With around 25 Tunkhannock Area High School winter athletes in attendance, the Wyoming County Kiwanis Club hosted an evening of fellowship at the Moose Lodge on Thursday night.
Every winter and spring, the group welcomes the Tiger coaches and athletes to introduce themselves to the community.
The coaches each brought a collective representation of their team to show off. Some teams, like the girls basketball team, brought its seniors and lone junior, while the wrestling team brought all of its district, regional, and state qualifiers from last season.
All five winter teams were in attendance at the dinner, which included comfort foods such as chicken and biscuits, baked ziti, and meatballs.
The monthly meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer from the event’s organizer, Bob Parkison, asking for “guidance for our children and athletes to lead our community and beyond.”
The organization prides these seasonal dinners on not only getting to introduce the athletes to the people, but preparing the students for public speaking and engaging with the community.
While the Tigers lined up at the buffet and mingled, basketball player Jack Chilson noted that this was not his first trip to the meeting.
“It is great to just be able to talk to the elder members of our community,” said Chilson. “They can learn about us as a team, and keep up with what we are doing.”
Lady Tiger Rani Shrivastava, in her first experience at the Moose Lodge, offered, “It is really nice that they are taking an interest in our teams.”
For the swimmers, coaches Tim Mislevy and Tori King brought almost half of the Tigers in attendance, but only senior Mike Astegher was a returner to the Kiwanis meeting.
He said, “It is a great time, with great people and great food. Kiwanis is such are respected organization in our community, and to be welcomed by them is nice.”
In its first appearance in awhile, the wrestling team, including first year coaches Gary Siegel and Jake Burgess, were eagerly anticipating the evening.
Seniors Gavin D’Amato and David Evans, along with sophomore Owen Woods, spoke about how they were appreciative of the invitation, as well as the food.
“I give the meatballs a 10 out of 10,” said Evans, and it should be noted that when a wrestler appreciates food in season, it must be good.
Sophomore Nick Marabell added, “It is nice to be welcomed. Some people don’t expect the commitment that underclassmen make to their sports, and it is really nice to be recognized.”
Parkison spoke about how important this event is to the kids, as he encourages participation in sports at every level.
“Sports offer a chance for the players to set goals,” said Parkison, a Keystone State Games 2018 Hall of Fame inductee. “It gives the students something to work for, somewhere to belong.”
Kiwanian Chuck Pirone handled the MC duties for the evening, as Parkison was a little under the weather.
Pirone said of the night, “We try to honor all of the athletes and find out about their programs, and by the turnout this evening, it looks like they are interested in telling us.”
Once the Kiwanians went through the protocol of their meeting and reminders of all the wonderful things they are doing for Tunkhannock and the surrounding areas, Pirone invited each contingent of Tigers to come to the front of the room to enlighten the crowd about the work they will do in the upcoming months.
Coach Tori King and her Lady Tigers swim team went first. King spoke about how excited she was for the season, and pointed out that out of the 19 girls on her roster, 10 of them are new.
“We are still developing,” said King. “But we have a great group of freshmen to compliment our upperclassmen. Our age-group swimming program, the TigerSharks, have done a fabulous job getting the swimmers ready.”
King also pointed out that the team will be strong in its relays, but struggle with longer distances.
Tim Mislevy, the boys swimming coach as well as the team’s new diving coach, opened his remarks by thanking Parkison and the Kiwanis group for hosting them.
“We always look forward to this night. It is an honor,” said the coach.
He praised his swimmer’s attitude, and talked about how the team is really coming together to fill the shoes of the seniors who graduated. He also wanted to thank his co-coach, King, for helping him with the boys squad while he worked with the divers.
“The boys team will be graduating a lot of seniors this season, and they are really stepping up to the plate when we need them to,” he said. “They are focused when they need to be, but also loose when the time is right.”
He feels the team can challenge for districts this season, and has confidence in the potential of the team.
Senior Hunter Snay, a member of the diving team, said, “We have three divers this year, and it is pretty exciting, I think all three of us have a chance to make it to states.”
Spencer Lunger and assistant coach Stan Harder brought their starting five hoopsters to the meeting.
“We played about 30 games this summer, and are ready for the season,” said Lunger. “One of our strengths, as you can see, is height. Of the 21 guys on our roster, 14 of them are over six foot tall.You can’t teach height, and we will be one of the biggest teams.”
The Tigers are working toward handling adversity on the court, working on reacting to bad shots and bad fouls, as well as decisions made in the heat of the moment.
Lunger also pointed out that while the team will compete in the 4A classification this year, next season they will be a 5A team.
“We are up for the challenge,” explained Lunger.
A challenging year is in store for the Lady Tigers basketball team, according to head coach Amanda Golden.
“All but four of our players this year are sophomores and freshmen,” said the second-year coach. “We have put in a tough week this week, and are ready for our scrimmages. We will be quick this year, though.”
The final team to speak, the grapplers, took to the front of the room to end the evening.
New coach Siegel admitted that last year’s team goals were not met, as the team suffered injuries to two major contributors. But this season, the wrestlers are on pace to make it to the podium at Hershey.
“Our goals are to get to Hershey for district duals, and then get as many on the podium at Hershey,” said Siegel.
He also added, “Everything is falling into place. These guys are looking out for each other and are ready to go. All the guys here are looking to finish higher than they did last year, and we believe they can do it.”
At the end of the night, the athletes and Kiwanians enjoyed brownies for dessert and chatted a little more about the season’s prospects.
The Tigers athletic teams provide more than entertainment to the community, and as evidenced at the winter meeting, appreciate the community support.