By Ted Waddell
FALLSBURG December 15, 2006 Fallsburg Central School held its annual Fall Sports Athletic Awards Ceremony in the high school auditorium on Monday, December 11.
In his remarks, guest speaker Richard Ross said that as a former athlete who has twice competed in the New York City marathon, he knows “what it is like to be a person who sweats and hurts.”
“Once you’ve left the field, once you’ve left the court, the things you’ve achieved, accomplished and done will stay with you, not medals or winning or losing,” he said.
Ross, a retired classroom teacher with 35 years of experience under his once book-laden arms, said there’s a dangerous concept in today’s society, an idea put forth in professional sports that carries over to college and high school-level sports. The concept is that if you’re not a winner, you’re branded with the stripes of a loser.
“Winning is not defined by who comes in first, winning is defined by what you’ll take with you when you leave that field of play,” Ross said.
“I’m really talking about building character and a sense of pride, about applying yourself strongly to something… and you guys and gals should be celebrated,” he added.
At the varsity level, four teams were called up onto the stage to be recognized and awards were handed out in three categories: sportsmanship, most improved player (MIP) and most valuable player (MVP).
The girls’ varsity volleyball team was coached by Christopher Barnes. The team members included: Brittany Baldwin-Hunter, Jessica Brown, Mary Clark, Daniela Gonzalez, Erica Hanger, Christine Justiniano, Jocelyn Justiniano, Jerrica Marra, Dana Maytheni and Stephanie Melendez.
“It was great to see them improve season to season,” Barnes said of watching junior varsity players move up to the varsity squad. “Every year we have consistently gotten stronger and faster, and have also become more intelligent and mature on the court.”
Barnes singled out Baldwin-Hunter and Jocelyn Justiniano. “They improved a lot with their service and setting… it was impeccable this year,” he said.
Barnes also praised the performance of Brown, Hanger and Christine Justiniano, whom he noted were “really good hitters.
“Everybody has made huge strides throughout the season and the years I’ve been coaching them,” Barnes added.
The MIP Award went to Hanger.
“She dominated on the court and had impeccable hits… she was always up on the front line blocking,” Barnes said.
Baldwin-Hunter received the Sportsmanship Award.
The boys’ varsity soccer team was coached by both Darren Kenney and Jeremy Levner this autumn. The team members included: Jose Aguila, Reggie Bicci, Darius Buckner, Colin Conway-Whitaker, Kenneth Corley, Noah Espinoza, Anthony Gonzalez, Jesse Maldonado, William Miller Jr., Ulyses Pacheco, Fernando Ramos, Erik Santos, Joseph Sep, Elias Vasquez and Shane Weigand.
“The big change was in the roster,” said Kenney, noting the squad lost 11 or 12 seniors from the 2005 team to graduation. “Now we have a lot of young guys. When you lose that type of ability and talent and experience, it’s kind of tough to rebound… [but] we really made improvements.”
Kenney recognized four seniors for their leadership on the field: Corley, Gonzalez, Sep and Weigand.
Miller Jr. picked up the Sportsmanship Award.
“There’s not a better kid on the field when dealing with referees, the other team and me as the coach… he gave 100 percent,” Kenney said of Miller Jr.
The MIP Award went to Conway-Whitaker.
Kenny noted that Conway-Whitaker was “a strong player coming in from jayvee to a new position… [and was] a sophomore starter at goalie.”
The girls’ varsity soccer was coached by Amanda Biccum.
The team members included: Ashley Baldwin-Hunter, Joanna Blanchard, Brittany Bradford, Jessica Brignol, Demi Cruz, Samantha Elliott, Dayna Halprin, Ashley Hong, Melissa Juarez, Amanda McAuliffe, Nicole McLemore, Courtney Neal, Rochelle Patten, Kerri Sheridan, Ahvegyil Skolnick and Sierra Speckler.
“It was like trading cards,” Biccum said of a season that had her frequently calling up fellow coach Tarra Strauss to borrow a jayvee player or two so that Biccum could field enough booters to compete in a match.
“Some of the girls played four or five games a week, and when you’re running your butt off for 80 minutes a game every night, that’s a lot of running,” Biccum said. “They are the greatest bunch of girls I could ask for, I couldn’t be more proud of them. They had great sportsmanship, great character and they’re a lot of fun.”
McAuliffe got the MIP Award for, as Biccum stated, “her strength and commitment to the team.”
Cruz received the Sportsmanship Award.
“Sportsmanship is more than cheering a team on and having something nice to say about somebody else,” Biccum explained. “It’s being a gracious winner as well as a gracious loser… it’s having a positive attitude and being dependable.
“She played when she was broken, she sat on the bench broken and she came to practice broken,” said Biccum of Cruz, who never quit after being injured on the field.
The girls’ varsity tennis team was coached by Janet Carey. The team members included Martha Baron, Cheyenne Cali, Kassandra Donohue, Danielle Huppke, Bianca Kalmar, Theresa Miller, Bianca Rappaport, Heather Riordan, Jan Rollan, Esti Ross, Petra Santiago, Patricia Singh, Samantha Vernooy and Laurenne Walsh.
Before handing out a trio of awards, Carey recognized a couple of seniors: Baron and Vernooy.
“They came, they learned, they conquered,” Carey said.
Brown received the MIP Award, the Sportsmanship Award went to Vernooy and Rappaport picked up the MVP Award.