By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
While Lyndhurst’s Camila Alonso and North Arlington’s A.J. Nocciolo were the recipients of the 2012- 2013 Observer Female and Male Athletes of the Year respectively, there were several other area graduated athletes who were true credits to their respective schools and deserved consideration for the prestigious honor.
Among the girls, there was no finer candidate for top honors than Haley Durning of Kearny.
The multi-talented Durning was a standout goalkeeper in soccer, earning All-Hudson County and All-Group IV honors, and was a sensational competitor in track and field, winning her share of gold medals on the local and state sectional level in both the indoor and outdoor season.
More importantly, Durning graduated from Kearny High School as the No. 2 student academically in the Class of 2013, a high achievement on its own.
Durning was also one of the team’s leaders, earning the nickname of “Mother Duck” from coach Al Perez because the younger members of the team constantly followed Durning around.
Durning certainly left her mark as one of the most diversified female athletes in the school’s history.
Another standout Kearny athlete was soccer standout Katie O’Neill, who is headed to the University of Binghamton in a few weeks to play soccer there. O’Neill was clearly one of the best all-around players in the state and should be able to make her mark on the college level as well.
Fellow Kearny senior Kristen Stankus had a brilliant senior year, as the school’s top female bowler and as a slugging catcher for the softball team.
Speaking of softball, how could you go wrong with the talented battery from Lyndhurst, namely pitcher Casey Zdanek and catcher Julieann Schneidenbach? The two friends led the Golden Bears to their best season in recent memory, going all the way to the NJSIAA North 2, Group II sectional title game. Zdanek will take her talents to Drew University in the fall where she’s bound to be a success. Lyndhurst’s Lexus Lopez was probably the most diverse athlete in the area. A topflight bowler, who earned a full scholarship to FDU to bowl in the fall, Lopez also played basketball during the same season as the bowling season. That was some grind for the talented Golden Bear.
Queen of Peace pole vault expert Michelle Rozalski certainly made her mark during the indoor and outdoor track seasons. Headed to Seton Hall in the fall, Rozalski was among the very best in the pole vault in the state.
Harrison’s Rayven Lucas earned her mark as a basketball standout. The daughter of Harrison’s native son Ray (currently on SNY television as a Jets analyst and on the Rutgers radio network), Rayven led the Blue Tide to a highly successful season and will take her talents to Montclair State to play basketball in the fall.
North Arlington had two top female athletes in Katie Rouski, who competed in volleyball, basketball and softball and Mackenzie Cutruzzula, who was a fine athlete in track and field.
Among the boys’ athletes, Charlie Bingham of Nutley had perhaps the most diverse season, competing in soccer, basketball and tennis. Bingham was one of the best soccer players on a Maroon Raider that won 13 matches last fall and competed for both county and Super Essex Conference honors.
Bobby Trombetta, a fellow Maroon Raider, broke the school record for wrestling victories with 141 in his storied career, a mark that was third all-time in Essex County. He wrestled most of his senior year with an injured shoulder.
During his career, Trombetta won four county titles, three district crowns, two Region gold medals and three medals at the state tourney. He is headed to wrestle at Bloomsburg University.
Dave Fierro keyed Nutley’s best hockey season, scoring 28 goals and adding 11 assists for a team that won 17 games. Fierro was also a fine golfer for the Maroon Raiders.
Kearny’s Dylan Hoch overcame the adversity of playing for a sub-par team to reach the 1,000-point plateau and set a new school single-game scoring mark with his 49-point performance against McNair Academic.
Ryan Michaels of Kearny had a solid year as a wrestler and as the sure-handed catcher on the Kardinals’ varsity baseball team.
Jeff Frytek of North Arlington was a key member of the basketball and baseball teams along with Athlete of the Year Nocciolo.
Bobby Keegan of Queen of Peace, whose older sister Courtney was a former Female Athlete of the Year recipient during her days at QP, overcame injuries to have solid seasons on the gridiron and on the hardwood.
Belleville’s Aaquil Ingram made the most of his senior year on the gridiron by securing a scholarship to play at American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts in the fall.
All in all, it was a great local high school sports season, culminated by the individual performances of The Observer’s two Athletes of the Year.