Young Kearny track team making noise

The Kearny High School track and field rosters _ both for the boys’ team and the girls’ squad _ are jam packed with underclassmen. Sophomores galore are featured on the track and at the jumps.

The youthful exuberance has carried the Kardinal squads in the early stages of the spring outdoor season.

“I think we’re on the younger side,” said veteran coach Al Perez, who heads both squads. “Especially on the boys’ side, we have a lot of sophomores.”

But the youthful Kardinals already showed their toughness last week, when both squads finished second at the annual Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League Relay Championships.

The boys were second to St. Peter’s Prep, while the girls were runner-up to North Bergen.

“I’m very happy with the results,” Perez said. “The boys never won that meet. We came close last year. The girls won it four years ago. Still, it’s a nice accomplishment for both teams to finish second. We were targeting a top three finish for both teams and they exceeded that, so I’m very pleased with that.”

Perez said it was a complete team effort on both sides.

“We competed well, but we needed everyone to get involved,” Perez said. “The top athletes had to be on board, ready to compete in a lot of events (four). I kept stressing that to them all week.”

On the boys’ side, junior Liam Solano is the workhorse. Solano, the younger brother of former Kardinal versatile female great Cayleigh Solano, competes in the 800-meter run, the 1,600-meter run, the 3,200-meter run and anchors the team’s 4×800-meter relay.

“Liam is a fine runner who anchors our distance runners,” Perez said.

One would find senior Ryan Carlos in a lot of the similar races with Solano. Carlos competes in the same four events as Solano.

Senior Ozzie Cabides handles the sprints for the Kards.

“Ozzie runs the 100-meter, the 200-meter and the 400,” Perez said. “If he had his way, he would run in the eight as well. He anchors the 4-by-4 (400-meters) and he caught a couple of people to win the event. It was great to see that.”

Junior Diego Torealez is a hurdler and a sprinter.

We are trying to stay away from competing in one event,” Perez said. “We want to develop track and field athletes who can do different events.”

Torealez is a good proof of that. He competes in the sprints (100, 200 and 400-meters) but can also do the hurdles events and the high jump. That’s some versatility.

Junior Rauly Cordero is another versatile competitor. He does the 100, the 400, the long jump and high jump.

“He’s young,” Perez said. “But he’s learning.”

Sophomore Bresly Franco is a high hurdler.

“We have a little bit of depth with our sprinters and our hurdlers,” Perez said. “We have numbers.”

Gabe dos Santos is a senior who is featured in the field events, namely the shot put, the discus and the javelin. Fernando Castillo is another field performer.

“He’s an excellent javelin thrower,” Perez said of Castillo. “He threw in the 160s (feet) this week. He’s a hard worker who wants to be doing better.”

The Kearny girls’ track team is headed by senior Lily Durning, who was one of the county’s best soccer players in the fall.

Durning competes in both the low and intermediate hurdles, as well as the 400 and 800-meter runs.

“She has been great,” Perez said of Durning. “She’s the cornerstone of the team. She’s a great leader. She’s been with us for the last four years and she has been incredibly reliable.”

Senior Victoria Van Riper is another soccer player who carries her talents over to the track. Van Riper handles all the jumps (the long jump, the triple jump and the high jump) as well as the high hurdles.

Van Riper just set the school record for the triple jump. She now holds the record both indoors and outdoors.

There’s little hiding the fact that a lot of soccer players eventually become track athletes as well at the school.

“It’s no secret that a lot of our athletes come from soccer,” Perez said. “It’s great to have them all year. They set the example for everyone else to follow. The rest of the team becomes better all around athletes in general because of them.”

Rachelle del Rosario is only a sophomore, but she’s tops among Kearny’s javelin throwers.

“She has been showing a lot of big promise,” Perez said.

Nicole Veloso is a junior who runs the 1,600 and the 3,200-meter run, much like Cayleigh Solano ran a few years ago. It’s obvious that Solano has had a positive hold on Veloso’s career.

“Every individual is shooting for championships in their respective races,” Perez said. “We hope to get a few individuals as champions at the Group (IV) meets.”

Sophomore Sereen Al-Abu Hawa is a jumper and a hurdler.

“Our girls have been very versatile and that helps,” Lopez said.

With the bulk of the responsibilities landing on Durning’s shoulders.

“A lot has been placed upon her plate,” Perez said. “She’s had a great career.”

One thing is for sure: It looks like the Kards are raring up for a return to glory for both programs.

Congrats, you gave Kearny something to REALLY get excited about.


Rauly Cordero has gone from the football field in the fall to a top sprinter in the spring, hoping to find some glory in his fleet feet. Photo by Jim Hague

Lily Durning has emerged as the premier female athlete in Hudson County with her performances on the track thus far this season. Photo by Jim Hague

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.”