By TOM WILLIAMS
A variety of people have been recognized as Ocean City Sportspersons of the Year over the last six decades for a number of reasons..
It all started in 1963 with the selection of Bob French, a strong supporter of youth sports. Others in that category – like Chet Wimberg, Bill Gans, Harry Vanderslice, Rich Tolson, Naz Costanza, Greg Donahue and Joe Fagan – would follow over the years.
There have been remarkable athletes (Jack Neall, Pat Lynch, Kevin Sinclair and Chad Severs) and administrators (Don Pileggi, Mike Allegretto, Paul LeFever and Walt Tucker).
And many high school coaches – from Andrew Bristol, Kevin Smith, Aaron Bogushefsky, Matt Purdue, Trish LeFever and Paul Baruffi, back to Dixie Howell, Fenton Carey, Jack Boyd, Pat Dougherty, Mike Slaveski and Phil Birnbaum – have been recognized.
This year another coach has earned the salute.
Kelly Halliday took over the OCHS girls soccer team seven seasons ago. Six of those teams had winning records and five won Cape-Atlantic League championships. But this year was something special.
Her 2019 Raiders were 24-1-1 (a school record), won the CAL Tournament and became the first girls soccer team in the school’s history to win a state championship. She finished her seventh season with a 104-34-7 coaching record.
This year she led a young team through a challenging schedule to one of the best seasons by any team – male or female – in OCHS history.
She was named New Jersey Girls Soccer Coach of the Year by NJ.com. And she has become the 61st person to be chosen Ocean City Sportsperson of the Year.
As we get used to our new calendars, it is always a good time to look back on the top local sports stories of the previous year. As is our custom, here are the 10 sports stories that seemed to generate the most interest throughout Ocean City in 2019:
1. The fascinating airport story of the two Ocean City cross country teams and how Delta Airlines saved their trip to Florida.
2. The state championship by the OCHS girls soccer team.
3. The CAL championship and fourth straight trip to the South Jersey Group 3 final by the girls basketball team. And the boys basketball team winning 20 games for a second straight season – the first time by the Raiders in 60 years. Plus both basketball coaches – Paul Baruffi and John Bruno – passed the 400-win mark, a rarity in South Jersey for two active coaches at the same school.
4. South Jersey team championships by both the girls and boys cross country teams – the second straight time they’ve done it during the same season.
5. The strong football season by the Raiders, including their first nine-win season in 18 years, their first South Jersey final in 19 years and the first time they’d won two playoff games on the road in 19 years.
6. Geoff Haines succeeding Vince Leavey as Ocean City’s Director of Athletics.
7. School records by Brian Beckmann, Gannon Brady, Marty Cattie, Abby Craige, Charlie Dahl, Danielle Donoghue, Abbey Fenton, Dolan Grisbaum, Nate Hays, Anthony Inserra, Kevin King, Bill Kroeger, Summer Reimet, Joe Repetti, Faith Slimmer and Luke Varallo.
8. Another CAL championship (the 22nd in the last 23 years) by the field hockey team.
9. Undefeated conference championships by both lacrosse teams and trips to the South Jersey finals.
10. District wrestling titles for Nick Sannino and Bill Kroeger.
Let’s hope 2020 provides as many great memories.