Brooke Esposito is the rare kind of athlete who doesn’t need to play the sport her senior year of high school that she expects to compete in during her college career.
The Pierson senior opted to play field hockey this past fall season and run cross country, instead of playing on East Hampton’s girls soccer team, even though she’s set to play soccer at Manhattanville College in Harrison, New York, this fall.
It speaks to Esposito’s overall athleticism, being that she has played five different varsity sports throughout her career in basketball, cross country, field hockey, soccer and softball.
“In a year where she had two of her sports (basketball and softball) taken away from her for various reasons, she still competed in three sports her senior year, two of which were basically played in a month,” which was largely due to the fairly new dual-athlete program, Pierson Athletic Director Eric Bramoff said. The program is in its second year of existence and allows small Conference IV schools such as Pierson to allow a student-athlete to play two different sports in one season.
Esposito played field hockey and ran cross country in the same fall season in March and April.
“Brooke is a tremendous athlete,” Bramoff reiterated. “She has a drive and I just think she thoroughly enjoys playing sports. I think she can walk on to any field hockey team in college and she’ll make the team and play. But I think she can play any sport in college.”
The dual-athlete program at Pierson had a direct effect on the girls cross country team winning its second consecutive county title this fall season, which occurred in March and April because of the pandemic. While the Whalers had the top runner in the county in Penelope Greene, along with strong runners in Hannah Ramundo and Abby Sherwood, those were the only runners on the team, which doesn’t meet the requirements of having at least five runners.
Bramoff and Pierson girls cross country head coach Jim Kinnier knew they had some work to do to recruit some athletes for the team, and although Esposito had played soccer for Pierson in the fall of 2019, she, along with fellow field hockey teammate Eva McKelvey and volleyball player Grace Flanagan, decided they would all become dual athletes for the sake of not only the program, but for Greene, who everyone knew was the top runner in the county but needed a chance to prove it.
The result was a second consecutive county title for the girls cross country team, and Greene won back-to-back individual county titles.
“We all came together pushing to get a team for Penelope,” Esposito said. “We kind of did do it for Penelope so she could win counties.”
Kinnier said that working with Esposito “was an absolute pleasure.”
“She is one of the most mature athletes I have ever coached,” he said. “She loves to compete. I was very cautious with her, and the other two shared-sports athletes, Grace Flanagan and Eva McKelvey, but Brooke didn’t think what she was doing — running a race in the early afternoon followed by field hockey after traveling for an hour and a half — was all that challenging. She always presented herself as up to the task.
“I can only imagine she is the same with her other coaches,” Kinnier continued. “Whoever gets her, is getting a gem.”
About 24 hours after winning a cross country title, Esposito and McKelvey won another county title with the field hockey team.
“It was cool,” Esposito said of winning two county titles in a span of 24 hours. “I think after that, I was really tired. With cross country, because you need the higher places to score the lower points, Penelope wanted to win it and we all did, we all had a great race. Even then, after cross country, I could remember Eva and I went to field hockey practice and Grace had to go to volleyball practice.”
Bramoff said the dual-athlete program is not for every school, but it’s certainly a boon for small schools that need to maximize the potential of every athlete it has at its disposal.
“It’s been really successful from our standpoint, where 50 percent of the cross country team was participating in different sports, and I think we could possibly see that trend increase,” he said. “It’s not for everybody, it’s a lot, it’s really for the select athletes, but it’s really something that is quite rewarding.”
Bramoff said the process for a dual athlete is pretty streamlined also. Conversations are had with the athlete, then the athlete’s parents. Then an athlete’s main sport is chosen. In Esposito’s case, field hockey was tagged as her main sport, so if there were any conflicts, each party involved knew where she was going.
Although she was learning remotely from home this year, mostly due to COVID, but also due to the way her senior schedule was, Esposito said she still got out of school around 2:15 p.m. every day then would usually head to field hockey practice at 3. She mostly practiced with the field hockey team because of the way the schedule was this season with games every other day. But when she could, Esposito said, she would attend a cross country practice.
But after her school sports were over, Esposito would scarf down some dinner then go to soccer practice with her Southampton Town United U19 travel team, which began around 6, 6:30 p.m. at Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays, with the new fields at Flying Point in Southampton not fully done yet, so Esposito had to deal with the traffic heading west.
Esposito said she would get home around 8:30 p.m. and if she had any school work leftover to do she would do it, but since she had a good number of study hall periods, she usually just crashed and hung out before heading to bed to do it all again the next day.
It was all worth it though, Esposito said. Since Pierson didn’t have a varsity softball team this spring, Esposito decided not to play any varsity sports and instead focused on her top sport with her travel soccer team. She’s also enjoying her final weeks of high school before she turns her attention to her college soccer career at Manhattanville.
But she does feel like, with all of the hectic-ness of playing varsity sports for over four years, her high school career went quickly.
“I do feel like it blew by, but with playing all of the different sports, it added to you’re different group of friends,” Esposito said. “You’ve got your in-school friends and your sports friends and you form a different friendship with those players. And it helped me overall with sports and in life.”