Courtney O’Bryan was an enthusiastic and happy young woman, an energetic competitor and a loyal and loving friend. The 2011 Huntington High School alum will always be remembered at her alma mater, where her contagious smile and sunny disposition made a lasting mark on everyone she encountered.
A starter on the Huntington varsity girls’ soccer and basketball teams, Ms. O’Bryan displayed an aggressive style of play. Committed to her studies, she was admired by her teachers. Her noteworthy intellect, magnetic personality and pleasant nature combined with an often hilarious sense of humor to quickly win over classmates, coaches and faculty members.
Ms. O’Bryan, who moved to Huntington from Lynbrook as a fifth grader, graduated near the top of her class and headed off to Penn State University, where she dived into campus life, participating in the school’s IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, better known as THON, which raises funds to battle pediatric cancer.
THON has raised more than $147 million since 1977 for The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. A large chunk of the monies have been collected during so-called “canning” weekends, which see Penn State students fanning out into other cities and states to solicit donations for the THON initiative.
After visiting her family in Huntington for Thanksgiving and stopping by the Huntington High School gym to shoot baskets with her former teammates and coaches, Ms. O’Bryan returned to the Penn State campus for a week of classes.
On Friday, December 2, 2011, the Blue Devil alum was a passenger in a car on its way to Buffalo for a canning weekend to raise money for THON and pediatric cancer research. At about 8:30 p.m. the car reportedly hit an icy patch of roadway in Lewis Run in northern Pennsylvania, careening out of control, flipping over, sliding down a highway embankment and crashing into a tree.
Ms. O’Bryan, who was riding in the backseat of the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder, was mortally injured and four other students in the car were hospitalized. The accident occurred on State Road 219, about one mile south of State Route 59 according to the Pennsylvania State Police.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Ms. O’Bryan’s family created a scholarship to perpetuate her memory and promote the qualities she so magnificently displayed. The scholarship is awarded annually to one female and one male senior athlete who are college bound and who participated in more than one team sport “exemplifying character, leadership, strong school spirit and sportsmanship.”
Wilson and Mattiace win O’Bryan scholarships
This year, graduating seniors Tara Wilson and Matthew Mattiace were recognized by Ms. O’Bryan’s parents, Bill and Lisa, who presented each of the scholar-athletes with $500 awards and attractive plaques at the 49th annual Blue Devil senior athletic awards dinner.
Ms. Wilson is headed to SUNY Geneseo. She played key roles on the Blue Devil soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams and was regarded as a model teammate. The teenager exercised magnificent balance of her athletic and club activities with her academic responsibilities and graduated near the top of Huntington’s Class of 2017.
Rather than playing for her own personal plaudits, Ms. Wilson is known as someone who does all the little things that often go unrecognized and to put her teammates and coaches first. She was especially sensational at executing a superb defensive play that helped spur offensive momentum.
“I am truly honored to have received the Courtney O’Brien scholarship,” Ms. Wilson said. “It is a gift and I am grateful to have been nominated by my coaches and chosen for such an award. I hope that I will be able to honor Courtney and make her and her family proud for selecting me.”
Mr. Mattiace played football and lacrosse for the Blue Devils, earning the respect and affection of his coaches and teammates in both sports. One of his career highlights came when he scored a touchdown for the Huntington football team and sent everyone on the sidelines and in the bleachers into delirium.
Known as a “great teammate, Mr. Mattiace is headed to Farmingdale State College in the fall. He leaves Huntington High School as a very well-liked young man.
The hearts of her family, friends and coaches have never completely healed after suffering the loss of Ms. O’Bryan. But, her memory lives on through the scholarship that bears her name.
Courtney O’Bryan Memorial Scholarship Recipients
- 2017: Tara Wilson and Matthew Mattiace
- 2016: Kelly Palladino and Ethan Dwyer
- 2015: Caitlin Knowles and Justin Weigold
- 2014: Joelle Ceide and Alexander Castillo
- 2013: Maggie Askerberg and Connor Birchard
- 2012: Laurelle Byrne-Cody and John Deren McCarthy