First for Golden Bears since 2011 and second one in 53 years
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
After winning the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I track and field state sectional championship in 2011, veteran Lyndhurst track coach Tom Shoebridge was hoping to get another.
After all, Lyndhurst didn’t have a state title since 1961, so winning in 2011 was pretty special.
A year later, the Golden Bears lost by a single point to Weequahic. Last year, the Golden Bears were second again, this time to Newark Tech.
“We had been second so many times,” Shoebridge said. “We were like the bridesmaids. It was getting tiresome.”
So when the Bears headed to the state sectionals two weeks ago at Ridge High School, Shoebridge was hopeful that he had the makings of another state sectional title.
He was right.
The Golden Bears took no chances this time around, steamrolling the field at the North 2, Group I sectionals. Lyndhurst collected 136 points, some 32 points ahead of the nearest competitor, Shabazz of Newark.
“The kids were great,” Shoebridge said. “It was one hell of a meet. We had a great scouting report going in. I knew we were in the hunt. I told them that if they did what they do consistently, they should win the meet. They did it. But to win by 30-something points is amazing. The kids all performed, right on down the line. We had so many kids involved.” Perhaps the spirit and the will of the Golden Bears is personified in the performance of senior captain Anthony Giaquinto. “He pulled his hamstring and hobbled his way to get fourth place,” Shoebridge said. “That said a lot to me.” Giaquinto just knew that this was his last chance to secure a team crown.
“I thought all season that we had the talent and the potential to do well in the states,” Giaquinto said. “It’s a team sport with individual performances. But it was team first and everyone chipped in. We had so much depth and we needed every single point.”
Billy Hooper won the 3,200-meter run in 10:23.94, winning by more than four seconds.
“He ran a monster twomile,” Shoebridge said. “He was very sick Friday and couldn’t run. But he came back Saturday and won the two-mile.”
Jake Estevez won three medals, finishing second in the long jump and third in the triple jump, while earning a medal as well in the 4×400- relay that finished fourth.
“He’s the first Lyndhurst athlete to jump better than 20 feet in the long jump and 40 feet in the triple jump,” Shoebridge said. “He’s done that in four consecutive meets. He’s a hell of an athlete.”
Kyle Krzastek was second in both the 110 and 400-meter hurdles, as well as third in the high jump and running a leg on the 4×400-meter relay.
“He was good for 26 points on his own,” Shoebridge said. “He’s the best all-around hurdler I ever had.”
Quintin St. Claire is just a sophomore, but he’s making his mark, winning the high jump at 6-0 and finishing second in the 400-meter run..
“He’s only a sophomore, so he’s definitely the future of the program,” Shoebridge said.
Jon Mercado won the shot put for the second straight year and was second in the discus.
“He’s a tremendously dedicated athlete,” Shoebridge said of Mercado. “All he thinks about now is throwing the shot.”
Jose Polanco was the winner of the pole vault.
“It was a big win there, because he’s been trying the pole since he was a freshman,” Shoebridge said. “He deserved it.”
Shoebridge gave Giaquinto a lot of credit for his work.
“He’s a great leader by example,” Shoebridge said. “We have a senior-based team and they all work together to get that sectional. But Giaquinto did the job as a leader and captain.”
Shoebridge will cherish this state sectional title.
“No one believed we could do it,” Shoebridge said. “But the seniors had the mindset we could. It’s as good a senior group that we’ve ever had. We won our fourth league title (the NJIC Liberty Division) and finished fifth in the (Bergen) County C Division. It was another great year.”
Shoebridge also sang the praises of his coaching staff, namely Ed Tessalone, Kim Hykey, Jim Day, Michael Pichardo and David Razscyk.
“I have a tremendous coaching staff,” Shoebridge said. “They make it easier for me.” And although he has retired as a teacher, Shoebridge said he will return next year as head coach. “I still have the passion,” Shoebridge said. “We have a great group of young kids who want to learn. I’m taking it day-by- day, but I plan to be back.”
That’s good news for the Lyndhurst track and field program, because the program is only as good as the guy running the show.