Many Valley Stream High School District student-athletes are back in action, while others have renewed hope following a high-risk sports go-ahead from New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo last Friday.
Low- and moderate-risk winter sports began Jan. 4 when despite rising Covid-19 numbers, bowling, gymnastics, track and field, fencing, swimming/diving and air rifle began practice statewide. High-risk winter sports such as basketball, wrestling, hockey and competitive cheerleading can resume Feb. 1 if approved by the Nassau County Health Department.
Valley Stream is competing in all sports offered so far this winter, with everything but track and field a collective District team. North, Central and South High Schools all have boys’ and girls’ track. As of now, all meets will be virtual except for one tentative in-person event at Long Beach on Jan. 30.
“Practices are different with temperature checks and spacing everyone safely apart, but the kids’ spirits are high,” VSS track coach Nicole Bertrami said. “For them to have that camaraderie is so important.” Among the program’s top athletes are Julien Woodley, Elias Bonhomme, Kaitlyn Ross, Tori Daniels, Jade Hornick, Josh Osae and Jaden Sampson.
Nassau’s track and field schedules had to be revamped after the county was notified by St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington it would be unable to host meets inside its fieldhouse. Instead, Section VIII, the governing body for Nassau high school athletics, moved to Plan B — outdoor meets with a strong emphasis on being held virtually.
“There’s no team scoring or championships this season, but just to get the kids safely training and competing in any fashion is important,” said VSN coach Mike Frazer, who noted the boys are led by junior Ryan John (jumping events) and the girls are led by senior sprinter Danielle Phillip. “The kids have such great attitudes,” he added.
Valley Stream’s gymnastics team has a mix of virtual and head-to-head meets on the schedule, coach Paige McCarthy said. State qualifiers Kaylei McDonald and Kamryn VanEtten lead the way. “We have 16 girls this season and they’re just very excited to be back in the gym,” McCarthy said.
Bowling coach John Pandolfi also has a roster of 16 (combined) and said adjusting to safety protocols has gone smoothly. “Being able to participate is the main thing,” he said. Tiffany Wong is the top bowler on the girls side, while returnees Joe Casey, Isiah Martin, Ernest Villaverde and Dylan Cittadino spearhead the boys’ squad.
There’s growing optimism for the four winter sports deemed “high risk” (basketball, wrestling, hockey and cheerleading) following Gov. Cuomo’s announcement last Friday.
Valley Stream Central boys’ basketball head coach Hayward Alfred said kids in the program have been working out on their own while playing the waiting game. “You only get one shot to have a high school career and the kids really want to play,” Alfred said. “I’m praying for everyone to be healthy and that we can have a season and keep everyone safe.”