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Kennedy Catholic Taps Man of Letters (4) to Lead Athletics

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SLATER’S SLANT
BY CHUCK SLATER

“I’ve had a love of athletics my entire life,” says Frank Tolan.  Indeed, in high school at Manhattan Prep, he not only played sports for four years in all three seasons — cross-country, basketball, outdoor track — but even managed to double up with swimming for two years.

Last term, after a lifetime in education, the 61-year-old was teaching part-time at Kennedy Catholic (public speaking) and Mt. St. Mary’s College when Father Mark Vaillancourt, JFK’s president/principal, approached him.  The school’s current athletic director, Father Newcomb, was moving up to Dean of Academics; would Tolan be willing to be the athletic director?

“I was open to the idea,” Tolan said.  “When I was the principal of Pawling High School for 23 years (1989-2012), we only had a teacher working as athletic director part-time so I was very involved.”

Frank Tolan

New Kennedy Catholic Athletic Director Frank Tolan brings a wealth of athletic and administrative experience to the private school in Somers. Photo courtesy Kennedy Catholic High School

And, as he said, he loved athletics.  So he said yes.

He started on July 1.  It’s doubtful any area athletic director in recent years ever stepped into a more difficult and uncertain situation.

Scheduling is, of course, as crucial as anything an AD does. And at JFK it was then as confused as a basketball player shooting at the wrong basket.

Kennedy, after almost 40 years as a member of Section 1, had just switched to the Catholic High School Athletic Association. Section 1 was not pleased.  It said some of its member schools had complained that Kennedy was recruiting its athletes, which the Catholic school denied.  Section 1 then prohibited its schools from playing JFK teams in the future.

Of course, Kennedy was counting on continuing with some of its traditional Section 1 rivals to augment its games with Catholic schools.  In two girls sports, field hockey and lacrosse, the nearby Catholic schools did not even field teams.

Kennedy protested the ban and a hearing was set up with the New York Public High Schools Athletic Association ruling on the barring. But Tolan had to substantially put together team schedules, especially for the fall sports, before knowing if Section 1 opponents were available and, even if they were, would they have schedule openings at this late date.

“”It was already going to be a big transition year,” Tolan said, “going into the Catholic league.  I had to make as smooth a transition as possible for all our boys and girls teams.”

And the undecided Section 1 issue?

“That added a wrinkle to it,” Tolan said.  “Hopefully, we would include our Section 1 rivals in the future, but whatever, this year our schedules had to be full.”

Working diligently with the private schools, he even put together a respectable field hockey schedule for the girls.

“He’s done a great job,” praised Father Vaillancourt, pointing out there was even a full 10-game schedule in place in field hockey.

“He was the right guy at the right time,” the Kennedy president explained.  “He’s a seasoned administrator and he’s done athletic directing before. All of our teams were scheduled despite the differences with Section 1.

“Plus he had two daughters go through Kennedy.  He knows our culture.”

Tolan had most of his immediate scheduling in place even before the late-July hearing which resulted in the ban being lifted; it was ruled the recruiting issue was not relevant either way since Section 1 tried to initiate a ban after Kennedy was no longer one of its members.

“Now we can scheduled crossover games as we always planned,” Father Vaillancourt said.  “A ban would have hurt our program.”

“I’m trying to fill in our field hockey schedule with some Section 1 opponents,” Tolan said.

It is, of course, up to Section 1 teams whether they wish to face JFK and doubtless some traditional rivals will.  But there probably isn‘t much leeway on the already-in-place fall slates.

Incidentally, Tolan himself has seven children, all of whom were active in athletics.  His youngest, Moira, played varsity lacrosse, soccer, track and volleyball before graduation from Kennedy.

Yes, Frank Tolan knows how to guide a team of athletes.

July 31, 2013 |

Junior Golfers on National Stage: Young Advances, Morales Falls

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BY CHUCK SLATER
SPECIAL TO TOWNLINK NEWS + VIEWS

     After easily qualifying through two rounds of stroke play in their respective national junior championships, then winning their first round of match play, the area’s premier teenage golfers had contrasting results in their round-of-32 matches on July 25.

     Despite shooting below par, South Salem’s Nicole Morales suffered a heartbreaking loss to Bethany Wu of Diamond Bar, Calif. She fell, 1-up, at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind., in the U.S. Girls Amateur Juniors.

     At the Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif., Cameron Young of Briarcliff won his round-of-32 duel with Tyson Reeder of Edmond, Okla., 3 and 2, in the morning.  Young, the No.2 seed who was suddenly the favorite when the top seed was upset, then faced George Cunningham of Tucson in the round of 16 but the match was all-even when suspended by darkness. It was completed the morning of July 26 with Young finally winning on the 24th hole.  He then had to play the quarterfinals later in the day.

     Young, 16, who had 68-70 in the qualifying rounds, then beat Matt Echelmeier of Columbia, Mo., 3 and 1, in the round of 64, pretty much clinched his match with Reeder on No. 15, chipping in from 30 feet for an eagle.  “I hit the ball very well,” Young said.  “I didn’t putt very well.”

     Young plays locally out of  the Sleepy Hollow Country Club, where his father, David, is the head pro.

     Morales, 17, was edged on putting in a see-saw match which featured 10 birdies and saw her and Wu finish a combined 8 under par.  “I didn’t think it would come down to a putting contest but it did,” she said.

     She had qualified with a 69-76 in stroke play and routed Isabelle Kane of Winnetka, Ill., 5 and 4, in the round of 64.

July 26, 2013 |

Mahopac’s Riefenhauser Is A Major ‘Ray’ of Hope

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SLATER’S SLANT
BY CHUCK SLATER

C.J. Riefenhauser, the finest pitcher Mahopac High School has yet produced, turned professional from junior college in 2010.  His signing bonus with the Tampa Bay Rays was so small he calls it “pretty much nothing.”  His play-for-pay career he terms “an uphill battle.”

But he’s almost at the top of the hill now.

First, however, came the steepest of the uphill battles: A change of arm angle when  pitching, a change from starting to relieving and a difficult transition season in 2012. (more…)

July 24, 2013 |

A New Honor For Blevins

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By Chuck Slater

If the major league organizations are looking for some pitching help for their high-end minor league clubs, they could well take a look at what  Briarcliff’s Bobby Blevins is accomplishing.

Pitching for the Rockland Boulders of the independent professional Canadian American League, Blevins was named the league’s Pitcher of the Week for the third time in six weeks on July 22.  He earned the designation this time for defeating the defending champion Winnipeg Goldeyes,  9-1, in July 18 with his third straight complete game.

Blevins, 7-5, is 3-1 in July with a 2.18 earned run average in his hitter-happy league. He leads the Can Am in innings pitched (87 2/3) and complete games (4), is second in victories (7) and fourth in strikeouts (54).

He could not be reached for comment on July 23 because he got up at 4 a.m. to travel with his second place Boulders for a key series in Quebec with the league-leading Capitals.  Blevins is scheduled to pitch the second game of the series at night on July 24.

July 23, 2013 |

Yorktown’s Katrina Dowd Leads US Lax Team to World Cup Championship

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By Chuck Slater

Katrina Dowd, an All American for both Yorktown High and Northwestern University, led the United States to the World Cup championship of the Federation of International Lacrosse with a perfect 7-0 record.  It culminated with a 19-5 rout of Canada in the final on July 20 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

The Yorktown native had three goals and three assists in the final, giving her a tournament-record 26 goals as she made the all-world team in her rookie FIL appearance.

“We were just clicking,” the speedy Dowd said of her team’s dominance and record offense.  “We just fed off the environment.

“It doesn’t matter who is putting the ball in the back of the net as long as the U.S is putting points on the board.”

The U.S. team scored 127 goals in the seven games, 18.1 per game, in winning its seventh World Cup gold.

Dowd is the assistant lacrosse coach at the University of North Carolina.  Her friend and also former Yorktown star, Alexis Venechanos, coached Team Canada to its highest finish ever.

July 22, 2013 |

JFK Principal ‘Relieved’ It Can Compete Against Section 1

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BY CHUCK SLATER
SPECIAL TO TOWNLINK NEWS + VIEWS

      Kennedy Catholic High School is breathing easier now with the reversal of a ruling, by the Section 1 public school athletic body, that would have prevented Section 1 teams from playing JFK. The Somers private school recently left Section 1 to join the Catholic High School Athletic Association.

     “We’re relieved,” said The Rev. Mark Vaillancourt, Kennedy’s president/principal.

     “Now we can play crossover games, as we had always planned to do,” he added.  “It (Section 1’s original ruling) would have handicapped our program.”

     When Kennedy switched to the Catholic Association, Section 1 Director Jennifer Simmons issued the ban, saying some of its member schools had complained of Kennedy trying to recruit its athletes.  That is prohibited and Kennedy denied the charges. 

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association heard arguments from both sides on July 15 and, in a statement released July 18, ruled Section 1 could not bring sanctions, right or wrong, after Kennedy no longer was a member of its group.

Simmons, who said the ruling came on “a technicality,” said it would  be up to individual schools whether they wanted to schedule Kennedy. This could mean primarily tournament meetings for fall sports since most of those schedules are completed.  Not having scheduled games against Section 1 teams could be a particular hardship for girls field hockey at Kennedy, since the Catholic Association does not field that sport.

     “Our athletic director, Frank Tolan, has done a great job scheduling independent schools,” Father Vaillancourt said.  “We already have a full 10-game field hockey schedule in place.”

July 19, 2013 |

Briarcliff’s Cameron Young Is Met Junior Golf Champ

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BY CHUCK SLATER
SPECIAL TO TOWNLINK NEWS + VIEWS
Briarcliff’s Cameron Young, who completed his freshman year at Fordham Prep last month, on July 18 won the 96th Met Junior Championship at the Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., taking semifinal and final matches by identical 3 and 1 scores.

Young, 16, who set a Catholic high school league record while playing No. 1 for Fordham Prep with a 6-under-par 37 for 9 holes this spring, defeated Clancy Waugh of Quogue, N.Y., in the semifinals, then bested Jeremy Wall of Brielle, N.J., in the final.

He had romped in his first three matches of the tournament, winning all by 5 and 4 or better.

“Today was great,” said Young afterward.  “I played really well, especially in the semifinals.”

Young is the reigning state Catholic High School champion.  His father, David Young, is the head pro at Sleepy Hollow Country Club.

July 19, 2013 |
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