Riverhead and SWR athletes of the year

Every year, the Riverhead News-Review compiles a list of student-athletes who excelled over the school season and chooses male and female “Athletes of the Year” for each school. The award-winners have excelled in their sport or sports through hard work, resilience and determination. These athletes brought their schools to new heights — leaving a legacy that will not soon be forgotten.

Angelo Confort, Riverhead

Confort has steadily improved his performance from freshman year through his senior season as a Blue Wave. The hurdler performed on the highest stages in the winter and spring track seasons, then finished his senior year with an absolute bang.

In the 55-meter hurdles during winter track season, Confort finished first in the Section XI Boys Large School county final at Suffolk Community College in February. He set a personal best time of 7.69 seconds as he cruised to victory. Against the top hurdlers in the state in March, Confort finished in 7th place.

Though he found some success in the indoor 55-meter hurdles, the spring season, and especially the outdoor 110-meter hurdles, is when he truly thrives. Confort has said in the past that he is a slow starter, and having the extra distance to reach his top speed proved pivotal.

Confort has cut significant time off his 110-meter hurdle performance every year he has competed. In 2021, his best time was 16.11. In 2022, he worked that down to 15.34. This year, he was in the 14s. In the Section XI state qualifier, Confort smoked the competition by almost a full second en route to winning yet another Suffolk County crown. His times were 14.75 and 14.92. But he saved his best for last: In the Division I New York State championship on June 10, the senior posted a personal-best time of 14.69 seconds and earned a bronze medal by finishing in third place overall. 

The 14.69 second run shattered a Riverhead record that has stood since 1985 when Dwayne Harris ran a 14.80.

“When I first saw him as a freshman, I could tell he was a good athlete with some potential,” Riverhead track coach Steve Gevinski said. “Did I ever imagine that he would turn into one the best hurdlers in New York State and arguably Riverhead history? I’d be lying if I told you that. He’s a true student of the hurdles. He’s always watching videos and studying the event. The success he’s had is truly a testament to the work he continues to put in.”

Confort will continue his track career at Binghamton University in the fall. 

Mya marelli, Riverhead

When senior pitcher Bree McKay went down with an injury during the season, it opened the door for sophomore sensation Mya Marelli. The lefty had been splitting duties in the pitcher’s circle early in the season but she finally got her chance to pitch games from start to finish. Nobody knew what was to come next.

Marelli completely turned the season around for the Blue Waves, who had struggled to get wins from the outset. With her poise and ability to keep batters off balance, Marelli consistently kept opponents off the board — and Riverhead played a smart, small-ball strategy to secure key victories, time and time again. They started the season 3-4 and finished just one victory shy of the League III title. 

In the playoffs, the Blue Waves were saddled with a disappointing No. 9 seed, pitting them against the top teams in a series of road games. That’s when Marelli really turned up the heat. Riverhead ripped off three straight wins in the double-elimination tournament, beating No. 8 Lindenhurst, No. 1 North Babylon and League III winner, No. 5 Sachem North. Marelli struck out 39 batters and gave up only two runs over that stretch. On the season, she notched a 1.91 ERA with 186 strikeouts in 126 innings. Marelli also did damage at the plate, hitting .490 on the season with 19 RBIs.

“Seldom do you see a player that excels in both pitching and hitting like she does,” said Riverhead head coach Chris Accardi. “When an umpire pulled me aside to tell me he thought Mya was the best pitcher in the county, I knew she was something special. And she’s only going to get better.”

The Blue Waves fell just short of their goal, one win away from making it to the Class AA Suffolk County Championship, and Marelli was named the League III pitcher of the year and earned All-County honors. But with such a young team — and with Marelli only a sophomore — it’s safe to say the Blue Waves will be right back in the mix next year. 

Alec Gregorek,
Shoreham-Wading River

Alec Gregorek is no stranger to the spotlight. The senior has been playing lacrosse at a high level from a young age. The attacker was a starter on the 2019 Class C State Championship team — as an eighth-grader. His goal was to reach the state final again this season, but the team came up a few games short.

In a remarkable season during which he received All-America honors — for the second year in a row — Gregorek led all of Long Island in goals scored with 70. He routinely tallied multiple goals a game, utilizing his full bag of tricks. Whether it was backing down a defender and spinning off to find the crease or shooting from outside with high velocity and extreme accuracy, the senior simply did it all. His timely cuts to the inside of the defense would more often than not lead to goals for the Wildcats. 

After sneaking into the playoffs with the No. 3 seed riding a four game winning streak, SWR proceeded to knock off No. 2 seed Bayport-Blue Point and undefeated No. 1 seed Mt. Sinai to win the Class C Suffolk County championship. It was the first time the team won the county since 2019 and Gregorek was right in the middle of all the action. He will leave a lasting imprint in the Wildcat organization for the hard work and effort he perennially produced as a five-year varsity player.

“To be a five-year successful starter at Shoreham-Wading River is unique,” head lacrosse coach Mike Taylor said. “We have an extremely competitive and talented program. There have been very few five-year starters in our program’s history. When you look at the players that have been perennial starters — whether it was Tim Rotanz, Ryan Bray, Chris Gray, Xavier Arline, to name a few — they all went on to become outstanding college players.

“Alec grew up watching and playing with some of those guys,” Taylor continued. “They were able to be role models and mentors to him, guiding him through his high school lacrosse journey and providing advice on what it takes to be successful. Being in the program so long, he was able to mentor those younger than him to help continue our culture of success on and off the field.”

Gregorek will join his brother Gavin next year as he continues his lacrosse career at the United States Naval Academy.

Graceann Leonard,
Shoreham-Wading River

Leonard was a key cog in three different sports for the Wildcats: soccer, basketball and lacrosse. The senior was always one of the best players on the field — or court — at any given time throughout her final season as a Wildcat.

“Shoreham has had a lot of tremendous athletes over the years but for her to play varsity for five years in three different sports is a first in my 10 years here,” said SWR athletic director Mark Passamonte. “GraceAnn was a quiet athlete that just goes to work and does what she has to do. Never showed too much emotion. She just gets out there and competes everyday. There’s no doubt: With what she was able to accomplish these last five years, she’s got to be one of the top, if not the top athlete, in the history of the school.”

In soccer, Leonard led all of Long Island in points, scoring 19 goals and assisting on 18 others. The 18 assists were also the highest output in all of Long Island, with the second-place player notching just 12. Her dominance was on display as the Wildcats came away with the Suffolk County championship and she was later named Suffolk County Player of the Year. Not a bad fall season.

After an undefeated regular season in basketball, Leonard led the Wildcats to their first Suffolk County title in school history. In the county championship against Kings Park, the senior guard scored 27 points as her skill was simply unmatched by the competition, leading to key steals and hard-nose layups in the paint. 

With two county crowns already in the trophy case, Leonard looked for the three-peat in lacrosse during the spring season. In what’s arguably her best sport, she won over 100 draw controls during the course of the season. From her midfield position, Leonard was also able to score 30 goals to go along with 15 assists. Her three-peat came up short in the Suffolk County final against No. 1 seed Bayport-Blue Point.

“Her talent and skill alone make her a great player,” SWR’s head lacrosse coach Alex Fehmel said. “But it’s her hustle and drive that make her an exceptional player. She will literally do whatever it takes to win the game and is one of the most competitive people I know. She’s a massive threat between the 30s on the lacrosse field at all times. But at the same time, she has this way of keeping everything light and fun even in the most serious situations. That attitude is contagious and has helped any team she has been on become successful.”

Leonard ended up being one of the most aggressively recruited athletes in Shoreham-Wading River history. She signed a letter of intent to continue her athletic career at the University of North Carolina.