By Jim Hague
It’s one thing to win one Bergen County championship. Just ask the boys’ team at Lyndhurst High School, who in 2010 captured the school’s first-ever county title.
But to win another? It’s almost unthinkable.
However, the Golden Bears did exactly that. After never having won a single county title in the school’s history, Lyndhurst won its second consecutive county title, taking the Division C title over the weekend at two sites in Bergen County, namely Ramsey and Old Tappan.
The Golden Bears scored 130 points en route to the win over recent nemesis Pascack Hills.
“We absolutely felt like we were going to be in contention,” said veteran head coach Tom Shoebridge. “We knew that we were going to have to go up against Pascack Hills and they’re very tough. They have the most complete team in the county, so I thought it would be either us or them.”
The Golden Bears battled Pascack Hills in order to win the recent Bergen County Relays team title.
However, this meet was going to be a big challenge, partly because the rain turned the meet into a three-day marathon.
“We started with the field events on Wednesday in Ramsey,” said Shoebridge, who has been involved in Lyndhurst track and field, first as a competitor and then as a coach, for more than 40 years. “We were supposed to have six events, but only completed four, because of the rain.”
There were some running events then on Friday and the rest of the meet completed on Saturday.
“It was a little chaotic, but our coaches made sure that everyone was organized,” Shoebridge said. “Our coaching staff (Ed Tessalone, Kim Hykey, James Day, Mehmet Gouvnier and Jason DaCosta) did a good job of keeping them focused. Our pole vaulters were ready to go Wednesday, but got rained out and they were pushed to Saturday. That was tough.”
But as it turned out, the pole vault tandem of Mike Morreale and Justin Lim gave the Golden Bears enough points to capture the team crown. Morreale finished second with a vault of 12 feet even while Lim, slated to be the Class of 2011’s valedictorian, was fourth with a personal best of 11-6.
“It was a combination of all the events, but when it came down to it, we needed Mike and Justin to win it with the pole vault,” said Shoebridge, especially proud because he’s gained a reputation over the years of being an excellent pole vault coach. “It felt great that it came down to that. I coached Jason (DaCosta) when he won the pole vault in the counties in the late 1990s, when he cleared 13 feet. So this was special.”
Special would be an understatement when describing the performance of Patrick Rono, who continues to carve his legacy as the greatest track and field athlete in Lyndhurst history.
Rono’s legend grew over the weekend, as he became the first boy in the history of the meet to win four county championships—the 400-meter run, the 800-meter, the 1,600 and 3,200. Only former Observer Female Athlete of the Year Janine Davis of Queen of Peace ever won four events at the Bergen County championships.
“He didn’t have great competition in the mile (the 1,600) or the two-mile (3,200), but he still ran great races,” Shoebridge said.
However, in the shorter distances, Rono shone bright.
He broke the school record in the 400-meter run, hitting the tape in 50.03 seconds, breaking the mark set by his former teammate and close friend Arnold Omina last year. Both Rono and Omina are of Kenyan descent and their families knew each other in Africa before settling in Lyndhurst.
“I was a little nervous about the 400,” Rono said. “It showed me just how much I’ve improved since last year. I called Arnold to tell him that I broke his record. I thought I had a good shot at it.”
Rono blistered the field in the 800, setting a new school record in 1:52.3, the fastest time recorded by any runner in the state in that event this season.
“He really had a great meet,” Shoebridge said. “As a coach, you learn that you never take anything for granted, but I watch Patrick train and he never takes a day off. He trains like he’s running for the state championship every day. That’s how you know he’s ready. I remind the others of that, that as great as an athlete Patrick is, he trains even harder. He sets the tone for everyone else. He scored 40 points with his four wins, but the rest of the team stepped up and scored 90.”
Senior Erik Quesada chipped in. He won the 110-meter high hurdles, placed third in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles and was part of the Golden Bear relay team that finished third in the 1,600-meter relay.
“It’s exciting that we were able to win again, win two times in a row, when no one ever won once,” Quesada said. “Maybe there was a little more pressure on us than last year, because we won last year. But it’s great to come in and win when everyone expected us to. It’s awesome to win twice in a row. I think it shows how great the entire team is.”
Senior Vincent Acosta was second in the shot put and fourth in the discus. The Golden Bears dominated the javelin with Nick Marino finishing second and Kyle Jankowski finishing third. Danny Gaspar was third in the 3,200-meter run, shattering his personal best. Thiago Fernandes was third in the 1,600-meter run. Senior captain Tommy Grimmeyer was fourth in the intermediate hurdles, setting a personal best by almost two seconds. Grimmeyer was also second in the high jump. Cap Ki Kim finished second in the high jump and fifth in the high hurdles.
“Everyone rose to the occasion,” Shoebridge said. “When we won the league and the county relays, everyone stepped up, but I thought we could do better. Well, we did better. We took it to another level.”
“It’s great how everyone else stepped up and contributed,” Rono said. “We were able to rack up all those points. I was glad to help the team with the points I got.”
Yeah, accumulating more points in a meet than any other boy in Bergen County history. Rono will try to duplicate the quadruple victory march this weekend at the North 2, Group I state sectionals at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge.
“I’m going for all four events again and trying to win them all,” Rono said.
The legend just grows and grows.
“I can’t explain this to anyone,” Shoebridge said. “We never won it before and now have won two straight.”
It’s no coincidence that Rono was a part of the trend turn, because his brilliance is unmatched.