With the Tigers represented by their girls lacrosse, softball and track and field teams, the Kiwanis Club was able to gain insight into the spring season.
Every winter and spring sports season, the Tunkhannock Kiwanis Club invites the coaches and athletes to their monthly dinner to introduce themselves and speak publicly of the team’s goals.
Kiwanian Bob Parkison began the tradition many years ago, when he felt the sports teams needed to gain more exposure.
The teams and the group worked well together, as member Chuck Pirone pointed out, because the groups number one priority is children.
“We are a civic organization,” explained Pirone, who is a former educator in both the Tunkhannock Area and Elk Lake School Districts. “Our first priority has always been the kids. We spend a lot of money on different student groups in our area, to benefit all children of all ages.”
Senior pole vaulter Dalton Yeust took it a step further by saying, “I really, honestly, don’t know anything about the Kiwanis. I am eager to see what they are about and what they have to say.”
Teammate Nate Myers, who attended last season, said, “It is a fun night, great food, and a great place to tell the community about our season.”
Parkison opened the meeting with an invocation, welcoming and asking for blessings for our future local leaders, who may one day be leaders in the nation and beyond. Part of the connection in the meeting was to have the student-athletes learn from the members of the Kiwanis, as much as they can learn from the current Tigers.
After the housekeeping items that always begin a civic meeting- messages, birthdays, and of course a 50/50 raffle- Parkison pointed out that at the last gathering, those in attendance were able to hear from the winter athletes.
“To update you, two of those wrestlers are state medal winners and three divers and a swimmer will be competing at the state level next week,” he explained.
Due to health issues, Parkison deferred his MC duties to Pirone for the evening.
By random draw, the girls softball team took the podium first.
Collectively, the team has made many appearances at the spring dinner, but it was head coach Bob Hedegty’s first time in a few years. As the former wrestling coach for the Tigers, Hedgety was usually in Hershey for states at the beginning of the spring season.
At the podium, Coach Hedegty- along with assistant coach Ron Hampsey- explained that they brought upperclassmen to represent the diamond girls.
“We are a very young team,” explained the head coach, “but our older girls are very experienced. Our team members play a lot of travel ball, and put in a lot of fall work. We are on the field in August preparing for the spring.”
He explained that the girls were one game away from the state tournament last year and lost seven seniors to graduation.
Hedegty stressed that
the team’s goal has not changed- they still have all intentions of being in the state brackets.
“We were invited back to the NCFA tournament in New Jersey, a competition that hosts the top 16 teams on the East Coast,” he said. “We played last year and did quite well, so they invited us back.”
The Tigers will rely on their leadership to help hone the skills of their eight freshmen and four sophomores.
Parkison asked what impact the freshmen will have on the team, as the Tunkhannock Little League softball team that captured the hearts of the world are now first year players on the team.
Hedegty and Hampsey stated that the upperclassmen are working hard with all the underclassmen, but admitted that some of those Tigers might push their older teammates for playing time once the season begins.
“I definitely think we are better than we were last year, and we were pretty good last season,” he said.
Next up was girls lacrosse, led by first year head coach Darren Chesner and assistant Ira Staff.
Chesner introduced himself and handed the microphone to Staff.
As lacrosse is still a relatively new sport to the area, the coaches explained that they are trying to help build the youth program in Tunkhannock.
“We have high hopes for the Endless Mountain Lacrosse League, a feeder program for us,” said Staff. “There is no junior high program, and while
we have large numbers in our freshmen and sophomores, we are lacking experience.”
Senior Rachel Martin was thankful to the Kiwanis for inviting the groups, and teammate Brooke Staff was excited to learn about the other school sports and their goals.
Finally, coach Randy White spoke about the boys and girls track and field teams.
White, who was attending his first Kiwanis dinner but has been coaching at Tunkhannock since 1998, opened with remarks about a former runner, Reese Ayres, who was graduating Army Ranger school the next day. Earlier in the meeting, Kiwanian Kevin Ayres, Reese’s dad, asked his friends for prayers for his son.
“I also coach cross country for the Tigers. Reese went to states every year, placing as high as sixth in his senior year,” explained White. “He had stopped in to visit, and all I offered to him was that he was a cross country runner, and because of that I knew he could do it.”
White then spoke of the mental toughness of an athlete that was needed to accomplish competing Ranger School, and how it was a proud coach moment. He issued a challenge to all Tunkhannock athletes to rise to the
occasion and never forget where they came from.
He continued, saying that the harriers will have 27 returning letter winners on the squad this year and the team has high expectations within the conference.
There were six representatives from the track and field team, and each spoke about their goals and future plans.
Senior Kailin Smith, who is off to study military intelligence at The Cidel after graduation said, “We have almost doubled the number of girls on our team this season. In the past we have had the talent, but not a lot of numbers, I am excited for the future of this team.”
The other members of the team all said they were willing to do whatever was called upon them to help the team succeed this year.
Nate Myers concluded the event with a challenge of his own.
“My goal for the season is to beat Ben Robinson’s mile record of 4:20.66, but I want to one up him by doing it in my junior year. He did it in his senior year,” he confidently explained. “After that, my next goal is to take the 800 record (1:54).”
“I want to be known as one of the top runners at Tunkhannock, and get some records,” said Myers, “while also representing the Tigers at states.”
Pirone thanked the athletes and coaches at the end of the night, releasing the athletes to the dessert table.
White ended with, “I want to make sure the community as a whole keeps an eye on our season, all the way from opening day through states.”
Every athlete echoed the sentiments that they felt welcomed and honored, and extended thank yous to the civic group before leaving.
“The publicity of these events enlighten the community to the wonderful things our athletes are doing,” said Parkison. “So many kids never get up in front of a room of adults and publicly speak. We give them that chance. We also like to hear about what the coaches have to say.”
Pirone concluded by saying, “The Kiwanis members really enjoy hearing what the kids have to say, and again, that is who we are here for-the kids.”