EAST ORANGE, NJ- Some of the most accomplished young women in New Jersey high school and college sports were recognized for their accomplishments earlier this week, and one of South Plainfield High School’s own was among them.

Caity Hughes, South Plainfield’s standout athlete in softball, field hockey, and basketball, was one of the young ladies honored at the 24th annual New Jersey National Girls and Women in Sports Day awards luncheon at the Richard Regan Athletics and Recreation Center at Seton Hall University this Sunday.

While Hughes is no stranger to being recognized for her sports achievement, (just weeks after she signed a letter of intent for a softball scholarship for Georgian Court University, Hughes was named Homes News Tribune’s Field Hockey Player of the Year.), she said she was honored to be among the awarded.

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“I feel really privileged to be honored,” Hughes said during the event. “There’s so many great female athletes here. It’s just a great feeling.”

As honored as Caity Hughes was, her parents, Kevin and Cheryl Hughes were equally as proud.

Caity Hughes was accompanied to the luncheon by her parents, friends, and South Plainfield High School athletic director Kevin McCann.

“It’s a very proud day, said Kevin Hughes, who is also the coach of South Plainfield’s girls basketball team. “The fact that she’s been able to balance sports for four years, keep her grades up, and then be recognized on a day like today...there’s a lot of sense of pride,”

Kevin Hughes added that events like NGWSD are a great indicator of how far society has come in supporting the athletic pursuits of women.

“In my day and age, it wasn’t as common, it was like ‘Oh, she’s good for a girl’, and now, they’re just being labeled as the great athletes they are,” he said. “As a father, and as a coach for girls, I think it’s great that they’re getting the recognition they deserve.”

The event, which was held on the 40th anniversary of the first National Girls & Women in Sports Day, not only put a spotlight on the accomplishments of the young women who were honored, it also recognized the obstacles women’s athletics have had to overcome.

Among the event’s speakers was Maria Pepe, who is best known for being one of the first girls to join a Little League team, back in 1971. After complaints from boys’ parents, Pepe, who was 11 at the time, was banned from the league. While she wasn’t able to return to the Little League fields herself , the court battle that ensued on her behalf helped pave the way for future female athletes.

“It’s crazy to see the difference between how it was then and now, and how much women’s sports has grown,” Caity Hughes said. “I just can’t wait to see how it’s keeps going and how it is in the future.”

The message of the event resonated for the Hughes family in multiple ways. Before raising three student athletes, Cheryl Hughes was an exceptional athlete in her own right. She was a star on Kean University’s softball and field hockey teams, and is now a member of the college’s athletic hall of fame.

Afterwards, the mother spoke to TapInto about the importance of events like this one.

“I think that having sports and playing sports helps a lot of these girls build confidence, and feel good about themselves,” Cheryl Hughes said. “I think it helps them be successful, so I think events like this should happen every year, and I think the girls appreciate it.”