None of Tamir Zitelny’s incredible accomplishments in the pool competes with what he’s achieved outside it.
Syosset’s Zitelny was named winner of the Scholar-Athlete Award at Saturday’s state swimming championship. The scholarship award goes to a senior who has had success in the pool, classroom and in his community, and who will attend a four-year university
“I was in shock when my name was called,” said Zitelny, who will swim for Brandeis University next fall. “It’s just a great feeling that with all these amazingly talented swimmers I was the one chosen.”
Zitelny finished fourth in the 100-yard backstroke, 10th in the 100 butterfly and helped Syosset place 12th in the 400 free relay. Zitelny set the Section VIII 100 backstroke record (51.57 seconds) at this season’s Nassau championship meet.
He has a 100 GPA and scored 33 on his ACT.
Zitelny also started fundraising through the non-profit organization Kidz First five years ago after a family friend, Decklin, was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4. (Zitelny asked that his friend’s last name not be used.) Zitelny and Kidz First collects cash, toys and activity equipment for pediatric centers such as Winthrop University Hospital’s Cancer Center for Kids.
Zitelny was inspired because Decklin, who is now in remission, “didn’t let it bring him down.”
“Satisfaction is seeing I’m making other people happy,” Zitelny said. “I’m making a difference, even if it’s just something as little as a short play time where they can forget about their pain. It’s just amazing to see what me, one person, can do to make a difference in other peoples’ lives.”
A portion of Zitelny’s applicant essay was read during the presentation.
“When you write an essay, it sounds completely different when someone else is reading it,” he said. “And to hear the words that I wrote on paper being vocalized to this entire stadium of people, it truly spoke to me that what I’ve been doing is the right thing for all these years and my efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. It was just nice to see that I was recognized for what I’ve worked for these past few years.”
— OWEN O’BRIEN