Manhasset Middle School Cross Country Comes Home

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New Cross Country Course Spearheaded by two Girl Scouts 

Necessity is the mother of invention, or so it was for two Girl Scout Cadettes attending Manhasset Middle School. Katherine Stackler and Sophia Stefanakis became friends on the Middle School Cross Country Team in seventh grade. They loved everything about the cross country team, except for the fact that there were never any home meets. The problem was that Manhasset didn’t have a cross country course. So, in eighth grade, the girls came up with an idea: what if they proposed and helped create a cross country course for the Manhasset Middle School team? Perhaps this could be the perfect Girl Scout Silver Award project. Stackler is a member of Troop 530 of Manhasset, and Stefanakis is a member of Troop 4402 of Greater NY.
Stefanakis and Steckler met with their coach, Earth Science teacher Russell Ainbinder, to pitch their idea. Coach Ainbinder supported it fully from the start, and agreed to serve as their project advisor. Eventually, Stefanakis and Stackler also met with the Director of Interscholastic Athletics, Physical Education and Health Services for the Manhasset School District, James Amen.
“We really appreciate how supported we were,” said Stackler. “Coach Ainbinder and Mr. Amen probably have hundreds of other things to worry about, but they gave this project their attention and met with us regularly.”
The girls used software that shows an aerial view of a property with measurements to create course suggestions, which they then walked carefully, and adjusted. The course had to be safe, and could not traverse any parking lots.
“Because of our campus’ shape and parking lots, it was tricky coming up with the course. It involved a lot of trial and error, but we kept adjusting the course together. We learned a lot,” said Stefanakis. On June 27, Amen gave the course his final approval, and he gave the girls a celebratory ride around the course in his golf cart.
After many months of planning, “We accomplished our goal,” said the girls. “It is very exciting to bring it home for the Manhasset Middle School boys and girls cross country teams, with two home meets on the new course this fall!”
On Monday, Oct. 15, and Thursday, Oct. 18, Manhasset Middle School hosted its first-ever cross country meets, two very successful events.
Following the first home meet, Amen commented, “It certainly has been a challenge putting this together, but with the assistance of coach and teacher Russ Ainbinder and Stackler and Stefanakis, it all came together on Monday, Oct. 15, our first ever Manhasset Middle School Cross Country Meet.”
“Last week we had over 300 athletes run on the cross country course that Stefanakis and Stackler helped come to fruition,” said Coach Ainbinder. “These two young ladies, after running on my cross country team, had the desire to help create a course they would never benefit from, so those that followed them could feel the pride of having their community cheer them on as they competed on their home course.”
The Girl Scout Silver Award is the highest award a Cadette (a Girl Scout in sixth, seventh or eighth grade) can earn. Through a several step process, a girl arrives at identifying a problem in her community that she cares about and wants to help fix. She makes a plan and, with the help of a project advisor, puts it into motion. The project must take each Girl Scout a minimum of 50 hours, and helps girls learn valuable leadership, communication, prioritization, planning and reporting skills. The project must have enduring value to the community.

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Elizabeth Johnson is former editor of Manhasset Press and Manhasset Press Magazine. Growing up in nearby Garden City and attending New York University, she is well-versed in the locale and knowledgeable about the beat she covers. Her community involvement is extensive and includes the Manhasset SCA, Kiwanis International, Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, St. Mary’s Church, and various civic and local charitable organizations. Curious by nature, her travels, community service, love of the arts as well as local sports give her the inside view to unique content. During her time at Anton, she has received several awards from the New York Press Association and the Press Club of LI, including the coveted "Best Community Newspaper" several years in a row.

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