There’s only one active organization in Hudson County that holds an annual awards banquet and that’s the Hudson County Track Coaches Association, which held the banquet last Monday night at the Chandelier Restaurant in Bayonne.
The HCTCA honored all of the current track and field athletes who earned All-County honors during the cross country season in the fall, the indoor track season in the winter and the outdoor track campaign in the spring.
More than 400 people attended the event, which featured great athletes like McNair Academic’s Fahd Nasser, who qualified for the Foot Locker Nationals in cross country, the first-ever Hudson County runner to participate in the nationals; Lincoln sprinter Aretha Edwards, who became a two-time Group II champion, winning gold medals in the 100 and 200-meter dashes; North Bergen’s Kayla Morales, who earned All-County honors in six different events; St. Dominic Academy’s Jessica Wisowaty; who was All-County in seven different events and sprinters Richie Luzzi-Liggins of St. Peter’s Prep and Bervensky Pierre of Dickinson, who both earned medals at the recent NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
Pierre was third in the 100-meter dash and second in the 200-meter dash at the M of C, quite an accomplishment for the young man.
The St. Peter’s Prep 4×100-meter relay team also finished second at the M of C at Northern Burlington, setting a new county record of 42 seconds flat in the process.
North Bergen’s Giano Roberts was fourth in the 110-meter hurdles, finishing in 13.99, also setting a new county mark.
All in all, it was a monumental season for local track and field athletes, one of the best showings in the last two decades. So there was a recent to celebrate all the accomplishments and achievements.
Three athletes received scholarships in honor of late sportswriter Mike Rowan. Others received scholarships in honor of late track official Al Bundies. Ed Grant, who has been writing sports in New Jersey for an incredible 73 years, was on hand to present his scholarships.
Several of the members of the HCTCA Hall of Fame were on hand, including Grant and former coach and official Leon Bailey, both of whom are in their 90s.
The highlight of the evening was the induction of the newest members of the Hall of Fame, namely former coach and official Wilbur Jones and former St. Peter’s Prep, Boston College and Villanova distance runner Pat Mellea.
Jones, who came to the dinner from his current home in Columbus, Ohio, spoke of his days coaching in the Jersey City public schools.
Jones credited Bailey for his success.
“Leon Bailey taught me everything I needed to know about coaching,” Jones said. “He encouraged me to become a track official. I remember seeing Mr. Bailey carrying books and I asked him what it was for. He said he was pursuing a Master’s degree. As a result, I then became a school administrator like him. I worked with him as an assistant coach, then became the head coach. He was a tremendous role model for me. I left Jersey City over 20 years ago and stopped coaching 40 years ago, but it’s truly an honor to be remembered.”
Mellea was first a soccer standout at St. Peter’s Prep who was encouraged as a senior to try out for track. He then went on to become a standout runner at Boston College, running the fastest mile ever recorded by a Hudson County runner (4:03.26). He was a two-time NCAA qualifier, a four-time Academic All-American and was the 2007 Boston College Student/Athlete of the Year.
Mellea credited his high school coach Mike Burgess, a member of the HCTCA Hall of Fame who is currently the athletic director at Ferris.
“I never wanted to disappoint Coach Burgess,” Mellea said. “I wanted to run my heart out for him. He was the one who encouraged me to run and was always one of the first to congratulate me even in college. If it weren’t for him, I never would have come out for track, I never would have gotten to BC and never would have been here.”
Mellea gave a message to those in attendance.
“How you train is up to you,” Mellea said. “But there’s always an extra mile to run, a second to drop on your times. Track gave me the discipline and gave me a purpose. It’s the reason why I became to be.”
Mellea currently resides in Manhattan and works as an investment banker for Wells Fargo in the city.
All in all, it was a great night to honor the track standouts of the past, the current stars and giving hope for the future…
The annual Rich Glover All Access to Life free football camp will take place at Jersey City’s Cochrane Field at the Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Complex at Caven Point June 27 through June 30 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The free camp is open to boys and girls ages nine through 14 and registration will take place at the site. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, as well as free transportation from the four Jersey City public high schools at 7:30 a.m.
The camp is organized by legendary Outland Trophy, Lombardi Trophy and College Football Hall of Famer Glover, who was an All-American defensive lineman at Nebraska in the early 1970s.
For more information on the camp, call (201) 423-9961. It’s a great camp that is free of charge and taught by a true football legend…
The 2018 Hudson Reporter All-Area Baseball and Softball Teams will be announced next week, as well as the Reporter Most Valuable Players and Coaches of the Year. So make sure to secure a copy of the Hudson Reporter next week.—Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.