Bay Shore's Ryan Mazzie and Connetquot's Erin Melly win Dellecave Award
One is a star football and baseball player. The other is a cross country standout. And on Sunday, Bay Shore's Ryan Mazzie and Connetquot's Erin Melly learned that their similarities offset their differences.
Both know what it's like to break a record as an athlete. They are incredibly bright students with high grade-point averages, and despite all their success, both know how to keep sports in perspective.
They were honored together Sunday, becoming the 14th winners of the Dellecave Award at West Lake Inn in Patchogue.
The awards are presented annually to the male and female senior athletes of the year in Suffolk County by the Butch Dellecave Foundation in conjunction with the Economic Council of Suffolk, Inc., and Newsday. The awards, which come with $1,000 scholarships, also recognize outstanding academic achievement and community service.
The other male finalists were Justin Plaschka (Hauppauge), Nick Santorelli (Babylon), Malik Pierre (Sachem North) and Connor Coughlin (Patchogue-Medford). The other female finalists were Shelby Fredericks (Babylon), Francesca Casalino (Half Hollow Hills West), Shayna Pirreca (Mount Sinai) and Katie Trombetta (Sachem East).
The award is named after the late Butch Dellecave, an educator in the Connetquot district for 30 years, an esteemed basketball official and one of the founders of the Suffolk Hall of Fame.
"Winning this kind of award with kids that have pages and pages of a resume is such an honor," said Mazzie, who plans to study business at Villanova and said he will attempt to make the baseball team as a walk-on.
Upon accepting the trophy, Mazzie delivered a heartfelt speech, crediting his younger sister, Melina, as his inspiration in life. Melina was diagnosed with hypoplastic myelodysplastic syndrome two weeks before her 11th birthday in August 2010, and Ryan donated the bone marrow that saved her life.
"When my sister got sick, she couldn't really do much and was confined to a room for months and wasn't able to do things other 11- or 12-year-olds were able to do," Mazzie said. "That's when I started to appreciate all the little things in life, like playing sports. I try to excel for her."
He did plenty of it during a storied high school career.
In his first varsity football game as a junior, Mazzie broke an 86-year-old school record by tossing six touchdown passes.
"It was exhilarating," said Mazzie, who owns a 101 weighted average and is involved in several community service projects. "That was the best game I've been part of."
Mazzie threw for more than 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns as the team's starting quarterback last season. He also was a lefthanded pitching ace who racked up strikeouts with an 85-mph fastball. He batted .408 as a junior.
Melly also is accustomed to plenty of success year-round.
She won the Suffolk Division I 3,000-meters title this season on her home turf, finishing in 10:16.02.
Melly holds school records in the steeplechase, 4 x 100 relay, 4 x 800 relay and on three different courses in cross country. She placed 10th in the 3,000 meters in states while shattering Connetquot's previous record of 10:14 with a time of 10:10.37.
Melly placed sixth in the state Federation steeplechase Saturday with a time of 7:05.19 and will participate in the nationals this weekend in North Carolina.
"It's all still kind of registering with me. I'm just trying to grasp that high school is ending in itself. It's a crazy time of the year for me," said Melly, who is Connetquot's salutatorian and will attend Columbia University. "I was a bit surprised I was the winner today and wasn't very prepared for the speech because there were so many good athletes, so no one knows. It's just all very exciting."
Melly said her athletic success is put in perspective when she meets with youngsters during the year through the Athletes Helping Athletes program.
For three years, she has visited elementary schools in the Connetquot school district to talk with fifth-graders about making the transition to middle school, tackling issues such as peer pressure, bullying, sportsmanship, and drugs and alcohol.
"I always tell them that not everyone is drinking and doing that," Melly said. "It's really fun, though, to share your ideas and experiences with the kids, and I usually just tell them to be themselves."