Riverhead's not quite ready to rename Main Street the "Canyon of Heroes," but thousands of residents are expected to gather along East Main Street on Sunday to watch a parade honoring the best high school girls basketball team in town history.
The Blue Waves went 23-1 this season on the way to winning the Long Island championship, and came within a game of playing for the state title. And their skills aren't confined to the court. For the seventh consecutive year, the team has excelled in the classroom, maintaining a grade-point average of 90 or better.
"I've got trophies going back to the late 1800s," said William Groth, Riverhead High School's athletic director. "Riverhead has never won a Long Island girls championship before. That's something special."
As the team racked up victories, there were lots of pep rallies and honors. The school board postponed its February meeting for 24 hours so teachers and administrators could see the Long Island regional playoffs, and the town board last month honored the Blue Waves, handing out certificates to each of the 14 players.
Now, the town board and the police department, ambulance crews and volunteer fire departments, service clubs, the high school Navy ROTC and others from Riverhead will gather behind the old Woolworth building on East Main Street for the 1 p.m. parade.
"We had seven to 10 days to get it all together," said Riverhead Assistant Superintendent Joseph Ogeka Jr. "We'll be going rain or shine."
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter promised the weather would be good. "It only rains in Riverhead when the farmers want it," he said.
For the community, another thing that makes Riverhead's championship special is that though the school is big by East End standards, there are 26 other schools in the region with higher enrollments.
In addition, players are also civic minded. Team members all participate in a special mentoring program in which they go to elementary schools in the district and read to younger students, talk to them about academics and sports, and invite them to a home game.
Several other teams in the district take part in similar mentoring programs, which the school district calls "Wave to Wave."
Several of the college-bound seniors have earned sports scholarships. One of them, Melodee Riley, 18, a forward, is on a full track scholarship to the University of Connecticut. Last year, she was first in the state in long jump and triple jump.
"This season has been amazing," she said. "It's awesome. It's good to watch everybody work hard . . . you get to feel a little famous after a while. It's our 15 minutes of fame."
Riley isn't sure what she will do with her life after college, but said she has lots of time to figure that out.
"I was thinking of being a marriage counselor," she said. "I'm good at giving advice."