BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Shenendehowa’s designees for the Suburban Council Excellence in Leadership and Sportsmanship Award came as no surprise to the two athletes’ respective coaches.
As those coaches saw it, well-respected seniors Thomas Huerter and Rachael Picchi were slam-dunk choices for the Plainsmen.
Tony Dzikas — Huerter’s basketball coach — and Jennifer Sykes — Picchi’s lacrosse coach — described the two athletes as being cut from the same cloth.
“Thomas, he just has tremendous people skills,” Dzikas said. “He’s very articulate . . . and he has such a personality and can relate to a lot of different types of people. That’s special about Thomas.”
But, also similar to Picchi.
“She’s such a charismatic person,” Sykes said. “She makes her teammates want to be around her. That’s a unique trait for a high school kid to possess.”
Huerter and Picchi were honored June 15 at a leaguewide reception. Each school in the Suburban Council was allotted a pair of nominees — one male, one female — for the award, with athletic director Chris Culnan making Huerter and Picchi the Shenendehowa winners.
Throughout their careers, Huerter and Picchi have been winners.
Picchi starred in both field hockey and lacrosse for the Plainsmen, helping to lead coach Jeanne Frevola’s field hockey team to a state title in 2013 before guiding the school’s girls’ lacrosse team to an appearance in the Section II championship game as a senior.
Meanwhile, Huerter played three years of varsity basketball and was one of the building blocks for this year’s run to a state championship. Huerter — who scored 22 points in the title game against Brentwood — was one of Shenendehowa’s captains for the first Plainsmen boys’ basketball team to win a Section II title since 1996 and state title since 1987.
Huerter had found out he was set to be honored for his sportsmanship and character at the Plainsmen basketball team’s end-of-season banquet. He laughed at the recollection.
“I had thought that night was going to be the end of awards for me,” he said.
Huerter is set to attend the Cheshire Academy in Connecticut this fall. There, Huerter will play basketball and likely will head to play NCAA Division I hoops the following year. Huerter has had several Division I schools interested in him, but had long been fixed on heading to a prep school for a year before going into college.
“It was about finding the right fit for him,” Dzikas said.
For Picchi, the future holds playing Division I field hockey for the University of Vermont. She will head to Burlington in early August to start her time with the Catamounts.
“Preseason is about 21⁄2 weeks,” Picchi said. “I’ll train with the team and then be ready to go.”
Sykes expects Picchi to contribute to her college squad right from the start, both with her play and her attitude.
“She was fun to coach every day,” she said.