By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Carlstadt builder Ed Russo is looking to expand a residential development project already in progress in a Kearny redevelopment area at Bergen and Schuyler Aves. Russo told The Observer last month he has a contract to purchase an additional 2.25 acres of […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent NORTH ARLINGTON – Borough residents should be getting their property tax bills by the first week of December, CFO Steve Sanzari said last Thursday, after the Borough Council finally adopted the 2014 municipal budget. Passage of the budget, introduced back in July, has […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent NUTLEY – This township, which has been in the forefront when it comes to offering support and assistance and recognition to veterans, has launched yet another project to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our nation. This time, going […]
Photo by Karen Zautyk On Veterans Day, the Township of Kearny added this new memorial to Monument Park on Kearny Ave. It will commemorate local members of the armed forces who make the supreme sacrifice in the War on Terrorism. […]
A costly phone scam was perpetrated on an unknowing caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient, Nutley PD reported.
Police said the victim received a call from someone claiming that the patient’s grandson was in jail and needed to be bailed out. The caller suggested that the victim buy pay pack cards at the local CVS and that they’d call back in an hour to process the payment.
Police said the victim bought the cards and returned to the home where they were again contacted by the scammer who told the victim to scratch off the activation numbers from the cards and to read them over the phone.
In this way, police said, a total of $2,020 was processed. Later, the caregiver told the patient’s daughter that they had paid for their son’s bail. Police said the daughter then called her son, only to learn he was fine and that the alleged incident had never happened.
When police tried to reach the scammer, they said they got an answering machine with a recorded message in French.
Two out-of-towners were charged Monday in connection with a burglary to a local business owner’s vehicle parked on Centre St. on Oct. 15.
Eric Kristofferson, 26, of Oakridge, was charged with obstruction and Joseph Legra, 42, of Blairstown, who remains at large, is charged with the burglary, police said. Nutley PD also logged these recent reports:
Police conducted a motor vehicle stop on River Road after spotting a vehicle traveling 52 mph in a 25 mph zone. After learning that the registered owner and driver was on the suspended list and had two outstanding warrants from Belleville, police arrested the driver, Jessica Ortiz, 27, of Belleville. She was released, pending a court date, after being issued a summons for driving while suspended.
While monitoring traffic on Rt. 21, police said they observed a vehicle traveling at about 80 mph – in excess of the 55 mph allowed on the highway. After the driver failed to heed an order to stop, police pursued the vehicle as it merged north onto Rt. 20 into Paterson where two Clifton PD units and two State Police units converted on the vehicle, bringing it to a stop. The driver, Avelino Taveras, 47, of Newark, was charged with eluding police and was issued several motor vehicle summonses. He was released pending court dates.
A motor vehicle stop on Franklin Ave. resulted in the arrest of Douglas Smith, 26, of Newark, for three outstanding warrants from Newark. Police said Smith was also issued summonses charging him with driving while suspended and maintenance of lamps. He was released to the custody of Newark PD on the warrants.
A Franklin Ave. business owner reported an attempted utility fraud. The owner told police they got a call from someone claiming to be a customer service representative for PSE&G saying that the owner had to pay $2,060.36 in full or his electrical service would be turned off. Police advised the owner that the call was fraudulent and contacted PSE&G about the incident.
While on surveillance on a burglary detail, police said they observed a young man waiting in a vehicle as another man emerged from a backyard on Prospect St. After conducting a field interview, police arrested Rizwan Chaudhry, 22, of Nutley, for an outstanding warrant from Clifton. After posting bail, Chaudhry was released pending a court date.
Detectives are investigating a burglary to a Franklin Ave. gas station. Police said the owner told them that when they opened for business, they found that someone had cut the chain to the kiosk and removed about 100 packs of cigarettes valued at $800.
A River Road resident reported that someone had stolen his vehicle.
Someone entered an unlocked vehicle parked on Centre St. and took a Garmin GPS priced at about $300. Police said the vehicle had no damage.
Police responded to the train tracks between Nutley and Grant Aves. after getting a report about a suspicious party jumping fences and running down the tracks. At the site, police said officers found Anthony Alston, 52, of Newark, who reportedly told them that he was going to work but could not find the job site. Alston was arrested after police learned he had an outstanding warrant from Newark. He was turned over to Newark PD who released him pending a court appearance.
– Ron Leir
By Kevin Canessa Jr.
When Dr. Maria Domingues founded Pink Vision Associates in 2010, among many things that were clear was that the business would be family oriented. Three years later, that was even more evident when Dr. Carla Domingues, Carla’s sister, joined the practice. And now, the family atmosphere has grown even more with the addition of Dr. Diana Espaillat, a graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and a dear friend and classmate of Carla’s.
Dr. Maria Domingues says she is thrilled to have been able to hire Dr. Espaillat, especially since the practice continues to grow and since she comes on board with such high praise from her sister.
“She and my sister have been friends for a while, and she’s a great fit for our practice,” Maria said. “And we’re so delighted that in addition to her university training, she also comes to us with one full year of training in a residency — in an ophthalmology setting. She is very qualified and is excellent with patients.
“We know she’s going to continue to be a great asset here.”
Espaillat, who speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, has had a vast educational background. She got her bachelor’s degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken and then got her OD (ophthalmology doctorate) in 2013. The residency Dr. Domingues referenced took place during the past year at the Eye Care Center of New Jersey in Bloomfield.
During her residency, she focused on patient care, ocular disease, pre-operative care, pediatric optometry and vision therapy. So it’s all prepared her for a career in the field that she first became interested in when she was a teenager.
“I was a sophomore at North Bergen High School when my love for the field developed,” Espaillat said. “I was taking an anatomy and physiology class and we dissected a pig’s eye. I had never worn glasses before, but I loved the intricacy of the lens in the eye. I never thought I’d become a doctor, but here I am now, excited for what’s to come.”
Espaillat says she’s quite motivated by all aspects of her new work, but she’s especially happy to be able to work with kids and with overall patient care.
“I try to put myself in their positions,” she said. “I work hard to ensure my patients are relaxed and that they realize they will get through what has to be done when they’re sitting in that chair.”
But without question, her greatest joy comes from where her career is ultimately beginning.
“I am so excited to join a practice with my very close friend Carla,” Espaillat said. “This is such a great, family-oriented place to be, and I am fortunate to be able to contribute to that atmosphere.”
Pink Vision Associates has three offices: in Lyndhurst, Fort Lee and Irvington. The Lyndhurst office is located at 348 Ridge Road. The hours of operation there are Monday, Thursday and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Learn more about Dr. Espaillat and Pink Vision Associates by visiting www.PinkVisionAssociates.com or by calling 201-438- 8668. You can schedule an appointment on the website as well.
Milada Acacio, 29, of Bayonne, was issued motor vehicle summonses after police said she appeared to be intoxicated and had disabled her vehicle while driving in the township’s industrial area on Wall St. West service road at 11:10 p.m. She was charged with violations of DWI, refusal to take an Alcotest and reckless driving.
Two suspected cases of fraud were reported separately to police.
At 5:15 p.m., a Second Ave. resident told police they had received a voice mail message from someone claiming to be from the IRS telling them that a warrant had been issued for their arrest for non-payment of taxes. Police said the resident did not send any money.
However, in the other incident, police got a call at 8:21 p.m. from a Kingsland Ave. senior citizen who told them they had received a call from an alleged PSE&G representative demanding that they send a payment of $295, via a Green Dot money pack, or face a shutoff of their electricity. The senior told police they complied with the request.
Police responded to a call, at 12:24 p.m., about a suspicious male seen wandering around the 100 block of Forest Ave. Police said the man was observed getting into a car and driving away but was stopped by an officer at Forest and Stuyvesant Aves. where he was questioned. The driver, John Baptiste, 30, of Brooklyn, ended up charged with possession of marijuana and possession of CDS in a vehicle.
Police were called to the Stop & Shop on Lewandowski St., at 1:38 p.m., on a report of a theft. A 20-year-old Kearny resident told police she had left her pocketbook in her shopping cart as she left the store and that when she returned to retrieve it, the pocketbook was gone. Police said she did find her wallet, with her personal items still there, but it was missing $640 in cash.
At 3:19 p.m., police received a call from a homeowner in the 300 block of Lake Ave. reporting that someone had swiped their Halloween decorations, valued at $50, from their front lawn.
– Ron Leir
To help uninsured individuals gain better access to affordable and quality health coverage, St. Michael’s Medical Center will host a special Health Insurance Registration event on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the center’s Admissions Department, 111 Central Ave., Newark. Local residents can schedule an appointment with a certified application counselor, who will help them navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace and register for a plan.
Though uninsured individuals who qualify can sign up on the Health Insurance Marketplace via its website, www.healthcare.gov, St. Michael’s certified counselors will be available to offer one-on-one help, answer questions, compare options, and walk them through the process.
“As a health care provider for the greater Newark community, it is essential that we do all we can to help the members of our community gain access to quality, affordable health care,” said David A. Ricci, St. Michael’s president and CEO.
“When people have access to better health coverage, they can feel more at ease in seeking the care they need to live more healthy and fulfilling lives.”
For coverage starting in 2015, the Open Enrollment Period is Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015. Individuals can schedule an appointment with a St. Michael’s insurance counselor by calling 973-465-2792.
The Job Haines Home, 250 Bloomfield Ave., Bloomfield, reports that staff member Donna McAllister, R.N., was chosen to participate in and has now completed a five-week training course on how to mentor new nurses in taking better care of the geriatric population in long-term care facilities.
“I found the course to be an excellent educational experience that will be a great asset to my profession and to the residents at Job Haines,” McAllister said.
The course, offered by the New Jersey Action Coalition, was funded by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid. Lectures on role-playing, on-the-job experiences and a strong overview of geriatric care were among the topics covered.
The course was developed in response to a 2010 report released by the Institute of Medicine, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.” The report examined how nurses’ roles, responsibilities and education should change to meet the needs of an aging, increasingly diverse population and to respond to a complex, evolving healthcare system.
For more information or to schedule a tour of Job Haines Home, call 973-743-0792 or visit www.job-haines.org.
Harrison/East Newark Elks sponsor a Hoop Shoot basketball shoot-out contest, open to ages 7 to 13, on Sunday, Nov. 23, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the Community Center, 401 Warren St.
St. Stephen’s Church hosts a coat drive Saturday, Nov. 22, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the lower church hall (enter via Washington Ave.). Coats, sweaters and sweatshirts will be accepted. Anyone wish to recommend a community member in need is asked to stop by at 11 a.m. For more information, call 732-552-8039 or 201-991-0670.
A cat food drive is being conducted through Dec. 12 for Kearny’s TNR (Trap, Neuter and Return) program. Drop off cat food donations at K-9 Corner, 169 Midland Ave. at Elm St.
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 are accepted. 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., between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
For more information, call Paul at 201-991-1076 or 201- 726-2315. Visit www.aidsresource.org.
The Kearny Elks Lodge 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.
The Presbyterian Boys- Girls Club, 663 Kearny Ave. hosts its annual Turkey Day dance Friday, Nov. 21, 7 to 10 p.m. Guests are restricted to teenagers. Prizes will be given to the best dancers.
Lyndhurst Public Library, 353 Valley Brook Ave., hosts a screening of “It’s Thanksgiving Charlie Brown,” open to pre-k to grade 4, Monday, Nov. 24, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Registration is required. To register, call the library at 201-804- 2478.
Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Ave., Suite 1, holds a blood screening Friday, Dec. 5, at the Community Center at Riverside and Tontine Aves. Appointments begin at 8 a.m. This service is available to Lyndhurst residents ages 18 and older for a $20 fee. Pre-registration is required. For appointments, call 201-804-2500. Payments can be submitted in cash or checks, payable to Medical Laboratory Diagnostics.
Lyndhurst American Legion Post 139 Rehabilitation Committee holds a ward party for veterans at Chestnut Hill Extended Care Facility, Passaic, on Tuesday, Nov. 25, at 2:30 p.m. This event is sponsored by Claire Wertalik in memory of James Wertalik who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, 1949 to 1951. Post members play games of chance with hospitalized veterans and distribute treats to them. Anyone interested in sponsoring a ward party is invited to call 201-438-2255.
The Humane Society, 221- 223 Stuyvesant Ave., invites members of the community to bring children and pets for photos with Santa Sunday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments are available, but walk-ins are also welcome. All pictures will be taken by a professional photographer. Proceeds benefit the animals at the Humane Society. Photos with an attractive holiday folder cost $10. A CD of all pictures taken is available for $20. For more information, call 201-896-9300.
North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Road, hosts a holiday celebration 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 Woman’s Club sponsors a trip to the Sands Casino, Bethlehem, Pa., on Dec. 6. 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.
Children can deliver letters to Santa Claus at the special “Santa Express Mailbox” starting Friday, Nov. 28, at the Park Oval entrance on Chestnut St., in conjunction with Santa’s arrival at the Oval. The last day of collection will be Wednesday, Dec. 17. Children must include their age and return address on each letter. Santa doesn’t always have the luxury of time to look up addresses during the busy holiday season. For more information, contact the Department of Public Affairs at 973-284-4976.
At 12:16 a.m., officers were sent to the 200 block of Manor Ave. on a report of three suspicious males sitting on the porch. Upon arrival, one officer saw the three men smoking and one tossed what appeared to be a cigarette to the ground. As the officer approached, police said he detected a strong odor of suspected marijuana. Another officer recovered the discarded butt containing green vegetation from under the foot of one of the other men on the porch. Two of the men, Mateusz Muchowski, 20, and Pedro Paysan, 27, both of Harrison, were issued summonses for possession of CDS under 50 grams and released pending a court date.
At 4:29 a.m., an officer on patrol at Cleveland Ave. and Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. spotted a white Mitsubishi Galant with a North Carolina registration having trouble staying in his travel lane northbound on Rodgers Blvd. After following the vehicle for two blocks and observing the continuation of the driver’s erratic driving, police said the officer activated emergency lights and siren and stopped the vehicle at the Cross St. intersection. The driver, Abel Gonzalez, 23, of North Carolina, was issued summonses charging him with DWI, DWI through a school zone and reckless driving. He was released to a family member, pending a court date.
At 3:54 a.m., an officer on patrol observed a 1997 Chevrolet Astrovan traveling at a high rate of speed through the intersection of Third and Hamilton Sts. Police said the officer activated lights and siren and stopped the vehicle at Second and Hamilton Sts. The driver, Christian Piedrarojas, 25, of Harrison, was ticketed on charges of DWI, reckless driving and several other motor vehicle violations. He was released to a family member pending a court appearance.
– Ron Leir
Harrison wins third straight state sectional soccer title
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It was the final time that Jorge Castro was getting a chance to play soccer on his home turf at Harrison High School, so the Blue Tide senior midfielder wanted to make sure it was a memorable day.
“I’ve been here for four years and this was my last time here,” said Castro, who led the Blue Tide into action in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I championship game last Thursday afternoon against Secaucus. “This game really meant a lot to us.” Castro made the most of his last home game, scoring a brilliant goal in the second half, leading the Blue Tide to a 2-0 victory, giving Harrison its third straight state sectional championship.
“Winning three in a row really means a lot,” said Castro, who unleashed a rocket blast from about 35 yards out that eluded stubborn Secaucus goalkeeper Eric Quitiquit for the final score of the game. “I think they kind of figured out who we were, so they were going to be tough to beat this time.”
Harrison (22-3) had defeated Secaucus twice previously in the regular season, winning by 5-0 and 3-0 margins. But the Patriots were a more stubborn opponent this time, not allowing a goal until Ali Lakhrif’s header off a Leandro Gonzales cross went past Quitiquit with 32 minutes remaining in the game.
It was the 35th goal of the season for Lakhrif, who broke the all-time single season school record for goal scoring earlier last week.
Lakhrif was wearing two different colored shoes, one a fluorescent orange and the other a luscious lime green.
“I wanted to do something a little different for good luck,” said Lakhrif, who has now scored 10 goals in the five games that he’s donned two different colored cleats. “I was glad to be able to get the first goal, because after that, the game opened up for us.”
Harrison head coach Mike Rusek realized that Secaucus was a tougher opponent than the first two games this season.
“It was very tough to beat this team three times,” Rusek said. “The coach (Christopher Garcia) knows us well and they played us hard. They had a lot of good, tough kids. You fear that you’re playing against a team like this and you dominate action, but you make one mistake, have one breakdown and the result could be different. We said to them at halftime that they just had to keep coming, that the goal would come.”
Gonzales made a perfect cross and the guy with the two different colored shoes used his head to add to his scoring record.
“We knew that our best opportunity to score was from our midfield,” Rusek said. “Leandro made a perfect pass and Ali made a perfect header.”
The score remained that way until there was 13 minutes left, when Castro made his sensational shot.
“He’s always been capable of doing that,” Rusek said. “It was a great shot. It was perfect timing, because it made us very tough to beat with a two-goal lead.”
As it turned out, the two teams could have played until next August and Secaucus would still be searching for a way to get a goal. The Patriots actually played the ball past midfield only a handful of times and never got off a legitimate scoring opportunity. Goalkeeper Nick Araujo didn’t have to work too hard to collect his 17th shutout of the season. He was credited with making one save, but it certainly wasn’t a memorable one. That’s how dominant the Blue Tide’s play was in the midfield and their back line.
It marked the 10th time in 15 years that the Blue Tide captured a state sectional title under the tutelage of Rusek and his brother and assistant coach John Rusek. The Blue Tide were slated to face Section 1, Group I champion Waldwick in the overall state semifinals Wednesday at Indian Hills High School.
A win there would put the Blue Tide in place to capture the 27th overall state championship in the school’s rich and storied history. The Group I state title game is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Kean University, with the scheduled starting time to be approximately 3 p.m.
First things first. The Blue Tide needs to beat Waldwick to move on.
The Blue Tide has fallen short of that overall state title in each of the last two years – something that the players definitely remember.
“This was just the first step,” Lakhrif said. “We want to win it all this year.”
“We’re going to do it this year,” Castro said. “I know it.”
“It’s a good feeling,” Rusek said. “We have 14 seniors on this team and they had not lost on this field since their freshman year in 2011 against Glen Ridge (in the state sectional title game). They enjoyed a lot of success on this field. They’ve been with us a long time. They deserve this.”
At the end of the game, Rusek managed to get his seniors on the field so they could be playing when the final few seconds ticked off.
“Every year, it’s a different feeling, but these kids have worked so hard,” Rusek said. “Things have seemed to fall into place for this team. We’re the last team in Hudson County to still be playing, so we’re very proud of that.”
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
When the high school girls’ soccer season began in earnest last August, Nutley High School head coach Mike DiPiano didn’t know what the future held.
After all, the Maroon Raiders graduated nine seniors from last year’s team that won 18 games and advanced to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III semifinals.
“I couldn’t let the kids know that I had doubts,” said DiPiano, who began his third season at Nutley. “I did have concerns. We graduated four defensive starters and a goaltender. I knew that we had goal scorers in (Victoria) Kealy and (Zoe) Steck, but I wondered could they score enough for us to win.”
No one could have ever imagined what would transpire in a span of just two months. The uncertainty of August became a championship run in November.
Although the season ended Friday with a tough loss to Roxbury in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III championship game, the Maroon Raiders can walk away with their collective heads held high.
“We went further than any other team in school history,” said DiPiano, noting that the Maroon Raiders had never participated in a state sectional title game before Friday. “They all bought in and came together. They had sleepovers and movie nights. They had cookiebaking sessions, went pumpkin picking, apple picking and go-cart racing. They really made this team into a family. It was great to see.”
The Maroon Raiders finished the season 16-6, but three of those wins came in the state tournament, including a clutch win over West Morris in the sectional semifinals. West Morris was the team that eliminated the Maroon Raiders from the state tournament a year ago.
The team featured standout returnees in forwards Kealy (24 goals and 16 assists) and Steck (17 goals, 13 assists). Everything the Maroon Raiders did offensively was centered around the play of the two standouts.
Kealy, headed for Rider University on a scholarship, was once a defender at Nutley, but was moved up front and her entire life changed.
“She led by example,” DiPiano said of Kealy. “She played out of position as a freshman defender on a team that won three games. She did whatever we asked of her and did a great job as a leader.”
More importantly, Kealy leaves Nutley girls’ soccer with a legacy as the school’s all-time leading goal scorer, tallying an astounding 79 goals during her brilliant career.
“There were a lot of tears Friday and that’s understandable,” DiPiano said. “It was a tough day. But I let her know that she was one of the reasons why we were able to turn this thing around. She really had a great career.”
Kealy became the program’s second NCAA Division I player over the last three years, joining Natalie Melillo, who is at Troy University in Alabama and scored four goals there as a freshman this season.
“We feel we have players coming out of this program who can play at the next level,” DiPiano said.
When the time comes, Steck will become a major college player as well. Only a sophomore, Steck is already getting attention from Division I schools.
“We’re proud of that,” DiPiano said.
However, DiPiano should be most proud of the way his players developed this season.
When the season began, he had a goalkeeper who hadn’t played competitively in almost four years and had a host of underclassmen playing major roles in the defensive back line.
But junior Sarah Roselli emerged as the team’s goalkeeper, replacing last year’s Observer Co-Female Athlete of the Year Grace Montgomery. Roselli, who played tennis her first two years of high school, didn’t receive medical clearance to play soccer after suffering concussions as a middle school player, but DiPiano knew that Roselli could handle the responsibilities if healthy.
“I saw her play when she was younger and I knew if she could play, she would do fine,” DiPiano said.
Lauren Holden is a freshman who was given the responsibilities of being the team’s sweeper.
“I also saw her play when she was younger,” DiPiano said. “She comes from an athletic family (sister Emily is Nutley’s ace pitcher during softball season). Lauren is just a good soccer player. I knew she wouldn’t play like a freshman.”
Darby Fischer is a sophomore who became the team’s stopper.
“She was very tough,” DiPiano said. “Darby and Lauren Holden kept us together.”
Freshman Jela Small played both at defender and in the midfield.
“She’s a dynamic player,” DiPiano said. “She has a bright future.”
Senior Julie Fredericks, a first-year varsity starter, junior Melissa Alvarez and sophomore Angeli Bossibaly all did great jobs assisting the defensive backline that was once a question mark and evolved into the team’s strength.
Sophomore Jennifer Callaghan became a good ball distributor in the midfield. Senior Kaitlyn Salisbury and junior Sam Chimento were also major contributors in the midfield, along with Sarah Grueter and Maise Jelley.
They all molded well with the immense talents of Kealy and Steck up front, as potent a 1-2 scoring attack that could be found in northern New Jersey.
While the Maroon Raiders graduate a host of seniors, especially All-State candidate Kealy, the prospects look very good for the years to come, especially with Steck returning for two more soccer seasons.
“This team was a huge success story for the program, for the school and for the community,” DiPiano said. “I’m very proud of them. We won one state game two years ago, two last year and three this year. We’re moving in the right direction.”
If the progression remains the way it has been over the first three years of DiPiano’s regime, then a fourth win in the state playoffs should finally mean a state sectional title in 2015.
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It had been a brilliant cross country season for the Lyndhurst High School boys’ team, one that culminated in the NJIC-Colonial Division championship and the second straight NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I title.
So when the Golden Bears took to the tough and treacherous course at Holmdel Park last Saturday for the overall Group I state championships, there was hope that the Bears could muster up yet another brilliant performance to move on to the NJSIAA Meet of Champions this weekend.
But it didn’t happen.
The Golden Bears didn’t get the performance they were hoping for and finished fourth, just missing on a berth in the M of C by a total of just nine points.
“We didn’t have our ‘A’ game today,” Lyndhurst head coach Michael Picardo said. “We knew we needed our best today and we didn’t get it.” Stephen Covello was the top Golden Bear runner, coming home in 14th place in 17:15.36. Teammate William Hooper was right behind in 15th place, clocked at 17.16.96. Dylan Stanco was next, earning 17th place in 17:19.14. The trio tried desperately to move up to make more of an impact, but it wasn’t to be.
“In the beginning, I got trapped in the back,” Covello said. “I couldn’t move. Going up the hill, it was pretty hard to get past anyone. I had to run on the edges, between the trees and everything. Once we got out of the woods, we had a lot of ground to catch up and it was hard. I was trying to go for it and couldn’t get there.”
Covello said that he was looking for his teammates as well.
“We tried to run as a pack,” Covello said. “Billy (Hooper), Stanco and I were all together. But I didn’t know where we were. Making up ground in a race like this with so many runners is really tough. We tried to push each other to the end.”
“I think we all got out slow,” Hooper said. “At one point, I was like in 50th place as we entered the first mile. I tried to pass so many people, but it was so hard. I got tripped about five or six times because I’m so tall and have long legs. People were hitting me left and right. Once everyone got out, it was hard to catch up. We just couldn’t get past them.”
Andre Francisco was the next Golden Bear finisher, crossing the line in 30th place. Isaiah Aviles was 58th and Anthony Dell Aquila finished in 61st place.
Despite the disappointing finish, Picardo said that the team had a lot to be proud of.
“I’m very proud of what we accomplished,” Picardo said. “In fact, I’m ecstatic. Sure, this hurts right now, but I’m super proud. This is the greatest bunch of kids I’ve ever coached. I can’t ask for anything more. We’re a true team in every sense.”
The runners themselves realized how great of a season it was.
“I’m very proud of these guys,” Hooper said. “Four years of hard work definitely paid off. It’s not the way we wanted it to end, but we worked so hard to get to this point.”
Covello, the heart and soul of the team, agreed.
“This is heartbreaking,” Covello said. “It hurts. We wanted to go out and win this. But this one race doesn’t dictate what we did all year. I’m unbelievably proud of these guys. It’s been my honor to have run with them. I wouldn’t have changed things for the world. We won back-to-back state sectionals, the first time in the school’s history. I wouldn’t trade any one of these guys for anyone.”
Covello said that there will come a time when the pain of Saturday’s disappointment will fade away.
“I wanted to get one more chance to run with these guys,” Covello said. “It’s really heartbreaking. But we accomplished a lot and I know the guys next year are in good shape to do well again.”
There’s a program at Lyndhurst now. In years past, there were teams led by Patrick Rono, who was a physical presence, a sure-fire stud.
This year’s team wasn’t blessed with a ton of natural athleticism. There were no physical specimens, no physiques that would incite fear in opponents.
But the Golden Bears had a lot of heart and desire. More importantly, they were a team.
“That sums it all up,” Picardo said. “They were a team in the truest sense. I’ll remember this team forever.”
The Golden Bears will be immortalized for helping put the Lyndhurst cross country program on the map, thanks to the diligence of the senior leaders.