Another NJIC crown to go with competitive spirit
For years, Lyndhurst High School has produced track and field teams – both on the boys’ and girls’ levels – that have produced championships galore, filling up the school’s trophy case.
This year is no different, as the Golden Bears captured their fifth consecutive NJICLiberty Division championship and were highly competitive on both the NJSIAA Group I and Bergen County meets.
“It’s an honor,” said Lyndhurst graduating senior Jessica Fallace. “So many people before us helped to make Lyndhurst into what’s become, a major program. People know Lyndhurst and respect Lyndhurst. I have to make sure that I make Lyndhurst people proud and use that to my advantage. You want to do your best because you’re running for Lyndhurst.”
Fallace, who won countless championships and competed in the Meet of Champions, will run for Sacred Heart in the fall. She overcame a serious knee injury to recover in time to be a force on the track for the Golden Bears.
“It’s a great feeling to be back and healthy, even better than before,” Fallace said. “I guess I proved that I could overcome anything.”
Rukayat Olunlade never competed in any sport before coming to the United States from her native Nigeria four years ago.
“When I came to this school, I noticed the track team and said, ‘Let me try this,’” Olunlade said. “I took up the shot put. It was just a round ball that you try to throw far. I got to be pretty good at it. I also got to meet a lot of people because of track. I made friends that I wouldn’t have had.”
Olunlade will attend Richard Stockton in the fall and will compete in track and field there.
On the boys’ side, several of the athletes will attend impressive schools in the fall.
“It’s great to be a part of the track team, because you learn a lot of life lessons,” said Rocco Russomano, who threw the javelin. “You surround yourself with good people and that’s an awesome feeling.”
Russomano was a threesport athlete at Lyndhurst, also competing in football and wrestling. He will attend the University of Oregon in the fall, majoring in business.
“I was always a fan of the Ducks and their crazy uniforms,” said Russomano, who will not compete in sports at Oregon. “It’s a great feeling to be able to go there.”
“It means the world to me to be part of this program,” said Kane McDermott, a solid distance runner. “I got to spend the last four years with my second family. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Lyndhurst just produces good kids first and good track athletes after that. That’s what Coach (Tom) Shoebridge always says. It’s good to be a part of that.”
McDermott is headed to Florida State University to major in information technology. He also will not compete in track and field in college.
William Hooper overcame Achilles tendinitis to become a factor in distance running down the stretch.
“I wanted to have the success that others had, but since I had the injury, I didn’t know if it was all possible,” Hooper said. “I couldn’t do anything and that was frustrating. The injury lingered on into the middle of the season, but I then started to get better and was able to qualify for the Group I meet.”
Hooper is headed to Ramapo College, where he will continue his track career.
“There were all the good teams that came before us,” Hooper said. “We had to carry on the tradition. We really did it.”
Stephen Covello is another distance runner who gave his all for the program for four years.
“It means a lot to me,” Covello said. “Coach Shoe always says that we should be a good person first. I definitely appreciated the opportunity I had to run here. A lot of others aren’t given the opportunity. I just try to do my best for the people who can’t do what I do. It was great to be able to carry on the tradition. From cross country through to outdoor track, it really carried over. Winning the league meet means a lot.”
Covello overcame a bout with mononucleosis to come back and compete for the Golden Bears. He is headed to Rutgers-New Brunswick and major in philosophy.
Chris Bekker and Peter Guerriero are juniors. They will be the anchors of the Golden Bears’ rotation next year.
“It’s pretty awesome to be able to do all of this,” said Bekker, the league champion in the shot put and the discus and competed in the NJSIAA Group I championships. “I’ve been doing this since I was a freshman. I’ve watched the team change, but we keep winning. I can see how much this means to everyone. I felt as a team we learned a lot and kept getting better.”
Guerriero is a sprinter. He’s also the quarterback on the football team.
“It’s a great honor,” Guerriero said. “This is my first year running track. I wanted to compete in something and this keeps me in great shape for football. But I got to like it. At first, I thought I’d be a little bit shaky at it, but I turned out to be pretty good from the start.”
Guerriero went all the way to the Meet of Champions, which is not bad for a novice.
Needless to say, Shoebridge is ecstatic about the way this season turned out.
“I’m very proud,” Shoebridge said. “We graduated a lot of seniors from last year and I thought we might have to go through some rebuilding pains. But basically, what we were doing was reloading. We were undefeated in the league and won the league meet for the fifth straight year. That’s unprecedented. They all worked hard at getting better and I’m very proud of them for it.”
Shoebridge said that the athletes all realized the importance of the winning tradition.
“The kids know what we stand for,” Shoebridge said. “On the back of our sweatshirts, it said, ‘Pride and Tradition Never Graduates.’ I love what that represents.”
Shoebridge went on to thank his assistant coaches.
“I have a great coaching staff who takes the time to coach individuals,” Shoebridge said. “They all do a great job and take what they do very seriously. We have a saying that if it’s one of us, it’s all of us. That says it all. I love these kids. They respect what they do and they do a great job.”
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”