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Chautauqua Lake celebrates athletic success

December 31, 2015
By Cody Crandall ( , Westfield Republican

During the 2014-15 school year, a plethora of exceptionally gifted student-athletes and successful teams called Chautauqua Lake Central School home.

The accolades - which include 11 student-athletes obtaining all-state recognition and numerous league, sectional and Far West Regional titles - earned by those talented student-athletes and various teams were honored Tuesday, when a total of 16 new banners were hung in the school's gymnasium.

"At Chautauqua Lake, developing and sustaining the athletic program has been important to our school board and superintendent," said Josh Liddell, Chautauqua Lake's supervisor of athletics programs."In addition to their full support, the community has rallied around our sports teams and has been influential in our improvement process. Parents and community members have worked with our coaches to get some great youth programs up and running. Our athletes are now coming to the modified and JV levels with a solid, fundamental skill set."

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Alumni athletes and their coaches recently gathered at Chautauqua Lake Central School to celebrate the 16 banners hung in the Competition Gym recognizing State qualifiers and All-State athletes, as well as team championship records set in 2014-15, a record number in the history of the school. Front row, left to right, are All-State athletes A.J. Hulton, Chandler Baker and David Applegarth, football; Ashton Albanesius, Jenna Einink and Courtney Hewes, basketball; Nick Hudson, wrestling; Trent Howard, track; Cody Latimer, golf; and Ryleigh Hawkins, softball. Standing are coaches Ed Hulton and Adam Erickson, football; secondary school principal Josh Liddell, who supervises athletics programs; coaches Eric Schuster and Bill Persons, girls’ basketball; Joanne Meadows and David Sturm, volleyball; Brad Rowe, wrestling; Mike Rohlin, track and field; Steve Johnston, golf; Sue Teets, softball; and superintendent Ben Spitzer.

Superintendent Ben Spitzer echoed the sentiments of Liddell.

"Chautauqua Lake was very fortunate to experience a year in which so many of our most talented athletes earned the recognition of their peers and the community at large," Spitzer said. "Their success was a rare combination of quality student athletes demonstrating the best they had to offer and outstanding coaches who gave their all to support their teams and team leaders."

The 2014 Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake football team was honored for its Class C South league championship, Section 6 Class C title, and Far West Regional title. Individual accomplishments on the 2014 Thunder Dragons team included Ryan Miller, A.J. Hulton and Chandler Baker being named first-team all-state selections, while teammate David Applegarth was named an honorable mention all-state choice. That quartet of players, who were all students at Chautauqua Lake, are arguably the four best football players to ever walk through the halls at CLCS.

"The administration here is the supporting role," said Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake assistant coach Ed Hulton. "They have supported this merger (between Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake) and defined this merger right from the get-go. From the superintendent, to the athletic director, to the principal, they have been very supportive of the whole thing.

"(2014) was a very special run," Hulton added. "That was special and my son (A.J.) was on the team, too."

Miller and Hulton are currently both on the football team at Edinboro, while Baker is attending school at Colorado Mesa University.

The 2014-15 Lady Thunderbirds basketball team was also honored for its Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 West title, Section 6 Class C championship and Far West Regional title. It was another amazing season for the Lady Thunderbirds, just one season after claiming a Class C state title in 2013-14. Jenna Einink was a first team all-state selection, while Courtney Hewes (fourth team) and Ashton Albanesius (third team) were both rewarded for their outstanding seasons with all-state recognition.

"A lot of it comes down to hard work certainly," said girls basketball coach Eric Schuster. "You can be the best player and if you don't put the time into it, you aren't going to make it that far. These kids did. More than anything, just their overall attitude, they just did not like to lose."

Einink is currently enjoying an outstanding freshman season on the hardwood at SUNY Fredonia, while Hewes and Albanesius are both attending Jamestown Community College.

Trent Howard, now a student-athlete along with Einink at SUNY Fredonia, was recognized as a state qualifier in track and field, while Nick Hudson was a sectional wrestling champ at 138 pounds and a state qualifier. Cody Latimer, a former member of the golf team, placed second in sectionals in 2015 and was honored for a top-10 finish in the state tournament. Latimer is now attending school at Jamestown CC. Finally, Ryleigh Hawkins, a former member of the Lady Thunderbirds softball team, was a fifth-team all-state selection in 2015 and she is now going to school at Penn State Behrend.

The remaining team banners that were hung Tuesday were a CCAA Division 1 title for the Chautauqua Lake wrestling team, a Class D West Division title for the volleyball team and a sectional championship for the softball team.

What has allowed Chautauqua Lake to become essentially a powerhouse throughout its whole athletic program? According to Liddell, along with the support of the board and community, there are several reasons.

"Another key to our success has been the addition of students from Ripley," Liddell said. "When they arrived at Chautauqua Lake, our teams saw some substantial improvements. The student-athletes from Ripley have been key pieces to the puzzle for many of our teams."

Also, a critical component of any successful high school athletic program is good coaches and there are an abundance at Chautauqua Lake.

"One of the most important things we have been able to do is recruit good coaches who are passionate about winning and doing it the right way," Liddell explained. "Every summer the coaching staff meets to set athletic goals for the coming year."

The prosperous sports teams at Chautauqua Lake now certainly complement the school's solid academic program and curriculum as well.

"I feel there has been a direct correlation to the improvements in our school's academic performance and overall school spirit because of our success in the athletic arena," Liddell said. "It has been great to see the athletic and academic cultures support each other in such a positive way, and we are going to continue to do everything we can to keep improving."



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