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Tough choice: State championships or high school prom

It happens every spring: Long Island high school athletes getting caught in the quandary of choosing between the state playoffs and going to their senior prom.

On Friday May, 25, 2018, St. Anthony's softball seniors Kayla Daly and Nicole Gravagna discussed how they will be attending their senior prom late in order to play in the CHSAA state semifinals against Buffalo-Nardin Academy on Tuesday at Hofstra. (Credit: Newsday / Jessica Rotkiewicz)

It happens every spring: Long Island high school athletes getting caught in the quandary of choosing between the state playoffs and going to their senior prom.

St. Anthony’s Kayla Daly watched helplessly last year as three of her softball teammates made the tough choice to head back to Long Island from Staten Island, where the Friars would play the Catholic League title game after winning the semifinal game there.

Now a senior, she and teammate Nicole Gravagna could face a similar situation.

Last year’s senior prom — in Woodbury — had been scheduled months in advance. Dresses and tickets had been purchased, along with arrangements for transportation and other incidentals. No way they could play in a 2 p.m. game and navigate traffic through four counties, clean up, dress up and still get to the 5:30 p.m. prom at a decent time.

Daly was a junior on that team, which lost the crown, 8-0, to Moore Catholic. She vowed then that she would play for the title again if the same thing happened in her senior year.

“For every girl it’s hard,” Daly said, recalling what happened last year.

“I walked off that field crying and, as soon as I stepped foot in my car, I said ‘Mom, I’m not missing this game.’”

Well, it happened again. St Anthony’s could be playing the championship game again on Tuesday — which is also prom night. But the semifinal and final will be played at Hofstra University, which is about two hours closer to the site of the prom.

“For something that I’ve worked for my whole life, I would rather stay there, win this game, and show up to prom late,” Daly said. “What’s better than winning a state championship and going to prom?”

First baseman Gravagna, the other senior on this year’s St. Anthony’s team, said their coaches brought up the prospect of a conflict happening again this year when conducting exit interviews after the 2017 season. “I think it was a good job by our coaches asking us . . . ‘what would you do?’” Gravagna said. “It got it out of the way and cleared it up.”

Daly, a pitcher/outfielder, made her choice with ease.

“I’ve been playing this sport since I was 4 years old and I’ve never won a state championship in my life,” Daly said. “I’d rather do that than dress up.”

Although they may be late to the prom, Daly and Gravagna hope to arrive at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury as state champions while looking their best.

Gravagna said she has an appointment with a beautician in Dix Hills for whenever her game ends on Tuesday.

Daly said she has mastered the art of car makeup.

The problem isn’t limited to girls, either. Cameron Sorgi, then a William Floyd High School senior, was the starting pitcher in the prestigious Grand Slam Challenge All-Star baseball game that fell on the same day as his prom. He pitched the first inning of the game at Farmingdale State University, changed into his tuxedo in the clubhouse, and then was whisked away in a limousine, missing the first hour of the prom held in Wading River.

Syosset High School distance running standout Reilly Siebert had a much tougher choice to make than the St. Anthony’s softball players. Her senior prom is June 8, the same day as the start of the state championships in upstate Cicero. Her competitive spirit won out.

“I’m not really disappointed,” Siebert said of skipping the prom. “I love racing and the atmosphere that’s there. I think it’s a great way to finish out my high school career.”

But, like the St. Anthony’s softball players, Siebert had been prepared for the conflict. The senior prom has been on the same weekend for years, consistently conflicting with the state track and field championships. So, Siebert has seen teammates make a variety of decisions during her years as an underclassman, including attending the prom on Friday night and driving up to the second day of the state championships on Saturday.

The latter option didn’t work for Siebert, who would have had to miss one of her main events — the 800 meters — if she skipped Friday’s championships.

“My teammates did that two years ago and they were all really tired,” Siebert said. “It was a long day for them. I figured, if I was going to do it, I’d want to be all in.”

Great Neck North’s Sam Law, another distance standout who made the same sacrifice as Siebert, said she was having second thoughts about her decision until she spoke to Siebert and was convinced she made the right call.

“Running with that level of talent is something you could never get at a prom,” Law said. “So, I think it’s worth it.”

And — after all — it’s only a party.

“Honestly? It’s not like I’m missing graduation,” Law said. “I’ll still get my diploma.”


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