DUNELLEN, NJ – Just one week before she left for Rio de Janeiro, US Olympian Sydney McLaughlin was helping teach young kids how to juggle at a summer recreation class at Faber School; she also opted to stay home and miss the opulent opening ceremonies at the 2016 Summer Olympics to celebrate her 17th birthday with her family at their home on Fairview Avenue.
On Saturday morning, a fire truck from the borough’s volunteer fire company showed up in front of her home with a police escort to take her and her family for a ride to nearby Columbia Park, where an adoring crowd of supporters, neighbors, teachers, coaches, old friends and new friends embraced their Olympic hero.
The “Welcome Home” celebration was complete with red, white and blue balloons, miniature American flags, speeches and accolades from Mayor Robert Seader, Assemblyman Jerry Green, D-22nd, Schools Supt. Gene Mosely, Faber School principal Gary Lubisco and Dunellen High School football coach Dave DeNapoli, who served as master of ceremonies.
Seader presented her with a “key” to the borough, and Green presented her with a Joint Resolution from the state Senate and Assembly honoring her achievements.
At 5’9” and 132 pounds, she’s a hometown girl with family-grown values.
McLaughlin was the youngest track athlete to compete for Team USA at the Olympics since 1972, and through she did not return home with a medal, she won the hearts of those who live in this mile-square community of 6,000.
Seated proudly alongside her during the ceremonies were her older brother Taylor, an All-American in track at the University of Michigan and a silver medalist in the hurdles at the 2016 IAAF World Championships; mother Mary, who ran track in high school and her father Willie, who was an Olympics track semi-finalist in 1984. He also is a volunteer coach with the Dunellen High School track team.
After the ceremonies, she was surrounded by her admirers as she made her way from the football field towards the park entrance where she would unveil a new sign that honors her Olympics achievement.
She posed for pictures and signed dozens of autographs on the American flags clutched by young and old alike – “Syd da Kid,” embellished with a heart.
Next month, she returns for her senior year at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, where she excels academically – and another year of competition on the high school track team.
She’s also pointed to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.