Pictured: East Islip once again competed at the Special Olympics New York Spring Games North, hosted by Farmingdale Middle School, earning a total of 18 medals.
Photo courtesy of East Islip School District
East Islip once again competed at the Special Olympics New York Spring Games North, hosted by Farmingdale Middle School, earning a total of 18 medals.
The day prior to the Games, East Islip’s team of 10 athletes from both
East Islip High School and East Islip Middle School gathered for their annual kickoff breakfast to meet their volunteers, cheer on their teammates and get last-minute training instruction from their coaches. Families and staff celebrated the student-athletes’ dedication to training and wished them good luck at the event.
The following morning, each athlete competed in two track and field events, which included the 50-meter dash, 100-meter dash, 400-meter run, 100-meter walk, wheelchair race, softball throw, Turbojav throw and shot put. Teammates Anthony Agresta, Dale Ahlers, Donald Ahlers, Madeline Director, Danny D’Orio, Dan Kenedy, Jake Kozak, Julia Modico, Sara Spruyt and Christopher Urraro collectively won seven gold medals, five silver medals and six bronze medals, as well as two fourth-place showings. Every athlete on the team won a medal in one or both of his or her events.
Coaches Laura O’Donnell, Julie Susskind and Diane Wahrenburg trained the athletes for their events for two months prior to the competition. The team was supported by volunteers Christine O’Connell, Paula Brinker, Dave Kozak, Nonie Kozak, Bill Murphy, Jenny Murphy, Patty Murphy, Michele Pannacchione, Antonia Tuck, Donna Tuck and Elizabeth Wallace, who escorted the athletes throughout the day. The volunteers ensured that the athletes arrived at events on time, ate meals throughout the day, stayed hydrated, rested before and after events, and provide all-around care for the athletes.
“With the help of our volunteer team, the coaches have more flexibility to bounce between events and check in on the entire team, and that’s the key to a successful day,” O’Donnell said. “I tell my athletes that medals aren’t given away, they are earned; We earn them with hard work, dedication and heart. I am very proud of what the team accomplished this year.”
“It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with our athletes,” Wahrenburg said. “I am proud of them for their personal accomplishments, but more so for how they support and care for one another. This is not just a team; it is a family.”