By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Ever since 2003, The Observer has presented an award for the top male and female athletes of the year in the newspaper’s circulation area.
The presentation is made after the scholastic school year is completed, generally in July.
The Observer Male Athlete of the Year award has been dominated in recent years by graduates of North Arlington High School.
In 2008, Michael Gross was given the award, before the former three-sport Viking standout went off to the University of Rhode Island to play football. Gross was an inspiration to many, especially after he recovered from suffering a stroke while at Rhode Island.
In 2010, Peter Santos, another multiple sport standout, playing soccer and basketball, earned the honor. Two years later, it was Tyler Krychkowski, another soccer, basketball and track standout, who earned the distinction.
Last year, it was former Viking standout quarterback/basketball forward A.J. Nocciolo who secured the award, making it four Athletes of the Year among the last six honored, all from the same Group I school.
Well, the 2013-14 scholastic sports season is two-thirds complete and the chances are that this year’s honoree just might be from North Arlington once again.
It’s safe to say that the two leading contenders for this year’s award are classmates at North Arlington.
First candidate is Nick Martin, who had a sensational football season and is in the midst of a great basketball campaign for the Vikings.
Need proof? How about Martin’s fourgame explosion recently, all leading to Viking victories?
Martin had an astounding 31 points and 15 rebounds in a 72-64 victory over Wood-Ridge, had 21 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Christ the King of Newark, tossed in 29 points and had 11 bounds in a win over St. Mary’s of Rutherford and had 19 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Visions Academy.
If Martin wasn’t already named Athlete of the Week during the football season, he would have been a candidate for the honor this week.
Martin is an absolute credit to the school, a true gentleman who is a pure scholar athlete. He will graduate among the top students in his class. Martin hinted during the football season that he would rather seek a top education than become a collegiate athlete.
“I’m not too sure I want to play in college,” Martin said. “I’m leaning toward not playing. I think it might get in the way of my studies. I need sufficient time to keep my grades up and my academics always come first.”
Martin is an excellent student, with a 4.2 grade point average and a Scholastic Aptitude Test score of 1710. He is being sought after by the Ivy and Patriot League schools.
Need we say more?
Then the next candidate is Danny Cordeiro, who has received his fair share of recognition recently for his contributions to the school’s first-year indoor track and field program.
Cordeiro had a phenomenal soccer season, scoring 30 goals and adding 19 assists. It was good enough for Cordeiro to earn a soccer scholarship to NCAA Division I New Jersey Institute of Technology.
But for good measure, Cordeiro won the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I championship in the 800-meter and 1,600-meter run, added the overall Group I championship in the 800 and last weekend, Cordeiro finished seventh overall at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
Here’s a kid who already had the academic standards to get into NJIT, earned a soccer scholarship and is now lighting up the track as a runner.
Cordeiro has created a legacy already, being the first state medalist in the history of the North Arlington indoor track and field program.
It’s almost too unbelievable for words that two great athletes could come from the same town, never mind the same school.
But Martin and Cordeiro have certainly blazed the trail for the rest of the area’s athletes to follow.
And once again, they are from North Arlington, the little school that simply seems to churn out multi-talented athletes year after year.
Is it a coincidence that Martin and Cordeiro come from the same school that produced Gross, Santos, Krychkowski and Nocciolo before them?
Having one or two might be considered a fluke. Having four or more? That’s definitely a trend and certainly a reason for the entire school to be very proud.