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Have you seen this alleged Nutley burglar?

NUTLEY — Police say they are investigating a diversion burglary that allegedly occurred on Fischer Ave. on Dec. 9. An elderly resident told police that a man banged on her front door at 3 p.m., Dec. 9, claiming there was […]


Help sought in cold case

By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  Somebody knows something. Six years ago, an 87-year-old man was deliberately run down by a car in a South Kearny parking lot and robbed while he lay helpless on the ground. He died of his injuries the next day. Authorities ruled the death […]

100G for Arena tax case

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  HARRISON –  Now that the state Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the New York Red Bulls professional soccer team should pay taxes on the stadium and the land it occupies in Harrison, the town has hired an outside law firm to […]


Staffing Skyway fire-watch

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY – For the first time, members of the Kearny Fire Department will have a shot at off-duty pay, much like their counterparts at the Police Department have enjoyed for many years, although there is a sunset provision for the privilege. This opportunity […]


New No. 2 has seen it all

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  LYNDHURST –  The Lyndhurst Board of Education has revived the position of assistant superintendent, albeit on an interim basis, with the hiring of 50-year educator Jeffrey P. Feifer. Feifer, who came aboard Sept. 25, was appointed to serve “no more than 120 days,” to […]




To the editor: 

Children who start their school day without a healthy meal are much less likely to have the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn. With growing poverty in New Jersey, “breakfast after the bell” is one of the most effective ways to battle childhood hunger.

Last school year, Hudson County jumped from 14th to fourth place in the state school breakfast participation rankings. School leaders in districts like East Newark and Harrison are all serving more than half of low-income children breakfast at school – and increasing the federal dollars their districts receive to feed hungry students. We applaud their efforts.

We encourage districts that have yet to switch to “breakfast after the bell” — especially Kearny — to implement this simple change. Districts that have implemented “breakfast after the bell” routinely report that logistical challenges are easily overcome and classroom breakfast becomes part of the morning routine. Not only do hungry children benefit, but the entire school community reaps the rewards of ensuring that every child begins the school day with a full stomach.

Nancy Parello 

Advocates for Children of New Jersey, Newark 

Co-chair of the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign 

Lock your cars when you park, cops warn: NPD blotter

After five reports of burglary to motor vehicles during the past week, Nutley PD issued a public advisory recommending that all residents lock their vehicles when not in use. In an incident reported on Nov. 1, the owner of a vehicle parked on Highland Lane told HQ that when they were about to enter their unlocked car, they noticed that the driver’s side door was slightly ajar and that items valued at $800 were removed from the vehicle.

Four other burglaries were reported on Nov. 7.

On that date, police said two separate auto entries occurred on Valley Road. In one incident, the owner said various items were taken and acknowledged that the car may have been left unsecured. In the other, the owner said that paperwork and several items were found scattered throughout the vehicle’s interior but found no sign of forced entry.

At a Bloomfield Ave. location, someone opened an unlocked vehicle and removed prescription papers and more than $200 in change and cash.

And, on Prospect St., a caller told police that they found their black Chevrolet SUV with its driver’s side door halfway open but no items removed. Police said there were no signs of forced entry.

Aside from the auto burglaries, between Nov. 1 and Nov. 7, Nutley PD responded to 21 motor vehicle accidents, 17 disputes, 17 suspicious incidents/ persons and the following incidents:

Nov. 1 

Police arrested Walter Bell, 67, of Hopatcong, on River Road after conducting a plate inquiry and learned that Bell was wanted on a warrant from Hackettstown. Bell was released, pending court action, after posting bail.

Nov. 3 

PSE&G reported an attempted burglary at their property near Cook Road. Pry marks were found near the dead bolt locks on the door of a trailer and the locks were damaged but nothing was taken from the trailer, police said.


Police responded to an activated burglar alarm sounding at a Passaic Ave. one-family home and found that the west side door had been forced open. After the building was secured, police notified the owner who, after examining the interior, reported everything was intact.


The owner of a car parked in the Chase Bank lot on Centre St. told police that after returning to the vehicle, they found the windshield scratched and the wiper bent.


A Mapes Ave. resident was apparently cheated out of their $300 iPhone 6 plus because when UPS delivered the package to their house, an Hispanic man flagged down the driver on Chestnut St. and told the driver he was waiting for his package to be delivered to Mapes Ave. Police said the man signed for the package and left. UPS is investigating.


Police conducted a motor vehicle stop of a vehicle observed leaving from in front of a home near Chestnut St. that has been under surveillance for possible drug distribution. Police said they detected the odor of suspected unburnt marijuana coming from the vehicle and its two occupants and saw the passenger moving around and reaching under the passenger’s seat. At this point, police called for the Essex County Canine Unit and the dog allegedly gave a strong hit to the vehicle’s doors and the passenger. Police searched the vehicle after getting the owner’s consent and recovered suspected marijuana from the vehicle. Police arrested Frank DiLiberto, 20, of Nutley, and Michael Cosme, 22, of Linden, on charges of possession of marijuana, possession of CDS with intent and possession of paraphernalia. Police said a search of DiLiberto uncovered packages of marijuana in his sock. Both were released pending a court date. Nov. 5  Police patrolling Municipal Lot 1 spotted a man rifling through a bag containing several loaves of bread which had been delivered to a local restaurant for later use and placing one loaf into his jacket. When officers approached, the man, later identified as James Cox, 58, of Nutley, began placing the loaves back into the bag. Cox was charged with theft of movable property and released pending a court date.


A driver traveling on Rt. 21 South reported that a piece of metal had suddenly struck their car’s windshield, damaging the hood and shattering the windshield. Police said the damage was consistent with the impact of a metal object and advised the driver to contact their insurance company.


Someone slashed three tires of a vehicle parked on Edison Ave. Police said they have no known suspects.


A Duncan Place homeowner notified police of a possible burglary in progress, saying that they’d found the residence ransacked and heard a noise inside. After searching the home, police said they determined that an intruder got in through a rear window and got out through the back sliding doors which were left ajar. Additional searching found that the gate on the north side of the house was open. The owners told police that a large amount of proceeds was taken.


Police were sent to Ridge Road and Centre St. on a report of a suspicious person described as a black man, 30 to 40, wearing blue jeans and black sweatshirt, with an umbrella and backpack. At the location, police said they found a man matching the suspect’s description who reportedly told them they were walking home after a stop at Burger King but police said they found that account inconsistent. Police said the suspect also gave a false name and date of birth. Quaire Wilson, 25, of Bloomfield, was charged with hindering apprehension and released pending a court appearance.

Nov. 6 

Police responded to a Cottage Place residence on a report of a tree down on private property. The resident said a neighbor’s tree had fallen on the front end of their vehicle. The resident said they’d arrange to have the tree removed from their driveway and would contact their insurance company. Police left a message for the neighbor to advise them about the incident.

– Ron Leir 

Flames rip through Kearny home


fire_web2 fire_web3

Top photos, KFD; bottom, by Karen Zautyk 

Fire gutted a single-family home on Garfield Ave. at the corner of Elm St. in Kearny early Monday, but the two occupants, a man and a woman, were able to escape. The two-alarm blaze was reported at 3 a.m. and quickly spread through the structure. As of press time, no other information was available. The cause is under investigation.

Hsieh is Harrison’s top realtor


Rosa Agency Inc. announces that Aina Lin Hsieh has passed $10.5 million sales volume mark for 2014. According to New Jersey Multiple Listing Service, from Jan. 1 to Nov. 8, Hsieh is the No. 1 leasing agent, with 22 transactions, and the No. 1 listing/ selling realtor with over $3.8 million in volume and 11 transactions in Harrison.

“Aina Lin Hsieh is one of the most dedicated and successful realtors in the area,” said Augusto Neno Jr., broker/owner of Neno-Rosa Agency.

Neno credits Hsieh’s loyalty to her customers, market knowledge and willingness to go the extra mile as what sets her apart from the competition.

“Aina is always on the go; she works very well with other realtors and she has an impeccable record. It is an absolute pleasure to have Aina as part of our family for the past 25 years. In fact her son, Brian Hsieh, joined our firm this year. He is doing a great job learning the business and we are pleased to have two generations working side-by- side,” said Neno.

Hsieh has been awarded Salesperson of the Year at Neno-Rosa Agency 10 times since starting her real estate career in 1989. She has won the NJAR Circle of Excellence an incredible 20 times, while being one of the few realtors who won the Silver Award five times. In 2013, Hsieh received the Realtor Spirit Award from Meadowlands Board of Realtors in recognition of services to the community.

Hsieh specializes in sales of residential and commercial properties and rentals in Harrison, Kearny, North Arlington and Lyndhurst. You can preview all her listings at www.AinaLin.com or contact her directly at 201-889-2085.

For information on the Rosa Agency, call 201-997- 7860 or visit www.RosaAgencyHomes.com, Facebook.

Firepit Quality Meats offers take-home BBQ & lots more


By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 


John Patoilo, owner of Firepit Barbecue, says over the years, his customers have asked him how they can get their hands on the meats and oils and sauces he uses at his restaurants. And because of that, he’s wanted, for the longest time, to open a butcher shop of his own.

Over that time, he tried and tried and tried to convince his friend, and now partner, Jose Almeida, owner of Simoes and Almeida in Kearny, to join him in opening up a modern meat store.

Finally, after years of discussions and coaxing, Almeida agreed — and now, Firepit Quality Meats has finally opened at 617 Ridge Road, North Arlington. And all those great tastes customers are accustomed to at the barbecue can now be taken home for dinner, parties and then some.

“I’d been chasing Ze (Jose) for two years,” Patoilo said. “I would tell him that I’d love to be his partner. Eventually, he asked me what my vision was and when I explained it to him, it clicked. And at that point, he said, ‘sign me up.’ That was around June — and now, just a few weeks ago, we had our grand opening and we’re up, running and enjoying every second of it.”

So just what could one expect to find at Firepit Quality Meats? Well, for starters, clearly, meats.

“There are all sorts of meats available — and not just what you’d find at the barbecue,” Patoilo said. “For starters, we have Boar’s Head cold cuts. You’ll also find smoked sausages, pork loins, other kinds of pork, chicken, angus supreme beef, steaks, short ribs, fresh turkey and American veal.”

But there’s much more than the great meats.

“We also have Portuguese olive oils, cheeses from Portugal, Norwegian cod and breads from Teixeira’s Bakery delivered each day,” Patoilo said.

So in addition to the store being a great stop for meats, you can also pop in for a sandwich. In essence, Firepit Quality Meats is a butcher shop and a deli all in one.

And it’s not just Portuguese food available for sale.

“You’ll also find your milk and dairy products, eggs, and things of that nature as well,” Patoilo said. “We have pastas, canned fish, tuna, sardines, incredible jumbo shrimp, tilapia. The fish is high quality, so we hope people will come in to see the incredible variety we have to offer.”

Some of Almeida’s noted products are available, too, including an array of marinated meats.

But the bottom line, Patoilo says, is that if you want to take the taste of Firepit Barbecue home with you, you’ll have plenty of choices.

“Sometimes, people prefer to entertain at home instead of going out,” he said. “So if you’re having 40 people over at the house for a party, you can have that great-tasting food at home for your big crowd. We love this approach and think it will be very successful.”

Firepit Quality Meats is located at 617 Ridge Road, North Arlington. Reach them by phone at 201-991- 6379. Hours of operation are Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

around town


Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., continues its Pajama Story Time program Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 6 p.m. This program is open to all ages and no registration is required.

For more information, call the library at 973-450-3434 or visit www.bellepl.org or belleplcr.blogspot.com.

Belleville High School hosts a “Masquerade Senior Fashion Show” on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m., in the school’s Connie Francis Theatre as a fundraiser for Project Graduation. The show features senior class students. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door or in advance from students. All funds generated will be donated to the senior class to attend Project Graduation, a drug- and alcohol-free school trip held after the graduation ceremony.

Belleville Elks Lodge 1123, 254 Washington Ave., holds its monthly breakfast Sunday, Nov. 16, 9 a.m. to noon. Cost is $6 for adults; $3 for children under age 10; and free for children under age 3.

Silver Lake Baptist Church, 166 Franklin St., celebrates 100 years of ministry with a special service on Sunday, Nov. 23, at 11 a.m. with refreshments to follow. For additional information, contact areyousure@aol. com or call the Rev. Vincent Milano at 732-947-7766.


Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., announces the following programs:

  • Free yoga class is held Nov. 24 at 6 p.m.
  • Financial Book Club meets Tuesdays at 6 p.m.
  • A Knitting Club meets Fridays at 11 a.m.
  • Book Club meets Monday, Dec. 1, 6:45 to 7:45 p.m., to discuss “Time and Again” by Jack Finney.

For more information, call the library at 973-566-6200 or visit http://www.bplnj.org/. For help in locating a copy of the book club selection, call the library and dial ext. 502 for the reference desk.

Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center, 240 Belleville Ave., offers these programs:

  • The Great American Songbook, songs from Broadway and movies, is slated for Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15.
  • Tea with Mrs. Claus, open to ages 2 to 8, is set for Saturday, Dec. 13, with two seatings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Children must be accompanied by an adult. This event features arts and crafts plus a picture with Mrs. Claus. Seating is limited. Tickets are $12 for adults and $15 for children. Payment must be received within five days of reservation. There will be no refunds on paid reservations.

For tickets, reservations or more information on these programs, call Oakeside at 973-429-0960.


Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/Coccia Realty continues a coat drive for the area’s less fortunate, through Nov. 15, at its Kearny, Lyndhurst and Rutherford offices. Drop off gently used or new coats between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays or from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends at any of these participating offices: 636 Kearny Ave., Kearny; 273 Ridge Road, Lyndhurst; or 11 Park Ave., Rutherford. For more information, call Randy Wine at 201-939-0001.

A motorcycle run/toy drive for St. Claire’s Homes for Children kicks off at the Elks Lodge, 601 Elm St., Sunday, Nov. 30, at 1 p.m. Registration is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Participants are asked to bring a $20 registration fee and a new, unwrapped toy. No stuffed animals please. The lodge hosts an after-run party for riders.

Those who don’t wish to participate in the run can still drop off donations at the lodge or at Arlington Lawn Mower, 483 Schuyler Ave., on Nov. 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information, call Paul at 201-991-1076 or 201-726-2315. Visit www.aidsresource.org.

The Elks Lodge also conducts its Hoop Shoot, open to ages 8 to 13, starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, at the Presbyterian Boys/ Girls Club, 663 Kearny Ave. Participants must bring their birth certificate. For more information, call Tom Fraser, executive director of the PBGC at 201-991-6734 or Ron Pickel at 201-463-8447.

First Presbyterian Church, 663 Kearny Ave., hosts a Geek Flea Market Saturday, Nov. 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Over 40 vendors will be selling comics, collectibles, art and more for all ages. Admission is free.

The Kearny Public Library presents a book signing and sing-a-long led by local author Cynthia Dreeman Meyer at the Main Library, 318 Kearny Ave., on Saturday, Nov. 22, at 11 a.m.

Meyer shows what goes on the night before Christmas in her book, “Merry Stirring Mice.”

Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis, so guests should arrive early. Call the library at 201-998- 2666 or check out our website www.kearnylibrary.org for more program information.

The Woman’s Club of Arlington meets Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 1 p.m., at the Girl Scout House, 635 Kearny Ave. There will be a baby shower to benefit the Salvation Army. Participants are asked to bring unwrapped gifts suitable for infants or toddlers.


N.J. Meadowlands Commission offers the following programs:

  • Third-Tuesday-of-the- Month Nature Walks continue on Nov. 18, 10 a.m. to noon, at Mill Creek Marsh in Secaucus. The walk is run in conjunction with the Bergen County Audubon Society. Check meadowblog.net for last-minute weather updates. Walkers are asked to sign a standard liability release that is good for NJMC/ BCAS events throughout the year. To R.S.V.P., contact Don Torino of the BCAS or call 201-230-4983.
  • All About Turkeys, open to all ages, serves up facts and history about the star of Thanksgiving dinner Saturday, Nov. 22, 1 to 2 p.m., at the Science Center, 3 DeKorte Park Plaza. This program includes a scavenger hunt for kids (with prizes) and a cranberry sauce demonstration and take home recipe. Admission is $5; $4/MEC members. Registration is recommended and appreciated. To register, go to http://mec.rst2.edu/environment. For more information, call 201-460-8300.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 353 Valley Brook Ave., hosts the following events:

  • Cornucopia Mobile Craft, open to grades 1 to 4, is offered on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m.
  • Turkey Headband Craft, for pre-k to grade 3, is set for Monday, Nov. 17, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m.
  • A screening of “It’s Thanksgiving Charlie Brown,” open to pre-k to grade 4, is slated for Monday, Nov. 24, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Registration is required.

Registration is required for all of these events, unless otherwise noted. To register, call the library at 201-804-2478.

  • The library now offers free drop-in citizenship classes on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. Classes will be held in the ESL Room on the 3rd floor. For more information, contact Michele Kelly at 804-2478, ext. 5.

Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., Suite 1, holds these programs:

  • A flu shot clinic is set for Wednesday, Nov. 12, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with free shots available to township residents ages 18 and older. Medicare recipients must bring their card. Wear clothes with loose-fitting sleeves. No appointments are needed.
  • A blood screening is slated for Friday, Dec. 6, at the Community Center on Riverside Ave. Appointments begin at 8 a.m. This service is available to Lyndhurst residents over age 18 for a $20 fee. Preregistration is required and appointments can be made by calling 201-804-2500. Payments can be submitted in cash or checks may be made payable to Medical Laboratory Diagnostics.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3549, 527 Valley Brook Ave., hosts karaoke on Friday, Nov. 21, starting at 7:30 p.m. The post hall is available to rent for all occasions. For more information call 201-939- 2080.

North Arlington 

North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Road, hosts a holiday celebration on Friday, Dec. 12. Bingo starts at 10:30 a.m., lunch is served at noon and dancing begins at 1:30 p.m. For more information and reservations, call 201-998- 5636.

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road, announces:

  • Historical Fact and Fiction Book Club meets Thursday, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m.
  • Friends of the Library Book Club meets Friday, Nov. 21, at 10 a.m.
  • Woman’s Club Craft, open to grades K to 5, begins at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 18.
  • Comics Club, open to grades 6 and up, meets on Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 3:30 p.m.
  • Tween Book Club, open to grades 5 to 7, meets on Thursday, Nov. 20, at 3:30 p.m.
  • Thanksgiving Story Time, open to grades 4 to 7, commences at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20.
  • Lego Club, open to grades 1 and up, meets Tuesday, Nov. 25, at 6:30 p.m.

North Arlington Emblems Lodge 1992, 129-131 Ridge Road, presents Comedy Club Night on Friday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30. Proceeds benefit Elks charities. The show features Moody McCarthy and Dan Shaki. McCarthy has made numerous TV appearances, including “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Shaki was featured on XM radio’s “New Rascal’s Comedy Hour” and was runner-up in Caroline’s World Series Tournament.

North Arlington Woman’s Club sponsors a trip on Dec. 6 to the Sands Casino, Bethlehem, Pa. The bus leaves from Borough Hall at 9 a.m. Cost is $30 with $20 slot return and $5 food voucher. For information, call 201-889-2553.


The Nutley Health Department, in partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center and the Montclair Health Department, will present a free Diabetes Expo on Tuesday, Nov. 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Dr. Free blood glucose and vision screenings will be available. For additional information, call 973-284-4976.

The Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive, announces the following programs.

(Registration is not required unless otherwise noted. Call the library at 973-667-0405.)

  • Manga/Anime Teen  Club, open to grades 7 to 12, meets Friday, Nov. 14, at 3 p.m.
  • An Evening at the  Library, celebrating the library’s centennial, kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15. Enjoy champagne, gourmet foods, and entertainment. Tickets are $100 per person. Call 973-667-0405 for more information.
  • Babygarten, open to ages  23 months and under, offers books, nursery rhymes and playtime, on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Registration is required. Must be a Nutley resident.
  • Cook-With-a-Book Reading Club, open to grades 4 to 6, meets on Friday, Nov. 21, at 3:30 p.m. The group discusses a book and cooks up something fun to eat.

Registration is required.

Lyndhurst wins NJSIAA cross country title again


Golden Bears romp to 2nd straight North 2, Group I title

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer

Before the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I sectional cross country championships last Saturday at Greystone Park in Morris Plains, Lyndhurst High School head coach Michael Picardo thought that the Golden Bears had a solid chance to not only do well, but to dominate.

“I didn’t want to sound cocky, but I thought if we all brought our ‘A’ game, we were going to crush it,” Picardo said. “We ran lights out.”

Led by senior Stephen Covello, who finished second overall in 17:11.08, the Golden Bears had a parade of runners cross the finish line in succession.

Covello was second, followed by teammate William Hooper, then Dylan Stanco and finally Andre Francisco. One right after the other, second, third, fourth and fifth. All four runners are seniors, wanting to make sure that their final season is certainly a memorable one.

The dominating performance enabled the Golden Bears to secure their second straight state sectional title, easily outdistancing runner-up New Providence by almost 30 points.

Picardo said that the team followed the lead of Covello, who was nothing short of brilliant.

“Stephen is the heart and soul of this team,” Picardo said. “We were without him last year (because of a bout with mononucleosis). For him to come back this year and run this well, it’s amazing. He’s the focal point of this team. He personifies what cross country is all about. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s all heart and that’s what we are.”

Covello said that he didn’t pay attention to Jordan Price of New Providence, who won the race.

“I wasn’t really concerned about him,” Covello said. “I just had to get out and finish strong. I felt really good, so I decided to go for it. I just ran with the pack and we all pushed each other. I knew I had this in me. I just had to show it.”

Hooper was next, crossing the finish line in 17:14.40.

“I think running together was definitely the key,” Hooper said. “Everyone just got out so fast and we just stayed there. We kept telling each other that we had to stay in the group. It just all fell in line.”

Stanco was next, posting a time of 17:15.57.

“I never saw us run like that before,” Stanco said. “Just being together like that was incredible. I think we all ran 10 times faster because we ran as a team. It definitely means more to do it as a team.”

Francisco followed in fifth, finishing in 17:20.74. That’s four runners, all classmates, all teammates, all friends, finishing in a state sectional, one after another, in a span of just nine seconds. That’s it – just nine ticks apart.

“I think it shows how much we’ve bonded,” Francisco said. “The hard work finally paid off. It’s a great feeling, because it’s the first time in Lyndhurst High School history that a team won back-to-back state sectional championships. This was the hardest race ever.”

It was a tough race, because early on, both Hooper and Francisco slipped in the Greystone mud and fell.

“It meant more that we got up and finished,” Francisco said. “I tried hard to catch back up again.”

“I had no idea that they fell,” Picardo said. “They’re all heart and guts. Absolutely, we’re a team, first and foremost. We have a great pack of runners who stay together. Today was the best race our program has ever run. They bust their tails together. They’re lunch pail kids. They work hard and go to work. And they’re champions.”

The Golden Bears also received solid efforts from sophomore Xavier Locke, who was ninth overall in 17:42.07, junior Isaiah Aviles, who was 11th overall in 17:49.95 and junior Anthony Dell Aquila, who was 12th overall in 18:01.87.

“When I said I knew, I did,” Picardo said. “I knew what they were capable of.” It meant that all seven of the Golden Bears’ runners finished among the top 12 overall. Yes, that’s domination.

The Golden Bears now move on to the overall Group I state championships at Holmdel Park in Holmdel Saturday after; “Let’s see what happens there,” Picardo said.

The Lyndhurst girls finished fourth in North 2, Group I, led by Lindsary Cirne, who was 15th , and Alexis Gerbasio, who was 16th overall.

Kearny’s Vega finishes NYC Marathon


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Jason Vega experienced a life-changing year in 2010.

“I wanted to do something different,” said the 49-year-old Kearny resident. “I felt like I was getting old. My father passed away in 2009. I wanted to do something that my kids would be proud of.”

So Vega, an avid musician and guitar player who was once in a rock band, decided to become a marathon runner. Yes, just like that.

“I did a little running when I was in high school (at Christ the King in Middle Village in Queens, N.Y.),” Vega said. “But I quit during my freshman year. I put it in my head that I wanted to run a marathon for my kids (Danielle and stepson Nick Martinez).”

And Vega didn’t want to run just any other marathon.

“If I was going to do it, I wanted to do it on the biggest stage, namely New York,” said Vega, who handles receiving at a local food distributor. “When my father passed away, that was it for me. I was a two-pack- a-week cigarette smoker. I drank beer. I had to do something.”

Vega’s wife, Diane, was more than supportive in his quest.

“But she knew that no way it would happen,” Vega said.

When Vega began to train regularly, he certainly had his obstacles.

“I was horrible,” Vega said. “My mind was saying that I could do it. But my body was saying, ‘Oh, no.’ The first couple of miles, it was embarrassing. I needed to do it the right way.”

So Vega found a marathon training regimen that sneaker magnate Nike initiated.

“I followed the letter of the law,” Vega said. “I did everything that the program told me to do. I learned about the proper shoes to wear. I learned about the tools I needed.”

After following the 28-week routine, Vega felt like he was ready. So he applied to run in the New York City Marathon, entering the lottery for possible entrants. It was a shot in the dark, but Vega had the goal in mind.

“I set a goal and I had to see it through,” Vega said. “It took a lot just to get me going.” Vega eventually got the determination and got the approval to run in the NYC Marathon in 2010.

“I read my magazines and other resources,” Vega said. “I found a better way of eating. I became a pescadorian (which means Vega only eats fish one day a week). I found a root-based diet. As a runner, I started to improve. It was nothing to be proud of and was definitely ugly, but I kept going. I actually started feeling a lot better.”

However, disaster struck. Three weeks before the race, Vega suffered a strained Achilles tendon.

“I was doing some training on River Road and I felt a sharp pain in my leg,” Vega said. “I was hobbled bad, but I was determined.”

With the help of Kearny chiropractor and therapist Jim San Fillippo, Vega nursed the injury. “

Jimmy took care of it,” Vega said. “I thought that was it. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do it. But Jimmy got me to the starting line.”

Vega said that the experience of running in 2010 was motivation to do it again.

“It was amazing,” Vega said. “You couldn’t imagine the amount of emotion I felt, all the things that go through someone’s head. You see all the people in the streets. It’s unbelievable.”

Vega had a host of supporters behind him, a group that he called “Team Vega.”

“Halfway through the race, I was feeling good, but then I was overwhelmed with emotion,” Vega said. “There was a whole bunch of Kearny people cheering me on. They bounced around from mile to mile. I had a huge support team.”

At one point, Vega thought he was done.

“It was around the 22-mile mark and I thought I was going to quit,” Vega said. “I hit the wall hard. I was ready to tap out. But then I saw my wife and kids and said I can’t do it. I couldn’t let them down.”

Vega finished the 2010 race in four hours, 46 minutes and 22 seconds.

“I remember seeing the finish line ahead of me and got a little boost of energy,” Vega said. “I did it.”

Vega was hooked. He was a marathoner.

He ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2011 and Chicago in 2012. He also competed in the New Jersey Marathon in Long Branch.

But the goal was to get back into the New York City Marathon, where it all began.

“Lady Liberty beat me up bad the first time I ran it,” Vega said. “It was like she took her torch and beat me over the head with it.”

Vega didn’t apply to run the NYC Marathon the last two years, feeling fortunate that he didn’t get in two years ago after Hurricane Sandy did its local damage.

But two weeks ago, Vega was intent on being an entrant in this year’s race.

“I got an e-mail telling me that I was in,” Vega said. “Then I saw that $263 was withdrawn from my savings.”

That’s the entrance fee for the NYC Marathon these days. It costs a pretty penny to run the streets of New York.

“I’m dedicated,” Vega said. “This time, I left nothing to chance. I had a debt to settle with the race. I was going to do it again.”

Vega said that he trained five days a week, running anywhere between 30 and 40 miles a week.

“This time, I was ready,” Vega said.

Vega completed the 26.2 miles in four hours, 24 minutes and 30 seconds.

“I was so pumped,” Vega said. “I really wanted to break four hours. That was the goal. Once I started to see that slip away, then I really wanted to leave it all on the course. My time was pretty good for someone my age.”

Vega now has another goal in mind – namely the Boston Marathon.

“My kids are blown away,” Vega said. “They’ve inspired me to do more. Danielle, my daughter, wants to run with me. I’ll wait for them to finish or they’ll wait for me. But I’m not going to let them beat me.”

Vega’s next marathon will be in Long Branch in April, 2015.

“The ultimate goal now is to get to Boston,” Vega said.

Needless to say, Vega’s life has been altered over the last four years.

“No way could I have predicted this,” Vega said. “Not even close. I had no idea where the journey was going to take me. But I’m here now and loving it.”

And Vega might get his band back together as well.

“That would be something else altogether,” Vega said.

Harrison’s Lakhrif scores goals in bunches


By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Over the years, the Harrison High School boys’ soccer program has been almost like the United Nations of high school sports.

The Blue Tide has featured players from practically all over the globe, especially those with South American heritage.

Last year, the team’s best player, All-State defender Modou Sowe, originated from Africa.

Now, this year’s premier goal scorer, Ali Lakhrif, comes from Morocco.

“He moved to Harrison in the middle of his sophomore year,” said veteran Harrison boys’ soccer coach Mike Rusek. “The season had already ended. I keep a soccer ball in my closet and I brought it out into the hallway to see if he could kick it around. I realized that Ali could speak four languages.”

But the one language that Lakhrif spoke the best was the universal tongue of soccer.

“When John (Rusek, Mike’s assistant coach and brother) and I first started out, Harrison was like the melting pot, because we got kids from all over the place. But Ali said he was from Morocco and that was a first for us.”

It didn’t take long for Mike Rusek to realize that Lakhrif was a special player.

“When the weather got nicer, Ali was taken to (the famed Harrison) Courts to play,” Rusek said. “After seeing him every day, I said to John, ‘I think we have a find here.’ I didn’t see him on the big field, but I saw that he had some good ball skills.”

When Lakhrif’s family moved to Harrison from Morocco, Ali had no idea of the town’s rich soccer background. But he soon found out.

“I came here and wanted to play soccer,” said Lakhrif, who speaks French, Spanish, Moroccan and English. “I wanted to do well wherever we came to, but when I found out about the soccer here, I was very happy about it.”

Lakhrif fit in well with the Blue Tide and scored 15 goals, including the lone goal against Kearny in the Hudson County Tournament semifinals.

“I thought that if I scored that many last year, I could get more this year,” Lakhrif said. But no one could have ever imagined the impact that Lakhrif would have this season with the Blue Tide.

After scoring three goals in the Blue Tide’s 11-0 win over Bloomfield Tech last Thursday in the first round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state tournament, Lakhrif now has 33 goals, which ties the single season school record for goals. Leo Bodasian had 33 goals in 1973.

Imagine all the great players that have come through the storied Harrison program over the years. Lakhrif has now scored more goals in a season than all but one of them.

“We’ve had some kids get into the 20s and even 30s,” Rusek said. “That’s a special and Tony Dominguez had 30. Harrison is traditionally one of the better soccer programs. Ali has now tied the record. It’s incredible.”

For his efforts, Lakhrif has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

“He’s just a very hard worker,” Rusek said of Lakhrif. “He does all the little drills to get better. Every time he steps onto the field, he’s giving 100%. It’s nice to see that hard work get rewarded. It’s like watching a young professional. He’s such a tough competitor. He has that drive that you don’t see often.”

Lakhrif is also a very unselfish player. He’s collected 19 assists as well this season.

“He’s a forward for us, but I think on the next level, he’ll wind up in the midfield,” Rusek said. “He’s a good student, so he’ll go on to college. He’s still looking at schools right now. Very quietly, he’s scored 33 goals. You don’t hear a lot about him.”

The Blue Tide scored 135 goals this season, the most in Rusek’s coaching career. A lot of that scoring production is because of the Moroccan import.

“I’m all for the team,” Lakhrif said. “It’s not just for me. I think I’ve been in the right place at the right time. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I hope to go far in college. I got very lucky to come to Harrison.”

Needless to say, Rusek is pleased with Lakhrif’s production.

“I am pleasantly surprised with what he’s done,” Rusek said. “I was hoping that he could get 20 goals. Well, if we keep playing, he might get double that.”

The Blue Tide was set to face New Providence after press time Monday in the sectional semifinals.

“I’m more than happy with Ali’s production,” Rusek said. “I think we underplay just how talented of a player he really is.”

The record books at Harrison High School will now tell it all, because with one more goal, Ali Lakhrif becomes the all-time single season record holder. That’s a legacy to last forever.

Three local girls’ soccer teams move on


By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Three local girls’ high school soccer teams have all advanced to their respective NJSIAA state sectional playoff semifinals that were slated to be played after press time Monday.

The Kearny High School girls advanced to the North Jersey Section 1, Group IV sectional semifinals with a dominant 11-0 win over Bergen Tech last Friday. That win came on the heels of a 5-0 win over North Bergen in the first round.

In the win over Bergen Tech, Lily Durning erupted for four goals, her best performance to date. Barbara Paiva, who was named the Hudson County Interscholastic League Player of the Year earlier last week, had two goals and an amazing five assists. Breeana Costa had three goals and Amanda Eustice had two for the winners, who were slated to face Montclair Tuesday in the sectional semis.

Nutley advanced to the North 2, Group III semifinals with a 5-1 win over Woodbridge. In that game, Victoria Kealy had three goals, including her 76th career goal, becoming the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of the school. Samantha Chimento and Kaitlyn Salisbury each scored a goal and Zoe Steck had three assists.

The Maroon Raiders were slated to face nemesis West Morris in the sectional semifinals Tuesday. West Morris knocked Nutley out of the state playoffs a year ago, so revenge was certainly on the minds of the Maroon Raiders entering that showdown.

And Lyndhurst steamrolled its way into the North Jersey Section 2, Group I semifinals with an 8-0 victory over neighboring rival North Arlington. The Golden Bears won their first state playoff game over Weehawken by a 7-0 score.

In the win over North Arlington, Mia Luna had three goals and Giana DiTonto had two goals and two assists. The top-seeded Golden Bears were slated to face fifth seed Glen Ridge in the sectional semifinals Tuesday.

Needless to say, it has been an excellent season for the local girls’ soccer teams.