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VSD rifles rack up another undefeated season, county championship

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The Valley Stream District Rifle team members Victoria Andreo, clockwise from top left, Captain Ivan Ymaz, Keegan Banda, Tiffany Wu, Priya Mangal, Captain Nicholas Cavaliere, Chamille Malcom, Emily Nothdurft and Jayden Polydore. Despite the pandemic, the team captured another county championship and undefeated season this year.
The Valley Stream District Rifle team members Victoria Andreo, clockwise from top left, Captain Ivan Ymaz, Keegan Banda, Tiffany Wu, Priya Mangal, Captain Nicholas Cavaliere, Chamille Malcom, Emily Nothdurft and Jayden Polydore. Despite the pandemic, the team captured another county championship and undefeated season this year.
Courtesy Heather Zawislak

The Valley Stream District Rifle Team has won another county championship with a team score of 751 out of 800. Varsity members Nicholas Cavaliere, Ivan Ymaz, Priya Mangal, Victoria Andreo, Tiffany Wu and Keegan Banda competed at Glen Cove High School on Feb. 24 at the air rifle county championships. The varsity team was supported from home by junior varsity members Chamille Malcom, Emily Nothdurft and Jayden Polydore.

The past year has created many challenges for the rifle team regarding safety and appropriate social distancing. “Their health and safety are my number one priority, which originally meant significantly cutting into their practice time to ensure we were meeting and maintaining CDC protocols for Covid-19,” coach Heather Zawislak said.

Typically, the athletes are spaced approximately two to three feet apart across six firing points. Due to distancing regulations, however, the team began the season having to space out using only three points at a time, effectively halving each member’s practice time. “Thankfully we had an amazing team parent donate divider screens to our range sharing sister program, the Police Activity League, that allowed us to utilize all of our points while still keeping the athletes safe,” Zawislak said.

Captain Nicholas Cavaliere shared similar feelings, “I was happy the team was able to have a season to compete,” he said. “We were excited to regroup and hope for a chance to with another county championship. Even though matches and practice were done differently with restrictions, our team showed up and stayed focused.”

Working with a significantly shorter season, the team had to practice harder than usual. Despite the challenges, the VSD rifle team was able to capture another undefeated season as well as a county championship.  Leading the team was Cavaliere of North High School who shot a personal best of 191, which also gained him the individual county champion title. “Giving my all is important for me as a team co-captain,” he said. “Earning my highest score at the county level competition just feels awesome.”

“I am unbelievably proud of their accomplishments and even more proud to be their coach,” Zawislak, a 20-year veteran of the sport, said. “I cannot wait to see what they accomplish next year when hopefully we return to a sense of normalcy within sports.”

-Compiled by Peter Belfiore