By Mike Smith
A couple of local sports teams will have a decidedly different flavor this spring as the Tuckahoe school board approved two athletic mergers for the 2014 season at a meeting on Feb. 10. As a result, Tuckahoe’s girls will join forces with Eastchester’s lacrosse program and take on softball players from Bronxville for the upcoming season.
According to Tuckahoe Interim Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Rod Mergardt, merging programs is not a new notion in Section I athletics as schools often join up with neighboring towns due to lack of resources–either on the coaching or field availability fronts–or numbers. In the case of Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville, the two-team mergers should be beneficial to students at each school.
“Contrary to popular belief, neighboring schools, even if they might have a rivalry on the basketball court, are really good at working together for the students,” Mergardt said. “So we approached Jay Karol over at Eastchester, Karen Peterson approached us and we were all looking to help
Section I has had no shortage of combined teams in the last few years, notably with mergers of Lakeland and Walter Panas or similar cooperation with some of the Yonkers schools. Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville have previously combined programs in hockey and swimming.
According to Mergardt, there is a growing call for Tuckahoe to establish a girls lacrosse program of its own, and it would make sense to allow the half-dozen or so girls interested in playing a chance to combine with Eastchester’s own burgeoning program, which was instituted in 2010 in order to build its ranks.
“It’s helpful when you’re trying to start a new program,” Mergardt said. “This way, the kids who are interested can start to play and we can generate some interest and eventually start our own team.”
Eastchester, which has seen its girls lacrosse numbers decline somewhat, according to Eagles’ Athletic Director Jason Karol, has also had to deal with the closure of its turf field at the high school and will benefit from the use of Tuckahoe’s turf field.
“We have a number of girls interested in the program, especially at the younger levels,” Karol said. “And this is a way of keeping our program intact.”
Tuckahoe’s softball team, which fell to Haldane in the Class C section finals last year, will also welcome aboard a host of Bronxville players this year as both programs look to rebuild after being hit particularly hard by graduation.
“The goal for any program is to have the three teams, varsity, JV and modified,” Mergardt said. “We were hurting for numbers too and, hopefully, this will allow us to field three teams.”
Although the mergers have been approved by the school board, the teams are still awaiting the approval of a Section I executive board, which is slated to rule on the decision sometime this week. According to administrators, it does not seem like anything will hold up the process.
“These mergers usually work out for both teams and the fact is it’s a wonderfully wholesome situation working with the administrators because we do help each other out,” Mergardt said. “The bottom line is it’s going to best for our kids and when you keep it at that level, there should really be