Top Kearny scholar-athletes have been friends since Pre-K
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
The friendship began innocently when Nicole Kelly and Steven Dyl were just four years old.
“I just remember always being in the same class with Nicole,” said Dyl, who will graduate from Kearny High School this week. “We just kind of always got along.”
“If I ever needed a good laugh, Steven is always there for me to make me laugh,” said Kelly, who will also be part of the school’s commencement exercises this week. “If I was having a bad day, I would go to Steven. We’ve been friends for so long.”
The friendship carried over from the classroom to the neighborhood courtyard, where the two would play sports.
“We were always together,” Kelly said. “We’ve always been in the same class. We would go to the courtyard to play. I was always with the boys, because none of the girls wanted to be athletic. I always went with the boys.”
Dyl didn’t mind having Kelly as a buddy, because he had an older sister, Allyson, who was an excellent athlete.
“I think it helped that I was always around that lifestyle,” Dyl said of his older sister, who was The Observer Female Athlete of the Year in 2008. “Being around my sister was a big motivation. Whenever I’d play basketball, I’d watch her. She would never go easy on me. She told me that it was the only way I was going to get better. I always liked that competition. Because, you know, you never want to get beat by your sister.”
The two longtime friends went to Kearny High together and sure enough, they found themselves in most of the same classes.
“We hang out together in school,” Kelly said. “Steven has always been a good student, the one getting the highest grades.”
As it turned out, Kelly and Dyl are both excellent students and were recently honored as the top student-athletes of the school.
“It felt good to get it with Steven because we’ve been friends for so long,” said Kelly, who played soccer and softball at the school, helping both teams win Hudson County championships this year. “I wouldn’t want it to be with someone else. We’re the top two student-athletes. It’s good that we’re both good in the classroom. I take a lot of pride in my schoolwork. It takes a lot of work and dedication to put the time in for both. It says a lot about us to be good in both.”
Dyl agreed about the importance of an education.
“It’s always been important to me,” said Dyl, who played hockey and baseball this season. “I’ve always been dedicated to my schoolwork. Since I’m not going to a school to play sports, it was very important for me to get a good education.”
Dyl is an A student who is ranked 16th in the Class of 2014. He will head to Richard Stockton College in the fall to major in engineering. He also plans on taking the Civil Service test in the future to become a firefighter, like his father, Kearny Fire Chief Steven Sr.
“It’s always an option,” the younger Dyl said. “I’ll take the test down the line, just in case. You never know.”
Dyl said that he knew Kelly would be the top female student-athlete in the school.
“I just kind of expected it, because she’s just as dedicated as I am in the classroom,” Dyl said.
Kelly will go to the University of Tampa to major in sports management. She will play soccer there.
Kelly said it’s going to be a lot different in the fall, not having Dyl in her classes.
“It’s going to be so different, the two of us being thousands of miles apart,” Kelly said. “It’s going to be weird without him in my classes.”
“It’s definitely going to be a little different,” Dyl said. “We’ve been in the same classroom together since we were 4 years old. She’s definitely not going to be in any of my classes now. But it’s been great to have Nicole as a friend. It’s fitting that we both got this award. She’s been a lot of fun. It’s pretty remarkable.”
“I can’t believe it’s all over,” Kelly said. “I’m glad I got to share this with Steven.”
Dyl said that he needs to remain friends with Kelly, even though they will be in separate places come late August.
“She’s a funny kid who makes me laugh,” Dyl said. “There aren’t too many people around who can remember what happened to us in third grade. That’s always good to have.”
As is having a good friend for a lifetime.