It was the closing lines of an article written about North Arlington’s great two-sport athlete Danny Cordeiro that lit the fire under another Viking great athlete.
Four years ago in 2014, when Cordeiro was presented with The Observer Male Athlete of the Year award, there was an accompanying article, written by yours truly, about Cordeiro’s accomplishments as a soccer and track and field standout.
The article ended with these words:
“His determination carried him a long way, bringing him to a pedestal of greatness that no other North Arlington athlete had ever reached — and may never reach again.”
Cordeiro would go on to become one of the best soccer players in New Jersey Institute of Technology history and is now training with the New York Red Bulls II squad.
But those words motivated Sirish Modhagala. When Modhagala began his career at North Arlington two years ago after transferring to his home district school from Paramus Catholic, he wanted to be considered the best runner the school ever produced.
“I’m very confident in my ability,” said the North Arlington senior who earlier this month signed a national letter of intent to attend Seton Hall University and run for the Pirates in the fall. “I’ve been training and working to put myself in the best shape I’ve ever been. Yeah, those words were very motivational to me. I hung them up in my room so I could see them every day.”
Although it would be impossible for Modhagala to achieve the overall greatness that Cordeiro achieved, considering that Cordeiro did score 30 goals and collected 19 assists during his senior year of soccer with the Vikings, before moving on to become an overall NJSIAA Group I champion in track, Modhagala is on the way to becoming a legendary figure in track and field for the Vikings and could actually duplicate Cordeiro’s achievements in the coming weeks.
Last week, Modhagala finished second in the 1,600 meter run and third in both the 800 and 3,200-meter runs at the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference-Meadowlands meet, leading the Vikings to a fifth place finish as a team.
Then, at the Gene “Red” Littler Bergen County Championships at Old Tappan High School, competing in the Varsity D division of the county meet, Modhagala won the 1,600-meter run in 4:39.56 and finished second in both the 800 and 3,200-meter runs. He finished the 800 in 2:06.13 and the 3,200 in 10:08.58.
The victory in the 1,600-meter run qualified Modhagala for the Bergen County Meet of Champions at Hackensack High School last Friday night, where Modhagala ran a personal best 4:34.08.
All of those races are perfect tune-ups for this weekend, where he will compete in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I championships at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, where Modhagala will try to duplicate, if not exceed, the achievements of Cordeiro four years ago, trying to become a state sectional champion in more than one event.
North Arlington head coach Joe Cioffi, who also coached Cordeiro, believes there is a shot this weekend for Modhagala.
“In regards to his work ethic, he puts in the time and hard work,” Cioffi said. “He was able to succeed in cross country, but he was able to change his workouts in order to succeed in outdoor track. I think running indoor track helped him a lot, so the transition was fairly easy. But the biggest thing about Sirish is that he’s been running four events every meet. He’s running the 800, the 1,600, the 3,200 and the 4×4 (4×400-meter relay). And he’s been doing all four at a very high pace.”
Cioffi is impressed with Modhagala’s drive this outdoor track season.
“Sirish running four events every meet is absolutely a testament to his willpower and work ethic,” Cioffi said. “He’s put in the time to have the season he’s had without any injuries and that’s a testament to his workouts. He’s been going 100 percent every day. He put in a good effort in every meet. I think it’s starting to rub off on all the others on the team.”
Modhagala was pleased to be able to compete with the county’s best Friday night.
“All four years of high school, I was always looking to get into the Bergen County Meet of Champs,” Modhagala said. “To get there and run a huge PR (personal record) is incredible. I loved the speed and the competition.”
Modhagala said he was a little disappointed with his performance in the league meet.
“To be honest, I really wasn’t looking at it at all,” Modhagala said. “I used it as a tune-up for the counties. It just wasn’t my day, but I was OK with it. I came back strong in the counties and won the 1,600. I got my goal to qualify for the Bergen County M of C.”
And now, the bigger meets await.
There are the state sectionals this weekend, followed by the overall Group championships and then if everything goes according to plan, the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
Cioffi believes that it’s possible.
“Absolutely, if he keeps running the way he has been and the times keep getting better,” Cioffi said. “If he runs the way he did last weekend, he can take home the sectional title in the mile (the 1,600) and two mile (3,200), no question.”
The goal started four years ago with a simple article written by a certain writer.
Now, it’s up to Sirish Modhagala to reach those goals that were pasted to the walls of his bedroom. It all begins this weekend in Basking Ridge.
North Arlington’s Sirish Modhagala has enjoyed a fine outdoor track season, which included a trip to the Bergen County Meet of Champions last Friday night at Hackensack High School, where Modhagala ran a personal best 4:34.08 in the 1,600-meter run. 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.”