Shea, Sisson help L.I. team cycle to bronze

It truly was a team effort.

Long Island, with a strong performance on Sunday, the final day of competition in the men’s/women’s cycling open, captured third place and won the bronze medal at the Empire State Games in Buffalo. Jake Sisson of Mattituck and Robin Shea of Manorville were members of the Long Island team.

Western came in first place overall with 2,205 points, while Adirondack (1,846) was second and Long Island (1,670) third. This is the fourth medal the Long Island cycling team has won since 1983.

The cycling competition, which was held in Grand Island, Boston and Aurora, took the total points from four events.

The Long Island team was down by 100 points going into Sunday’s final 40-mile race. Sisson called the high level of competition humbling.

“A lot of these guys are so fast, you feel a little overmatched at times,” Sisson, 22, a 2006 graduate of Mattituck High School, said. “But I still felt good I was able to contribute.”

Sisson, who graduated from Cornell University this past spring with a degree in human biology, health and society, has been racing bikes since he was 16. He especially made an impact in Sunday’s final race.

“It was my best day,” he said. “It was good for me to prove what I could do the last day. It showed why I earned my way onto the team. It was kind of my crowning achievement. I worked hard. This was my goal. It took me by surprise that I qualified for the team at the trials at Suffolk Community College in Riverhead back in May. But this validates the work I had done.”

Long Island Coach Gregory Durovich praised Sisson’s “youthful exuberance.”

“His exuberance is matched by his determination to contribute as a team player,” Durovich said. “Unlike much of amateur cycling, both college cycling and the Empire State Games are designed around team competition. Jake’s early experience¬ fit right into¬ the team’s ethos of earning every point and making every sacrifice toward the goal of¬ winning a team medal. Having just graduated from Cornell, he is very familiar with the racers in central New York. He was unexpectedly helpful in providing me intelligence¬ about many of the racers on the teams that we were working to defeat.”

For Shea, 52, this was her 15th Empire State Games. She individually won a bronze medal in this year’s sprint race and was fifth in the road competition against a tough field of cyclists.

“This is a really fun, great experience,” Shea said. “We learn so much and make so many friendships. You train and build up and apply it and see how well you do. It is like letting the cork out of the bottle.”

Durovich said Shea has been a leader of the women’s squad since the 1990s.

“Robin prefers to not be formally referred to as a team captain for fear that her teammates might feel obligated to set their own ambitions aside to follow her instructions,” Durovich said. “Even without a formal title, her teammates respect her and draw inspiration from her training ethic and race savvy.”

Shea has been a part of all four Long Island medal-winning teams.

“Robin has competed in quite a few editions of the Empire State Games,” Durovich said. “She¬ has earned her share of gold, silver and bronze medals in road races, points races, and team time trials. As a coach, I rely on her experience, work ethic and dedication to the team. She¬ is a resource that I and the entire Long Island cycling team is lucky to have.”

Also at the Empire State Games, Cassidie Watson of Manorville was part of the Long Island team that won the silver medal in scholastic women’s volleyball.

Jason Orban of Manorville won a bronze medal with Long Island’s Scholastic men’s soccer team.

In the open division, Shannon Skeggs of Southold was part of Long Island’s silver-medal winning softball team.

In women’s rowing, Lauren Woodhull of Riverhead won a silver medal. Erik Divan and Daniel O’Neill, both of Riverhead, won silver medals in men’s rowing.

James Owen of Riverhead won a bronze medal in the men’s decathlon.