Derek Fernandez certainly has a bright future ahead of him.
The Secaucus High School senior, who played football and wrestled, is headed to his commitment to the United States Military Academy at West Point later this month.
But before he graduated from Secaucus High, Fernandez received an award from the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference for Sportsmanship at the league’s annual Sportsmanship Luncheon at the Chart House in Weehawken.
“I always have the characteristics and qualities I need to be a leader,” Fernandez said. “I try to do what’s expected of me. I always try to respectful as I can to coaches, officials, the opponents. As intense as it gets in competition, I try to remain as respectful as I can.”
So Fernandez was happy to represent Secaucus one last time receiving the unique NJIC Sportsmanship award. The NJIC is revolutionary when it comes to honoring student/athletes for something other than hitting home runs or scoring touchdowns.
“It’s very humbling to receive an award like this,” Fernandez said. “It shows to have the right mindset and attitude. I always tried to be a part of the team and tried to be a respectful man. My parents raised me the right way. And my coaches [Charlie] Voorhees [for football] and [Ed] Roesing [for wrestling] just reflect what I learned from my parents.”
Secaucus swimmer Carlee Sanchez-Hegarty was the school’s female Sportsmanship recipient. She is headed to the University of Tampa to continue her swimming career.
“I always encouraged everyone to be positive,” Sanchez-Hegarty said. “I don’t like the negative things, even when we have practice at 5 a.m. I was definitely flattered and shocked when I found out I was getting this award. I was also thrilled to meet some of the others who received the award. I’m just happy that the other coaches saw that I was always helpful. I’m glad that I was recognized not only just for the swimmer I am, but the person I want to be like in the real world.”
Alexa Ruiz, who played basketball and ran cross-country at Weehawken, was that school’s female recipient.
“It means a lot to me,” Ruiz said. “When I joined sports, I didn’t want to known as the one who caused problems. I wanted to be someone that my teammates liked and respected. I’m very surprised to receive this award. I wasn’t expecting anything like this. But to be recognized by multiple coaches made me happy. That’s what makes this very special.”
Ruiz is going to West Virginia University to major in management information systems.
“I thought it was crazy to be recognized, because I don’t even go to the school,” said Ruiz, who attends High Tech High School. “It’s a great honor.”
Jimmy Lopez, who played football, basketball and baseball at Weehawken, liked the uniqueness of the award.
“It’s so different than any other award,” Lopez said. “There are plenty of other athletes in our school that could have received this award. For me to be chosen over others means a lot.”
Lopez is headed to Caldwell University to play lightweight (sprint) football and will major in sports management.
“It’s really great to be recognized like this,” Lopez said. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com