Former Observer Athlete of Year Gross heads stellar list of inductees
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It will be a family affair of sorts when the 2014 North Arlington High School Athletic Hall of Fame Dinner takes place at the San Carlo in Lyndhurst on May 2.
Sixteen former Viking greats will gain induction to the Hall of Fame, which will hold its first induction ceremony in three years.
Andrea Sprague Jennings will gain induction, much like her sister, Dana, did a few years ago. Her brother, Bobby, is a Hall of Famer at Queen of Peace High School.
Andrea Sprague was a three-sport standout (volleyball, basketball and softball) during her time at North Arlington, graduating in 1991.
“Softball was my best sport,” Sprague Jennings recalls. “I was so honored to be thought of and I can complete the Sprague clan. I have to thank (committee chairman and former longtime girls’ basketball coach) Joe Spaccavento for thinking of me. It came as a total surprise to me. This is a huge honor.”
It’s also a family event for the Marck family.
Kim Nelson Marck was a basketball and softball player during her heyday, graduating in 1987.
“It was many years ago,” Nelson Marck said. “I was surprised by it. I definitely
thought that everyone had forgotten about me.”
Kim Nelson said that she’s “not the attention getter.”
That title would probably better fit her husband, Anthony, who is the current North Arlington head football coach.
“I’m definitely the football wife,” Nelson Marck said. “I learned all the plays and watch the films with him.”
It’s a family thing for Nelson, because she joins her brother, Keith Nelson, brother-in-law Danny Marck and husband in the Hall of Fame.
“It’s a little different, because Anthony said that we’re the first husband and wife in the Hall. It’s a big deal for Anthony.”
Although the two were students and athletes together at North Arlington, they were not high school sweethearts.
“I was already working as a teacher,” Kim Nelson Marck said. “We met somewhere in town.”
And one of the Marck’s children, six-year-old Mason, is excited about the event.
“He’s saying, ‘I’m going to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Kim Nelson Marck, who said that she keeps in touch with her former coaches Spaccavento and John Galante, who still coaches the softball team.
Dr. Peter Velardi (Class of 1970) is one of the older inductees. At age 61, Velardi, a Lyndhurst-based dentist, was also a little surprised by the honor.
“Rip Collins was a patient of mine,” Velardi said of the North Arlington legend whose name graces the township’s athletic facility, currently under reconstruction. “He kept bugging me to get my stuff together to give to the Hall of Fame. I know a lot of guys on the committee.”
Velardi was a standout track and field participant and cross country runner during his days at North Arlington.
“I still ran competitively as I got older,” Velardi said. “I ran five-milers and 10Ks. At the time, I was at the top of my age group. I ran in the Spring Lake (5 mile race) for many years. I remembered that they gave mugs out to the top 125 runners. I got a mug almost every year. I ran all the local races, including the North Arlington race on the Fourth of July. But then my legs couldn’t take the pounding anymore.”
Velardi was asked if the honor makes him think about his high school days.
“It definitely makes you look back,” Velardi said. “We had like 60 guys on the track team back then. We had four or five sprinters when I was there. We competed against all the biggest schools. North Arlington always had some of the greatest athletes.”
Velardi has kept his practice in neighboring Lyndhurst since 1982.
“I have had a lot of the old timers come in as patients,” Velardi said. “I’m really excited about this. I’ll get to see my other buddies. I’ll enjoy seeing all those guys.”
Katie Mallack is one of the younger inductees. A member of the Class of 2006, Mallack was a standout soccer and basketball player during her days in North Arlington.
“I guess my biggest memory will be the night I scored my 1,000th point in basketball,” Mallack said. “A lot of people came out for that game. It was a special night.”
Mallack is only 25, working for an advertising agency as an account manager.
“I was surprised by this, because when you think of Hall of Fame, you think it might come years down the line,” said Mallack, who went on to play club soccer and rugby at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. “I see Spacc (Spaccavento) all the time and he always said to me that I deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. Talk about flashbacks. It’s all been part of a great memory for me and I’m looking forward to it.”
The youngest of the honorees is former three-sport standout Michael Gross, who was named The Observer Male Athlete of the Year in 2008. Gross, who played football, basketball and baseball at North Arlington, had a fine football career at the University of Rhode Island.
Other inductees that night include Michael Hoffman (Class of 1985), Terry Iavarone (2006), Sara MacNiven (1996), Ronnie Parmakis (1997), Paulo Prata (1989), Danielle Romero (2005), Kaitlyn Schaefer (2008), Larry Venancio Jr.
(1993), Michael Wendell (1997), Nicholas Mazzolla (Coach), and Bart Bradley (Honorary).
Two teams, the 2001 state sectional champion girls’ basketball team and the 2004
Group I state volleyball champion, will also be honored that evening.
One more irony that involves this Hall of Fame class: There is an art show, the George Miller Art Show, named after a three-decade art teacher at the school, that honors young artists in the district. That art show is chaired by Andrea Sprague Jennings and Danny Marck.
“We’re all still giving back to North Arlington,” said Sprague Jennings, whose
husband Chris, is a former NA athlete who became vice-principal and is now the principal of Bloomfield High School.
Much like many of the inductees being honored May 2.
For further information about the Hall of Fame dinner, log on to www.narlington.k12.nj.us/Hallof Fame.htm.