It meant that the seven Hudson County competitors who earned berths to compete at the event had another day of rest to prepare for the final track event of the season.
Of the seven qualifiers, only one was a girl, namely St. Dominic Academy senior Lauren Moore. She finished second in the high jump in the Non-Public A meet and was fourth in the 100-meter high hurdles.
For Moore, making it to the Meet of Champions and qualifying in two events is like a dream come true.
"It really feels good, considering it's probably my last high school track meet," said Moore, who will head to St. John's University and major in communications there. "I'm so happy. I didn't think I'd qualify, never mind finish second. I started out slow. It was so hard to jump that day, because it was so slippery. I fell twice trying to jump and my steps were off. But after I cleared [5 feet], I was so happy and blessed to still be representing my school even though I've graduated. It really makes me feel special."
Another qualifier was Nyshier Oliver of St. Peter's Prep, who finished fourth in the 100-meter dash in Non-Public A.
Oliver, the standout running back for the Marauder football team who has been receiving his fair share of top college offers, stumbled a bit coming out of the blocks during his race and managed to finish fourth in 11.2 seconds.
"I'm a little disappointed by it," Oliver said. "I thought I had a legitimate chance to win it. I beat all of the same kids before in the preliminaries. I'm not going to make excuses. I just didn't get the job done after my start was nasty. But it's definitely made me more determined to come back and do well in the Meet of Champions. I'm glad to get that last chance."
Oliver said that he was using the track season as a way to get ready for football, where he should be among the top players in the state.
Oliver, who received an offer from the University of Michigan on the same day of the Non-Public A meet, is still leaning toward the University of Tennessee as his top choice.
"I've always liked Tennessee, ever since I was a kid," Oliver said. "I have a good relationship with the coaching staff there and with Coach [Phillip] Fulmer. It's really going to take someone to blow me away to keep me from going to Tennessee. I always liked them."
Oliver said that he's ready to have a big season and has to carry a lot of the offensive load now that Will Hill has graduated.
"I like the challenge of being a leader," Oliver said. "I'm ready for it. We have a good group of guys coming back, the best senior class we've had in a long time. Everyone's hungry. We're going to be fun to watch, seeing all the pieces come together. It's going to be a good football season."
The other locals headed to the Meet of Champions include Samad Walker-Butler (shot put) and Chris Jones (400-meter dash) of Lincoln, Zamir Thomas of Snyder (100 and 200 meters), Ben Singleton of University Academy (3,200-meter run), and Mohammed Elbouazizi of Secaucus (800-meter run)...
When former Hudson Reporter Boys' Basketball Coach of the Year Vernon Freeland decided to resign as the coach at Marist a few weeks ago, the school didn't have to look very far for Freeland's replacement.
The school announced last week that former veteran St. Aloysius High School head coach Tony Romano, who served as an assistant under Freeland last year and now teaches at the school, was tabbed to replace Freeland.
"It's absolutely just a great thing," Romano said. "Head coaching jobs are few and far between and I think this is a great opportunity for me. Marist has embraced me as a head coach. It's pretty amazing how the whole thing turned out."
Just a year ago, Romano was the athletic director and boys' basketball coach at St. Al's, when the Jersey City school closed its doors forever.
"I was pretty much crushed when St. Al's closed," said Romano, who spent 22 years as the head coach at his alma mater. "I never knew if I would get another chance. But Vernon gave me a lot of responsibility as an assistant, and we got along so well. I developed a good relationship with the kids and I think that will help." Brother Steve Schlitte, the school's principal, was elated to be able to hire Romano.
"We feel really fortunate to have Tony already in the building," Schlitte said. "He's a fine coach. He has a lot of experience and he's a good person. He's an asset to our program."
"We couldn't have a better person to take our program over," Marist athletic director Larry Arico said. "He's the best person for the job. He's already hit the ground running. I have no doubt about him as head coach."
There is only one obstacle. The Royal Knights graduated 10 seniors from last year's team.
"We're starting from square one," Romano said. "It's a great challenge. I relish the challenge."...
It hasn't been a good month for former Hudson Reporter Athletes of the Year running afoul of the law.
First, there were the legal woes of 2005 Male Athlete of the Year Mike Brown as the former St. Peter's Prep standout attended the University of Virginia. Brown stands trial on felony possession of stolen property and recently added a DUI arrest to his blotter.
Now, we've learned that last year's top male athlete, Evan Rodriguez of North Bergen, was arrested for an incident that took place on the campus of the University of West Virginia, where Rodriguez was attending on a football scholarship.
The 19-year-old Rodriguez was arrested March 20 and charged with a misdemeanor count of battery for allegedly grabbing the arm of a female residence hall director, twisting her arm, and pushing her into a wall. The woman who was assaulted required medical attention because of the incident.
The arrest came to light last week, when Rodriguez was initially supposed to appear in Monongalia County Magistrate Court on the charges. He showed up at court without legal representation, so the case was postponed for the time being.
Because of his arrest, Rodriguez has been suspended from school and dismissed from the football team.
It marks the third time that Rodriguez has run afoul of the law. He served some time at the Hudson County Juvenile Youth House for other incidents in 2006. It's unknown what the future holds for him. He may transfer to another school.
But this is another example of a kid who had the world on a proverbial string and seems to be throwing it all away in ridiculous fashion... - Jim Hague