COLUMN: Sportsperson of the Year – Geoff Haines

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 in the Sentinel-Ledger 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 Kelly Halliday, Andrew Bristol, Kevin Smith, Aaron Bogushefsky, John Bruno, 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 administrator has earned the salute.

Geoff Haines has been on the job as OCHS athletics director for less than two years. He got the job when Vince Leavey stepped down somewhat suddenly. Haines had been principal of the Ocean City Intermediate School but his extensive experience as a sports referee and umpire, plus years as a coach, made him a logical choice.

In the last nine months, however, he faced challenges that were not part of the job description.

The girls basketball season ended before they could play their state final. The schedules he had created in association with his coaches for the rest of 2020 were greatly altered. Spring sports were thrown out completely and the fall sports saw limited schedules with different alignments and unusual tournaments.

Through it all, Haines used social media and other creative ideas to keep the spirits of the disappointed athletes as high as possible. He organized attendance at home events so that the limited fans would meet the requirements set down by health officials.

He did what virtually every athletic director has done – dealing with scheduling, transportation, officials and all the paperwork. But he also handled all of the other challenges of this pandemic year to make it seem as painless as possible to the student-athletes, their parents and the coaches. He even stood up to the NJSIAA to make sure the live video streaming of post-season football games would be available to Ocean City’s families free of charge.

He was reasonably new to the job when everything changed but he always handled the challenges with consideration of the athletes and their families. For those reasons, Geoff Haines is the 62nd person to be chosen Ocean City Sportsperson of the Year over the last 58 years.

*********

As we get used to our new calendars (and try to forget about the bad parts of 2020) 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 2020:

1. The impact of COVID -19, including the cancellation of the entire spring sports season, limited attendance at all fall high school events because of the virus and not a single sports event in December.

2. An upset win in the South Jersey championship game by the OCHS girls basketball team.

3. Faith Slimmer scoring her 100th career soccer goal and earning her fourth straight selection to the first team all stars while leading the OCHS girls soccer team to a 34-game unbeaten streak.

4. Another strong football season by the Raiders, including their first win over St. Joseph since 1976. The seniors on this team were a special group of people who will be sorely missed.

5. Gannon Brady leading Cape-Atlantic League boys basketball scoring, only the fifth OCHS player to do so in the last 60 years.

6. Nick Sannino becoming the seventh wrestler in OCHS history to win two district championships in his career.

7. School records by Dolan Grisbaum, Joe Repetti, Jake Schneider, Faith Slimmer, Brendan McGonigle and Reed Lindsay.

8. The end of an era in field hockey with the completion of Tara McNally’s career, the third of three sisters whose contributions to the program’s success were immeasurable.

9. An 11th undefeated season in the last 12 years in boys cross country.

10. Half a football game on Thanksgiving Eve.

Let’s hope 2021 provides as many great memories with a lot less confusion and disappointment.

Coming next week – the Cape-Atlantic League Sportsperson of the Year.

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