Veteran Secaucus cross country coach Stan Fryczynski will be the first one to tell you.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time,” Fryczynski said.
That’s an understatement. The Hudson County Hall of Famer and former Secaucus athletic director has been involved with cross country and track and field since the early 1970s, way before disco, Jimmy Carter, and J.R. Ewing.
So when Fryczynski mapped out the strategy for the girls’ NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I sectional championships last Saturday, he knew one thing.
“We knew it was going to be a super close race,” Fryczynski said.
It didn’t matter that the Patriots rolled through the regular season of the North Jersey Interscholastic League-Meadowlands Division undefeated. The idea that the Patriots won the NJIC-Meadowlands championship had no effect. Nor did a solid second place finish in the recent Hudson County Track Coaches Association meet.
“The emphasis had to be on the county and the sectionals,” said Fryczynski, who had never coached a state sectional champion prior to last Saturday. “I had to get them all to understand that. They had to put everything into it. This was a whole other ball of wax.”
Fryczynski preached a team effort to his runners. It was essential, considering that top runner Samantha Neshiewat was battling foot problems. They all had to push themselves.
“With 1,100 meters to go, I ran out on the course to talk to Victoria De La Rosa,” Fryczynski said. “I saw that there was a Belvidere runner and a Whippany Park runner ahead of her. I told her that it could be the difference in the meet.”
De La Rosa managed to run past Sarah Smith of Belvidere and Alissa DePiro of Whippany Park.
“With 300 meters to go, she took them down,” Fryczynski said.
De La Rosa maneuvered past the other two runners for 10th place. She ended a parade of consecutive finishers, led by Roshni Patel, who finished seventh, Mehek Parikh, who finished eighth and Neshiewat, who was ninth.
That was the impetus needed for the Patriots to sneak past Whippany Park by a single point and give Secaucus its first-ever state sectional championship.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Fryczynski said. “It was a goal we set for them and to have it happen, you need to have everything fall into place. Any coach will tell you the same thing. Having team depth was a key for us. We didn’t have a top runner, but we finished with four in the top 10.”
Brittany Gibson of McNair Academic won the individual honors, crossing the line at Warinanco Park in Elizabeth in 19:21.57. Teammate Eileen Flood was third.
In the boys’ race, Sondy Polanco of Secaucus won the individual race in 17:37.12, with Chris Brumfield of McNair third and teammate Idriss Zahidi fifth.
Polanco became the third Secaucus boy to ever capture a state sectional gold medal, joining Danny Chaves and Felix Olivo.
“That’s an elite group for Sondy,” Fryczynski said. “I’m equally proud of both the boys and the girls.”…
The top rushing yardage total in the entire state last week belonged to St. Anthony senior Herb Johnson, who was honored as the Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week two weeks ago.
Johnson was on fire, gathering 369 yards on 17 carries and scoring three touchdowns in the Friars’ 59-28 win over Memorial last week.
Johnson’s explosion made St. Anthony head coach Ed Stinson wonder if he could remember a higher rushing total. Stinson, the long-time Hoboken coach, believes his highest total was the 280-yards plus that All-American Tyrell Dortch (currently a Union City assistant coach) had in the state finals against Wayne Hills in the 1998 North Jersey Section 1, Group III finals at Giants Stadium.
“I never thought Herb could go for that,” Stinson said. “The thing that was impressive is that he had only 17 carries. It was just amazing. He’s such a great kid and a good team leader.”
The 369 yards that Johnson attained surpassed the highest total this reporter can recall, topping the 363 that former Union Hill standout Heatcliff Leonor attained in the 1998 state playoffs against West Milford…
Stinson will lead the Friars into the Non-Public Group 1 playoffs this weekend against his former school Queen of Peace, where he coached in 2008 and 2009. But Stinson said that there’s nothing special about facing QP.
“Not a slice,” Stinson said. “Too much time has gone by.”
It will mark the second game this season that Stinson will have faced a team he formerly coached, after his return to the Mile Square City earlier this year to tackle Hoboken…
Tom Paglione died last week. The long-time Union City teacher was a fine football player during his high school days at North Bergen and later became an assistant coach at Marist. Paglione then got his chance to be a head coach at Palisades Park, where he helped a once-dormant program make it all the way back to the 2006 NJSIAA North 2, Group I state playoffs.
Tommy was a good man, a good soul who cared about so many people, especially his students in Union City. He was also the biggest fan of barbecued spare ribs and traveled all over to sample the best spare ribs. He was only 60 years old. Tommy, a good friend, will be sorely missed and it was painful that we couldn’t get to the wake or funeral services…
Well, the time has come for the return of the Old Wide One, the soothsayer supreme, the wearer of the turban and waving the magic wand and gazing into the crystal ball. Yes, the Great Hagueini has resurfaced to take a closer look at the NJSIAA grid playoffs that kickoff this weekend.
Just remember, do not use Hagueini’s selections for any type of wagering, unless it’s for a bacon and cheese panini and a bottle of diet Dr. Pepper with your Uncle Looie.
Union City at West Orange, North Jersey Section 1, Group V: The Soaring Eagles have been playing with a little swagger of late, with Jonathan Castellano and Nawell Rojas churning up the yardage. Union City 20, West Orange 17.
North Bergen at Montclair, North Jersey Section 1, Group V: The Bruins managed to keep their streak of playoff appearances intact, making it 27 of the last 29 years. But the Bruins are facing a different breed of cat in Montclair. No miracles here. Montclair 40, North Bergen 7.
Linden at Bayonne, North Jersey Section 2, Group V: The Bees are playing a home game for the first time since 2003, but it won’t mean much here. Linden 28, Bayonne 20.
Ridgefield at Hoboken, North Jersey Section 2, Group I: The Red Wings earned the top seed in the section to host Friday Night Lights. Dante Bass isn’t ready to end his brilliant career. Hoboken 40, Ridgefield 14.
New Providence at Secaucus, North Jersey Section 2, Group I: As much as Hagueini loves the Patriots and head coach Charlie Voorhees, how could he pick the Patriots after they lost 63-0 and 49-0 in two of the last three games? New Providence 35, Secaucus 7.
Madison at Lincoln, North Jersey Section 2, Group II: The Lions become the first Jersey City public school to ever host a state playoff game, but they have to face the three-time defending sectional champion. Have a party. Lincoln 35, Madison 21.
Paul IV at St. Peter’s Prep, Non-Public Group 4: This is just an ugly first round opponent for the second-seeded Marauders. It’s a rout. St. Peter’s 49, Paul IV 0.
Hudson Catholic at Holy Cross, Non-Public Group 2: Remember, nothing will take away from a great season for Lou Zampella and the Hawks. Holy Cross 35, Hudson Catholic 0.
Marist at St. Joseph (Hammonton), Non-Public Group 1: St. Joseph has collected a record 22 state championships. This isn’t baseball. St. Joseph 55, Marist 0.
St. Anthony at Queen of Peace, Non-Public Group 1: The Friars face the state’s leading rusher in Kevin Momnohin, who has 1,900 yards and 33 touchdowns this season. Ouch. Queen of Peace 35, St. Anthony 14.
So there you have it, the first edition of Hagueini’s picks in 2013. Keep all negative comments to yourself. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.