12/30/11 5:00pm
12/30/2011 5:00 PM

ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO | The Shoreham-Wading River boys lacrosse team storms the field after winning the Class B county championship in June.

The slogan for the Shoreham-Wading River boys lacrosse team in 2011 centered around “the wait for eight.” That referred to the team’s eighth county championship. After winning seven straight, their last in 2007, the Wildcats entered 2011 in a three-year drought.

That came to an end June 1 when the Wildcats, seeded No. 2 in the Class B playoffs, won 13-8 against Huntington for the elusive eighth county championship.

“The wait for eight is over,” coach Tom Rotanz said afterward.

The seniors for Shoreham grew up in the shadow of the program’s championship run. For the players who joined the varsity as freshmen, they had yet to experience the thrill of winning a championship.

“I just wanted to get the feeling that those guys got,” said Mike Malave said after the win over Huntington.

For the Shoreham baseball team, the wait for a county title extended even longer. It had been since 2000 when the Wildcats last claimed the throne as the top team in Suffolk.

Entering the 2011 season with a veteran group that features several players who had signed with college programs, the Wildcats knew they had the talent to end their county title drought.

After an outstanding regular season, the Wildcats nearly got picked off in the first round of the playoffs against the seventh seed, Bayport-Blue Point. The Wildcats trailed by three in the bottom of the seventh before rallying for four runs.

In the county finals the Wildcats faced Sayville in a game that featured no shortage of drama. Mike O’Reilly opened the game with five perfect innings for the Wildcats, only to see his team’s lead slip away. The game went to extra innings when Sayville took a two-run lead in the eighth. But the Wildcats came back again to tie it. Then in the ninth inning Ryan McAlary hit a sacrifice fly to win the game and the county title.

12/28/11 5:00pm
12/28/2011 5:00 PM

ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River's Marissa Kluber led the Wildcats to the Class B county title game in 2011.

Over four straight years from 2007-10, the Shoreham-Wading River girls lacrosse team was as dominant as any team in New York. The Wildcats won four straight Class C state championships, never losing more than three games in any season.

Coming into the 2011 season, the Wildcats were riding a 20-game playoff win streak.

But from the beginning, they knew the road to another state title wouldn’t be as easy. For starters, the Wildcats were bumping up a classification to Class B, pitting them against bigger and stronger teams. The Wildcats were also going through a coaching change after Bob Vlahakis left the program to take over a new St. Joseph’s College team. And the Wildcats were fielding a young team short on experience, which became even more apparent when two of the team’s top returners suffered season-ending injuries before the season even began.

Through it all, the Wildcats surpassed many people’s expectations with a thrilling run to the Class B county title game where they eventually lost a tough game to Hauppauge. En route to the finals the Wildcats knocked off a pair of higher seeded teams, Rocky Point and Sayville. Their win against the Eagles was an epic overtime game that saw the Wildcats give up a seven-goal lead late in the second half. They finally won 16-15 in the third overtime.

By the time the Wildcats met Hauppauge in the county finals, their playoff win streak was up to 22. But Hauppauge proved to be too strong defensively and stifled the Wildcats for an 8-5 victory.

And with it, a dynasty came to an end.

12/27/11 5:00pm
12/27/2011 5:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Former Riverhead football star Ed Danowski was ranked No. 1 on Times/Review's list of the 20 Greatest Athletes that ran during the summer.

During the summer of 2011, the Times/Review sports staff began an ambitious project to compile a list of the 20 greatest athletes in this area’s history, starting from the North Fork and stretching into Brookhaven Town. The idea was to tell the forgotten or unknown stories of the many great athletes over the years and to chronicle their careers from beginning to end.

In addition to profiles on each athlete, which ran over 21 days, the sports staff wrote stories detailing the accomplishments of many other outstanding athletes who didn’t crack the list.

Compiling such a list had its difficulties. And in the end, not everyone agreed with all selections.

But what was indisputable was the passion for their sport that came through for each athlete.

The list began with a pair of Greenport hoops legends as a tie for No. 20, Al Edwards and Ryan Creighton. During their respective eras at Greenport, each player set the all-time scoring record for Suffolk County.

Sports Editor Bob Liepa wrote: “Edwards and Creighton could play any position on the floor. They both were relied upon by their teammates to lead the way. They could both dominate a game. They both handled their fame on the basketball court with humility. They both put winning over individual achievement, as considerable as some of those individual achievements were.”

When the countdown finally reached No. 1, the top honor went to a Riverhead legend, Ed Danowski, who hailed from Aquebogue. Danowski played seven seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants. He quarterbacked the Giants to two titles in the 1930′s.

For a recap of the entire 20 Greatest series, click here.

12/25/11 5:00pm
12/25/2011 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Danielle Opatovsky won a state title and national title in the race walk for Shoreham-Wading River.

Danielle Opatovsky’s introduction to the race walk event came as a punishment. As a freshman at Shoreham-Wading River on the track team, she joked about how the race walk was a silly event.

So Shoreham coach Paul Koretzki inserted her into the walk.

Two years later Opatovsky was an all-American. And during the winter season of her senior year in 2011, she compiled her best season of her career, winning both a state and national title.

Before her victory at the state championship, Opatovsky ran the fastest time in the nation at the St. Anthony’s Invitational. She ran a nearly equal time at the state championship to win the title in 6 minutes 51.59 seconds. She won the race by nearly 10 seconds ahead of the next competitor.

Next for Opatovksy after winning states was the New Balance Indoor Nationals at the Armory in New York. As the top seed going into the event, Opatovsky began to feel the pressure during the week leading up to the race. “I was freaking out every day,” she said after the race. “I was stressing about it. I just wanted to finish it off right.”

She did just that, winning the 1-mile race in 7 minutes, 14.2 seconds (previous races were 1,500 meters). She became only the third Shoreham girl to ever win an event at a national meet.

Her time was the fastest for a senior in school history.

12/24/11 5:00pm
12/24/2011 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Olivia Schumann won three individual events for Mercy in the Monarchs' win over Port Jefferson in May to clinch the league title.

After a perfect 7-0 League VII season in 2010, the McGann-Mercy girls track team came into 2011 fully expecting an encore performance.

The Monarchs did just that, bringing home a third straight league title, this time in League VIII. They did it thanks to a balanced team that featured several outstanding athletes.

The league title came down to the final dual meet in May when the Monarchs traveled to Port Jefferson. Both teams were unbeaten in league at 5-0, setting up a winner-take-all final meet.

There wasn’t much drama as Mercy ran away with its final victory, 95-54. Kayleigh Macchirole, who’s now at Wagner College, won three events for Mercy and finished second in another. “We all kind of brought our ‘A’ game today,” she said after winning the 200-meter run, shot put and discus. She was second in the 400 behind teammate Sasa Vann.

Olivia Schumann, who’s now at Dickinson College, had another terrific performance for the Monarchs despite battling shin splints. She won the 100, 400 hurdles, high jump and anchored the winning 4 x 100 relay team.

Vann went on to win the 400 in 58.32 seconds at the Division III Championship.

12/23/11 5:00pm
12/23/2011 5:00 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | In his final high school football game, Malcolm Cater represented Long Island in an all-star game.

A story that began in December 2010 reached its sad conclusion in October when former Riverhead football star Malcolm Cater was sentenced to one to three years in an upstate prison after pleading guilty to burglarizing three apartments on the Syracuse University campus.

Cater, a co-winner of the Hansen Award as the top football player in Suffolk County during his senior season with Riverhead, saw his career as a Syracuse football player come to a halt after his arrest in December 2010.

Cater pleaded guilty in September to three counts of third-degree burglary involving three separate break-ins at apartments on campus.

As a freshman Cater played in all 12 games for the Orange and recorded 13 tackles with one sack. The coaches hoped as a sophomore Cater would take over as a middle linebacker on the defense, the position he played so well during his years as a ferocious hitter for the Blue Waves.

But he brought upon his own demise after Syracuse Police discovered property taken in burglaries — including a 42-inch TV — to be in his apartment. After his arrest Cater was dismissed from the football program.

Cater, formerly of Wyandanch, had a troubled childhood before a stray bullet hit him in the back of his leg during a fight at a house party there in 2007. He was then sent to live at Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch in Riverhead while he went to high school in Riverhead. That’s where his fortunes seemed to turn, culminating in the announcement of a full scholarship to the prestigious Syracuse University in the spring.