Sparta High School Russian Students Earn Gold, Silver and Bronze

Sparta High School Russian Olympiada competitors. Credits: Jennifer Dericks
Henry Silberstein Credits: Jennifer Dericks

MADISON, NJ – It was a strong showing once again for the Sparta High School Russian students at the 2017 Olympiada of Spoken Russian held on the campus of Drew University.  The team, made up of 63 students from eight to 12 grade brought home 36 Gold medals, 24 Silver medals and three Bronze medals.

“Sparta students prepare for this all year long and their hard work really paid off,” Russian teacher William Brennan said. 

Sparta Sophomore Henry Silberstein took first place with the highest score in New Jersey with a 96.6. 

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“So many [Sparta] students tied for second place the organizers decided not to even try to select among them.” Brennan said.

“I thought I did very well, I was confident,” Freshman Shay Al-Aydi said.  Al-Aydi earned a Gold medal with the second highest score.  The level 2 student said she will continue to study Russian.

Another Gold medalist, Senior Tom D’Ascoli said he plans to continue studying Russian in college.  He has not yet decided where he will go but does plan “work for the government” in some capacity, after collage. 

Brennan’s Olympiada students:

  • Emma Bova,
  • Phil Christodoulou,
  • Joe Dempsey,
  • Stephanie Downes,
  • Kate Fontes,
  • Sylvia Kloian,
  • Kaylea Gaughan,
  • Juleanna Green,
  • Rebecca Greenberg,
  • Katherine Hannan,
  • Simon Levien,
  • Madison Levinson,
  • Jessica Longstreth,
  • Patrick McGurrin,
  • Zoe Merold,
  • Sara Nigro,
  • Evan Silberstein,
  • Henry Silberstein,
  • Delaney Sniffen,
  • Thomas Mortillaro,
  • George Mysh,
  • Matt Dumbroff,
  • Jill Parks,
  • Jillian Brennan,
  • Caroline Kepler,
  • Sophie Venus,
  • Grace Masterson,
  • Brian Cabrera
  • Rachel Raffino

Sophomore Katie Hannan said she was “nervous at first,” but ended up earning a gold medal in her second Olympiada.  Hannan plans to continue to study Russian at Sparta High School, because it’s “really cool and I’m learning a lot.”

The level 3 student said, “I’ve been to St Petersburg.  It was cool, but people didn’t smile.”   

Rachel Raffino, a level 3 student reflected on her first Olympiada.  “I did better than I thought I would.  The judges were not as scary as I thought they might be.”

“It was very nerve wracking when I saw all the people there.  It all just left my brain,” Freshman Emily Yarnall said.  It turned out “I was more nervous than I needed to be.” The level 2 student earned a silver at her first Olympiada. 

For more than 17 years Sparta High School Russian teachers, Brennan and Eric Hood have brought teams to Drew to compete.  The members of the team are in levels two through five.  The students sit face to face with the judges where they convers, answer question about Russian culture and recite.  They consistently score well and earn medals. 

Hood’s Olympiada students:

  • Shahed Al-Aydi,
  • Olivia Bouma Hannam,
  • Yasmeen Caswell,
  • Ryan Cilli,
  • Jeremy Devaney,
  • Cameron Ekeman,
  • Nicholas Furgeson,
  • Lauren Groff,
  • Corrine Groome,
  • Camryn Gundry,
  • Isabella Horowitz,
  • Terrence Hurley,
  • Kelsi Loewen,
  •  Kenzie Merwin,
  • Sergei O’Sullivan,
  • Alexander Papandrikos,
  • Ethan Pappa,
  • Lorenzo Rendina,
  • Caitlin Russo,
  • Jessica Schoenfeld,
  • Karthik Selvaraj,
  • Rachel Sosik,
  • Anna Tartaglia,
  • Stephanie Villar,
  • Ande Wittenmeier,
  • Emily Yarnell,
  • Jared Chiariello,
  • Gianna Macones,
  • Hannah Newbold,
  • Brandon Shepard,
  • Thomas D’Ascoli,
  • John Tartaglia

Explaining why she studies Russian, freshman Ande Wittenmeier said, “It is a totally unique language, very different from English.”  She plans to continue to study Russian but her focus is art.

“Eric and I are extremely proud of the accomplishments of our students and consider ourselves very lucky to have such hard working young people,” Brennan said.  “As always, we are also grateful to have an extremely talented colleague at the middle school, Suzanne Jouravlev, whose hard work with her Russian students creates the foundation for success that Eric and I can build on at the high school.”  

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Upcoming Events


Tue, March 20, 6:30 PM

Sparta United Methodist Church, Sparta

Girl Scout STEAM Program

Arts & Entertainment Education


Sat, March 24, 9:30 AM

Sparta Recreation Department, Sparta

Breakfast with the Easter Bunny

Arts & Entertainment


Sat, March 24, 6:00 PM

McKenna Hall, Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Sparta

Night with NJ Giants #53 Harry Carson Beefsteak


Sat, March 24, 6:00 PM

Perona Farms, Sparta

Trout Unlimited Annual Fund Raising Banquet

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, April 8, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River



Sat, April 14, 9:00 AM


Jr Lions Football - Meet & Greet

Education Sports

Sun, April 22, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

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Sun, May 13, 1:00 PM

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