Lilly Whaling Named RHS Scholar-Athlete of the Year

Whaling also received a series of presentations from local officials during the June 12 luncheon, including Rye Mayor Josh Cohn, state Assemblyman Steve Otis, state Sen. Shelley Mayer, county Legislator Catherine Parker, and County Executive George Latimer.

Published June 28, 2024 9:12 AM
3 min read

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One by one, the nine Rye High School coaches rose to remind everyone in the audience at Whitby Castle why the leading player from each of their teams had been chosen a Rye High Scholar-Athlete of the Month during the 2023-24 school year.

The crowd of proud families, school and government officials, and members of the program’s sponsor, the Rye City Lions Club, warmly greeted each student as they stood to acknowledge the applause.

But the nine athletes and their coaches were at Whitby Castle earlier this month because there was one more award to present: the Lions Club’s 26th annual Scholar-Athlete of the Year, an honor conferred on one of the monthly winners each spring by a vote of the high school’s student body.

This year’s winner: Lilly Whaling, who was twice a monthly honoree as a varsity field hockey player – once as a junior, again this year as a senior – and who also played RHS varsity lacrosse each year.

Filling in for Coach Kelly Vegliante, assistant field hockey coach Theresa Jelalian had only praise for Whaling, who was last September’s athlete of the month. “Not only is Lilly the toughest and strongest player on the field regardless of the competition,” Jelalian said, “her true ‘exceptional’ status comes from her commitment, respect, integrity, and enthusiasm towards her teammates and coaches.”

Whaling also received a series of presentations from local officials during the June 12 luncheon, including Rye Mayor Josh Cohn, state Assemblyman Steve Otis, state Sen. Shelley Mayer, County Legislator Catherine Parker, and County Executive George Latimer.

Before Lions Club member Tommy Maloney announced this year’s winner, Maloney — a 1971 RHS graduate — had told the young student-athletes: “Being a graduate of Rye High and a Garnet athlete gives you a leg up in life. Take advantage of it.”

He also credited the students’ success and the success of the school’s sports programs to the office overseen by Athletics Director Susan Reid Dullea, who attended the luncheon with district schools Superintendent Eric Byrne and RHS Principal Suzanne Kelly Short.

By way of illustration, girls soccer Coach Rich Savage had earlier detailed the talents of his All-State player Maddy Walsh, October’s Scholar-Athlete of the Month. Football Coach Dino Garr cited quarterback A.J. Miller’s role in the team’s Class B state championship last autumn. Wrestling Coach Brian Scher highlighted December winner Tommy Anderson’s leadership and mental toughness. Girls winter track Coach Kevin Murphy praised Mali White, January’s scholar-athlete, while boys winter track Coach Blair Moynihan similarly lauded William Squarek, who was honored the month after White.

Boys rugby Coach Jim O’Hara said honoree Jack Acciavatti was pivotal in leading that team to a Top 20 national ranking in March. Girls lacrosse Coach Michelle Mason credited April winner Paige Vanneck’s play for the team’s deep run into this year’s playoffs. And baseball Coach Mike Bruno underlined the importance of his three- year starting pitcher, Shepherd Griffiths, in his team’s spring success.

The Rye City Lions Club, currently led by Co-Presidents Ann Higgins and Catherine Parker, is a service-oriented civic club that focuses mostly on helping those who are blind or visually impaired; for example, it raises funds for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and for Visions Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, purchases large print books and audio books for the Rye Free Reading Room, and collects used eyeglasses for recycling and reuse.

But the club also sponsors or supports local programs such as the RHS scholar-athlete awards, the Rye YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, Rye Recreation’s summer camp, and the annual Cliff Clinton Classic Basketball Tournament.

Rye’s nine Athletes of the Month are, from left: A.J. Miller, Jack Acciavatti, Paige Vanneck, Mali White, Maddy Walsh, Lilly Whaling, Tommy Anderson, Shep Griffiths, and Will Squarek.
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