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Cancellations bring Wantagh athletes heartache, dashed hopes

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After a decision by school officials across Long Island, it’s game over for spring sports in Seaford and Wantagh for 2020.

Any hopes for even a modified season were dashed April 21, when health and safety concerns led athletic administrators and school superintendents in Nassau and Suffolk counties to announce the cancellation of the spring sports season after reaching a unanimous decision.

Emotions ran high at Wantagh High School on haring the news. Girls’ varsity lacrosse team head coach, Robyn Pastuch, was in the middle of a workout when she received a call from her athletic director.

“She usually texts or emails me, so when I saw a call, I kind of knew what was on the other end,” Pastuch said. “The first thing I did was text Allie [Alaimo’s] mom.”

Allie Alaimo was gearing up for a season as senior captain on a lacrosse team that had state championship hopes.

“When [my mom] told me the season was canceled, I said ‘that’s awesome’ and broke down crying,” Alaimo said. “Ever since ninth grade, I was so excited to be a senior captain. I was looking forward to playing on the same team with my sister this year. I obviously understand why we’re not having the season, but we don’t get those last moments on the field together.”

Pastuch was ready to start her third year coaching the varsity program. Although she has only coached the group for two seasons, she feels strongly connected to the players, she said.

“What a beautiful, intense group of women that work so hard on and off the field,” Pastuch said. “This is something I can’t give them back, but it will make them stronger.”

Alaimo thanked her coach for the support and the stability. It was the first time in her middle school and high school career that she was coached by the same person two years in a row.

“I’m not as upset missing prom or graduation; I wasn’t all too sad about that,” Alaimo said. “I’m upset about losing this season.”

All-County senior baseball player Sean Tierney was the MacArthur High School Generals’ top position player and hitter this year, according to coach Steve Costello. As a standout football player, he was also an All-Long Island offensive lineman for the Generals.

“I knew it might happen, somewhere in the back of my head, but when it actually happened, my heart just dropped,” Tierney said. “Everyone was so sad about it in our group chat.”

Costello felt optimistic at first that a shorter season remained a possibility. Ultimately, he said, as the weeks passed, he knew the season was less and less likely to happen. “Because this rolled out in kind of slow motion, in some ways it was easier and not as traumatic,” he said.

Tierney said that not being able to see his friends and the teachers he had built bonds with over four years would also be tough. His coach wants to meet one last time, when distancing guidelines permit.

“I want to do that in maybe June or July. I think it could happen,” he said. “I want to thank them for their sacrifice and commitment. I will be there for them for the rest of their lives if need be.”

“For the safety for our student athletes, Section VIII has made the difficult decision to cancel spring sports for our high schools and middle schools,” Nassau County Section VIII Executive Director Pat Pizzarelli said. “Long Island is one of the areas most affected by this terrible pandemic, so both Section VIII [Nassau] and Section XI [Suffolk] have made this very difficult decision.”

Administrators in both counties met over a 24-hour span beginning April 20 and thought it was important to react quickly. Even if public schools were to reopen, no sporting events will be held. A week earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended New York State’s stay-at-home policies through May 15; school buildings will be closed at least until then.