By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Matt Halchak certainly knows his limitations as an athlete.
“I’m not the biggest, the fastest, the strongest or the most talented kid,” said Halchak, a Nutley resident and a recent St. Peter’s Prep graduate. “I knew I had to make up for it in other ways. I was going to do pretty much everything I could to succeed. I guess I just liked being successful and I put everything I have into everything I do.”
Halchak was not only a standout three-sport varsity athlete for the Marauders, starting as a defender in soccer, playing a key role in basketball and serving as one of the team’s captains as a steady centerfielder in baseball. He was able to participate in three Hudson County championship games this season – the lone athlete in the county to lay claim to such a distinction.
But Halchak was also one of the top students in his senior class.
St. Peter’s Prep doesn’t rank its students, but Halchak was selected from a group of 20 of the school’s top seniors to deliver the commencement address last Saturday at the graduation for the Class of 2013.
Halchak’s straight A grades for four years, his 4.29 grade point average and Scholastic Aptitude Test scores of 2050 will send him to Georgetown University in the fall.
“My schedule was pretty demanding,” Halchak said. “I knew balancing everything was tough, but I knew one thing. Academics always came first. I take pride in being a true student-athlete. I was kind of realistic with myself and knew I wasn’t the greatest athlete, so I focused on trying to get the most out of high school sports. It just meant I had to work a little harder.”
Halchak’s three coaches certainly appreciate what he meant to the Prep.
“For me, the biggest thing about Matt was that I knew he was going to be successful in anything he does,” Prep head soccer coach Josh Jantas said. “He was a vital cog to our program’s success. Coming into his senior year, he had a chance to do well for us, but he exceeded all expectations we had.”
Halchak helped lead the Marauders to the championship game in the Hudson County Tournament.
“He’s the ideal studentathlete,” Jantas said. “He gave 100% in the classroom and 100% on the field. He’s the ideal that every kid should want to be.”
Todd Decker, the head coach of the Prep basketball team, tried to fathom Halchak’s importance.
“There really are no words for it, what Matt brought to the school, brought to our program,” Decker said. “He’s one of the most incredible young men to ever come through Prep. I don’t know of anyone who has done what he’s done. He maintained such a high character in athletics and academics. He was also the type of teammate that you want to have.”
Decker called Halchak “our unsung hero.”
“He didn’t play much to start and a lot of other kids might have folded up shop and quit,” Decker said. “But Matt kept on fighting and working. He made a believer out of everyone, including me. He really brought a lot to everyone at Prep. You look at him and everything he’s accomplished, someone of his size and stature and he was able to play at such a high level. It’s toughness. You look at him and he’s the definition of tough. He never once backed down.”
Decker marveled at the way Halchak was able to juggle the demands of being a three-sport athlete. In today’s day and age, coaches want their athletes to concentrate on just one sport and play that sport all year round.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Decker said. “To have that kind of commitment through the summer, when coaches are trying to do everything, is remarkable. Every time he would come to us to lift, he was coming straight from soccer and then go off to baseball. It’s amazing. It shows the type of kid he is. I know how hard it is to juggle three sports.”
Decker said that Halchak is definitely a role model.
“We’re already using him as an example,” Decker said. “About what it’s like to create a role and make the most of that role for himself. That’s exactly what Matt did.”
Baseball is definitely Halchak’s best sport.
“I never would have picked one sport over another before this year, but it’s definitely baseball,” Halchak said. “I never thought I’d play a college sport, but I may try to walk on to my team in college now. I didn’t do anything differently. I just had a good year.”
Halchak batted .412 in leading the Marauders to a 26-4 record, the most wins in a single season in school history. While Halchak’s teams might have lost in the county finals in soccer to Kearny and basketball to Hudson Catholic, the Marauders won the county crown in baseball.
“Matt Halchak is aces in my eyes,” Prep head baseball coach Pat Laguerre said. “He’s a coach’s dream. He has one speed – fast. Everything he does is fast. Some others may learn to slow down, but not Matt. I have nothing but great things to say about him. That’s why he was one of our captains. He’s a born leader. He’s as competitive as they come and he just doesn’t stop.”
Laguerre continued to sing his captain’s praises.
“What you have here is something pretty special and doesn’t come along every day,” Laguerre said. “It’s really refreshing to see a kid who is a throwback and doesn’t shy away from competition. He wants to be the best. I literally go after the younger kids and tell them to watch Matt. He should be rubbing off on them, because he does it all the right way.”
Halchak is headed to Georgetown to perhaps have a double major in government and economics. Law school is a goal down the road.
“I had a very blessed senior year,” Halchak said. “I got to play in three county championship games. I played in six over two years. You just can’t believe things like that can happen. It’s pretty cool. I played all three sports all year and I was once at the bottom of the totem pole. It was tough, but it all paid off. It was one hell of a ride.”