2011: A Year of Yes I Can

What strikes one in reviewing 2011’s sporting news here is that a large number of athletes, including East Hampton High’s best-ever golf team, the I-Tri girls of Springs, who until they’d begun triathlon training had not thought of themselves as athletes, much less triathletes, Laurel Wassner, who in June became the first woman ever to win the Montauk Triathlon, Luis Mancilla, a 19-year-old criminal justice student who fought in a Golden Gloves final in April, Kristyn Dunleavy, an East Hampton Town lifeguard who, with her Amherst teammates, won that school’s first national championship in women’s basketball, and Albert Woods, who became, at 82, an all-American, the result of multiple wins in the national long course swimming championships, exceeded their expectations:
    • “It shows what people can do when they put their minds to it,” Dunleavy said when asked about Amherst’s first-ever Division III win.
    • “He had the respect of his players — he got the most out of every one of them,” said Tom Bubka, a longtime assistant of Ed Petrie’s, at the ceremony last January in which East Hampton High School’s basketball court was named for the state’s winningest public high school coach, who had retired a couple of months before at the age of 78.
    • “I’ve never won a triathlon outright — not even a road race . . . I wasn’t expecting it. . . . I didn’t know I had it in me!” said the 35-year-old Laurel Wassner after becoming the first woman ever to win a triathlon here.
    • “Theresa Roden has changed the lives of these young women forever,” said Sinead FitzGibbon at the Old Montauk Athletic Club’s recent awards dinner. “It goes beyond boosting self-esteem — their bodies and minds have been transformed, their futures have been transformed.”
    • A sprinter in his youth, Woods said that when he reacquainted himself with the sport at the age of 70 he “didn’t have the wind for the 200 freestyle. But I wanted to do more events, so I decided to try the breaststroke. I had no idea I’d wind up being so good at it.”
    • “It was really like going into the lion’s den,” said the golf team’s coach, Claude Beudert, following its comeback win over perennial-champion Farmingdale at the Bethpage course. “That ride home with the Long Island trophy was so great. Everyone was euphoric. The feel of the trophy was mystical. . . .”
    The sporting gamut of the past 12 months was a broad one, with stories on adventure racing, rowing, sailing, equestrian show jumping, sports car racing, personal training, Pan-American karate and regional men’s physique competitions, synchro swimming, long-distance cycling, outrigger canoeing, and professional snowboarding appearing alongside accounts of East Hampton’s scholastic teams and adult entries in rugby, men’s soccer, and men’s and women’s slow-pitch softball.
    A national qualifier synchronized swimming meet was held at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter, a “first,” as was the boys soccer team’s county championship, Zach Grossman’s county individual championship in golf, the freshman Dana Cebulski’s participation in the state’s girls cross-country meet, and an appearance by the girls soccer team in the county playoffs.
    Though not for the first time — she first went as an eighth grader — Marina Preiss, now a sophomore, swam in the 50 and 100 freestyle races at the state meet, recording personal records in both.
    In another high school-related matter, thanks largely to volunteer work in 2010 by Patrick Bistrian III, Whitmore’s Landscaping, and Lillie Irrigation, the baseball field, theretofore known for its short porch in left and left-center field, was regraded, resodded, and realigned, becoming as a result perhaps the best ball field in Suffolk County. Bonac’s “field of dreams” was dedicated in May, and it is said the team could realize its dreams of going all the way in the playoffs this coming spring.
    Moreover, the year marked the first time since 2006 that the Montauk Rugby Club, buoyed by the arrival of young tyros who had excelled in other sports, football, lacrosse, wrestling, and baseball among them, had made the Sweet 16 round of the national Division II tournament, which is to be contested in Virginia this spring; it was the first time in 12 years that a Schenck Fuels team had won a town men’s slow-pitch softball league championship, unleashing a torrent of home runs in the final games with Stephen Hand’s Equipment followed by a torrent of sprayed champagne, and it was the first time that John Howard, a former Hawaii Ironman winner and nationally known endurance athlete, had been at the Mighty Man Triathlon in Sag Harbor since it debuted under Ray Charron and Ambrose Salmini’s direction in 1980.
    Had the 64-year-old Californian not gone off course in the bicycle leg, costing him an estimated minute and a half, he would have had the fastest bike split of the day.
    It was the first year, as well, in which the Katy’s Courage 5K, in memory of Jim and Brigid Collins Stewart’s late 12-year-old daughter, was held, and the turnout of 1,600 participants, who contributed toward a scholarship fund in Katy Stewart’s name, blew the doors off the number (around 200) normally expected at a first-year road race here.
    Whether it came to communal, team, or individual efforts, the 51-year-old karate champion Joe Vetrano’s words seemed to echo through the sporting year just past: “You’re always trying to do better. It’s a lifelong process. There’s always room for improvement, no matter what we do.”