By TOM WILLIAMS
It used to be that winning a varsity letter in high school sports was a great accomplishment. At some schools, it still is. But others award letters for loyalty, to student-athletes, particularly seniors, who finish out the season.
The next level up is being a starter and a step above that is being selected to the league, conference or division all star team.
But how about being a first team all star for two seasons? Or three? Pretty special accomplishments.
Then just imagine being a first team all star four straight years. High school athletes only get to compete for four years, so making the all star first team each year defines you as a Quad Star.
Its not easy. You have to stay healthy and get off to a great start as a freshmen. There is a little more opportunity in individual sports like swimming, track, cross country and golf than in team sports.
Mike Trout didn’t do it. Neither did Matt Szczur, Austin Johnson or Renee Tomlin. Even Dave Weinberg, Mike Frankel and Mike Gill fell short.
In the first 20 years of the 21st Century, during which more than 50,000 student athletes competed at Cape-Atlantic League schools, there were only 107 times when an athlete was a Quad Star. That is less than one percent.
Lets salute them.
First of all, there were no Quad Stars in boys soccer, girls volleyball, boys basketball, baseball or boys lacrosse.
There was just one each in football and boys track. Raushan Smith of Bridgeton was the lone Quad Star in football and Quentin Bundy of Pleasantville in boys track.
There were two in field hockey – Emily DeMarco and Gianna Morganty of St. Joseph. And there were two in girls lacrosse – Bridget Ruskey and Allison Hunter of Middle Township.
Three girls basketball players made the first team four times since 2000 – Grace Sacco of Ocean City, Lauren Holden of Lower Cape May and Kylee Watson of Mainland.
There were four in girls soccer – Maria Grady of Our Lady of Mercy, Danielle McCann of Middle Township, Brielle Smith of Oakcrest and Lower Cape May’s Maddie Gibson. And five in girls track – Allie Moreland and Bridget Flynn of Ocean City, Shameka Speed and Brittany Gross of Bridgeton and Rachell Armstead of Millville.
Five athletes also won four all star selections in both boys tennis and softball. The tennis players were Carlo Pangilian of Mainland, Keith Goldstein of Egg Harbor Township, Dan Barrus of Ocean City and Charles Berenato and Lou Abenante of St. Augustine. The softball players were Mary Beth Foley of Holy Spirit, MacKenzie Brennan of Mainland, Jayla Jamison of Millville and both Nicole Pagano and Sara Raubertas of St. Joseph.
There were six in boys cross country – Mike Keebler of Holy Spirit, Alan Laws of Pleasantville, Levi Orr of Bridgeton, Ryan Herlihy of Middle Township and Brett Johnson and Jesse Schmeizer of Ocean City.
Eight athletes were four-time all stars in girls cross country – Alexa Previti of Holy Spirit; Raelynne Miller of Millville; Meghan Borz and Kristin Siegle of Buena; Chrissy Casiello and Tara Wuko of Wildwood Catholic; and Brittany Sedberry and Bridget Flynn of Ocean City.
There were also eight in girls tennis – Sara Durham of Sacred Heart; Bushra Memon of Atlantic City; Madison McNicholas of Wildwood Catholic; Tess Fisher of Vineland; Megan Doran and Julia Dalzell of Holy Spirit; and Karisse Bendijo and Emily Manzo of Egg Harbor Township.
Nine CAL golfers won four straight first team awards. They included Anthony Martire of Holy Spirit; Ben Walsh of Absegami; Cody Dazen of St. Augustine; Erik Dekarski of Egg Harbor Township; Jeff LeFevre and Colin Roche of Mainland; and Alex Hicks, James Kelly and Dave Hicks from Middle Township.
There were 13 wrestlers who earned Quad Star status. Leading the way were four from St. Augustine – Mike DiGalbo, A.J. Fisher, Joe Esposito and Tom Gattanella. The others were Troy Willette and Ryan Goodman of Absegami; Zach Agostino of Egg Harbor Township; Phil Bakuckas of Hammonton; Mac Mancuso and Pat D’Arcy of Holy Spirit; and Paul Zemanik, Tim Suter and Bill Ward of Buena.
That brings us to swimming – the CAL had 15 Quad Stars in boys swimming and 20 in girls swimming.
Five of the boys were from St. Augustine – Christian Sprang, Owen Black, Michael Joyce, Blake Trabuchi-Downey and Zach Washart. Mainland had three – Skylor Booth, Erik Troung and Liam Garbutt. The others were Dennen McCloskey of Atlantic City; Trevor Gehring of Cape May Tech; T.J. Given of Holy Spirit; Jim Rhodes of Cedar Creek; Andrew Thompson of Oakcrest; and Christian Bell and Joe Tepper of Egg Harbor Township.
The 21 in girls swimming included eight from Ocean City – Noel Styer, Rachel Chain, Amber Glenn, Mel Wilezol, Aly Chain, Amanda Nunan, Ryann Styer and Andrea Teofanova. There also was Jill Smaniotto of Millville; Lauren Kelly of Cedar Creek; Giavanna Lupi of Vineland; Kayli Hernandez of Oakcrest; MacKenzie Howarth, Camryn Greenleaf and Grace Curry of Egg Harbor Township; Rachel Wuko and Grace Stuart of Wildwood Catholic; Joanna Thomas and Jenna Santora of Mainland; and Colleen Callahan and Ayana Cox of Atlantic City.
There were eight others who probably would have joined this elite group if spring sports had been played this year. That group includes Nat Ampole from Buena softball, Devon Coia from Vineland softball, Mahogany Wheeler of Millville softball, Mya Pomatto of Egg Harbor Township girls track, Michael Mitnick of Mainland golf, Drue Nicholas of St. Augustine golf sand both Andrew Kapp and P.J. Schulte from Middle Township golf.
And, to look to the future, there are 14 returning athletes who will likely join this distinct group during the 2020-21 school year, if everything gets played.
From fall sports they include Alyvia Grey-Rivera (Wildwood Catholic girls cross country), Faith Slimmer (Ocean City girls soccer) and two girls tennis players – Saloni Garg of Oakcrest and Charisse Tigrado of Cedar Creek.
In the winter, girls basketball players Marianna Papazoglou (Wildwood Catholic) and Kate Herlihy (Middle Township) will be going after four straight. So will EHT’s Brandon Bell and Middle’s Travis McCray in boys swimming. And candidates from girls swimming are Alex Antonov (Ocean City), Alexandria Cotter (EHT), Katie McClintock and Maddie Falk (Mainland), Marlee Canale (Cedar Creek) and Lindsay Robbins (Cape May Tech).
You can review all the CAL all star teams – including second teams and honorable mentions, when selected – back to 2003 here. Each page also includes other highlights of the athletic school years.
If you were reading carefully you also might have noticed that there was just one athlete who was a Quad Star in two different sports. Bridget Flynn of Ocean City was a first team all star four straight years in cross country and four straight in track, though the first few were at Holy Spirit. Eight for eight – pretty impressive.
There they are, those rare athletes who were four-time first team all stars in a single sport. No dinner was held to honor them for that and they will receive no special trophies or plaques. But they should realize that their level of success was pretty impressive.
If you are in touch with them, offer congratulations.