Lyndhurst girls capture first league title since 1987

In recent years, the Lyndhurst High School boys’ cross country program has earned its share of accolades, capturing county and league championships.

That only served to motivate the Golden Bears’ girls’ team.

“We watched the boys win for three years in a row,” said Lindsay Cirne, the lone senior on the Lyndhurst girls’ cross country team. “We were never looked at as being equals to the boys. I think that was a little frustrating. So we all got together and pushed ourselves. We wanted to win this season. We knew we had potential to do it. If we worked, we could get this done.”

Lyndhurst head coach Michael Picardo thought that his girls were poised to break through.

“At the end of last year, I saw that we had a solid sophomore group that came together,” Picardo said. “I knew that this year we had a great shot to compete and possibly win the league.”

Sure enough, that potential became reality last week, when the Golden Bears captured the NJIC Colonial Division championship at the Garret Mountain Reserve in West Paterson, winning the first league championship for the Lyndhurst girls since 1987.

Ironically, Cirne’s mother, the former Maria Sferruzza was a member of that team, so the torch was passed from mom to daughter.

“I was so excited when I found out,” Cirne said. “I knew I wanted to do this and continue the tradition.”

Picardo said that someone had to take leadership of the team _ and that candidate was the lone senior.

“She had a really good track season last spring,” Picardo said of Cirne. “She led the way for us in the summer, organizing the workouts, getting the others going. They came back in August ready to run. They grew and developed nicely. Cirne sets the tone for everyone else. She’s a natural leader. She re-shaped the way we operated.”

Another key component was the work of junior Megan Rudden.

“Cross country is a team sport,” Rudden said. “If anyone slacked off, we couldn’t achieve what we wanted. We needed to work together. And that’s if only everyone took it seriously. I thought we had the potential to do great things. This is just the first step. We really wanted to go places this year.”

At the meet, freshman Gizette Perez led the way, finishing fourth overall in 21:33. Rudden was sixth, junior Kelly Weckstein was eighth, Cirne in 10th, Jamie Connors (a sophomore) in 13th and Alexis Gerbasio, a junior, was 14th overall. It’s a remarkable run at the top by the Lyndhurst runners.

Junior Adriana Liberato is the last member of the starting seven.

Picardo is impressed with Perez.

“Her future is bright,” Picardo said. “If she keeps working, she could be as good as anyone we’ve ever had. She’s been a runner her whole life, so she has a good foundation in the sport. She could be truly something special down the road.”

Picardo likes what Rudden brings to the team.

“Meg is the vocal one,” Picardo said. “She’s the one who talks to the team and gets them going.”

“I don’t think I’m stepping on toes,” Rudden said. “It’s just my nature. But we work hard together every single day and there should be a reward for it. Sure, it’s fun for us, but we put the work in. I just try to keep everyone pumped and going and ready.”

Rudden said she couldn’t believe it when she heard the Golden Bears had actually won a championship.

“I was speechless and that’s hard for me,” Rudden said. “We all pulled together and made it happen.”

Picardo said that he really hasn’t given it much thought that his girls had won a league title like the boys have in the past.

“I really haven’t reflected on it entirely,” Picardo said. “But it is awesome. The girls have now reached a level of success. We’ll have to see if it continues.”

Cirne has also reached her own success. She owns a 4.185 grade point average and secured a score of 2,020 on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests. She wants to major in biomedical engineering. It’s safe to say Cirne will have her pick of the litter by the time comes for her to decide.

“I just really like how we all came together for one goal,” Cirne said. “We really worked hard to get this done. It was so exciting. I was hugging everyone. To have our hard work pay off is really exciting.”

The Lyndhurst boys also won the NJIC Colonial meet at Garret Mountain, but because of a quirk in the regular season scoring, they had to settle for second place in the league.

Xavier Locke won the meet, with Andrew Ellis sixth and Billy Weckstein (Kelly’s twin brother) not far behind.

But this day belonged to the Lyndhurst girls. They earned it. Hard work does indeed pay off.

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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.”