The vast majority of recipients at Wednesday’s Greater Middlesex Conference Sportsmanship Awards banquet were seniors.
Bishop Ahr’s nominations, however, were juniors, a tradition the high school’s athletics director, Mike Wolfthal, has upheld since the awards program’s inception.
“I chose them because they have had good sportsmanship for their first three years and they are coming back as senior leaders to set an example other kids can follow,” Wolfthal said of John Lewandowski and Bernadette Maligranda, both three-sport athletes.
The league honored one male and one female sportsmanship winner from each of the conference’s 34 member schools with the Dan Hayston Memorial Award during a luncheon at the Pines Manor.
Hayston, a physical education teacher and legendary East Brunswick High School boys soccer coach who died in 2006, epitomized sportsmanship.
He taught for 30 years and coached for 23 seasons, compiling a 358-91-24 record that included a league-record 10 conference tournament championships. More important than Hayston’s titles, however, were the lessons he taught players about sportsmanship.
“Sportsmanship to me means, win or lose, to always win respectfully and lose with dignity,” Lewandowski said, “and to always respect the kids who play and respect the other team as much as I want to be respected.”
All Bishop Ahr student-athletes, including Maligranda, volunteer in the community, which she said provides paramount life perspective that can be taken onto the playing field.
“I think volunteering is what (distinguishes) us as a school,” said Maligranda, who has volunteered at Elijah’s Promise, a community soup kitchen in New Brunswick. “I think it’s good that as juniors we can come back and guide the (underclassmen).”
Metuchen High School Athletics Director John Cathcart said the sportsmanship award “is probably the most important of all the awards that we give.
“That’s the person … who is most important to the team. These are probably (some) of the best kids in the school, and I think all these kids in the GMC — you could say that about every different school – are the kids that if a coach is going to rely on somebody, when they turn around that’s the kid that’s going to be standing there.”
GMC Sportsmanship Honorees:
Bishop Ahr: John Lewandowski, Bernadette Maligranda; Cardinal McCarrick: Sean McCrea, Allison Heimbuch; Carteret: Leonardo Llanos, Giselles Perez; Colonia: Daniel Zalink, Bridget Netta; Dunellen: Tony McGuane, Khabira Crawford; East Brunswick: Michael Nicolaro, Jessica Dudra; East Brunswick
Tech: Tyler Marsh, Christa DiMaio; Edison: Marcus Cudjoe, Morgan Peacock; Highland Park: Freddy Cacace, Angelca Villanueva; J.F. Kennedy: Chris Frost, Taylor Freeman; J.P. Stevens: Brandon Boria, Neha Bhende; Metuchen: Aaron Lewis, Barbara Spiegel; Middlesex: Conor Reilly, Hollie DeBaro Middlesex County Academy at Edison: Steve Jurcsek, Emily Jurcsek; Middlesex County Academy at Woodbridge: Ninoska Duran, Janelle Thomas; Monroe: Matthew Walsh, Lauren Hoffman; Mother Seton: Kayley Erla; New Brunswick: Craig Elliott, Amanda Hernandez; North Brunswick: Virgil Boykin, Marylynn Muldowney; Old Bridge: Chris Middleton, Ashley Corley; Perth Amboy: Anibal Hernandez, Analicia DeLosAngeles; Perth Amboy
Tech: Angel Munoz, Shelby Haggerty; Piscataway: Marcus Rountree, Chioma Gabriel; Piscataway Tech: Vincent Delemo, L’Tanya Peacock; Sayreville: Michael Carey, Kelly Fitzgibbons; South Amboy: Matt Lavan, Jessica Maliszewski; South Brunswick: James Quilter, Elisabeth Martinez; South Plainfield: Chris Butrico, Jacqueline Dvorak; South River: Thomas Drum, Ginger McCutcheon; Spotswood: Brian Gzemski, Shane Genthe; St. Joseph: Sean Finan; Timothy Christian: Jeff Parker, Elizabeth Joy Hartzler; Wardlaw-Hartidge: Michael Olano, Jessica Gural; Woodbridge: Aaron Jarrett, Amanda Kiraly.