By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Danny Cordeiro makes no bones about what he is.
“I’m a soccer player,” said the North Arlington High School junior. “I’ve always loved soccer since I was little.”
But lately, Cordeiro is proving that he is more than just a soccer player. He is showing off his talents for the Vikings’ track and field team.
“I think soccer helped me become a good distance runner,” Cordeiro said. “It helps me build stamina.”
Cordeiro has been a solid competitor in the 1,600-meter run since he joined the NA track team as a freshman. He also dabbled with the 800-meter run as well.
But this year, Cordeiro added new events to his diverse repertoire.
“Since my freshman year, I was always interested in the long jump,” Cordeiro said. “I knew we didn’t have any outstanding jumpers coming back, so I wanted to try.”
“We had some holes to fill with our jumpers,” North Arlington head coach Joe Cioffi said. “Danny came up and asked if he could try. He never had done it before, so I didn’t have any great expectations.”
So Cordeiro took on the responsibilities of competing in the long jump and triple jump.
“Once you get the technique down, it’s not too hard,” Cordeiro said. “But I did hurt myself a few times trying. I landed awkwardly and twisted my ankle. But the next day, I came back and tried again and I was fine.”
Cordeiro knew that he was becoming a rare breed.
“You don’t see many distance runners jumping,” Cordeiro said. “You usually see sprinters do it.”
Last weekend, at the Bergen County Championships, Cordeiro put on a personal clinic.
He earned four medals in the D Division, winning the 800 (2:02.89) and 1,600-meter runs (4:30.37), as well as finishing third in both the long jump and triple jump, events he never competed in before this spring.
“I never thought that was possible,” Cordeiro said. “I never did four events before, so I’m actually pretty surprised. I didn’t think I could come in first in the 800 or the 1,600. It’s pretty impressive.”
For his efforts, Cordeiro has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Cordeiro will admit that the 1,600-meter run is his best event. The other events have just sort of evolved.
“It’s a huge accomplishment for him,” Cioffi said. “To walk away with a medal in every event is pretty impressive and a tough thing to accomplish. He’s the first athlete I’ve had as a coach to win the county championship.”
Cioffi believes that Cordeiro’s success is aided by his soccer prowess.
“He’s been in shape since Day One,” Cioffi said. “He knows what he has to do, what is needed to take care of a body. When you’re able to run up and down the field constantly, then go into track, it’s a big help. It shows that he’s been working hard during the season and offseason. He works hard non-stop.”
Cordeiro’s dedication to both sports will be tested this weekend. He plans to compete in the 1,600-meter run and triple jump in track in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I meet on Friday, then will head to Maryland to play in a prestigious soccer tournament.
Cordeiro, who plays center midfield for the Vikings, scored 15 goals last season. He knows he has a bright future in soccer and wants to capitalize on that.
“This tournament I’m going to is like a college showcase, so it’s big for me,” Cordeiro said. “That’s my dream, to play college soccer.”
So while Cordeiro will not complete a quadruple medal-winning performance this weekend, Cioffi would not be surprised if Cordeiro brings home some hardware from the states.
“I think he can finish among the top runners, especially in the mile (the 1,600-meter run),” Cioffi said. “If he runs the way he did last week, he can win a sectional title, because he was great.”
Cordeiro is just soaking in the attention that comes with being a county champion.
“I compete in track, partially because I like it and I’ve become good at it,” Cordeiro said. “But it allows me to stay in shape for soccer.”
Like Cordeiro always said, he’s a soccer player first. But his achievements on the track and with the jumps aren’t too shabby.