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To the editor:

The firefighters of Kearny did an incredible job of responding to a terrible fire on June 12 at 304 Beech Street, which is next door to where we live. They responded along with the police within a few minutes of my wife’s call to 911.

For three hours they fought bravely along with assistance from nearby towns including Harrison, East Newark, and North Arlington, as the fire kept raging and eventually burned all the way from the basement to the roof.

Without their capable hard work and persistence, our house might have burned down also. They entered the house, one floor after the other, in order to make sure that the fire was extinguished as quickly as possible under the difficult circumstances. Everyone involved deserves a lot of credit for their efforts.

Steven Jon Kaplan

Beach St. resident

‘Shady’ treatment for tan salon

As I watched the “tanning mom” story unfold I wondered how long it would take until her tanning salon fell under unfair scrutiny. The answer? Not very long. In typical kneejerk fashion, the powers that be in New Jersey are going after City Tropics Tanning Salon in Nutley with a fervor generally reserved for rapists and murderers. Why? It’s simple really. The tan mom, Patricia Krentcil, 44, of Nutley, allegedly took her young daughter into one of the tanning booths at City Tropics — a “heinous act” (to hear some tell it) — that was supposedly evidenced by a sunburn to one of the girl’s legs.

Whether or not this is true will shake out in court (Krentcil was indicted this week on child endangerment charges). Since a child was involved, every posturing and pandering politician will now jump on board to “protect our children” (i.e. get attention).

They’ve hit the salon with over $5000 in fines (most of which are nitpicky in nature) since the alleged incident occurred. How many fines were levied against the salon prior to Krentcil’s alleged infraction? None, according to City Tropic’s owner Anthony Ruccatano.

Sounds to me like someone besides the child is getting burned here. What do you think?

Jeff Bahr



A May 9 story in The Observer about the non-renewal of two school administrators misstated the application of a “Donaldson hearing.” The process applies to cases where a superintendent recommends not rehiring an employee, which wasn’t the case for the two administrators involved.

Also: it was James Doran who abstained on the non-renewal vote, not John Leadbeater. We apologize for the errors.

Belleville Police Blotter

June 15

A nurse at Clara Maass Hospital contacted police with a complaint of a “disorderly and uncooperative patient” at 2:45 p.m. She told officers that after walking into the man’s room he grabbed her and threw her against a wall and shouted, “You’re not taking my blood! I’m not staying in here!” This prompted security guards to intervene. When they did, the man began to strike them. Police were able to subdue David Michael Finley, 40, of Newark. He was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault. His bail was set at $5,030.

June 13

Officers responded to Washington Ave and Greylock Parkway on a report of a motor vehicle accident at 9:47 p.m. While speaking with the driver of one of the vehicles, officers noticed that his pupils were dilated and his speech was slurred. Michael Mcinernui, 33, of Kearny, was arrested and charged with D.W.I. after failing a field sobriety test. He was released on his own recognizance.

Officers were dispatched to 31 Reagan Ave., Apt 1 at 6:38 p.m. on a report of a burglary. The victim said that after arriving home, he noticed that the front door was ajar and that the doorknob had been ripped off. Upon closer inspection, he noticed that $5,000 worth of jewelry was missing from the premises. Police are investigating.

June 10

At 5:05 a.m., officers were sent to Belleville News and Food at 111 Newark Ave. on a report of an individual who had made off with bundles of newspapers. When police arrived at the store they observed a man at the corner of Naples Ave. attempting to conceal two bundles of newspapers. Paul Vilmenay, 42, of East Orange, was charged with theft and receiving stolen property. A subsequent search of Vilmenay’s vehicle uncovered 150 newspapers that had been stolen from Montclair. He was held in lieu of bail.

June 9

Officers responded to Magnolia St. and Newark Ave. at 6:59 p.m. on a report of a motor vehicle accident with a vehicle leaving the scene. The victim said that the vehicle was traveling the wrong way on Magnolia St. and struck his vehicle before stopping. When he asked the driver why he was driving in the wrong direction, the man grabbed a dark colored object, waved it menacingly and started running toward the victim’s car. He then took off in his own vehicle. Police spotted his car shortly thereafter and pulled it over. They observed a brown wooden pipe inside his car that matched the description of the object that had been brandished earlier. Louis Reed, 38, of Belleville, was charged with simple assault, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. He was also charged with several motor vehicle offenses. He was released on his own recognizance.

– Jeff Bahr

Local film puts watchers in the ‘Danger Zone’

Photos courtesy Ryan Polukord/ The evil, soul-piercing eyes of Alex Valez provide a bit of fright for local moviegoers.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

Imagine waking up in a totally white room while having no recollection of how you got there. While many people may think this is the beginning subplot of the next installment of the “Hangover” movies, it is far from it.

Produced and written by Belleville resident Ryan Polukord, “Danger Zone” tells the story of a man trapped in a white room who slowly realizes that he was abducted.

Polukord got the idea from the film after seeing a sign on the way home from Atlantic City last summer that read, “Speed monitored by aircraft.”

“From there, I started thinking about UFOs and how they’re linked to government conspiracy,” Polukord said. “It just got my mind going and I built from there.”

Polukord got his filmmaking start while a student of Belleville High School. It was during his high school years that he realized this was his dream job.

“I really got into it while I was at Belleville High School during a mass communication class that I took,” Polukord said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to pursue this dream and applied to Montclair’s film making program.”

The cast and crew from the premiere of Danger Zone (from l. to r.) Gianna Giarrusso, Kevin Polukord, Lia Sprechini, Ryan, Polukord, Alex Velez, and Amanda Goscinski.


Nearly five years after high school graduation, Polukord has one award winning film under his belt and a good shot at grabbing a second. Polukord first created “Camp 139,” an 18-minute horror film during summer 2010 that was a nominee at the Garden State Film Festival and won “Best New Jersey Based Film” at the Down Beach Film Festival.

For “Danger Zone,” Polukord had the support of a dedicated, familiar cast that helped him complete the film.

“My lead (Frank Serco) and I worked together on a couple of short films,” Polukord said. “I was very familiar with his work and got him in on it. Two of my other actors were Alex Velez and Lia Sprechini, who I went to Belleville High School with. I trusted they would help me get this going.”

The film itself took about 10 months to put together, starting with the concept (July 2011), to a written script (October 2011), shooting (December 2011), to its showcase at Montclair State University on June 8, 2012.

The unveiling of the film turned out to be the moment of success for Polukord, as the film was well received by those who watched it.

“We had a great turnout and had a lot of people jumping (scared) at some points,” Polukord said. “We had a question and answer session after the film and a lot of the (audience members) were asking questions about it. The movie made them think. It was one of those films that made you think in a good way.”

In order to produce the film, Polukord had to raise the money needed to buy props, costumes, and the equipment needed to film the project. Using a website called Kickstarter, Polukord was able to raise $910.

“None of the funding went to paying actors or crew members,” Polukord said. “Everyone was doing it for experience on their resume.”

With “Danger Zone” under his belt, Polukord has plans to get the film to several festivals, including the Atlantic Film Festival, the Toronto After Dark Festival, the Gotham Film Festival and the Screen Horror Festival.

As for the future, Polukord is hoping to continue diving deeper into the filmmaking world, where he hopes to work under a producer and “learn more of the aspects of producing.”

To see more information about the film, visit http:// www.infobarrel.com/Danger_ Zone_Premiere_Ryan_Polukords_ New_Horror_Film.

Kearny’s new librarian looks to bring entire community under one roof

Photo by Ron Leir/ Mayor Alberto Santos swears in Joshua Humphrey as library director as Humphrey’s wife Jennifer holds bible.


By Ron Leir


You can probably find him in the card catalog under “Poets” but for the past two years, you’d also find him circulating everywhere in the Kearny Public Library.

And, as of last Wednesday, the presence of Joshua Humphrey in that special space got the official stamp of approval from the town’s governing body when its members voted unanimously – and wholeheartedly – to the permanent position of Library Director.

His annual salary was fixed at $87,383.

Humphrey, a lifelong Kearny resident, has been serving as the acting director pending his certification by the state Dept. of Personnel. He and his wife Jennifer have two daughters, Catherine, 4, and Anna, 1.

Councilwoman Eileen Eckel, the liaison to the Kearny Library Board, said Humphrey has “brought a sense of calm and dignity” to his job during fiscally stressful times, as the library – due to budget constraints – has had to cut back its evening schedule.

Eckel also praised the director for working toward a “community center outreach” approach by “pulling into the library all different groups of people,” particularly encouraging high school-age youths to use the facility; by being “actively involved” in upgrading technology; and by attending events that the library hosts.

“I look forward to many years of his leadership and calm affect,” Eckel concluded.

Mayor Alberto Santos characterized Humphrey as a “tremendous talent – we’re very fortunate to have him.” And the mayor credited the director with helping make two recent library events – the golden anniversary screening of “Gone With the Wind” and the Farmers Market Cookbook launch – a success.

Humphrey agreed that, “we have a lot going on at the library,” and that it was certainly by design, since “a community center (concept) is what I’m striving for,” by using the library as a focal point of a variety of different activities for all interests and all ages.

And, to make the library a more user-friendly place, Humphrey said it has arranged a series of job resume workshops — because “we see a lot of people out of work” – and has “installed tables for wireless services” and expanded technology – “eBooks have taken off” – and is now in the process of “reconfiguring shelving” to make the library “more handicap-accessible” and “provide more aisle space” for patrons in general.

“Now is the perfect storm of everything coming together,” he added. Yes, the mayor echoed, “it’s a gem and we’ll work with you to make the library reading garden – something we’ve talked about for a while – a reality.” If the town can’t secure Open Space grant funding from the county, Santos said, “we’ll find other ways to finance it.” The mayor also expressed hope for the library to organize a “poetry slam” to “showcase the poets in town,” including Humphrey, whose work has appeared in such publications as the Journal of New Jersey Poets, Paterson Library Review, Lullwater Review, Sensations Magazine and Mentil Soup. Humphrey said that W.H.A.T., the new Kearny-based theater company, “has approached me to do exactly that.”

In an interview, Humphrey said the library also hosts such activities as children’s storytime and art programs, Literacy Volunteers of America, movie screenings, book club and knitting circle.

During his high school years, Humphrey said he used the town’s branch library at 759 Kearny Ave. “a lot” for researching homework assignments and general reading. Experience as a part-time monitor/ shelver/desk worker at the Kearny Library after college “prompted me to get a master’s degree in library science from Rutgers University in 2002,” he said.

If the reading garden comes to pass, Humphrey said he’s also hopeful of developing an outdoor amphitheater where such events as concerts and exercise classes could be conducted.

The library, with seven full-time employees and a $1.3 million budget, operates six days a week and has evening hours, until 8 p.m., on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It claims about 20,000 cardholders.

Around Town


• The Kearny Public Library is proud to extend our Museum Pass program this summer and int o 2013. We are offering passes to the largest group of museums and destinations we have ever had. In most cases, all that we ask is a deposit of $40, which will be returned upon return of the pass borrowed. Our list of destinations has grown to include: American Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Children’s Museum of the Arts, The Frick Collection, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of the City of New York, New York Historical Society, The Skyscraper Museum. Also, we have again purchased a number of vouchers to the American Museum o f Natural History. Up to 2 vouchers are available for anyone with a valid adult Kearny Library card. These vouchers do not r equire a deposit and can be used for free general admission and admission into one special exhibition or film of the visitor’s choosing. We will offer them as supp lies last. Library Director Josh Humphrey and the Library Board of Trustees would like to thank River Terminal Development for helping this popular program continue and grow with an extremely generous donation. In 2011, we circulated our passes over 250 times, a mar k we are hoping to surpass this year. For more information about the details of each pass, contact the library at (201) 998-2666 or check out our website at www.kearnylibrary.org. The Main Library is located at 318 Kearny Ave


• The Humane Society of Bergen County of Bergen County, 221 Stuyvesant Ave., Lyndhurst, has a supp y of dog foods, all brands free for anyone due to unemployment, disability or any other f inancial problem, unable to feed their dog. Please st op by or call 201-896-9300. Monday and Saturday, 10 a.m. t o 4 p.m.; Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; or Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 201-896- 9300.

• The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) is sponsoring the following events: NJMC Pontoon Boat Tour Tour, 5:30 p.m. on June 21. $15 per person. Get an up-close view of the Meadowlands District’s spectacular scenic beauty and wildlife with a two-hour guided pontoon boat cruise of the Hackensack River and its surrounding marshes. Experienced NJMC staff discuss the region’s human and environmental history and point out birds and other wildlife along the way.

Pontoon boat cruises depart from River Barge Park, 260 Outwater Lane, Carlstadt. For ages 10 and up. Pre-registration required. For a complete schedule and to register visit www.njmeadowlands.gov or call 201-460-4640.

Senior Program Thursday, June 21, 7 p .m. Free New Jersey Aviation History through Art Early aviation, from the dawn of flight to the end o f WWI, is the subject for aviation artist Michael O’Neal. As a historian, his work has appeared in the Journal of the Leag ue of WWI Aviation Historians, and on the “Wings Over New Jersey” television program. Learn about New Jersey’s early aviators and view Michael’s spectacular paintings.

Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park, Lyndhurst. Pre-registration required: 201-777-2431. Senior Program Tuesday, June 26, 2 p.m. Secrets of the Dead: A History of Gethsemane Cemetery. Free. Figuring prominently in the enactment o f New Jersey’s early civil rights legislation, this African American cemetery, located in Little Ferry, is the final resting place for more than 500 people, including two Civil War veterans. Gethsemane Historian Arnold Brown will lead you on a slide t our of this historic site. Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park, Lyndhurst. Pre-registration required: 201-777-2431.

• Join the Polish American Club for its Luncheon Cruise on the Hudson. The cruise will leave at 10:45 a.m. from the Polish American Club at 730 New Jersey Ave. The cost for children, ages 4 to 12, is $45; adults, age 13 and older, $65. For tickets, call Alice at 201-935-3830. Tickets must be paid by July 10.

North Arlington

• The North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Rd., announces the following upcoming events: Yoga class – Fridays in June at 10:45 a.m.; Friday, July 20 – Bing o luncheon from 10:30 a.m. t o 3:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 18 – Bus trip to Sand’s Casino and shops in Bethlehem, Pa. For more information, call 201-998- 5636.


• Adults are invited to participate in the Between the Covers Summer Reading Club at the Nutley Public Library, which kicks off on June 25. Each book that you read or listen to gives you an opportunity to win fun prizes from weekly raffle drawings at the library. Displays of recommended summer reading materials will offer an opportunity for browsing and borrowing. Readers are encouraged to include a review of their book on each r affle ticket, or post a review on the Facebook page for Nutley Public Library. A grand prize drawing will be held at the end o f the summer. Call the library at 973-667- 0405 for more information on this and other programs. The schedule of programs is available at the library and on the library’s web site at http://nutley.bccls.org Drop-In Mommy and Me Time will be held a t library on Mondays, July 2, 16 and 30 a t 10 a.m. Registration is required.

• The next meeting of the library’s Monday Night Book Club is scheduled for July 2 at 7 p.m. This month’s book is “Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship” by Gail Caldwell. The group meets on the first Monday of each month a t 7 p.m. Newcomers are welcome.

• Drop-In Craft for Registered Story Time at the library is scheduled f or July 5, 6, 19 and 20 at 10 a.m. Registration required.

• A Tween Video Game Tournament will be held at the library on Friday, July 6 and 20 a t 2 p.m. Registration required.

• The library’s Craft Book Club will meet on Saturday, July 7, at 11 a.m. Registration is required.

• Babygarten will be held a t the library on Monday, July 9 and 23 a t 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Registration required. Preschool Story Time will be held at the library on Tuesday, July 10 and 24 at 10 a.m.. Registration required. An environmental workshop for PreK-2nd grade will be held a t the library on Tuesday, July 10 at 2 p.m. Registration required.

Kearny’s Adamek wins another big boxing tune-up

Photo cby Jim Hague/ Kearny resident Tomasz Adamek was the aggressor early on against Eddie Chambers, winning by a unanimous decision Saturday night at the Prudential Center.


By Jim Hague


The sport of boxing isn’t exactly a beauty pageant. You don’t have to look pretty in the ring or offer a soliloquy about finding a cure for a major disease while wearing boxing gloves.

The most important aspects of boxing are winning and avoiding getting hurt.

So Kearny resident Tomasz Adamek won another heavyweight fight Saturday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, improving to 8-0 at his home away from home. He defeated Eddie Chambers via a unanimous 12-round decision, winning handily on all three judges’ cards. It’s a win that pushes Adamek’s overall professional record to 46-2 and keeps him within sight of another shot at a world heavyweight championship down the road.

Adamek, the native of Poland, has won two straight fights after losing the WBC heavyweight title fight to Vitali Klitschko last September in Poland.

With the victory, Adamek claims the International Boxing Foundation’s North American heavyweight championship belt.

However, Adamek wasn’t exactly spectacular in the win – and he was fighting an opponent who tried to compete all night without the benefit of a healthy left arm.

Chambers did something to his left bicep in the first round, rendering the left hand useless for the remainder of the fight. He managed to put out a game effort fighting with just his right hand.

“I’m sure I would have won the fight if I had both hands,” Chambers said. “I threw a hook off my jab and his big arm got in the way. I must have torn something in the bicep. I tried later to throw some punches with my left, but I couldn’t muscle anything with my left. I had to figure out what to do.”

Adamek admitted that he didn’t notice Chambers fighting with only his right hand.

“I didn’t know about it until someone told me after the fight,” Adamek said. “I still had to be ready for anything. Roger (Bloodworth, Adamek’s trainer) said everything was good. The fight was very close, but I felt I fought my fight and I won the fight. I was only looking to win the fight. If I start to look to knock someone out, I could lose. I felt I controlled the fight.”

Photo by Jim Hague/ Kearny resident Tomasz Adamek talks with the NBC Sports Network after defeating Eddie Chambers Saturday night at the Prudential Center, winning the IBF North American heavyweight championship belt in the process.


Adamek received winning scores of 116-112 from judge Joseph Pasquale, 116-112 from judge Steven Weisfeld and 119-109 from judge Alan Rubenstein.

Adamek was asked if he was hurt at all by Chambers.

“I didn’t feel anything,” Adamek said. “I’m tough. I’m the ‘Mountain Boy.’”

Adamek knows that he’s a bit away from getting another heavyweight title fight.

“I will be ready again in 2013,” said the 35-year-old Adamek. “I’ll take some time off now and come back again in September. I will be ready for another title fight in 2013. I felt like my conditioning was good. I like to throw punches and the fight had too few punches. And they weren’t the right punches. But I’m a warrior. I’ll be back. I feel like I can fight with anyone.”

Chambers, who lost to Wladimir Klitschko for the IBF and WBO heavyweight crown in March 2010, was fighting for the first time since February of 2011, missing two scheduled bouts due to injury. That injury bug came back to bite him again Saturday night.

“Incredibly, I’ve never been injured before in my life,” Chambers said. “Now, it’s happened three times in two years. I had a tough camp for eight weeks in Philly, then I went to Detroit for six weeks. I put everything into it to insure I was going to be in my best shape for this one. I went through camp and never got hurt once. And it happens here. I didn’t come all this way to have this happen.”

Chambers was asked if there was ever a thought of ending the fight.

“I wouldn’t have it,” Chambers said. “I had to roll with it. If my arm fell off, I still would have been out there.”

Adamek was the aggressor before Chambers first motioned that his arm was injured. While Weisfeld somehow gave the first round to Chambers, Adamek clearly won the first and second rounds.

Adamek continued his domination in the third and fourth rounds, switching up his boxing styles to keep Chambers at bay.

Adamek scored at will in the sixth round, using a stiff right jab to keep Chambers moving backwards.

“Eddie was fast and very sneaky,” Adamek said.

Chambers spent most of the sixth round covering up and offering little offense.

Adamek staggered Chambers in the seventh round, but appeared to do so while stepping on Chambers’ foot.

Chambers finally scored with two straight right hands in the eighth round, the first round that Chambers won on two of the three scorecards.

Chambers continued to score in the ninth round, pushing Adamek back on two occasions, fighting with only his right arm.

“I was unsure about the decision and if you’re unsure, you can’t say you won clear cut,” Chambers said. “I don’t like to sound brash, but I would have won if I didn’t get hurt. I worked so hard to get ready for this fight and I was in the best shape of my life.”

Adamek then controlled the last two rounds to win the decision much to the delight of the Adamek-dominated crowd, which chanted “Polska, Polska,” in favor of Adamek all night.

Chambers was fighting for the first time since the passing of his long-time manager “Big” Rob Murray, who died June 3. Murray’s son, Rob, Jr. has taken over handling Chambers.

“It was an important thought going out there tonight,” Chambers said. “Big Rob meant everything to my life for so long. I can’t thank him enough. I think about him every day.”

While Chambers was talking about a possible rematch, Adamek was thinking of the future.

“I want to have another title fight again,” Adamek said. “I have to win every time to get that chance.”

Even if it wasn’t at all pretty, it was a victory for Kearny’s conquering hero, as he works towards getting another title shot in the future.

Locals shine at Robeson Classic All-Star grid game

Photo by Jim Hague/ The area was well represented at the 19th Annual Robeson Classic All-Star football game. From left are Daniel Giangrande of Belleville, Dorsey Williams of Bloomfield, Dorion Williams of Bloomfield and James Hull of Bloomfield. In the back center is Bloomfield head coach Mike Carter, who was one of the assistant coaches for the East squad.


By Jim Hague


The Williams brothers, namely Dorion and Dorsey, have been together since birth. That’s a good thing, considering they are twins.

They also played football together at Bloomfield High School.

Last Monday, the Williams twins got one last chance to play high school football together – and it was only fitting that it was side by side.

Both Williams brothers were selected to play for the East squad in the 19th Annual Robeson Classic All-Star game, pitting some of the best players from Essex and Passaic Counties against a team comprised of Morris and Sussex County players.

And in the game, Dorsey Williams played offensive guard, while Dorion played offensive tackle. One last high school game, but together like they’ve always been.

“It was very exciting,” Dorsey Williams said. “It meant a lot for me to be on the field with my brother again. It was a lot of fun and it was good competition. But to be next to each other on the field at the same time? Well, that’s a great memory.”

“I heard a little bit about the game, but I didn’t know too much,” Dorion Williams said. “It was my last chance to play in high school. It was a great experience and a big thrill.” The Williams twins joined Bloomfield teammate James Hull and Belleville’s Daniel Giangrande on the East squad, a team that demoralized the West by a final score of 47-0.

“We definitely had a very talented team,” Dorion Williams said. “We practiced hard to get ready for the game. We knew we could do well. It was amazing to have all that talent.”

“I was real surprised when I saw the players we had out there,” Dorsey Williams said.

One of the best-known players on the East squad was Khalif Herbin, the All-State running back from Montclair who is headed to Temple in the fall.

“It was real good blocking for him instead of chasing him,” said Dorsey Williams, who had to face Montclair in the regular season. “We really had a lot of talented players. I knew we were going to win, but I thought the game would be much closer than it was.”

Hull was the East’s placekicker. He was kept busy because the East kept scoring touchdown after touchdown.

“It was a great feeling to put that Bloomfield helmet on one last time,” Hull said. “From the first day of practice, I knew our team was outstanding. We had players from Montclair, East Orange and seeing everyone come together as a team with all that talent was amazing. It was crazy to watch. The coaches all said it was going to be a close, hard-fought game, but that didn’t happen at all. We scored early and took the life right out of their sails. We scored so much that I was out there to kick quite often. It was incredible, something I’ll always remember.”

Hull, who is headed to Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y. in the fall and will play football there, liked the way the East team became friends after spending most of the regular season as rivals.

“That was pretty cool,” Hull said. “It was great to meet so many kids that I had heard about or played against. I got to become friends with the kicker on the other team (Jake Feury of Delbarton). Kickers have to stick together.”

Hull converted on five of his six PAT attempts.

“It was great to share it with the Williams brothers,” Hull said. “We’re all pretty good friends. We played well at the end of the season and followed it up with this win. You really can’t ask for anything more.”

Giangrande was one of the more versatile performers for the East squad. He played guard and center on offense, while making two tackles on kickoff returns and special teams.

“I just remember looking out at the field and realizing how great a team we had,” said Giangrande, who is headed to Montclair State in the fall. “I was shocked with the amount of talent we had. Even Coach (Ken) Trimmer (of Caldwell) said that it was one of the best teams they ever had. It was crazy. I was real excited, because I knew that not a lot of Belleville kids get picked to play in the game.”

Giangrande, also a fine wrestler at Belleville, said that he struggled somewhat to get back into a football mode after being away for seven months.

“It was real tough,” Giangrande said. “I had been working out through the spring, but to get back into football shape and put the pads on again was difficult. But I got back into the swing of things pretty quickly.”

Giangrande called his experience “awesome.”

“It really felt like a college game already,” Giangrande said.

The Williams twins will now carry their talents over to college football. They will head to Kean University in unison. It’s hard to break up twins when they’ve been together for so long, like last Monday night.

“It’s a good feeling to know my brother will be with me in college,” Dorion Williams said.

Just like twins should be.

Kearny freshman Koziel wins three medals at NJSIAA Meet of Champs

Competes in wheelchair events; places in five events

Photo by Jim Hague/ Kearny High School freshman Steve Koziel displays the three medals he won at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, becoming the fi rst wheelchair athlete from Kearny to ever win medals at the state meet.

By Jim Hague

Although he was born with cerebral palsy, Steve Koziel always wanted to compete in sports. “I was very limited to what I could do,” said Koziel, now a freshman at Kearny High School. “It was a big thing that my friends could always do more. A lot of times, I had to sit out. But I always liked sports. I’ve never been the type to sit around and do nothing.”

When he got a little older, Koziel tried to be active in skateboarding.

“But that didn’t go so well,” Koziel said.

He also tried his hand in basketball and soccer, but without full use of his legs, Koziel was more than a step behind.

Four years ago, while Koziel was making a routine visit to Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, he learned of a track and field team that was comprised exclusively of athletes with disabilities called “Lightning Wheels.”

Basically, it was a group of young men and women who competed in events while in wheelchairs.

“My doctor told me about the team and I was all for it,” Koziel said. “My parents were a little leery at first, because they thought I was a little too young for it. But the coach saw how I acted with the others who had disabilities and thought I could do well. He thought that I could relate to them.”

Koziel felt right at home.

“After the first practice, I felt like I could do it,” Koziel said. “It was a little tough at first, getting use to doing things in the chair. But I wanted to do it. The competitiveness was always there. Once I went to my first meet, it really sunk in. I wanted to do it.”

Koziel’s commitment to the Lightning Wheels meant that Steve’s father, Steve, Sr. had to do a lot of shuffling his son to and from practices.

When Koziel first started competing, he ran by using the crutches he utilizes to get around on a daily basis. Koziel is not wheelchair-bound.

“I thought I was getting pretty quick with the crutches,” Koziel said. “I did that for about a year. Using the crutches is all I’ve ever known, so getting in the chair was a little scarier. It was a whole new technique to learn. I was really worried about tipping over in the chair. It was really my first experience in the chair. The coaches made fun of me, but it was all in good spirits. I really knew I wanted to do it.”

Koziel said that it took him approximately two full years to get comfortable competing in the specialized sports racing chair.

Koziel spent a lot of time training with Lightning Wheels coach Phil Galli, who works at Children’s Specialized.

“He works integrating people with disabilities into high school sports,” Koziel said.

When Koziel entered Kearny High School, he expressed interest in being a part of the track team.

“It was definitely something I wanted to do,” Koziel said.

With approval from head coach Al Perez and help from assistant coach Steve Andrews – a former state champion in track during his days at Kearny High – Koziel became a regular member of the team.

“I went to 3-to-5 practices a week,” Koziel said. “Steve Andrews did a lot of work with me. He really took the time to work one-on-one with me. I just thought that I would be a part of the team. I never thought I’d really compete. I have friends who live in other states with disabilities and they never get the chance. Steve told me that they would enter me in any meet that they could. They all went far and beyond helping me.”

Koziel said that Andrews was a big help in his development.

“He was the perfect guy to train me,” Koziel said. “There were some days when I didn’t feel like doing anything, but he was there. He had his way with me. In the beginning, no one knew how to train a wheelchair athlete, but he knew.”

Recently, Koziel went to the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in Old Bridge to compete in the wheelchair portion of the meet. Just like all the other able bodied athletes there, Koziol took to the track and competed in six events.

Koziel managed to come away with three medals, winning the javelin with a throw of 37 feet, taking second in the shot put and discus.

Koziel also finished fourth in the 400, 800 and 1,600-meter runs, meaning he placed in every event he entered.

And remember, he did the field events while sitting in a chair, meaning he threw the javelin 37 feet while seated. Truly a remarkable feat.

“The discus is my favorite,” Koziel said. “Normally, I can really click it with my style of throwing. It’s all about strength and technique.”

The 15-year-old Koziel will continue to train to get ready for the United States National Wheelchair Games in Mesa, Arizona from July 21-28.

“I’m definitely excited about that,” Koziel said. “The nationals are my favorite part of the year.”

Needless to say, Koziel never dreamed his involvement in track and field would lead to this, winning a state championship.

“Back when I started, I didn’t know if I would have taken it this seriously,” Koziel said. “I needed to have someone push me.”

Koziel knows that there are others with disabilities from the area who will look to him as being a role model.

“It’s a good feeling to know that, but I don’t like to say that I motivate or inspire anyone,” Koziel said. “I feel like anyone else. I know I’m paving the way for others with disabilities and I know I’m the first one from Kearny. But I’m just like anyone else.”

As a freshman, Koziel knows that he can only improve from here, getting three more chances to compete at the Meet of Champions.

“I’m going to give it my all to get back there again,” Koziel said. “I know that people are going to expect that much more from me. Now that I’m a state champion, I have to do even better.”

Koziel has a bigger goal in mind.

“My ultimate goal would be to compete in the Paralympics one day,” Koziel said. “Having people like Al Perez and Steve Andrews to push me and support me, I think it’s possible. That was the biggest thing when I started here. I needed the support. I was worried how they would react. But they gave me nothing but support.”

Koziel has another long-term aspiration.

“I want to be a graphic designer,” Koziel said.

Koziel is already considering the University of Illinois or the University of Arizona. The reason?

“They both have wheelchair track programs,” he said.

Spoken like a true champion.