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Kings Park H.S. inducts athletes into hall of fame

Massapequa High School Assistant Principal, Michael Quigley, is

Massapequa High School Assistant Principal, Michael Quigley, is photographed with a lacrosse stick, as he is being inducted into the High School's Hall of Fame for his role and contributions to the athletic program. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

This year at homecoming, Kings Park High School will welcome back some of its most agile alumni -- the 2015 inductees into the Kings Park Athletic Hall of Fame.

A roster of former student-athletes and coaches will return to the school on Oct. 10 to celebrate their past sports accomplishments.

"It will bring back memories of the time they had competing for Kings Park High School," said athletic director Bill Denniston.

The Hall of Fame was founded in 1993 and recognizes distinguished student-athletes, teams, coaches and administrators who have contributed to the athletic program. There are 38 members, and this year's class is the ninth to be inducted.

College sports experience and leadership skills are also considered by the committee, which includes community members, school personnel and Hall of Fame members. The committee last inducted a class in 2008 but plans to induct new members annually.

This year, 20 honorees are being inducted: three student-athletes -- Michael Schmitz, Class of 1966; Michael Quigley, Class of 1986; and Adam Grace, Class of 1996; former gymnastics coach Robin Thomas; and the 2003 girls' gymnastics team.

Michael Quigley

Quigley, 47, played soccer and lacrosse at Kings Park and is now an assistant principal at Massapequa High School. Though he said he no longer has much time for sports, he said his time as an athlete made his high school experience richer.

In 1986, as captain of the lacrosse team, he led the Kingsmen to a league championship victory. Though the team was defeated by Ward Melville in the county championships, it was the most the team had ever advanced in competition.

"I just loved playing sports. I loved all sports," Quigley said, recalling how he and his friends played sports in the streets and how he spent the winters practicing lacrosse.

Quigley went on to play lacrosse at Notre Dame, where as captain during his senior year, the Fighting Irish reached the NCAA playoffs for the first time.

Quigley was at one time the assistant coach for Kings Park's girls' varsity lacrosse team. In 2001, they won the Suffolk County championship.

Adam Grace

Grace, 37, was a multisport athlete who played football and ran track at Kings Park, where he set numerous school records. He said he loved competing overall, but one of his favorite football memories is surpassing his older brother Tucker's tackle record.

That wasn't the only record Grace broke. In the winter of his junior year, he injured his knee and couldn't play basketball for his first two years of high school. He took up track and field for the first time, and a few months later was ranked second highest in the state for indoor shot put.

Grace was the shot put state champion for the rest of his high school years and set a school record in 1996, which he still holds.

He won a scholarship to play football at Boston College. A shoulder injury derailed the rest of his athletic career, but Grace said the lessons he learned as an athlete in high school and college shaped his outlook on life and his career as an IT professional in South Carolina.

"The biggest things were just the drive, never giving up or cutting corners," he said.

2003 girls' gymnastics team/Robin Thomas-Harper

Longtime Kings Park coach Robin Thomas-Harper said it was exciting to build the team from the bottom up and raise the bar for all the gymnasts.

The year 2003 was the first time the 16-member team won both the league and county championships. They would go on to win four more county championships under Thomas-Harper's tenure.

"It was just fun to watch a group of girls come alive and believe they could be unbeatable," said Thomas-Harper, 50, of Bay Shore. "I think the power of believing is what brought them to where they were."

It was a special year for Thomas -- two of her daughters, Brittany, then in 7th grade, and Stephanie, a ninth-grader, were on that championship team.

Thomas-Harper was Kings Park's head coach from 2000 to 2012. She now coaches the Bay Shore-Islip team and also owns New Image, a gymnastics school in Brentwood.

Daughter Brittany Cassar, 24, competed on both the national club and high school team level, and was a four-time county champion. According to her mother, she still holds the county and state record on floor. "It was a long time ago," Cassar recalled with a laugh. "It was very challenging, but very rewarding as well."

Cassar said she devoted more than 25 hours a week to training, which is how she reached the national competition on the club level for six consecutive years. "It definitely shaped me into the team player that I am today," added Cassar, who earned an athletic scholarship to Eastern Michigan University, where she competed on the school's Division 1 NCAA gymnastics team.

She has since retired from the sport and is pursuing a master's in public policy at the University of Michigan. Still, Cassar said she feels "very fulfilled" with her gymnastics accomplishments, which she added taught her invaluable life skills: determination, motivation and discipline.

Posthumous honor

All 20 inductees will be honored at a breakfast ceremony on Oct. 10, including Michael Schmitz, who passed away in 2012. Schmitz was a three-sport varsity athlete who led the Kings Park basketball team to the 1966 league championships. He went on to play baseball and basketball at the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, and later was assistant men's basketball coach at Dowling College in Oakdale.

Though decades have elapsed since the inductees were at Kings Park High School, on homecoming they'll reclaim the field, just like old times.

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