GARWOOD, NJ - The Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders senior athletes were recognized for their hard work and dedication to their chosen sports at the Senior Sports Awards held Monday night at the Westwood in Garwood. It was an opportunity to reflect upon their careers as they get ready to move on to college.
“We take this night to celebrate the four years the student-athletes have been with us,” ALJ Athletic Director Gus Kalikas said. “We want to celebrate their accomplishments, but more importantly, we want them to take tonight and start to reminiscence about the four great years they had here at Johnson. We’re very proud of them. A lot of them will continue their athletic careers at college. The others that won’t hopefully will still have some very good memories.”
The evening was sponsored by the Booster Club, led by President Scott Bohm. The club had spent months in advance to prepare the night.
“The Booster Club works hard throughout the year to create such a nice closing event to end [the students’] senior year as athletes,” Bohm said. “Hopefully they take their last experience here, the community with all the other athletes that they have participated with or have been friends with for the past four years, and take those experiences with them as they move on.”
ALJ principal Rick Delmonaco and Carl H. Kumpf Middle School teacher Rick Hoos received recognition for “Unselfish Contributions to Johnson Athletics.”
Each student-athlete received a plaque that listed all of the sports they participated in and all the years they took part in it.
The evening was an opportunity for the coaches to reflect on past seasons and reminisce about their players and plays.
“It’s a bittersweet moment for both the coaches and the players,” Johnson varsity lacrosse head coach Lou VanBergen said. “Four years and a whole lot of hard work basically culminate in tonight, being recognized for all that hard work and the efforts throughout the four years.”
The Michael Murray Sr. Memorial Scholarship was the first major scholarship presentation of the evening. For the first time in its history, the scholarship was awarded to a female, softball player Stephanie Donah.
“It’s truly an honor,” Donah said. “It honestly made me feel very happy to receive such an outstanding award.”
The Jeffrey Felter Memorial Scholarship was awarded to baseball player Steven Weisensee.
Ten student-athletes earned Frank Cicarell Memorial Scholarships: Matthew DiOrio, Gina DiNucci, Joshua Geller, Mike LaBianca, Lauren Margel, Trevor McSorley, Dan O’Donnell, Jessie Riddlestorffer, Andrew Russo and Arlene Vill.
Natalie Stanzione and Jacob Lopez received the Booster Club Outstanding Awards. Booster Club Book Scholarship Awards were presented to Samantha Cimbolic and Mike Basso.
The final presentation was the Tom Santaguida Scholarship, awarded to Lauren Beck and Jason Brougham.
“It’s really nice to get all the student-athletes here one more time because it really shows how Johnson is a family and how we’re really one, and we love competing with each other,” O’Donnell said, reflecting on the evening.
Looking toward the future, several of the seniors will continue their athletic careers in college.
Continuing on in football are Mark Barranger, playing for Sacred Heart University, Brougham, playing for Susquehanna University, Mike LaBianca, playing at Montclair State University and Lopez, playing at Moravian College.
Matt Pedicine will play lacrosse at Hobart University and Kyle Glassen will continue with lacrosse at Sacred Heart University.
Cimbolic will play field hockey at Stockton University. Cathryn Schlaeger will play volleyball at Seton Hall University.
Donah’s softball career will continue at Felician College. Her teammate Kristen Meagher will play softball at the College of Staten Island.
O’Donnell will play baseball while attending Lesley University and his teammate, Weisensee, will play baseball at Misericordia University.
Johnson varsity softball head coach Mike Mancino shared VanBergen’s thoughts about the night.
“It’s always bittersweet because you’re happy for them, for their accomplishments,” Mancino said. “You see them grow over the years as players, but also as people. That’s the nice part. Even though you’ll bump into these student-athletes down the road at certain functions, you’re not going to see them on a daily basis, you’re not going to work with them as closely anymore, and that’s the sad part.”
“It is part of the process, you give back,” he continued. “It was a great group; what they’ve done. We’re looking forward to seeing them do things in the future.”