Top high school athletes honored at NorthJersey.com Sports Awards by Andrew Gross of The Record
NEWARK – Bob Hurley strode into Prudential Center on Wednesday from a somber occasion at his beloved St. Anthony in Jersey City to deliver a forceful message of hope at the NorthJersey.com Sports Awards.
“Keep working hard and shoot for the stars,” the legendary boys basketball coach said in ending his keynote speech at the event honoring the 74 athletes of the week for the recent high school year.
Approximately 600 people crowded the floor at Prudential Center as NorthJersey.com’s annual awards night, during which NorthJersey.com’s Male and Female Athletes of the Year as well as the Charlie McGill scholarship winners were announced, was held at the arena for the first time. Devils coach John Hynes was one of the presenters and also addressed the student-athletes.
The Record’s Athlete of the Week program dates to 1954.
“This night is yours,” said Nancy A. Meyer, president and publisher of The Record and NorthJersey.com. “You are North Jersey’s finest student-athletes, teammates and peers.”
Tenafly senior Lexi DelGizzo, The Record Girls Indoor Track Athlete of the Year, was named the NorthJersey.com Female Athlete of the Year by a panel of local sports writers. DelGizzo, who will attend Georgetown, finished second in the 800 meters at the state meet of champions by setting a personal best 2:09.37, the sixth fastest time in Bergen County history, then went on to win the Eastern States.
Don Bosco senior wrestler Eric Chakonis was selected as the NorthJersey.com Male Athlete of the Year after pinning Woodbridge’s Alexander Lagrippo in the 285-pound final in 52 seconds at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall to win his second straight state title and finish his high school career with a 111-31 record. Chakonis, who also played football and will attend Bucknell, went 36-1 as a senior.
Dayvon Robinson of Paterson received the boys Charlie McGill scholarship. Robinson, who is headed to Akron to study corrosion engineering, ran track and played football for Kennedy, shifting from wide receiver to defensive back and persevering despite suffering a neck injury.
Westwood lacrosse senior goalie Allyn Lilien is the girls McGill scholarship recipient, having twice battled cancer, starting when she was diagnosed with leukemia at age 7. Lilien, whose 882 career saves are believed to make her the all-time Bergen County leader, is headed to Montclair State to continue playing lacrosse and major in education.
Their stories attracted Hurley’s attendance.
St. Anthony is being shut down after this school year and Hurley came directly to The Rock from a gathering that allowed alumni and former staff members to take one last look around the school. Hurley, who won 28 state titles at St. Anthony, recounted bumping into a former St. Anthony coach who was at the school six years before he got there as a student.
And Hurley relayed the importance of setting a good example for younger students.
“The older players have a huge responsibility to set a good example for those whose eyes are on you all the time,” Hurley said.
The Devils coach discusses how high school athletics shaped his coaching career. Andrew Gross/NorthJersey.com
Hynes, too, spoke of the important lessons he learned in high school.
“On my path to getting to the National Hockey League, my high school athletic experience really set a foundation for me going into my collegiate career and then, really, to this day stays with me as an NHL coach.
“Along with the awards, sometimes you sit back and really learn the lessons and the foundational things outside of your sport that are going to help you move on from high school to college,” Hynes added. “Maybe some of you will become professional athletes, professional coaches.”
Sen. Cory Booker-D, N.J. was unable to attend Wednesday’s event but did send a video message, recalling his time playing football and running track at NV/Old Tappan.
“I am what I am today because of high school athletics,” Booker said.
Also announced on Wednesday night by The Record local columnist Darren Cooper were The Acey Awards.
Bergen Catholic wrestler Robert Howard won the Best Male Breakthrough Athlete, Lakeland basketball player Keira Marks was the Best Female Breakthrough Athlete. Northern Highlands girls soccer coach Tara Madigan was named the Best Coach, Bergenfield earned the Best Marching Band, Pascack Valley girls basketball won the big school Best Team and Emerson baseball and Pascack Hills baseball tied as the small school Best Team. Bergenfield won for the Most School Spirit.
Also, Nick Pronti’s walk-off home run to help Wood-Ridge beat Highlands was named Best Play, Emerson’s 14-13 win over Park Ridge in the North 1, Group 1 final was named Best Game and Park Ridge team manager Matt Gray was named Best Story.
Legendary St. Anthony’s boys basketball Bob Hurley coach talks about the foundation of success.Andrew Gross/NorthJersey.com
The other Athlete of the Year nominees were as follows:
Ramapo soccer’s Sebastian Varela, Paramus Catholic football’s Andrew Brito, River Dell football’s David Estevez and Don Bosco cross country’s David Rosas for the boys fall season and Ridgewood cross country’s Olympia Martin, Paramus Catholic tennis’ Andrea Cerdan, Ramsey field hockey’s Kassidy Shetler and Northern Highlands soccer’s Eva Hurm for the girls fall season.
Teaneck basketball’s Leondre Washington II, Glen Rock ice hockey’s Jake Kinney and Northern Valley/Old Tappan track’s Seth Kricheff for the boys winter season and Hawthorne bowling’s Madison Perry, Saddle River Day basketball’s Michelle Sidor and Pascack Valley basketball’s Brianna Wong for the girls winter season.
Ramapo lacrosse’s Andrew Robbins, Kennedy track’s Jason Thobourne, St. Mary baseball’s Joey Castellanos and Emerson baseball’s Robbie Leuck for the boys spring season and Ramsey softball’s Victoria Sebastian, Northern Valley/Old Tappan softball’s Julie Rodriguez, Ramapo lacrosse’s Danielle Van Calcar and Northern Valley/Demarest track’s Michelle Rubinetti for the girls spring season.