The Valley Stream District Rifle Team added another undefeated season to its record this year, making them among, if not the best, for the last five seasons. The team, which is made up of students from North, South, Central and Memorial Junior High School, also achieved first place in their conference and the county at the championship match at Glen Cove High School in February.
Valley Stream riflers — Priya Mangal, Victoria Andreo, Keegan Banda, Innaya Ilyas, Antoniesha Heron, Janessa Tobias and Adam Bacchus —achieved a team score of 742, out of 800 possible points. Mangal, captain from Central High School, took first place overall as an individual with a score of 190 out of a possible 200. Andreo, captain of North, achieved third place individually with a score of 186. Additionally, both captains shot perfect 100s throughout the season, something rarely seen once, let alone twice by two separate athletes.
“They truly become a small family which makes a significant difference in their morale,” coach Heather Zawislak said of the team. “They build each other up and catch each other when they fall.”
Zawislak is a 20-year veteran of the sport and has been coaching with the district for the past five years. She credits the team’s consistent success to their skill and eagerness to learn and grow as athletes, as well as their connection and closeness as a team.
“It is heartwarming to watch as their coach,” she said. “I am always proud of the athletes each year, but there is something very special about this group coming through right now. They have a bond I have yet to see on the team and it is wonderful to watch this connection positively impact their athletic skill as well as their emotional and psychological wellbeing.”
The sport of precision air rifle is a very technical one, requiring a great deal of natural skill combined with consistent and dedicated practice. Athletes are provided with two targets — each with 10 bull’s-eyes — and are required to shoot one pellet per bull’s-eye for a potentially perfect score of 100 per target, 200 points total per match per individual. Six athletes compete each match and the top four highest scores count toward the final team score.
Seniors Keegan Banda, Victoria Andreo, Priya Mangal, and Janessa Tobias will be leaving the team this year, as they will be graduating in June. Banda has been a member of the team for the past four years, competing in two consecutive county championships. He achieved his personal goal of a 190 score this year. Tobias, a first-year member, showed talent from the beginning of the season and immediately became a varsity member, competing in nearly every match. This is incredibly rare for such a novice athlete, according to Zawislak.
Captains Mangal and Andreo have left a legacy with their teammates, which will be felt for years to come. Mangal has been a member for six years and Andreo for four. Stepping into the captain positions for the upcoming season, are Innaya Ilyas, a soon-to-be senior, and Adam Bacchus, a soon-to-be junior. It’s rare for a junior to be offered a captain position, but Zawislak says Bacchus has shown growth and potential that make him a perfect fit for the leadership role. She has no doubt he will be supported by Ilyas as they lead the team to what will undoubtedly be another remarkable season.