The Believe to Achieve Awards recognize meritorious contribution to the Central New York Sports Community. Believe to Achieve was founded by Gary Bugenhagen, Syracuse Sports Corporation member and former Syracuse University football player. The presentation of these awards marks the hard work and commitment of individuals and teams whose contributions to Central New York are immeasurable.

2017 Fall Awards

Individual Female Athlete Award

Gabrielle Piontkowski – Baldwinsville Soccer

Gabby’s significant achievements from the past season include having helped her team win sectionals, regionals and states, truly earning the prestige of having been named All CNY, All State and All American. The advice she would give to younger athletes: “Have confidence in yourself. Not everything will come easy and you may not succeed in everything you do but it is the way that you respond to the failure that will make you successful. If you believe in yourself and stay positive, you will fulfill your dreams.”

Hal McGrath Individual Male Athlete Award

Erik Pride – Cicero-North Syracuse Football

Being a part of a team that won all regular season games, the Section IIII Title while making it to the state semi-finals has been a highlight of Erik’s past season. Erik’s personal accomplishments shine just as strong- including making the 2017 All CNY Football First Team, completing 2,281 total yards and 33 touchdowns. Erik’s philosophies to his success: “keeping God first” and “if you really want it, then go get it.” One of Erik’s favorite quotes: “When most people talk about talent, they are simply talking about athleticism…meaning speed, quickness, jumping, size, strength, etc. This isn’t a track meet – other things matter. Skill level is a talent. Intelligence is a talent. Decision making is a talent. Toughness, both mental and physical, is a talent. Energy and intensity are talents. Forget “talent” and focus on production and consistency.” – Jeff Van Gundy

Barbara Henderson Female Team Award

Cazenovia Volleyball

Highlights of the Cazenovia Girls Volleyball Team consisted of their first trip to the State Final Four in Glens Falls, winning their first regional title since 2009, as well as, 5th straight sectional, league and league tournament title and finishing the season with an 18-2 record. Advice they would give to young athletes: “Work hard and put your time in like this year’s team and anything is possible. You have to have a love for the game, as well as respect.” Their team motto: “Believe!!! This was our motto all year!! Which is why winning this award is so appropriate for this group of athletes! We believed the entire season, when others had written us off.”

Joe LaGuardia Male Team

Skaneateles Football Team

Accomplishments for the Skaneateles Varsity Football Team include having won the Class C Football State Championship, the first in their school history. They showed the power of resilience by coming up from behind in their last five playoff games and taking the win. They will hold the memories of their past season close. In their words, “We were a team that genuinely enjoyed being around each other. While there were several highs that we experienced together, the thing that we all miss the most is the time we spent together.” The team’s motto: “ALL IN.” “Our team was successful because everyone bought into the team and committed to the success of the team over the individual.”

Reed Hawke Excellence in Sportsmanship Award

Jerry Kelly – Lafayette Athletic Director

Jerry’s significant achievements from his career included winning the 2007 and 2009 Sectional Championships in Class C. Jerry’s advice to young, up and coming athletes: “Work hard, never give up and family comes first.” The motto or philosophy that Jerry lives by? “TEAM – T – together, E – everyone, A – achieves, M – more.”

Coach Award

Theresa Leonardi – Weedsport Field Hockey

The highlight of the Coach Leonardi’s past season was leading the team to win its 4th consecutive Class D Sectional Championship. Her favorite memories of the past season: “Winning our fourth consecutive championship by defeating the #2 and #1 seeds. In the championship game, our team dominated our opponent. They were unable to get a single shot or goal or event draw a penalty corner.” Advice she would give to young athletes: “To always work hard. Set realistic goals, work to achieve those goals and then set tougher goals. Always keep raise the bar – keep challenging yourself to always keep improving. No one should ever out work you!” The philosophy that she lives by: “Find a way!”


Jeff Mickle

Sports Development Director