Golden Bears: On the rise once again

Photo by Jim Hague/ From left, Eric Angus, Danny Gaspar, Mike Morreale, Thiago Fernandes and Cap Ki Kim are just five of the reasons why the Lyndhurst boys’ track program won the Jack Yockers Bergen County Relays for a second straight season.


By Jim Hague

When you lose an athlete, a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon such as Patrick Rono, your team is naturally supposed to decline somewhat, maybe falter.

After all, Rono was the best all-around track and field athlete in Lyndhurst High School history, perhaps the finest athlete to ever come out of Bergen County. He was the nobrainer selection a year ago as The Observer Male Athlete of the Year, earning the honor without even the slightest of debate. Rono, now performing more than admirably at the University of Arkansas, simply made everyone around him better and he simply cannot be replaced.

However, veteran track and field coach Tom Shoebridge was quick to point out that the Golden Bears didn’t lose only Rono to graduation.

“We graduated 10 other seniors, some other great kids and athletes,” Shoebridge said. “We lost athletes like Erik Quezada, Tommy Grimmeyer, Vin Acosta, Michael Fusco, Gabe Ruggiero, Nick Marino, Kyle Jankowski. It wasn’t just Patrick. People thought because we lost Patrick that we were dead and done. But we lost more than just Patrick.”

Shoebridge wasn’t ready to throw a damp rag over the entire program. He knew that the Golden Bears were far from done, despite the massive losses to graduation.

“I think we all truly believed we could have another super year,” Shoebridge said. “We knew what we had coming back.”

First and foremost, the Golden Bears have depth, almost unheard of number participation for a small school. There are almost 75 kids participating in the entire track and field program at the school, which is totally unfathomable.

“We are so deep, much deeper than last year,” Shoebridge said. “We have so many kids doing so many different events.”

Those numbers have gone a long way, because the Golden Bears just captured the small schools division of the Jack Yockers Bergen County Relays, winning the team title in the county relay meet for the second straight year.

“We hadn’t won it since 1985 and now we’ve won it twice in a row,” Shoebridge said. “It’s a credit to the kids. We’ve gone 6-0 in dual meets and we used the Richie Pezzolla Memorial Lyndhurst Relays and the Aviator Relays (at Hasbrouck Heights) as ways to find the right combination. As it turns out, we may be even better than we were last year. Winning the county relays again is a big win and I’m so happy for the kids.”

Shoebridge is very pleased with the performances of the distance runners, who are trained regularly by assistant coach Ed Tessalone.

“He’s done a great job getting those distance kids ready,” Shoebridge said. “They’ve set new school records in three different distance relays.”

Seniors Thiago Fernandes and Danny Gaspar are holdovers from the Golden Bears’ solid cross country team. They’ve transcended their talents to the track. Max Estevez, Rudy Suarez and freshman Mike Cavello and Kane Mc- Dermott have done excellent jobs in competing right away with the two talented seniors.

“They’ve been posting some phenomenal times,” Shoebridge said. Senior Mike Morreale, the standout wrestler, has been doing a stellar job in the pole vault.

“He’s already flirting with 14 feet,” Shoebridge said.

The team has so much depth that there are three who compete in the pole vault. Some schools are lucky to have just one. Juniors Nathan Daquilla and Ian Yunis are the others who clear the bar. Shoebridge has had a rich history in developing quality pole vault athletes.

The team also has its share of talented hurdlers in junior Cap Ki Kim, a junior, has been the best hurdler thus far, but he’s joined by seniors Ali Kone and Evan Fitzsimmons and junior Brent Nogiero.

“The hurdlers have been unbelievable, shattering school records,” Shoebridge said.

Senior Eric Angus has also been sensational, competing in a handful of events, like the sprints and the jumps. Angus has already broken the school record in the triple jump at 43 feet.

Junior James Wenger also competes in the 100-meter dash and the high jump. Sophomore Anthony Giaquinto has already eclipsed 51 seconds in the 400-meter run an astounding five times. Senior Sebastian Perez is another fine sprinter.

Shoebridge had to develop his entire throw team, but they’ve all done well, led by junior Dominic Rega, sophomore John Mercado and seniors Vincent Carini and Parker Luland.

Shoebridge was even able to get J.P. Manzo to come over from the baseball team and compete in the 400-meter run and have seniors Anthony Maldonado and Eduardo Silva compete in the 400 and 800-meter runs.

“We really are so deep that it’s amazing,” Shoebridge said. “Sure, we may not have anyone like Patrick, but we do have kids like Thiago and Danny who have been leading the way. They’re winning and working hard. They’re very focused and they led us to the championship.”

The relay championship just leads the way toward the individual championship meets that are coming up later this month.

“It’s really exhilarating,” Shoebridge said. “Everyone thought we would be down this year, but the kids have listened and learned, but more importantly, they believed. It’s so great. I’m happy for the kids. Everyone said that we were good only because of Patrick. But you can’t win in track and field with just one kid.”

This latest championship is obviously proof.

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