At Lyndhurst High School, the track and field team has a simple motto that is plastered all over promotional fundraising T-shirts and sweatshirts.
On the back of those shirts, it says, “Pride and Tradition Never Graduates.”
That pretty much says it all about the entire program, which never seems to have a rebuilding year and never seems to falter.
It goes for both the boys’ and the girls’ teams. Every single year, the Golden Bears are among the best teams in northern New Jersey and Bergen County.
This year, especially for the boys’ team, might be the very best ever.
That’s what the architect of the program, a man who has spent nearly 40 years of his life coaching the sport, Tom Shoebridge, firmly believes.
The man simply known as “Shoe” throughout Lyndhurst is not a boastful person, but he speaks in high accolades about his current team.
“This team has never lost,” Shoebridge said as he prepared to take his team to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II meet at Madison High School. “They won the Richie Pezzolla Lyndhurst Relays, the Aviator Relays, the Bergen County Relays. They were undefeated in seven meets in the conference (NJIC) winning those meets by an average of 121.5 to 18.5. They dominated the league meet, they won the Bergen County C Division by 20 points, beating teams like Glen Rock and Hasbrouck Heights. It’s the best team we’ve ever had.”
Shoebridge gives credit to the constant success to his coaching staff.
“I know exactly the reason why we win every year,” Shoebridge said. “It’s a great coaching staff. Eddie Tessalone is the best distance coach in all of northern New Jersey. I’ve been doing this a long time and I know what I’ve seen. Kim Hykey coaches the jumps. Jimmy Day and David Rasczyk handle the weights and do a phenomenal job.
Added Shoebridge, “Darius Hughes and Michael Picardo give the runners their workouts on the track and make sure the kids do it. I handle the sprinters, the hurdlers and the pole vault. We have volunteer pole vault coaches in Michael Morreale and Allison Cesari who do a phenomenal job. They all help me do my head coaching duties. It’s a combination of the whole thing.”
Shoebridge also believes that development is a key.
“We make sure that we enter every freshman, sophomore and novice meets,” Shoebridge said. “We make sure that the younger kids get a chance to win medals so they can step right in when the time comes to help the varsity. We have 15 freshmen this year and they’re going to compete in every meet possible.”
Shoebridge credits the school superintendent Dr. James Corino, the principal Laura Vuono and athletic director Jeff Radigan for giving him the necessary support.
“We have 150 kids in the program,” Shoebridge said. “That’s one-quarter of the whole school. So it does not surprise me that the boys and girls are as successful as they are year in and year out. It does get a little expensive, so I give thanks to the school and the Board of Education for allowing us to compete.”
Shoebridge was asked to comment about his eight seniors.
“Isaiah Aviles is just an outstanding kid, a totally focused young man,” Shoebridge said. “He runs the mile (1,600-meter) and the two mile (the 3,200). He’s just 100 percent tuned in.”
Aviles is headed to Liberty University where he will compete in track and field.
“It’s been a great year,” Aviles said. “It’s everything I hoped for since freshman year. I wanted to be able to go out with a big bang. We’ve come so far this season. I knew we lost 10 seniors from last year, but we all came together in the end. It means everything to me to be able to put my faith in my coaches and I’m glad we got this far.”
Shoebridge continued with his seniors
“Devin Yunis is a hard worker and fun to be around,” Shoebridge said. “He knows the pole vault well and has studied it since grammar school. He’s like a coach on the field. Anthony Dellaquilla is very quiet, but a very tough middle distance runner who has run our best 800 (meter) since (Patrick) Rono. Samuel Rivera was a great addition to our program. He’s a football player who came out for the team. I knew he was the type of kid who would help our program. Yomi Olasehinde is a man of very few words who is built like Herschel Walker. He’s fast and strong and leads by example.”
Olasehinde is going to Kean University to play football, but loves being part of the Lyndhurst track team.
“I just joined the team last year and it’s a group of hard workers who get together,” Olasehinde said. “It was tough and I expected it to be tough. But I was glad that we were successful.”
“Chris Bekker is a great kid, a program kid for four years,” Shoebridge said. “He knows the shot and the discus well. He’s the captain of our weight kids. Chris Fodera is a fun loving kid who is just coming into his own.”
And then there was Petey Guerriero, who has carved his niche in Lyndhurst folklore forever.
“Petey Guerriero is the greatest sprinter in Lyndhurst history,” Shoebridge said. “He’s focused, hard working and a great kid to be around. He knows the entire track and field world. I’ve seen a ton of sprinters here and he’s the best. He wins every race because he works the hardest to meet every one of our expectations.”
Guerriero had a chance to come away with several medals at the state sectional over Memorial Day weekend.
“I definitely feel better than I ever felt before,” Guerriero said. “But I’m definitely amazed at what this team accomplished. If we didn’t have everyone come together, this could have never happened. We worked hard and deserved to win. It’s not about individual success for me. It’s all about the team.”
Girls’ coach Hykey, who is expecting her first child any day now, also glowed about her team.
“We knew we had the majority of girls coming back,” Hykey said. “We had enough depth. It was how well we fell together and we fell together nicely. We were also able to do more because the weather cooperated. I can’t expect anything more from the team.”
Freshman Julia Pezzolla has the chance to be something special. She already leads the team in points. Hykey is also blessed that many of the girls she coaches in soccer in the fall come out for track in the spring.
Take for example senior Cameron Halpern.
“We’re a family,” Halpern said. “We work so hard together and we’re all together all the time, so it’s like a family. Track and field is so relaxed and so easy going. The coaches are awesome and it’s really nice to be out there. It’s the best decision I’ve made in my life.”
Halpern, who also plays basketball and soccer, is headed to Richard Stockton College in the fall.
Kelsie Kearns also knows where she’s headed for college and she’s only a junior. She’s already given a verbal commitment to Iona College to play soccer.
“Most of the girls like being on the track team and like having fun, but they’re also very competitive,” Kearns said. “I like being competitive. We had to work hard to keep our league title and we did that. Year after year, we’re willing to work harder and that helps our chances.”
So it’s on to Madison and perhaps even some glory at the Group II state championships next weekend.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.