Local athletes honored for their sportsmanship; NA’s Hutchinson, Lyndhurst’s Radigan named ADs of the Year

WEEHAWKEN – Every year, the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference holds a very unique luncheon honoring the student/athletes who best personified sportsmanship in their respective sports.

They didn’t have to be the ones who hit the ball furthest or scored the most points or ran the fastest times.

In fact, the award has nothing to do with their athletic prowess. These student/athletes were being honored for one thing — just being themselves.

Kaitlyn Stajek is a senior at North Arlington High School who was one of the best female soccer players in northern New Jersey.

The diminutive Stajek, headed to Kean to major in education in the fall, was a key contributor to the Lady Vikings’ success on the pitch the last four seasons.

Last week, at the Chart House Restaurant, Stajek received the honor from the NJIC for her sportsmanship.

“It feels like a big accomplishment for me,” Stajek said. “I didn’t even know I was being considered for it. I guess I’m shocked I got it. It’s a good thing to be recognized and I feel proud to represent North Arlington. I didn’t believe I was getting it. I’m glad someone was watching me.”

Ryan McDermott played football and basketball at North Arlington. He’s the male recipient of the NJIC Sportsmanship award.

“I was pretty excited when I learned I was getting it,” McDermott said. “It’s a good thing to represent North Arlington one last time.”
McDermott will enter the work force in the fall.

Jordan DeAbreu, a member of the Lyndhurst High School football and track and field teams, was the male recipient from his school.

“It feels good that people see me for more than being an athlete,” said DeAbreu, who will attend Stockton College and major in business in the fall. “It proves that there are always people watching you. I got the award for just being me and that’s important. It’s perhaps better than any other award I could have received.”

DeAbreu had no idea that there was such a luncheon.

“I just walked into Mr. (Jeff) Radigan’s (the school’s athletic director) office and he told me,” DeAbreu said. “I thought it was really cool and I was glad to receive the award. It’s a good way for me to go out of Lyndhurst High School. Getting recognized like this is really nice.”

Grace Cappiello, who played soccer and basketball at Lyndhurst, is the school’s female recipient.

“I’m glad I got recognized,” said Cappiello, who is headed to Pace University in New York City to major in business management. “It’s good that my hard work didn’t go unnoticed. I heard of the award, but I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t think I had a chance, but it’s really nice to receive it. I wasn’t the one scoring all the goals, but it’s good that someone else could get some sort of credit, just for being nice to other people, like my teammates and opponents.”

Madison Lucas was the female recipient from Harrison High School, where she played basketball and softball.

“It was really important to me, because I like being true to myself,” said Lucas, the daughter of former Harrison great and New York Jets quarterback Ray Lucas, currently a television and radio analyst. “It’s great to bring something like this home to Harrison. It’s important and it’s something to be very proud of.”

Lucas is headed to LIM College in New York in the fall to learn more about the fashion business and merchandising.

“I feel like there’s always that outside pressure being Ray Lucas’ daughter,” Madison Lucas said. “But Dad is very supportive of everything I do.”

Dustin Huseinovic is a football and baseball standout at Harrison, one of the best two-sport athletes the school has ever produced.

“For me, it’s always important to be myself,” said Huseinovic, who was greeted with praise by some opposing coaches in attendance. “It proves that my parents did a good job of raising me to do the right thing, either on the field or off. It’s an important honor for me. It shows that I’m not just an athlete and that I’m a nice person.”
Huseinovic is headed to Pace University, the Pleasantville, N.Y. campus, to play football in the fall.

The NJIC also honors some athletic directors for their contributions over the year.

This year, the NJIC Liberty Division Athletic Director of the Year was the aforementioned Radigan of Lyndhurst.

“The NJIC does a great job of promoting the student/athletes,” Radigan said. “All the executives in the league take a long look at sportsmanship and how important it is to everyone. It’s what we’re trying to teach our kids to be good sports, win or lose. If they do that, then at the end of the day, they’re better student/athletes all around.”

Radigan said that he was floored receiving the honor.

“I was honored,” Radigan said. “There are a lot of great athletic directors in this league. To receive AD of the Year is a great honor. Everyone in the conference does a great job promoting the student/athletes. It’s a thankless job. The phone never stops ringing. But it’s nice to be recognized.”

The NJIC Meadowlands Athletic Director of the Year is Dave Hutchinson of North Arlington.

“This luncheon is one of the nicest things our league does,” Hutchinson said. “Sportsmanship is so important. It’s a wonderful event and I always look forward to coming to this event every year. Both of our kids are really nice kids. Kaitlyn is a really good kid and a leader. She competed fair. Ryan used athletics to help him become a better person.”

Hutchinson was honored during what was a tough year for North Arlington athletics, including a winless football season, a boys’ basketball season that saw the Vikings drop their first 18 games and a softball season that never materialized.

“It was a tough year, but the kids continued to work hard,” Hutchinson said. “They did what their coaches wanted them to do. The results might not have been where we wanted them to be, but it was a good year. It’s easy to win, but it’s very hard to lose. I saw a lot of kids and our coaches fight through the adversity.

Added Hutchinson, “I was excited and happy to receive this award. My colleagues thought that much of me to honor me. They know how tough of a job it can be.”

All in all, it was a good day for the NJIC and a proud day for the sportsmanship recipients.




From left, Kaitlyn Stajek, athetic director Dave Hutchinson and Ryan McDermott represented North Arlington High School at the annual North Jersey Interscholastic Conference Sportsmanship Banquet last week at the Chart House in Weehawken. Photo by Jim Hague


From left, Jordan DeAbreu, athletic director Jeff Radigan and Grace Cappiello were the award winners from Lyndhurst High School at the NJIC Sportsmanship Banquet. Photo by Jim Hague


From left, Madison Lucas and Dustin Huseinovic represented Harrison High School. Photo by Jim Hague




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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.”