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Winter sports season brings championships, records

The Red Hook High School girls basketball team poses together after winning the Section 9 Class A championship.For the Red Hook High School girls basketball team, the winter season began in the summer.

Three days a week, the two-time sectional champion Raiders got together to practice with new head coach Matt Hayes. Then came a fall league hosted at Bard College. The real work, six days a week of practices and games, started the week after Veterans Day.

“The big goal for them was to win the sectional title. They kept talking about a three-peat,” Hayes said. “I’m glad they were able to do that. And there were a lot of great moments along the way.”

Throughout the school, hard work paid off for athletes in the 2023-24 winter season. In addition to the girls basketball team’s sectional title and a player of the year award for junior Emilie Kent, Owen Daniels stood on the podium at the state boys swimming meet, and Ewan Celestine and Mark Paschal won matches at the state wrestling championships. 

Taiia Mokii won a sectional championship in the girls race walk, others set indoor track and field school records, and a trio of ice hockey players from Red Hook, Adam Jurkowski and Liam and Owen Maroney, helped Franklin D. Roosevelt win the Hudson Valley High School Ice Hockey Association championship.

Take a look back at a successful winter season for Red Hook:

Girls basketball

The Raiders, led by tri-captains Kent, Katie Boyd and Liv Christensen, defeated top-seeded Marlboro, 58-42, to win the Section 9 Class A championship, after earning Class B crowns the previous two years. They ended the season at 16-7, losing to eventual state finalist Walter Panas.

Kent was named Section 9 Class A Player of the Year. The 6-foot-1 junior averaged roughly 22 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

“Clearly everybody was targeting her, because everyone knows who Emilie is,” Hayes said. “She’s a heck of a player.”

Boyd, who Hayes called the team’s “floor general and emotional leader,” and Kent were both named to Section 9’s Top 50 list and Mid-Hudson Athletic League all-stars.

“She is one of the most competitive kids that I’ve coached at any level,” Hayes said of the senior Boyd. “She was all about winning.”

Christensen hit two of the biggest shots of the season in the final against Marlboro, Hayes said, a 3-pointer to extend the Red Hook lead to 10 before halftime and another coming out of the break.

“I was happy she had those moments,” Hayes said. “Liv was not one of our leading scorers, but she did the intangibles.”

Though they lose Boyd and Christensen to graduation, Hayes said the team has “the potential to have another good team next year.”

Boys basketball

After starting the year 9-3, injuries and youth caught up with the Raiders, who held a perch atop the division until a loss to New Paltz late in the season. They finished 11-7, losing to Beacon in the Class A playoffs.

“By the end of the year, we saw great growth individually and collectively. Everything we accomplished, we did so as a team,” said first-year coach Kevin Cayea, a longtime assistant to former coach Matt Hayes. He noted the sophomore-heavy group did not lose a game by double-digits. “From top to bottom this team competed every minute they stepped on the floor together, including practice.”

Cayea said the goal next season is “to build on the growth and development we achieved this year in order to take our next step toward being a championship contender.”

Owen Daniels stands atop the podium after winning the Section 9 100 backstroke.

Boys swimming and diving

Red Hook’s roster ballooned this season, with nine of the 17 swimmers new to the team, and the Raiders compiled a 9-2 regular-season record. Ten individuals qualified for the Section 9 championships, with junior Owen Daniels winning a title in the 100-yard backstroke.

Daniels (100 backstroke and 200 individual medley), Sam Button (100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley), Edmund Wilson (50 freestyle and 100 backstroke) and the 200 medley relay of Daniels, Button, Wilson and Keizo Chen-Suzuki all qualified for the state championships. There, Daniels placed eighth in the backstroke and Wilson finished 18th in the backstroke and 26th in the freestyle.

Daniels called sectionals the highlight of the season.

“It was just a great vibe,” he said, noting how many of his teammates qualified this year. Though, he admits making a state final “was a lot of fun. Walking out and hearing everyone cheering, it was a great experience.”

Coach Mackenzie Dabo praised Daniels as the team “MVP who stepped up as a team leader in the water and on-deck,” but said the program’s third season “was incredible at every level.” She noted Wilson, a SUNY Geneseo-bound senior, became the program’s first member to sign a National Letter of Intent to swim in college.

“With a strong group of six upcoming seniors, next year may be better than this year if things go right,” she said.

Indoor track and field

In addition to winning the Section 9 championship, Mokii had the 55th fastest time in the 1,500-meter race walk in the nation this season, 8:48.6. 

Five school records were broken: Vincent Smaldone set the marks for the boys 1,000- (2:44.89) and 1,600-meter (4:43.38) runs; Taylor Kabat reset the record for the girls 55-meter dash (7.8 seconds); Izzy Faraldi broke the girls high jump mark by four inches (4 feet, 6 inches); and Gianna Wanzer took the record for the girls weight throw (25 feet, 10 inches).

“Athletes were able to set and make personal goals, such as increasing distances and reducing steps between hurdles. I am very proud of all of them,” coach Kim Goldhirsch said, noting she expects another strong year in 2024-25.

Wrestling

In a rebuilding year after graduating seven Raiders, Red Hook took second in the Section 9 meet and earned a 9-5 dual-meet record. 

Celestine (124 pounds) and Paschal (285) both won Section 9 Division II championships; for the junior Celestine it was a second title in as many years. Paschal, a senior, won three matches at the state meet in Albany and Celestine won two.

Shane Cranna, a senior who was recovering from a football injury, placed second at 138 pounds, and Emanuel Celaya Lavariega – who “came out of nowhere this year,” coach Nick Fredericks said – finished third at 285.

“We saw a lot of growth for each wrestler, between November and February. It was a year of ups and downs, which you expect from such a young team, but they continued to work hard,” Fredericks said. “Next year, I expect a lot of success from our returners and a solid group of wrestlers coming up from the modified team. The goal is to win a sectional championship as a team, and send wrestlers up to states in Albany and place.”