EI’s 17 Student-Athletes Earn 21 Medals at Special Olympics

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For the fourth consecutive year, the East Islip Redmen competed at the Special Olympics New York Spring Games North, held on May 11 at Bethpage High School. At the end of a spectacular day of competition, camaraderie and team spirit, the students brought home eight gold, eight silver and five bronze medals as well as six fourth-place ribbons, three fifth-place ribbons and three sixth-place ribbons.

“All the athletes were superstars and the EI team rocked the Special Olympics,” said Special Olympics coach and physical education teacher Diane Wahrenburg. “Thanks to all the volunteers, the EI administration and to the parents for all their support.”

East Islip started its first Special Olympics team in 2016, entering six athletes that year to compete in the Spring Games. Since the program’s inception, 27 students have participated. Coached by physical education teachers Laura O'Donnell and Julie Susskind, this year’s team grew to 17 participating student-athletes, including seven from the middle school (Jonathan Carberry, Rile Carrillo, Chloe Gagnon, Emily Kolensky, Jake Kozak, Janissa Llyod and Michael Pacheco), nine from the high school (Anthony Agresta, Danny DiOrios , Emily Maccarone, Julia Modico, Santiago Pacheco, Robert Phillips, Jake Pipitone, Sara Spruyt and Kelly Stubblebeen) and one returning EI graduate (Donald Ahlers).

“More important than the medals or ribbons is the day itself,” said middle school coach O'Donnell. “It’s a day the athletes, their families, coaches and volunteers come together and celebrate the true spirit with which the Special Olympics was founded: ‘Let me win, but if I can’t win, let me be brave in the attempt.’ Our athletes show their bravery from the first day of training to the moment they step out onto the track and field on the day of the Games. I couldn’t be prouder to be their coach.”

“We are excited about how the program is growing and look forward to continuing to offer more training and competition opportunities to our student-athletes,” said high school coach Susskind. “With more people coming on board and the growing support of the community and the administration, it would not be surprising for us to host in the near future. It’s a great experience for the kids and something I personally look forward to every year.”

“Not only has our student-athlete numbers increased, but so has the number of volunteers,” said O’Donnell. “This year, we had 22 volunteers supporting our athletes on the field at the Games, several of them returning for the second or third time.”

The team members and their families enjoyed an annual pregame breakfast on May 9 in the middle school cafeteria, also attended by district administrators and volunteers, and the students were recognized at the Board of Education’s May business meeting.