Marc Maturo’s official sports column
Three cheers for Dallas-bound Red Raiders
For the high-riding, undefeated and always-confident but humble cheerleading squad at North Rockland High School, the next stop will be on the big stage at the Dallas Convention Center in Texas.
“We leave January 24th, compete on the 25th and 26th, and return home on the 27th,” noted an ebullient head coach Lauren Gould, a Red Raider alumna now in her 11th season with the program.
The NCA High School National Championship will showcase top teams from across the nation, including North Rockland’s, which recently reclaimed the Grand Champion trophy at the 65th Westchester Cheerleading Invitational at the County Center in White Plains.
“We beat 53 teams, that was really exciting,” noted Coach Gould, whose team savored a similar victory just three years ago.
But the Red Raiders will not stand on past laurels and, having taken a five-day break, are back at practice every day, breaking in new, tougher and more challenging routines that hopefully will dazzle the opposition and the judges in Dallas.
“We consider them a team; they’re very athletic and work out every day,” offered venerable athletic director Joe Casarella, who can appreciate what it takes to mold a champion – having done that several times, including once at the state level, while coaching the football team from 1980-2011.
En route to the Grand Champion prize, the Red Raiders had to overcome the absence of senior Nicole Striamese, who was suddenly sidelined due to a peanut allergy.
The Red Raiders, forced to change their routine, responded like, well, a champion, sparked by a sparkling senior group including Carly Ciminello and Claudia Dentico and an enthusiastic junior group.
“All my kids are great, they mesh really well. It’s like a dream team, and not just because of their talent,” Gould continued. “A lot of people say we’re not only good, but nice. We cheer everybody on. It’s a humble, nice, talented team.”
Ciminello, who pushed through an injury the last week, was a big inspiration, said Coach Gould.
“She never complains,” Gould noted, adding that Dentico helps keep the team focused.
The 30-member squad includes one male, senior D. J. Jenkins.
“He’s a nice young man, everyone enjoys him,” observed Casarella. “He’s very athletic, has to lift and do a lot of stuff. It’s a full-time thing for him, and all the girls. They work very hard.”
Casarella said the cheerleaders are an important part of the athletic program.
“They’re just like the band, bring people out. Our people take great pride in our cheerleaders,” Casarella continued. “We had a mob of people at the County Center.”
It’s likely, too, that many supporters will be on hand in Dallas, with many parents already set for the trip.
“It’s been a dream season … undefeated, haven’t lost anywhere,” lauds Coach Gould. “The pressure is on, Dallas is a big deal, but I want them to enjoy the journey.”
SUNY Cortland sophomore safety Frank Tucek of New City was selected as the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) football defensive player of the week for his performance in a 21-14 loss at Alfred University in the ECAC Division III North Central Bowl.
Tucek, a Clarkstown South HS alum, made a career-high 13 tackles, including nine solo stops and one for lost yardage. He also forced a fumble in a defensive effort that saw the Red Dragons hold the Saxons scoreless in the second half.
Tucek finished the season with 35 tackles, along with two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Cortland finished the season with a 6-5 record and earned its ninth consecutive postseason berth (five ECAC, four NCAA).
Sixth-year head coach Lorne Marcus of Pomona is predicting a banner indoor season for the track and field teams at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill.
“In all my years here, I don’t believe I’ve had as much talent,” said Marcus. “Both teams (men’s and women’s) look like they’re going to break many school records.”
George Erazo of North Babylon, the East Coast Conference (ECC) track athlete of the year, heads a stellar senior class that includes Mike Galonski of Newton, N.J., Matt Buell of Staten Island, Mike Kraus of River Vale, N.J., Garvenchy Nicolas of Brooklyn and Frankie Colon of Suffern.
The Spartans need to replace two great point scorers from last season who were lost to graduation – Mike Abelard of Spring Valley and Rich Ricca of Pearl River – and boast a promising freshman group that features Ramapo HS grad Travis Abelard, Mike’s brother, state champion Winslow Dorsainvil of Spring Valley, Anthony Henry of Suffern, Tristan Holmgren of Valhalla, and Sammy Abdallatif of New City.
The Spartans also look strong on the distance side with freshman Stephen McNiff of Pearl River, Campbell Zicchino of Westwood, N.J., Chris Pannepinto and Jamer Linares of Nyack, Albertus Magnus HS alum Richard Cant, and Ryan Gasser of Staten Island.
Keeley Bateman of Pearl River, Allison Borriello of Montgomery and Meagan Jaskot of Blauvelt spearhead a formidable women’s contingent, along with Gabriela Sloezen of Washington Township, N.J., and Rebecca Fortoul of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.
Incoming freshman expected to help include Clarkstown South graduates and twin sisters Tiana and Tajai Kirkland, North Rockland alumna Katie O’Grady, Jumana Khatib of Suffern, Meghan Ventarolla, a Monroe Woodbury grad, and Jessica Stokkeland of Warwick.
STAC hopes to back up their coach’s words with action on Dec. 6, competing at the St. John’s University Bill Ward Invitational at St. Anthony’s HS in South Huntington, and on Dec. 7 at the Boston University Season Opener in Boston.
QUICK HITTERS: Michael Caputo, the all-time wins leader on the mats at North Rockland HS, with 181 victories, is a redshirt freshman on the wrestling team at Hofstra University. The Pride compete at the Las Vegas Invitational on Dec. 6-7 and resume after the break on Jan. 1-2 at The Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tenn. … Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference player of the week KC Jentzen of Pearl River and LaShonda Hathorne of Queens each had 16 points, but host Nyack College prevailed, 78-74, in a women’s basketball game at Bowman Gymnasium. Jentzen led all rebounders with 15 caroms for the Lady Chargers, who visit Wilmington (Del.) College on Dec. 9 and then host Salem International at 6 p.m. on Dec. 11. Nyack College hosts Philadelphia University at 1 p.m. on Dec. 8 in its last game before the holiday break. … Sophomore Joe Clinton of Pearl River had a game-high eight assists with eight points and four rebounds as the Dominican College men’s basketball team improved to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) play after defeating the visiting Rams of Philadelphia University, 82-67, on Coach Baxter Court at the Hennessy Center in Orangeburg. Nick Smith of Middletown led all scorers with 23 points while A.J. Burton of New Rochelle had 14 points and six rebounds coming off the bench for the Chargers, who host Holy Family University on Dec. 7.
THIS & THAT
Tickets for this season’s NYRR Millrose Games, scheduled February15, go on sale December 2 at 12 p.m. Call the New Balance Track and Field Center, at 212-923-1803 ext. 7200, or visit NYRRMillroseGames.org.