Athlete of the Month: Maddie Healey

By Steve Svetovich

Work harder than your competition. 

That is how you become an All Regional swimmer three years in a row.

Dunmore senior swimmer Maddie Healey is that swimmer. 

Daughter of Georgia and Joseph Healey, Dunmore, Maddie, 17, had the top qualifying time in the 100-yard backstroke with her school record (58.58) and seeded fourth in the 200 free (2:02:14), but could not compete in the post season due to a shutdown of athletics at school because of COVID-19. 

Maddie was expected to compete at a high level in districts and state competition, so the shutdown was a disappointment. 

However, she was honored with her third consecutive All Regional selection. 

She will attend Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York in the fall on a scholarship. She will study chemistry and be a member of the swimming team at Marist College.

“I’m excited about it,” Maddie said. “I am excited to see what the next four years will bring. I will see if all of my hard work pays off.

“I can’t wait to be a part of the swimming team there. Chemistry is a broad major. I am not sure what I will eventually do with it, but it is a strong academic major and it will provide me with a range of decisions.”

Well spoken and personable, Maddie has a 3.65 grade point average at Dunmore. Not surprisingly, her best and favorite academic subject is chemistry. She is a member of the National Honor Society. 

Maddie said her parents teach her a lot. “They teach me to always work very hard and respect my elders.”

The senior stalwart swimmer said she likes listening to music in her spare time and would like to see Post Malone in concert.

She talked about what it takes to be a good swimmer.

“It takes a lot of hard work. There is a lot of talent out there, but you need to put in the work and out work the competition. 

“You need to work harder than anyone else.”

Maddie is a four-year member of the Dunmore swimming team. She has been swimming competitively since age 11 in the Dunmore Middle School. She is also a member of the Dunmore cross country team. She has been participating in cross country since seventh grade and was named “Runner of the Year” at Dunmore the past four years.

She was named MVP of the Dunmore swimming team the past three years.

Maddie this past February scored the 1,000th point of her career as a swimmer. With a time of 58.58 seconds, she broke the school backstroke record set by Coleen Brown in 2019. The previous record was 01.01.03. 

“It was an incredible feeling,” she said. 

Maddie said she and her teammates were heartbroken when a COVID-19 outbreak cancelled Dunmore’s post season.,”All of our hard work was just taken away from us. We were all heartbroken. We were so much looking forward to it.”

Last year the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the state playoffs for Dunmore. Maddie had placed fourth in the 200 freestyle and third in the 500 freestyle in districts as a junior.

Her swimming coach at Dunmore is John Andreoli. “He teaches us a lot of life lessons,” Maddie said. “He tells us to always be there for each other and the team is most important.”

The articulate, hard working senior talked about what it takes to excel as a swimmer.

“You need to dedicate yourself to swimming and put in the time. You need to work hard in and out of the pool. You need to work on both your training and diet. Diet and eating the right food is a big factor. Plus your training out of the pool is a big aspect of it.”

Maddie talked about her Dunmore experience. “Well, due to the COVID pandemic the past year and a half is not what I expected. None of us did. But it has been a great four years to be a part of Dunmore High School and the swimming team. Dunmore is a great school. We are all obviously disappointed in not being able to compete in the post season. I am looking forward to attending Marist in the fall.” 

Mia Chiaro Named Scholar-Athlete of the Year by LIAA

Mia Chiaro2By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore High School graduating senior Mia Chiaro is the recipient of the Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association (LIAA) female scholar-athlete of the year award.

“I was really excited when I heard about this,” Mia said. “It was a big moment for me and everyone else because of all the disappointments we had in sports this year due to COVID-19. It was nice to be recognized for something after going through all of that.”

Daughter of Alyssa and Nick Chiaro, Dunmore, the scholar-athlete was a key participant at Dunmore for soccer, swimming and track and field. She was also a football cheerleader. She had a 3.8 grade point average, including a 99 average in her final two quarters.

Mia was first-team all-star for track and field in her sophomore and junior years. She was a first-team all-star for soccer once and second-team twice. 

She ran the 100 meter and 300 meter hurdles and participated in the 4 by 1 and 4 by 4 for the Dunmore track and field team.

She credits her swimming coach John Andreoli for being a strong mentor. “He really cares about us,” Mia said. “He inspired us to be better. He had a talk with us that really gave us confidence and got us motivated. We became highly competitive and we kept improving to become an excellent swimming team. We had a great team bond. I will never forget the lessons learned and the spirit of our team.”

Mia, well spoken and articulate, said she will attend the University of Pittsburgh and study political science in the fall. She wants to attend law school in the future.

“I want to become a lawyer and possibly become a politician in the future,” she said. “I hope to play some club soccer at Pitt.” 

Mia enjoys listening to music and is a big fan of Kanye West. 

Mia Chiaro1As a three-sport athlete and cheerleader, she proved to be highly versatile. “I like to be involved and active,” she said. “So that is a no brainer for me. I like being a part of something special. And as most know, being a part of any sport at Dunmore usually results in something special. The coaches here teach you so much about sports and life. And the teammates you have result in lifetime friendships. You develop a great bond with your teammates.”

Mia said she gets her competitive spirit from her parents.

“My parents always tell me nothing gets handed to you. You need to work hard to develop a competitive work ethic.”

The aspiring law student and politician lit up when speaking of her experience at Dunmore High School. “You get a lot of opportunities to express yourself and get involved at Dunmore,” she said. “You develop lifelong friendships and you are a part of something special. All of the sports you participate in at Dunmore are special. 

“Our coaches and teachers at Dunmore teach us to be competitive on and off the field and in life. And this all translates to life as you transition beyond high school. It is such a great experience at Dunmore.”

Homes Away from Home

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Shown from left are Adrian Danchenko, Palm City, Florida; Lenny Zubrickas; Christina Zubrickas, holding baby Reed Joseph; Roseann Zubrickas; and Tyrone Bronte, Australia.

By John Andreoli

Often the quest to excel is carried out quietly.  At all levels of organized sports, athletes can go about their daily lives in relative anonymity.  Their goals and the path to achieving them may differ, but their attitudes and dedication are much the same.  In this highly specialized world, it almost always takes extreme personal sacrifice to rise amongst the ranks.

For the members of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights hockey team the struggle entails another often worrisome detail many athletes are lucky to take for granted—a place to live and three square meals a day.  Young players who hail from various parts of the United States and all over the world forego many of the luxuries most teenagers take for granted in their pursuit of a college scholarship or a possible career in hockey.  Cyber schooling is often sandwiched amongst multiple daily practices all while being far from the comforts of home. While social media can be a great help, long distance relationships with friends and family in different states and countries can be difficult to maintain. Homesickness can be a daily tribulation that many of us are fortunate enough to not have to consider.

Roseann Zubrickas is the Billet Coordinator for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights and places young athletes with families around the area.  The young men, generally in their mid-to-late teens, are responsible for getting themselves back and forth to practice and games at the Revolution Ice Centre as well as whatever costs are associated with personal care and/or luxury items.  What they require is simple: A bed, a place to keep their clothes, and three meals per day. They do require internet access to keep up with their studies, as well.

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Adrian Danchenko from Palm City, Florida

While being close to their practice facilities is most convenient, players in the past have lived as far as a 40-minute drive away.  Families that sponsor a young hockey player (or multiple players at once) receive a monthly stipend of $400 per month for each player.  Sometimes housing two players at once is easier as they can travel together and keep each other company.

Their season runs from August through May, though the time they spend at a potential home may vary depending upon where they are at in their schooling.

“We’ve placed players in all different sorts of living situations, whether they be conventional two parent families or single parent families.  We’ve had a lot of success placing the kids with “empty nesters” or those whose adult children have moved out and have a spare bedroom.”

While a potential host family may have concerns about how players spend their downtime, Roseann assures them that the players’ behavior is monitored both on and off the ice and that their coaches have a zero-tolerance policy related to misconduct.  As members of a junior hockey club, the young men are not just developing their talents, but are also learning how to become mature adults who are accountable for their actions.

Those interested in hosting a player fill out a questionnaire regarding household rules and responsibilities that are expected to be maintained.  Roseann meets with the players and potential hosts to ensure that the two are a proper fit. In her own home, she keeps in contact with the players’ families who have themselves come to visit, as well. The host families are strongly encouraged to notify the coaching staff should any issues arise. As the Billet Coordinator, Roseann also keeps in close contact with hosts to make certain that a clear standard of conduct is met.

The billet program for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights provides a unique opportunity for people to share their homes and lives with young men who have sacrificed a great deal to pursue their dreams.  As such, the comfort and care provided by a host family is often what they need the most.

“They’re not just tenants or roommates.  You keep in touch with these kids and follow their progress.  You learn about where they’re from and invest in their goals. You care about them and vice-versa.  They become family.”

To find out more, please call Roseanne Zubrickas at (570) 499-6393 or email her at rzubrickas@comcast.net.