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Monday, Dec. 3, 2012: Shenendehowa mourns after crash kills 2 students

   Leading off today: Students and teachers are planning a candlelight vigil Tuesday to remember Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers, both 17, Shenendehowa students killed Saturday in a crash on the Northway.

   The gathering will also give friends a way to show support for schoolmate Matt Hardy and Bailey Wind, a Shaker student, who were injured when the vehicle the four were riding in was hit by another vehicle.

   State police told The Times Union that Dennis Drue apparently caused the accident as he switched lanes, rear-ending Stewart's SUV and launching the vehicle across the highway. Drue, 22, suffered cuts to his head was treated at Ellis Hospital. Troopers said Drue failed an alcohol screening test at the scene and that charges are pending.

   State Police BCI Capt. Steve James said Drue could be charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter, felonies punishable by a combined maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. Toxicology results for Drue are pending.

   The four students had been returning home from the Times Union Center in Albany, where Albany and Siena had played a men's basketball game.    Rivers played softball for Shenendehowa and kept score for the boys basketball games. Hardy and Wind, both 17, suffered broken bones and were in serious condition in an area hospital Sunday night. Hardy plays football, basketball and baseball for Shen; Wind recently signed a letter of intent to continue her diving career at the University of Tennessee.

   Stewart was a captain on the football team, a starter on the offensive and defensive lines who had received all-league honors and under consideration for all-area teams.

   "Chris had a larger-than-life personality," Plainsmen coach Brian Clawson told the newspaper. "You take away the athletic side and celebrate Chris as a person, he had a concern for everyone, and that's why he was so loved in the community."

   The day after Clawson was chosen in February as the new head coach, Stewart sent him a congratulatory email offering "anything I can do in terms of the team."

   Clawson said the football team would retire Stewart's No. 69 jersey.

   More: In many respects, sportswriters have it made -- and we know it. The hours are long, but we watch great players competing in great games and get paid to write about them.

   The other side of the job, though, is dealing with the tragedy being felt in the capital region (and in Kansas City as well in the wake of Saturday's murder-suicide, for that matter). There is no worse task in our job than having to impose on family and friends in their time of grief, asking them to talk about their loved ones.

   In that department, James Allen at The Times Union did a tremendous job in a column remembering time spent watching and interacting with Chris Stewart. I implore you to take a moment to read his words.

   Too good? Do not be surprised to see the issue of mixed competition -- already a hot topic -- dominate the high school sports conversation over the next year in light of the


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latest development on Long Island.

   Two weeks after helping lead Southampton to the NYSPHSAA girls Class C final, freshman Keeling Pilaro, 14, was added to the roster for the U.S. men's Under-17 team that lost three games to Canada last week in California by a combined 19-2 score.

   Pilaro has been the subject of controversy after his family moved stateside in 2010 and he scored 10 goals for Southampton in the 2011 season. Last spring, Section 11 initially ruled him to be too skilled to continue playing against girls under the somewhat vague guideline about "adversely affect(ing) the girls opportunities to play and succeed."

   The ruling was appealed and overturned in May, and Pilaro finished with four goals and eight assists this fall.

   In order to play again in 2013, Pilaro faces another evaluation process in Section 11. It may be tough for those making the decision on his eligibility to overlook the line on Pilaro's resume that sees he trained and played with the men's U-17 squad, though USA Field Hockey Executive Director Steve Locke told Newsday this spring that he supports the youth.

   If he's not overpowering or posing a danger, and he's out-finessing some of the girls, him competing might be good for the game," Locke said at that time. "It's good to have someone there of that quality because (opponents) can learn from him."

   More on mixed competition: Boys playing volleyball on girls teams has been the big mixed-competition issue across the state the last two years. Historically, girls have competed in a number of boys sports including wrestling and ice hockey.

   All the while, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association has caught a fair amount of flack over the lack of consistent rules and philosophies across the respective sections, but the truth is that it's not the organization's place to set down new standards.

   As a sectional-level source explained to me in the fall, the decision has to come down from the state's Department of Education. At the moment, that agency is completely overwhelmed with No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and any other number of responsibilities. Anything relating to sports isn't going to make it onto their to-do list for a long time.

   We'll see if that changes, though, next summer. There is a mixed-competition situation now working its way through the system that will take the discussion to a whole new level.

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