RED BANK BOROUGH PUBLIC SCHOOLS, June 28, 2018 -- The 2017-18 school year was the most successful year ever in the history of Red Bank Middle School sports.
Five of RBMS’s six sports teams made the semifinals in the Jersey Shore Athletic League. Two of those teams —boys soccer and girls basketball—were league champions. School officials researched the records and could not find another time Red Bank won two league championships in the same year, said James “J.T.” Pierson, RBMS vice principal and athletic director.
In addition to RBMS’s success in the Jersey Shore Athletic League, the RBMS boys and girls soccer teams both took home the Count Basie Cup, which is awarded to the team that wins the annual competition between RBMS and the Red Bank Charter School.
“This was the best year in sports that the Red Bank Middle School has ever had,” Pierson said.
What made the victories sweeter is that many students were playing these sports for the very first time. In fact, the majority of players on the Lady Rockets championship basketball team were new to the sport, as were most members of the girls’ softball team, which was one of the five teams that made it to the semifinals. And last fall was the first time RBMS ever had a cross country team and several students competed in the end of season all-star meet.
Red Bank students were able to excel in these sports thanks to the support of a number of community members and organizations that donated time and money to provide coaching and equipment. These community partnerships allowed RBMS students to thrive at a time when Red Bank Borough Public Schools have been among the most underfunded school districts in the state.
Among the support RBMS received during the 2017-18 school year:
The Horizons Student Enrichment Program, which is overseen by executive director Lori Hohenleitner, funded many of RBMS’s sports clinics and will be expanding those sports and morning/after-school programs next year as well.
Former state Senator Jennifer Beck raised money to start boys and girls cross country teams at RBMS and donated sneakers to team members. She has also raised enough money with the support of several donors, including the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, to not only fund next year’s cross country team, but also to add a “Boys on the Run” program to supplement “Girls on the Run,” a highly successful running and confidence-building program already offered at the middle school.
Jersey Fusion Elite’s Amanda Frost and Tomora “Teeigh” Young ran basketball clinics throughout the year for RBMS students. They also gave scholarships valued at more than $1,000 each to several RBMS students to play on Jersey Fusion Elite’s spring AAU basketball teams.
Kristen Bunnell, the CEO of RiverRoad Waste Solutions Inc. in Tinton Falls, bought the girls basketball team 33 balls, a new basketball rack and ball pumps—and took team members out for a celebratory dinner at Chipotle after they won the championship.
And Stacy Tarver, Nike’s Brand Planning Director for North America and an RBMS graduate, donated her personal collection of Jordan sneakers to the girls’ team as well.
As always, the Red Bank Borough Parks and Recreation Department was a source of support, and RBMS teachers stepped up to coach each of the sports. As a result of these community partnerships and the help of RBMS teachers who served as coaches, RBMS was able to offer clinics before and after school and throughout the year.
“Some of the kids just about lived in our gym,” Pierson said. “They were here at 7 a.m., back from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and then back out at 6 p.m. for the Red Bank Parks and Recreation teams. And still they were able to manage their school and home responsibilities.”
Indeed, academics remained a priority of all team players. In fact, this year’s 8th grade valedictorian, Lillian Woolley, and salutatorian, Gus Dal Pra, each played three sports, and Dal Pra was one of two 8th grade students who played three sports at RBMS for each of the past three years.
As RBMS celebrated their achievements at this year’s sports banquet in June, Pierson challenged all students to do even better next year. “I challenge them to achieve better grades,” he said. “I challenge them to push themselves every time they step on the field or on the court. I challenge them to be kind and respectful toward others. “And I challenge them to believe in themselves every day, because I know their parents believe in them. I believe in them. Their coaches believe in them. And we are confident they will accomplish greatness.”
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