North Jersey’s best honored at Sports Awards by Bob Shwalb of The Record
ENGLEWOOD – The only things missing were TMZ and the paparazzi.
On Thursday, The Record and NorthJersey.com literally rolled out the red carpet to honor our area’s best high school athletes at the North Jersey Sports Awards at Bergen Performing Arts Center. The event was presented by Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, and also sponsored by Garden State Honda.
One of the biggest winners was Michelle Sidor, who took home the overall Girls Athlete of the Year award. Saddle River Day’s star basketball player became the first junior in Bergen County history to surpass 2,000 points in her career.
“I’m very honored to be on this stage,” said the Michigan-bound Sidor. “I just want to thank NorthJersey.com and congratulate all the other athletes who were nominated. You’re all amazing.”
Also nominated were Monica Hebner of Northern Highlands and Jenna Rogers of Rutherford.
David Estevez was named overall Boys Athlete of the Year. The River Dell quarterback led his team to seven comeback victories this past season.
“I’m kind of overdressed for the occasion,” said Estevez, who also had his prom on Thursday. “I just want to thank my coaches, teammates, athletic director and all my coaches and congratulate everyone else who was nominated.”
Also nominated were Ronald Harper Jr. of Don Bosco and Luis Peralta of Passaic.
The Record’s Athletes of the Week for the fall, winter and spring seasons were on hand and celebrated during the show as well.
Here’s a look at some of the night’s highlights:
Charlie McGill Scholarships
This year’s recipients of the Charlie McGill Scholarship Award were Riley Babbitt of West Milford and Ryan Scully of River Dell.
“The best moment of my senior year was senior night,” Babbitt said. “My coach and the Westwood coach arranged for me to be in the starting lineup that night and to score the game’s first basket. It was the greatest moment of my sports (career) and I’ll remember it forever.”
“I’m not all dressed up for you but for the young lady who’s waiting for me as her prom date,” Scully said to great laughter.
“Mom and Dad … thank you for making me go out for this sport in 2009 a making me the person and athlete I am today,” he added. “I love you both.”
The McGill Award is presented each year to two outstanding students who are an inspiration to the community and have exhibited sportsmanship, scholarship and citizenship.
Mike Piazza interview
Piazza said he actually lived in Cresskill for two years during his playing career and talked about the fact that none of his own young children ever saw him play.
“YouTube is the greatest thing,” Piazza said with a laugh. “They’ve seen all of my home runs and I never struck out.”
Piazza obviously struck out on his way to the Baseball Hall of Fame and discussed his own ups and downs along the way. He told the athletes to “stay focused and always believe in yourselves and good things will happen.”
“You have to have a dream first,” Piazza said. “It sounds corny but that was me … the kid in the backyard dreaming of hitting a home run in the World Series. First you need to envision something to make it happen. Then look for the opportunity to play and find a coach you can learn from.”
Piazza echoed the thoughts of many of the award winners, who gave thanks to their parents.
“My dad always encouraged me to play,” Piazza said. “He’d come home from work really tired and basically wanted to read the paper. But he always went out in the backyard and pitched to me instead. Just like all of you, my parents and coaches were really important to me.”
I AM SPORT Award
Matthew Rypkema of Waldwick won the I AM Sport Award, which honors high school student-athletes who are committed to giving back to the youth in their communities.
Rypkema, who had a severe case of arrhythmia, became an advocate for heart screenings and raising awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac deaths in youths.
Also nominated were Madison Phillips of Wayne Valley and Connor Tsikitas of St. Joseph Regional.
Glen Rock softball player Ellen Fuess was the recipient of the Courage Award. Fuess, who suffered a concussion when she fell into the metal bleachers as she was catching a foul ball, made it back to the field just three weeks later.
“Thank you so much for this award … it means everything to me,” Fuess said. “I want to thank my mom and dad, my coach and my instructors. I wouldn’t be the player I am without them and can’t thank them enough.”
Individual Players of the Year
Here are the individual sports winners as announced at the show:
Girls Cross Country: Monica Hebner (Northern Highlands); Boys Cross Country: Luis Peralta (Passaic); Gymnastics: Faith Furletti (Holy Angels); Girls Soccer: Erin Wilson (Westwood); Boys Soccer: Carlo Gonzalez (Pompton Lakes).
Girls Tennis: Ashley Hess (Holy Angels); Field Hockey (Jane Pless); Girls Volleyball: Julia Morris (IHA); Football Defensive Player: Vinny DePalma (DePaul); Football Offensive Player: David Estevez (River Dell).
Girls Swimming: Elle Morse (Leonia/Palisades Park); Boys Swimming: Tim Park (NV/Demarest); Girls Bowling: Victoria Vucak (Paramus Catholic); Boys Bowling: Jordan Tse (NV/Demarest); Girls Indoor Track: Grace O’Shea (Ramapo); Boys Indoor Track: Tyler Hrbek (NV/Old Tappan).
Ice Hockey: Mickey Burns (Don Bosco); Wrestling: Mickey O’Malley (Hasbrouck Heights); Girls Basketball: Michelle Sidor (Saddle River Day); Boys Basketball: Ronald Harper Jr. (Don Bosco); Boys Volleyball: Connor Field (Lakeland).
Girls Golf: Kelly Sim (Holy Angels); Boys Golf: Robert McHugh (Wayne Hills); Boys Tennis: Chikaya Sato (Cresskill); Girls Lacrosse: Michaela McMahon (Saddle River Day); Boys Lacrosse: Max Paparozzi (Northern Highlands).
Softball Pitcher: Victoria Sebastian (Ramsey), Softball Player: Samantha Settecasi (Paramus); Baseball Pitcher: Ryan Ramsey (Pascack Hills); Baseball Player: Daniel Helfgott (Don Bosco); Girls Track: Caroline O’Sullivan (NV/Old Tappan); Girls Field: Tiffany Bautista (Paramus Catholic); Boys Track: Wellington Ventura (Cresskill); Boys Field: Jadon Watson (Kennedy).
Team of the Year
The Pascack Hills baseball team, which won its first Bergen County title since 1987, took home the honor. Also nominated were the Bergen Catholic football team and the Northern Highlands hockey team.
Coach of the Year
Jeff Jasper, Pascack Valley’s girls basketball coach was named Coach of the Year. Jasper became the first girls basketball coach to win 1,000 games. Also nominated were Maria Nolan of IHA and Brian Dunn of NV/Old Tappan.
Jasper sent “shout outs” to his assistant coaches and wife Lois, who he said has “stayed with me through all this and been to every one of the 1,000 games.” Jasper also sent his best wishes to the family of Bergen County basketball legend Anne Donovan, who passed away on Tuesday. He also shared the award.
“Is Brian Dunn here?” Jasper said. “OK, Brian … I’m accepting this award for you, too. Anybody who wins two state championships in the same (school year) … that’s pretty cool.”