For the third consecutive year, The Wheatley School's Varsity Girls Track and Field team has been recognized by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association ((NYSPHSAA) for academic excellence and has been declared New York State Champions in its Scholar/Athlete Recognition Award Program. This program, which was initiated by NYSPHSAA 16 years ago, recognizes athletic teams from across New York State for the exemplary academic performance of its team members. Based upon a composite of the grade-point averages among team members, team champions are selected for each varsity sport from those high schools across New York State that enter the competition.
The Wheatley School's Varsity Girls Track and Field team achieved a near-perfect average of 99.943, which was the highest girls indoor track team academic average in New York State and it is the highest cumulative average of any high school team that has been recorded during the 16 years in which this program has existed. Just a year ago, the Wheatley girls track and field team captured the state title with a composite average of 99.543 and the year before, a team average of 99.577 was the highest in New York. This accomplishment is a credit to the athletes, who have had to balance the demands of a rigorous academic schedule with the long hours of practice and competition required to successfully compete in interscholastic athletics at the varsity level.
The Varsity Girls Indoor Track team is the 10th Wheatley varsity athletic team to have received New York State Championship honors for academic excellence in the past seven years. The other teams winning state honors were Boys Indoor Track (2000-2001); Boys Basketball (2002-2003 and 2006-2007); Girls Basketball (2003-2004); Girls Indoor Track (2004-2005 and 2005-2006); Girls Track and Field (2004-2005 and 2005-2006) and Varsity Girls Soccer (2005-2006).
At The Wheatley School Spring Sports Awards Program on June 5, the coach and team members of the 1997 and 1998 Varsity Softball teams were inducted into the Wheatley Hall of Fame. Under the leadership of Coach Stephen Heilbrunn, the Wheatley Softball teams won two consecutive Southeast Regional Championships and qualified for the New York State Championships, an unprecedented feat by a Wheatley softball team.
Coach Heilbrunn and 15 of the 21-team members attended the induction ceremony to receive the recognition they so richly deserved. Wheatley softball enjoyed considerable success during the '90s, winning five Nassau County Championships during a six-year span from 1993 through 1998. During the 1997 season, the softball team swept through the Nassau County playoffs by defeating Locust Valley and Cold Spring Harbor and upset Hampton Bays to win its first-ever Long Island title. With its 6-4 victory over O'Neill High School, Wheatley won the Southeast Regional Championship to advance to the New York State Softball final four. That precedent-setting season ended with a shutout loss to Sandy Creek.
After graduation losses of several key players, including two-time All-County pitcher Jessica Miness, the 1998 season was to have a rebuilding year for Wheatley softball. However, Coach Heilbrunn and his team members, led by pitchers Katie Sweeney and Sofia Sanchez, were undaunted; they finished the regular season with a record of 14-6 and their road to the states started with a shutout of East Rockaway in the Nassau County semifinals. Wheatley successfully defended its Nassau County title by defeating Valley Steam North with two consecutive shutouts, 7-0 and 6-0. For the second year in a row, Hampton Bays was the opponent in the Long Island Championship and behind the pitching of Katie Sweeney, Wheatley defeated the Lady Baymen 3-1. Next up was Red Hook, which Wheatley defeated 5-4 to win its second Southeast Regional Championship and earn another trip to the final four. The opponent in the semifinal game of the state playoffs was Warsaw High School, whose pitcher was the Gatorade New York State Player of the Year. Several marvelous defensive plays by Becky Landau and Erin Hurleigh and the outstanding pitching of Katie Sweeney kept Wheatley in the game. Trailing 1-0 with two outs in the sixth inning, Stephanie Chiu, who was 3 for 3 against the Warsaw pitcher, turned on a fast ball, lining a two-run double down the left field line to give Wheatley the lead. Three quick outs in the seventh inning earned Wheatley its first-ever appearance in the New York State Softball title game. The magical season ended with a shutout loss to State Champion Maple Hill High School.
Team member Jessica Miness, spoke on behalf of her teammates and described the affection and respect that team members had for their coach. Coach Heilbrunn successfully instilled a sense of commitment to team goals and team members worked hard to improve their skills and level of team play. Thanks to Coach Heilbrunn, players responded positively to his leadership, enjoyed a most positive learning experience and overachieved.