It’s been 12 years since she last graced local tracks as one of the most dominant athletes Hudson County ever produced.
But in her heart of hearts, Leslie Njoku has never abandoned her roots.
“You know, I still feel like a little girl from Jersey City,” said Njoku, who still holds six Hudson County records – 55-meter hurdles, 300-meter dash and 800-meter run indoors and 100 and 400-meter hurdles and 400-meter run outdoors – from her days as a superstar competitor at McNair Academic, culminating in the 2006-2007 Hudson Reporter Co-Female Athlete of the Year.
Now having just turned 30 last month – and having celebrated that milestone with a trip to Bali – the former Georgia Tech standout returned home last week to gain induction into the Hudson County Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame at the Chandelier in Bayonne.
“Although it actually feels like yesterday, it hit me that I’m not exactly 16 anymore,” Njoku said. “It was a great honor for me to come back and receive the Hall of Fame award. I remember sitting in the same seats as the athletes and saying, ‘When I get older, I want to be included in the Hall of Fame.’ Now, I am.”
Njoku said that she had no idea that she still held six county records.
“That’s amazing,” Njoku said. “I’m very humbled by that. I definitely feel grateful that people still remember me. I see all the young faces, especially the kids at McNair Academic. I see that Coach [Matt] Hogan is doing a great job coaching those kids.”
Njoku is currently a construction civil engineer, working on building high rise structures in New York City.
“I’m done running,” Njoku said. “I had to hang up my spikes. But I’ll always be a fan of the sport. I’m truly awed by what I was able to accomplish.”
Njoku said that she was pleased to hear that a fellow McNair Academic product Claire Chapeau was the recipient of the Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year award, much like Njoku did 12 years ago.
“I’m glad that someone has been able to follow in the same footsteps,” Njoku said.
Hogan said that he was pleased to see Njoku again.
“She’s the first McNair Academic girl to get inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Hogan said. “And she’s obviously most deserving of the honor. It’s amazing that her records are still standing.”
Njoku is also the intermediate hurdles record holder at Georgia Tech.
“I think we were able to do some good things together,” Hogan said…
The HCTCA also honored all the athletes who earned All-County selections. Snyder’s Alicia Campbell earned All-County honors in eight different events during the course of the season to lead the way among female competitors, while St. Peter’s Prep teammates Ayir Asante and Adonis McGhee led the way among the male track athletes, having earned All-County honors in six different events.
The HCTCA also presented a number of scholarships to some deserving student/athletes. The Thornton Smith Scholarship was presented to Xavier Reyes of Kearny. Three Mike Rowan Memorial Scholarships were presented in honor of the late Jersey Journal sportswriter. The Rowan Scholarships were given to Biola Adeleye of Lincoln, Tasnim Belel of McNair Academic and Isabel DeBari of St. Dominic Academy. The Edward J. Grant Scholarships were given to Hamza Barkouch of McNair Academic and Megan Van Alstyne of St. Dominic. The Al Bundies Scholarships were presented to Marcus Hardy and Diani Jones of McNair Academic and the Stan Fryczynski/President’s Scholarships were presented to Andrea Tlacuilo of St. Dominic and the aforementioned Chapeau, who is this year’s Reporter Female Athlete of the Year…
All in all, it was a great year for track and field in Hudson County…
The Rich Glover All Access to Life Foundation free football camp for boys and girls ages nine through 14 will take place at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium from June 24 through 28 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Special guest speakers will attend the camp, headed by the College Football Hall of Famer and former Nebraska University All-American who coached at both Dickinson and Ferris. Free buses are available every morning from each of the four Jersey City public high schools beginning at 7:30 a.m. For more information, call 201- 423-9961…
The Hudson Catholic Baseball Camp will take place from July 15 through July 18 at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for players entering the 5th through 8th grades. Head coach Alberto Vasquez and his staff will focus on the physical and mental approach in all aspects of the game: hitting, fielding, pitching, base running and overall team play. To reserve your spot please visit the website at https://hchawksbaseball.wixsite.com/camp2019 or email at HCHawksBaseball@gmail.com…
Beginning next week, the summer feature EXTRA INNINGS returns with all the top news about baseball and softball summer leagues in the area.
EXTRA INNINGS focuses on the best stories that come from local baseball and softball leagues throughout the area, from Little League action through travel leagues.
If you have any noteworthy information to contribute to the EXTRA INNINGS, feel free to contact Jim Hague by phone at 201-303-5792 or via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.
The e-mail would be the best way of getting in touch.
Please include a telephone contact name and number, in order to secure further information for a possible story. Also, if you have a picture to be used with the story, that would be a great help….–Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com