OBSERVER FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Kearny’s Crispin a three-sport superstar

Crispin receiving her award from Observer Sports Writer Jim Hague.
Crispin receiving her award from Observer Sports Writer Jim Hague.

Amber Crispin has always known that she was destined for greatness.

The recent Kearny High School graduate has that sense of pride proclaimed on her Twitter page.

On Crispin’s page, it boldly states, “One day, you’ll be asking for my autograph.”

Maybe Crispin had a strong reason to feel that way, because she eventually became a three-sport standout during her days at Kearny.

The Crispin saga begins _ of course _ with soccer. Crispin started to play the game when she was just five years old and the ball was practically bigger than she was.

“It was the first sport I signed up for,” Crispin said. “Of course, I wasn’t good at all. In fact, I was pretty bad.”

Crispin played soccer for almost eight years _ Kearny Recreation and Kearny Thistle _ before she realized that she was actually good at it.

“I was just playing,” Crispin said. “But in seventh grade, I started to realize that I got faster. I just had this kind of pride that I was beating everyone to the ball.”

“I saw her once playing in a Thistle game,” said Kearny High head girls’ soccer coach Vin Almeida. “I saw her strength and power on the field and I knew that she could help us. She had good technical ability and her strength and speed stood out. She was a pretty solid player. We just had to find a place where she would fit in right away and where we needed help. I knew she had the ability to create on her own.”

Once Crispin got to Kearny High, Almeida knew that he could utilize Crispin in a lot of ways, because of her speed.

“She was able to distance herself from the rest,” Almeida said. “She had the ability to create shots on her own. She had greater power in her shot than most girls, so it meant she had a better chance to score a goal. She was also able to figure out quickly where to distribute the ball. She just wasn’t looking for personal glory.”

Crispin was an instant success on the varsity level. In fact, she led the Kardinals in scoring her freshman year.

“That gave me a lot of confidence moving forward,” Crispin said. “I really thought I had a chance to be very good at soccer.”

Crispin was always looking to better herself, joining other teams and organizations to play at a high level. She joined TSF Academy in Lincoln Park, NJ after her sophomore year. She also moved from midfield to forward.

“I think things changed a lot,” Crispin said. “I knew I wanted to play in college. But I became more of a goal scorer and knowing that I was getting this kind of recognition only motivated me more to put the ball in the net.”

However, in her senior year, Crispin attained that glory. She scored an incredible 34 times and added 22 assists for the Kardinals, who went 20-4-1 and won the Hudson County Tournament title for the seventh straight year. Crispin earned NJSIAA All-Group IV First Team honors from and the Star-Ledger.

From soccer, Crispin took her talents to the basketball court, where she elected not to play as a junior, but returned for her senior season.

“We were thrilled that she came back,” Kearny head girls’ basketball coach Jody Hill said. “She had a great amount of talent, but she also understood what I was trying to do. Once she stepped in, she was the kind of athlete who could pick things up. We definitely missed her, but we were definitely at our best when she came right back, like she never missed a beat.”

Hill said that Crispin had a certain air as an athlete.

“I think her best attribute was her defense,” Hill said. “She had incredible tenacity. She had all the qualities you just don’t find. You can’t teach it. She was athletic and tough. She was a good addition to our team.”

Crispin averaged almost 10 points per game last season, helping the Kardinals win 13 games. She grabbed almost five rebounds per game, dished off for five assists per contest and collected nearly three steals a game. She had 10 steals in an early season win over Union City. Her seasonal high in points was 18, which she reached twice.
“I just loved the whole atmosphere with Coach Hill,” Crispin said. “I also wanted to make sure that I stayed in shape for soccer.”

Staying in top condition was the motivation for Crispin to participate in her third varsity sport _ namely track and field. Crispin ran the sprints and did the long jump and triple jump for the Kardinals.

Crispin was seventh in the long jump (14-8), seventh in the triple jump (30-5), was 14th in the 100-meter dash and 17th in the 200-meter dash at the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championships in May.

“She is quite athletic,” said Kearny head girls’ track and field coach Al Perez. “She’s quite coordinated and that helped us in the sprints. She focused on the events she could do well, the sprints, the long jump and the triple jump. She even threw the shot put in relay meets. The way she carries herself helped our team. I think my connection with the soccer program and Coach Almeida helped. She just wanted to contribute, help the school and the community as much as possible.”

“I wanted to make sure I stayed in shape,” Crispin said. “I’m surprised how well I did.”

For excelling in three varsity sports, Crispin has been selected as The Observer Female Athlete of the Year for the scholastic sports year of 2015-2016. The award is given annually to the athlete who performs well in more than one varsity sport. Crispin stood out in three.

Crispin is the fourth Kearny girl to receive the year-end honor, joining Allyson Dyl (2007-2008), Janitza Aquino (2010-2011) and Stefanie Gomes (2011-2012). No school has had someone win the Observer Female Athlete of the Year more than Kearny.

“I’m proud of what I was able to do,” Crispin said.

She’s also proud of the fact that she signed a national letter of intent to attend Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. on a scholarship.

“I really liked the campus and the school,” Crispin said. “It has a good soccer program there. I want to study criminal justice.”
Crispin hopes to become a federal agent some day.

Her coaches know that Crispin had the ability to shine.

“She always had this quiet confidence,” Almeida said. “She didn’t change her personality. We had a nice tight-knit group of girls who all got along and had fun together. She was a big part of that. It’s a sign of a good leader to have someone with her skills speak when needed. She didn’t have a loud voice, but she is a good leader in terms of maturity. She definitely matured over the four years. We’ve had a good amount of girls to go to Division I colleges. Few girls were as thorough as players.”

“Whatever she focuses on, she does well with,” Perez said. “She always made me feel easy with her. She’s going to do well in whatever she does.”

Just like she did at Kearny High.


2004-2005 Janine Davis, Queen of Peace

2005-2006 Kelly Rauco, Nutley

2006-2007 Courtney Keegan, Queen of Peace

2007-2008 Allyson Dyl, Kearny

2008-2009 Cassie Indri, Lyndhurst

2009-2010 Tara Fisher, North Arlington

2010-2011 Janitza Aquino, Kearny

2011-2012 Stefanie Gomes, Kearny

2012-2013 Camila Alonso, Lyndhurst

2013-2014 Grace Montgomery, Nutley

2014-2015 Carly Anderson, Nutley

2015-2016 Amber Crispin, Kearny

Learn more about the writer ...

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.”