Lawrence: Fifty and counting
This year is the 51st annual Girls Sportsnite at Lawrence High School. Saturday, March 31, the Gold West Coast will face off against the Blue East Coast in what looks to be an exciting and tense competition. Starting at 7:00 p.m., the girls will compete in various events, in front of judges and hundreds of fans.
According to Mrs. Epp, Assistant Principal at Lawrence High School, Sportsnite was started in 1961 for two reasons. "At the time there were no athletic teams for females,” she said. “There was no way for the female athletes to showcase their talents. They had intramural’s, but that was all."
Many girls were involved in intramural sports, yet there was no venue to showcase their talents. Additionally, "a female cheerleader died in a car accident and the family established a scholarship in her name. So Sportsnite funds continually supported the Lois Dickstein scholarship." Each year, the money collected from ticket sales goes to a deserving female athlete. This student receives a check at the start of each of her 4 years of college to offset the cost of books.
Sportsnite has evolved in the last half-century. "For instance, although the showcase was built each year, the artwork associated with the plaque was not introduced until 1974," said Mrs. Epp.
The showcase is on display in the main lobby of the high school and is in place for a week prior to Sportsnite. “After 9/11, former Sportsnite captain Cheryl Ciotti Ruggieri donated new tricycles in memory of her husband Joe, a member of the FDNY who perished in one of the towers. Those tricycles replaced the originals from 1961.”
The relays have changed over time but senior balloon and junior tricycle’s have been somewhat constant. At one point there was a drill routine but that has since been replaced with the more modern step routine.
Although other schools have a Sportsnite, Lawrence’s event is unique because of one special event, draping. "Many schools have no idea what this is and it remains one of the most interesting moments in each Sportsnite,” said Mrs. Epp. “Draping is when the teams have five minutes, using only paper, scissors and tape, to drape two models into a character associated with their theme. So although it was started in an effort to showcase the athletic abilities of our females, Sportsnite actually showcases talents in art, music, and dance in addition to athletics.”