new defenseman coming in, [seniors] Ryan O’Connor, Cole Valinoti, and [sophomore] Sean Yorke, who can hold down the fort and are all good defenseman,” senior defenseman and Smithtown East’s final co-captain, James Sarrocco, said. “We couldn’t get outside the first few days of practice and we had to be in the gym, which was kind if tough, but once we got outside, we were rolling right from the beginning and it carried over into the first game.”

Willetts, a four-year varsity starter, said the offense has been clicking, while being unselfish and sharing the ball, and even some young, skilled players have stepped up to help out, while the seniors continue to lead the way.

Daniggelis, another four-year varsity starter, said he thinks this senior leadership is important to the Smithtown East program.

“Being on the team for four years you get to see players come and go, and if you can take one lesson from each guy, you can instill it in these younger guys and hope they can take one thing from you,” he said. “Our thing has always been leaving the program better than you found it. So when I was a sophomore, we went to the semifinals, and last year’s seniors were able to take us to the county championship and Long Island championship, and I think our team has the full intention to go farther than that this year, leave the program better than we found it, and hopefully make a run in the playoffs.”

With the league structure changing, the Bulls will still go up against some stiff competition, and Lambert has also set up a tough nonleague schedule against teams like Locust Valley, Greenwich and Bronxville, to keep the playing level high. But according to the boys, one of its biggest tests will come in the form of Half Hollow Hills West on Friday at home at 4:30 p.m., against a team that returns 24 seniors.

“If we keep our heads down, if we keep our nose clean, if we just strive to push each other and get better in practice each day, everything else will take care of itself in the end,” Lambert said. “It worked well for us last year, so if we keep working hard, when the dust settles, we want to make sure that we put ourselves in a good position to be one of the few teams left standing in the end.”