Soccer, basketball and track standout earns honor
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
When Camila Alonso first arrived at Lyndhurst High School three years ago, transferring to Lyndhurst from Lodi, she almost felt like a fish out of water.
“I really didn’t know anyone,” Alonso said.
But Alonso knew that she wanted to participate in athletics.
“I started to play soccer when I was 10 in Lodi,” Alonso said. “So when we came here to Lyndhurst, it was natural that I played soccer. I played freshman basketball at Lodi, but I was a point guard there, because they didn’t have anyone to bring the ball up the court.”
So Alonso played soccer in the fall and basketball in the winter. Later on, she gave track and field a try.
Three years later, Alonso has developed into one of the best all-around athletes in Lyndhurst High School history.
Last week, Alonso culminated her brilliant high school career by receiving the 2012-13 Observer Female Athlete of the Year, becoming the second Lyndhurst girl to ever receive the award. Cassie Indri received the award in 2009.
“It’s crazy when you think of it,” said Kim Hykey, Alonso’s coach in both soccer and track and field. “I think it’s the type of storybook tale that you don’t think can happen. They make movies about things like this.”
Alonso wasn’t even a member of the varsity basketball team as a sophomore. She was playing on the junior varsity when she scored 37 points in a double overtime game. “I just remember everything I shot went in,” Alonso said of that game.
“From the start, it didn’t look like Camila was going to be a player,” Lyndhurst head girls’ basketball coach Perrin Mosca said. “It didn’t seem like it. But she had that one game and we had to bring her up to the varsity.”
After enjoying success on the varsity level, Alonso said that she worked hard on her basketball skills.
“After my sophomore year, I took the game more seriously and put more time into it,” Alonso said. “I got a lot better. I played on a travel team. I worked a lot on my post moves.”
Once Alonso became an inside player, her game took over. As a senior, Alonso averaged close to 20 points and 13 rebounds per game, including setting a new single-game school scoring record when she scored 46 points in a win over Leonia.
“That was just unbelievable,” Alonso said. “Who would have ever thought I could score 46 points in one game? It was unreal.”
“Once it clicked for her, once she knew what she was capable of doing, it just took off,” Mosca said. “We certainly weren’t looking for her to break a record. That was just a special night. But she worked her tail off to become a better basketball player. She bought into what the coaches were saying and we worked with her.”
Mosca, who has resigned from his coaching position at Lyndhurst to take over the girls’ basketball program at his alma mater Hackensack, said that Alonso’s demeanor was a blessing to his team.
“She never gave up,” Mosca said. “She fought hard and worked hard. She’s just a great kid who never took credit for what she accomplished. She always gave credit to her teammates. She was a great kid to coach and as I look back someday, she’ll be one of the best I’ll ever coach. She definitely leaves a legacy.”
Alonso left Lyndhurst with more than 1,000 points in her career, becoming only the fifth Lyndhurst girls’ player to eclipse the prestigious milestone.
Hykey said that Alonso’s senior year in soccer as a defender was curtailed by a foot injury.
“She tried to play through the injury and it didn’t work,” Hykey said. “I knew what she was capable in basketball, so I had to make sure she was ready to play basketball.”
The track aspect of Alonso’s career may be the most impressive, considering she did not compete in track at all as a junior.
“I think it was Anthony (Immediate) who talked her into coming out,” Hykey said. “Anthony had her in basketball and coached her a little with the javelin when she was a sophomore. We told her that she could become something special in track, but we let her make her own decision.”
“Track and field was very different,” Alonso said. “It was more of an individual sport, but in a team. Coach Immediate told me that he thought I could be pretty good. I thought about it and said, `Why not? Let’s try it.’ It was my senior year and I wanted to try it and see if I could have fun.”
Alonso won three medals at the NJIC Liberty Division championships, winning the discus by 30 feet, winning the javelin by 22 feet and placing second in the high jump. At the Bergen County Division C championships, she won the javelin with a throw of 131 feet, 11 inches and came in third in the discus.
“When I hit 131 for the first time, that’s when I knew I was getting pretty good,” Alonso said. “I had medals hanging all over the house and I had no idea what they were for.”
Alonso continued to finish second overall in Bergen County Meet of Champions in the javelin, throwing 133-4.
At the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state sectionals, Alonso won the discus gold medal and finished second in the javelin. A week later, at the overall Group I championships, Alonso was second in the javelin and fourth in the discus – qualifying for the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in two events. She finished by placing 19th in the javelin and 27th in the discus in the entire state. In the end, Alonso set two school records in the javelin and the single game scoring mark in basketball.
“She was just a tenacious kid,” Hykey said. “To compete in two events at the Meet of Champions is quite an accomplishment. It really couldn’t happen to a better kid. She was definitely the hardest worker we had. She was there, in the weight room, when everyone else had gone home, lifting and working. I’d say ‘C’mon Camila, finish up, we want to go home.’ And she was still there.”
“I owe it all to my coaches,” Alonso said. “They molded me into the perfect athlete. They showed me how to carry it onto the field and into life.”
And now, Alonso has offers to compete in track and field in college. She’s weighing offers from both East Carolina and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. She was getting interest from Division III schools for basketball, but now she’s headed to Division I in track and field.
“I wasn’t even thinking of Division I schools,” Alonso said. “I never thought of going to college because of track. I always thought it was basketball or nothing. It’s crazy how this all happened.”
Alonso said that it was an honor to receive The Observer Female Athlete of the Year award.
“Now people know who I am and know my name,” Alonso said. “I had someone come up to me at a dinner and say, `Camila, you made Lyndhurst very proud.’ He didn’t know me, but he said that nice thing. It’s nice to know that I’ll be remembered. I want to now do big things in college. I can do it if I have the right mentality.”
Alonso plans on majoring in criminal justice, once she decides what school she will attend.