Jessie and Sarah Tarantino, one and two in their graduating class at East Aurora High School and standouts on the basketball, lacrosse and soccer teams there for the past four seasons, will be arriving at Hobart and William Smith Colleges this fall as members of the Classes of 2012. The twins were the subject of a recent retrospective in the East Aurora Advertiser. The article quotes several of their coaches about the girls’ athletic skills and sportsmanship. It also notes that they were both awarded the William and Diane Green Endowed Scholarship. The Scholarship is one of the largest annual scholarships at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The full article follows.
East Aurora Advertiser “End of an Era As Tarantinos Graduate” Rick Ohler • June 12, 2008 We all knew it had to end sooner or later. The Tarantino twins’ inspiring run of athletic (not to mention academic and extracurricular) excellence that began back in the soccer season of September 2003 (when they were in eighth grade) and continued unbroken through succeeding basketball, lacrosse and soccer seasons finally ended last Wednesday night June 4, when Jessie and Sarah played their final game for East Aurora High School. It wasn’t the finish they had dreamed about–a loss in the Section VI lacrosse finals, and there were plenty of tears on the bus ride home. Still, it marked the end of two careers the likes of which we are not likely to see again anytime soon: 26 varsity letters between them in their three sports, nine ECIC Division IV titles, seven Section VI titles, one heart-stopping New York State title in basketball and countless post-season honors from ECIC, Section VI, Western New York and New York State. Most importantly, along the way they have managed to earn the respect and admiration of their teammates, coaches, opponents, community, and the sports world beyond East Aurora. Luckily, just before the twins pulled off their spikes for the last time I sat down with them for an interview. I thought it would be only proper that I invite their coaches-Tom Cashmore, soccer; Chris Koselny, basketball; Christine Schutrum, lacrosse-their principal, Dr. James Hoagland; and their athletic director, Fred Thornley, so they would be in comfortable surroundings and more apt to talk about their years as Blue Devils. However, a funny thing happened when I turned on the tape recorder. The adults in the room did much of the talking. Sure, when I asked the girls about their highlight moments, both mentioned the 2007 state basketball championship where they needed overtime in the semifinals against Wyandanch before winning 56-55, and then came out the next day and played South Jefferson to draw in regulation before pulling off a dramatic overtime win, 44-41. As well there was the satisfying 4-3 victory over arch-nemesis Grand Island in soccer this fall. And they talked at length about their passion for the games, their work ethic, their aggressive, warrior attitude that will forever be their trademark. They are impressive, articulate speakers and effervescent personalities who light up a room like Roman candles when they enter. But at every turn a coach would chime in, eager to explain just how special the “Ts” have been. Coach Cashmore said it had been a “privilege” to coach them. “What separates them from most high school athletes is that they rise to the pressure and take criticism as well as praise.” He continued, “There are plenty of good athletes out there. Some have huge heads and are in it for themselves, but these two would pass the ball to win rather than to shoot and maybe break a record. They never cared about their statistics. They are team players, playing injured, never giving up.” Chris Koselny said that special talents like theirs, “raise the coach’s expectations for all the athletes on a team,” driving the level of play higher and higher. It is telling to note that when I asked Coach Koselny about the girls’ career stats, he provided an impressive collection: Jessie- 789 points, 333 assists, 402 rebounds, 318 steals; Sarah- 587 points, 158 assists, 361 rebounds, 212 steals. Then he added, ” Neither Sarah or Jessie ever asked to see their career stats. They truly cared about wins and losses.” In lacrosse, a relatively new sport at East Aurora High School, Coach Schutrum said of the twins, “We don’t have a lot of pretty stick skills, but EA produces these unbelievable athletes who follow your lead. And you two feel no pain. You get checked from behind, hit hard in the head, but you get up and score. No one loves to win and hates to lose more than these two. But nothing bores them more than an easy win or excites them more than a hard-fought one. It’s not the stats, not the numbers. It’s the magic they bring to the team.” Marty Wangelin, veteran Advertiser photographer, reflected on the Tarantinos from his perspective, explaining that at each of the many, many games he covers for the paper, he looks for the best action photo. It’s not that he set out to get a shot of Jessie or Sarah, but more often than not, the best action-be it soccer, basketball or lacrosse-came from one of the twins. Principal Hoagland talked about the whole school community coming together during the 2007 march to the state championship. During the Friday (March 16, 2007) semifinal against Wyandanch, Kurt Kvandal had worked some tech wizardry to allow classrooms to have the game on monitors. Throughout the building everyone watched the game with rapt attention, sprinting from class to class to avoid missing a second of the action. For the Saturday final, Dr. Hoagland opened the cafeteria to the public and people came streaming in to watch closed-circuit TV of our girls going for the gold. “That was unique,” he said. “I’ve never seen that in 25 years.” Even as they leave their hometown next fall for Hobart and William Smith Colleges, there will be an East Aurora connection for the Tarantinos, thanks to the generosity of former Town of Aurora Supervisor Bill Green, his wife Dianne, and their four sons William (Boo), Kevin (Kelly), Matthew and Andrew (Rope). Last August the Green boys presented their parents with a 50th wedding anniversary gift: the William and Dianne Green Endowed Scholarship. It is the largest annual scholarship at HWS and covers all expenses for the four-year program. Bill Green explained that the scholarship was intended for one recipient per year. But after looking at the credentials of Jessie and Sarah and their accomplishments in academics (they are number one and two in their class), athletics, community and school activities, the family concluded that both girls were equally deserving. As we finished our talk, Sarah and Jessie both talked almost wistfully about the amazing ride that has been the last five years. Then we wondered about how it might be going forward for them. After all, they have been big fish in a hometown pond for years and years. Maybe success won’t come as regularly in big-time college athletics. But Coach Schutrum summed up the Tarantinos with a final anecdote. During a recent lacrosse game when her girls were beating a poor team quite handily, she told them to be good sports, to remember what it’s like to lose. “Because,” she said, “we’ve all had losing seasons.” Then after the game the twins came up to her and said, “You know, we’ve never been on a losing team.”