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Winter track is back: Only sport running so far

As no one really needs reminding, COVID-19 has played havoc on life all over the globe.

While Shelter Island School has done a remarkable job of keeping education thriving, with extremely few days of online instruction this academic year, there’s no doubt that it’s a far from normal school year.

Shelter Island focuses on educating the whole student — mind and body — and normally a large majority of kids play on at least one athletic team.

One student rather apologetically admitted that without concerts, plays or sports, school was “a little boring” this year. It’s been a long time since Shelter Island athletes have boarded a bus to head to a competition.

This past Sunday, Jan. 17, the girls and boys winter track team headed to a tri-meet at Port Jefferson to break that drought.

Winter track training started in early January. Toby Green coaches 11 boys, while Kevin Barry has taken over the reins from Bryan Gallagher and leads the nine girls on the squad. Normally an indoor sport, the winter track and field events are taking place outdoors this year.

There are plenty of COVID safety precautions in place. Athletes and coaches are screened daily. Masks are required to be worn on the bus and on the sidelines and social distancing protocols are in place on the bus and during the meet.

Schools are not allowed to co-mingle; gloves must be worn in relays to pass the baton; and hand sanitizer and wipes are de rigueur. Athletes may wait for their event either on the sidelines, or stay warm on the bus. There were lots of blankets and layers in evidence on Jan. 17 as the well-prepared teams cheered on their teammates.

Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio said, “I’m really proud of the team for jumping back out there after not competing for so long. They really gave a great effort.”

The boys races were very competitive, and the girls team was neck and neck with Southold all day. “I can’t stress enough how happy I am for the coaches and kids,” Mr. Gulluscio said. “I love seeing that fighting spirit.”

Jason Green, left, and Jaxson Rylott setting the pace in a race at Port Jefferson on Jan. 17. (Credit: Todd Gulluscio)

At this time, only the girls and boys winter track teams are practicing and competing. The other winter sports — boys and girls basketball, cheer and girls junior high volleyball — are all rated as “high risk” and are not yet allowed to begin. Our school and Section XI, the governing body for public school sports in Suffolk County, are continuing to advocate for the safe return of all sports. 

State Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R) of Orange and Rockland counties, introduced legislation on Jan. 14 to bring back all interscholastic sports competition to New York. If this resolution passes, Shelter Island is poised to begin all winter sports, while protecting athletes and coaches by following all COVID-19 protocols.

The school is currently providing intramural/physical activities after school for the elementary students. Kristin Andrejack, the new physical education teacher, is keeping kids active and having fun. Following all COVID-19 protocols, the kids play an assortment of activities both indoors and outdoors.

Mr. Gulluscio says the school is finalizing details for high school intramurals, focusing on sports skills development. While no contact or scrimmages will be allowed, it is a way for athletes to retain their fitness and polish their skills.