West Hartford Students Highlighted at CIAC Scholar-Athlete Awards Ceremony

The 2019-2020 CIAC Scholar-Athletes are being honored this year in a virtual awards ceremony.

By Ronni Newton

The 360 high schools seniors from 183 schools across Connecticut who have been selected as the CAS-CIAC Scholar-Athletes for 2019-2020 would have been attending a banquet Sunday at the Aqua Turf in Southington, celebrating their accomplishments with about 1,700 family, friends, and fellow scholar-athletes.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the live event, held every year since 1984, was canceled, but that in no way diminishes the accomplishments of these outstanding athletes, said John Holt of the CAS-CIAC.

The virtual banquet, begins airing at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 3, on FOX61 and GameTimeCT.com (Hearst Media), and can also be seen on YouTube through the link below.

The virtual banquet, which runs just under 30 minutes and is hosted by retired ESPN Radio personality and four-time Connecticut Sportscaster of the Year Bob Picozzi, features many elements of the traditional banquet but also a few key additions, including congratulatory messages from Rebecca Lobo and other prominent current and former professional athletes and Connecticut sports figures.

Keynote speaker is Anna Mahon, a former Olympian and current principal of Amity Regional High School. The program also features a profile of Haley Lespier from Maloney High School, the 2020 Michael H. Savage Spirit of Sport Award winner, as well as several compelling scholar-athletes stories.

Holt said West Hartford viewers should be especially interested in the 6:19 mark in the program, when CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini, speaking about some of the special moments and highlights of the year, says ” … or when Conard’s big no. 77, Pete Simplicio …”

Simplicio and Cate Di Giacomo were named Conard High School’s CIAC Scholar-Athletes for 2019-2020. Hall High School’s honorees are Jenna Zydanowicz and Emily Cubbage, and Northwest Catholic CIAC Scholar-Athletes are Allison Tessman and Dominick Mealha.

Traditionally, schools choose one male and one female athlete to be honored whose academic and athletic careers have been exemplary, whose personal standards and achievements are a model to others, and who possess high levels of integrity, self-discipline and courage.”

This year, Hall chose two female athletes. Principal Dan Zittoun said the following in an email to We-Ha.com: “We are proud to recognize Jenna and Emily as Hall’s CIAC Scholar-Athletes for the 2019-20 school year. The CIAC allows each member school to select two student-athletes who exemplify excellence in both academics and athletics. Traditionally, a male and female are selected for this award. This year we felt both Jenna and Emily exemplified the qualities associated with this award and did not limit our selection solely by gender.”

Some winter sports competition was completed but others were halted mid-tournament when the CIAC canceled all remaining events for the season on March 10. A decision has yet to be finalized regarding spring sports, although officials have said that if sports are held, it will be just during the month of June and no tournaments will take place.

“When the time is right, Connecticut will play again (#CTwillplayagain),” Lungarini said during the virtual banquet.

Viewers are also being encouraged to share their support for honorees through social media, by sharing screenshots at tweeting to @CIACSports using the hashtag #SchAth20.

The complete list of 2019-2020 CAS CIAC Scholar-Athletes can be found here.

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