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Sunday, September 21, 2014
High School Sports
Retooled rifle team places second in county
Courtesy Vito Genova
The varsity shooters for the Valley Stream Central High School District rifle team, joined by coach Vito Genova, are Neil Aliventi, Jurell Wilson, Kristen Mantell, Tom Steffens, Safraz Bacchus and Sean Biegler.

All good things must come to an end. After seven consecutive state championships, the Valley Stream Central High School District’s rifle team did not make it to the tournament this year, but there was still plenty to celebrate in a transition year for the program.

The team placed second in Nassau County in air rifle, and Kristen Mantel earned individual honors at the state level.

Rifle was one of three sports set to be eliminated by the district last year, but the Board of Education gave it a reprieve, with conditions. Changes included the elimination of .22 smallbore competition, and the use of non-lead bullets in the team’s range at Memorial Junior High School, which meant no more home matches.

Perhaps the biggest change was the addition of new coach Vito Genova, replacing long-time leader Blake McCauley. Genova, a former bowling coach, had some rifle experience on his own but had to learn the rules of competition. He said he “did his homework” to prepare for his new gig.

This year’s varsity team included Mantel, Jurell Wilson and Safraz Bacchus, who all have state championships on their resume, and newcomers Sean Biegler, Tom Steffens and Neil Aliventi.

Although they did not compete as a team in the state tournament on March 1, they were still involved. Mantel placed second in individual competition. Her score of 291 out of 300 tied the previous state record, but the next shooter bested her by a point.

She qualified for the state championship by placing first at the county tournament, with a score of 194 out of 200, in which she hit the center of the target 12 times. Mantel said it felt good to win the county title after missing it by a point last year. This time, the North High School senior topped the second-place finisher by three points.

For the season, Mantel had the second highest shooting average in the county, and Wilson was fourth highest. Wilson, a senior at Central is his second year on the varsity squad, was an alternate at the state competition. He was disappointed the team as a whole did not make it to the state tournament, because he wanted the newcomers to have that experience. “The team did pretty well, given the amount of beginning varsity shooters,” he said.

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