At the end of the fall and winter sports seasons, area student-athletes and coaches were honored by the Northeast Times for their excellence on the field and as exemplary members of their school’s community off of it.
And although there is still plenty of spring season left to go in baseball and softball, it is again the Times’ pleasure to announce the recipients of the spring honors — as well as the annual award winners — in time for the 27th annual Northeast Sports Awards Banquet on May 16.
The banquet will recognize some of Northeast Philadelphia’s top competitors who have entertained us all with their talent, work ethic and commitment to high school and collegiate athletics. More than 30 awards will be presented in such categories as Most Courageous Athlete, Unsung Hero, Scholar Athlete, Sportsmanship Award, and Player and Coach of the Year, among many others.
Here are the top athletes and coaches chosen for honors by the Northeast Times:
Girls Soccer Coach of the Year
Markos Pittaoulis, Little Flower
Although the Times waited until the Public League spring soccer season played out, there was never a doubt that Little Flower’s Markos Pittaoulis was worthy of the Northeast’s top coaching award. Pittaoulis guided his team to an impressive 10-3-1 mark in the always-challenging Catholic League. (Little Flower lost a 3-2 heartbreaker to three-time reigning champion Archbishop Wood in the championship game.)
Under Pittaoulis’ tutelage, Little Flower outscored opponents by 24 goals and recorded five shutouts. His guidance helped junior midfielder Ursula Coyle to be selected by the Times as the Catholic League Girls Soccer Player of the Year in the fall after tallying 12 goals during Little Flower’s successful season.
Public League Girls Soccer Player of the Year
Rachel Gilborges, Franklin Towne Charter
It is no surprise to see a student-athlete from Franklin Towne Charter take home the sport’s top award, as head coach Brianna O’Donnell has helped shape the Coyotes into a respected soccer team. At press time this week, Franklin Towne had a 7-3 record and was in the midst of another successful season.
The team has outscored opponents 42-5 in those seven wins, in large part due to the play of Rachel Gilborges, one of the Coyotes’ many talented players. Gilborges has scored in six of those wins and tallied multiple goals in five of them, including a hat-trick in a March 28 win against Bodine.
Baseball Coach of the Year
Sam Feldman, Northeast
When longtime Northeast baseball coach Sam Feldman spoke to the Times in late March about the prospects for his 2012 team, he said to expect a rebuilding campaign. His prognostication wasn’t far-fetched, especially considering the Vikings went 2-12 a year ago and suffered through lots of turnover, whether because of injuries or players not invited back to give the program a fresh start.
With some realignment help (Northeast moved from Division A to Division B) this season, as well as the guidance of their veteran coach, the Vikings have unexpectedly thrived, roaring to a 7-1 start thus far this season. Led by senior captain and Male Athlete of the Year winner Howard Lynn, the Vikings offense has averaged almost 12 runs a game this season, as Feldman’s steady presence at the end of the Northeast bench has his players believing in their ability on and off the field.
Public League Baseball Player of the Year
Augusto Ortega, Frankford
With eight starters returning from last year’s Public League championship team, it’s no surprise to see Frankford at the top of the Division A standings at a perfect 11-0. That said, no team wins anything on paper, and senior centerfielder Augusto Ortega has helped the Pioneers realize their full potential in the quest for back-to-back titles.
The speedster is a leadoff hitter in every sense of the word, constantly getting on base and wreaking havoc on the basepaths. The 5-foot-9, 145-pounder’s quickness makes him a scoring threat any time he puts his bat on the ball, and he also chips in on the mound when the Pioneers need pitching help, though he prefers being the team’s defensive quarterback in centerfield.
Head coach Juan Namnun praised Ortega, calling him “one of the fastest players in the city” and “one of our team’s best hitters, period” on a squad loaded with offensive firepower.
Catholic League Baseball Player of the Year
Bobby Romano, Archbishop Ryan High School
As one of the younger award-winners this season, Bobby Romano’s timing has been impeccable for the Ryan baseball team. With last year’s graduation of the team’s top two players, Kevin Mack and Eric Frain, the Raiders needed someone on their young team to step up, and their sophomore second baseman has done so in a big way.
A playoff team the last two years, Ryan currently sits at 4-4 and in second place in the Catholic League Red Division, two games behind first-place La Salle. Unexpectedly strong play from the diminutive Romano has helped the team stay in the hunt as a playoff contender. He has crushed three home runs, including two in a 16-0 win over archrival Father Judge on April 17.
“We certainly didn’t expect what we’ve seen from him this early, but he’s a pretty darn good hitter,” Ryan coach Ron Gerhart said recently. “He has unbelievable hands and feet that make him a good two-way player, and as a five-tool player he’s showing he has what it takes to be a success in this league.”
Softball Coach of the Year
Dave Schafer, St. Hubert
Dave Schafer is no stranger to accolades as head coach of the St. Hubert softball team, especially with the Bambies having won the Catholic League championship two seasons ago and advancing to the title game last year. Schafer’s team has picked up where it left off, racing to a 9-2 record in 2012, with the only league blemish coming in a 2-1 loss to neighborhood rival Archbishop Ryan on April 10.
A softball coach for much of his career, Schafer recently picked up his 400th career victory in a 3-0 win over State College on April 23. In his seventh year as head coach of the Bambies, Schafer has recorded more than 100 wins at Hubert, and he hopes to add another Catholic League championship trophy to his mantel later this season.
Catholic League Softball Player of the Year
Erica Ragazzone, St. Hubert
In a league with so many talented players, Erica Ragazzone still finds ways to stand out above the pack. The St. Hubert junior is quickly becoming one of the best softball players to ever suit up for the school, in both the pitching circle and at the plate.
Ragazzone is a reason why the Bambies could end this season as Catholic League champs, the third time in as many seasons that the Bambies’ star player could help the school take home that honor. A shutdown pitcher, Ragazzone has factored in every Hubert decision this year but one, compiling an 8-2 record capped off by a 10-strikeout no-hitter in the April 23 win over State College.
Ragazzone also is one of the team’s most-feared hitters; she has four home runs and registered three RBI or more four times. Her arm and her bat have helped the Bambies outscore opponents by 85-19 in 2012, stellar accomplishments for a stellar student-athlete.
Public League Softball Player of the Year
Jessica Figueroa, Abraham Lincoln
The Abraham Lincoln softball team has had much success the last two seasons, and Jessica Figueroa is a big reason why. The senior righthanded pitcher helped guide a high-scoring, strong-pitching Railsplitters team to a first-round playoff berth, and Lincoln appears headed that way again with the help of Figueroa. Lincoln has a 7-2 record so far this season, and Figueroa has earned six of those wins.
Paul Commarota’s team is hoping its star player can leave an even larger Lincoln imprint on the Public League playoffs. With Figueroa’s golden right arm and a high-octane offense behind her, the Railsplitters are again thinking postseason.
ldquo;She’s very, very good,” Lincoln athletic director Ed McGettigan recently told the Times. “Not only is she a fantastic pitcher, but she’s a presence in the middle of the order and she also can field her position. All around, she’s a fantastic student-athlete.”
College Player of the Year
Sammy Zeglinski, University of Virginia
For Northeast native Sammy Zeglinski, it tends to be a family affair. The Penn Charter graduate recently finished a stellar basketball career at the University of Virginia, helping guide the Cavaliers to their first NCAA Tournament since 2008. The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 8.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.6 steals as Virginia won 22 games in a turnaround season in the always-difficult Atlantic Coast Conference, which houses the likes of Duke University and the University of North Carolina.
For his career, Zeglinski ranks fifth in school history with 200 three-pointers and 10th with 156 steals. He played in 121 games and led Virginia in three-pointers three times in his four full seasons in Charlottesville.
Zeglinski comes from a proud Northeast sports family: eldest brother Zack was a three-sport standout at Penn Charter, older brother Joe was one of the more accomplished players to ever put on an Archbishop Ryan basketball jersey (he went on to to star at the University of Hartford), and younger sister Christina is a junior and catcher on the Ragdolls’ softball team.
Holy Family University Female Athlete of the Year
Dawn Curry, soccer
Even though her Holy Family soccer career ended last fall, Dawn Curry may still be taking stock of all of her accomplishments at the school.
The senior set a new career-high with 15 goals this season for the Tigers, leading her team in scoring with 34 points (a mark that was good for second in the entire CACC, Holy Family’s conference). Additionally, Curry earned NSCAA All-East Region honors for the first time in her career, as well as Daktronics Inc. All-East first-team honors. Curry finished her Holy Family career ranked fourth all-time in scoring with 114 points; she also ranks fourth all-time with 48 goals and guided the Tigers to the NCAA Division II Tournament with her fifth game-winner of the season in a 1-0 championship game triumph over Philadelphia University (she also was named the tournament’s most valuable player).
Holy Family University Male Athlete of the Year
Khiry Hankins, basketball
Khiry Hankins’ career season came at a very opportune time for Holy Family, as the junior helped lead the Tigers to their best finish since the 2008 season. The squad also went to the conference tournament for the first time since 2009.
Hankins earned All-CACC honors for the first time in his career, and his 16.8 points per game was good for sixth in the conference during the season. His 81 three-pointers were third in the CACC, and that mark ranked among the nation’s leaders.
A prolific scorer for the Tigers, Hankins topped 30 points three times this season, including a career-high 35 in a win over University of the Sciences on Jan. 26. In that game he drained a career-high nine three-pointers, which ranked fourth in all of Division II this season. What really set Hankins apart was his consistency — as he scored in double-figures in the team’s last 15 games. In fact, he had more than 15 points in nine of those games.
Most Courageous Athlete of the Year
Gordon Dunlop, Father Judge
It has been about 18 months since Gordon Dunlop’s world was shattered forever when his mother died of kidney cancer, but the senior Father Judge golfer still carries her memory every time he steps onto the links.
A two-time All-Catholic golfer for the Crusaders, Dunlop finished with individual honors at the District 12 Championship last October, almost a year to the day that his mom, Denise, succumbed to a five-month battle with cancer. Despite his loss, Dunlop helped guide the Crusaders to a fourth-place finish in the Catholic League championship and ultimately fell just short of a state championship bid after participating in the PIAA East Region Golf Championship, the only one on his team to qualify.
Growing up in a soccer family (his father is a member of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Fame, and his uncle, John, is the head soccer coach at Judge), Dunlop tried out for the golf team in his freshman year, and the rest is history.
Golfing whenever the weather is pleasant enough to do so, Dunlop often wears orange when he plays as a symbol of the fight against the disease that prematurely ended his mother’s life.
Anthony Walker, Father Judge
Many know Anthony Walker as a key contributor to the Judge football program; the 6-foot-3 senior defensive end helped the Crusaders compile 20 wins in his three seasons as a varsity player. However, his contributions may be felt even more within Judge’s community, where the student council member is an exemplary member of the student body.
Walker is an ambassador for the school; he had a large hand in helping to plan Judge’s 40th annual basketball marathon to raise money for leukemia research and programs. The school’s student council worked hard to plan the marathon and, in the process, rekindled a tradition that had been dormant for 20 years — making the event a 24-hour happening in which almost 300 students brought their sleeping bags and pajamas to stay overnight and raise money for a good cause.
Above all else, Walker’s positive, unselfish attitude makes him an easy selection for an award celebrating sportsmanship.
“I don’t personally know anyone who has leukemia,” Walker told the Times in March. “But I do know how happy people get when we do this every year. Anytime we can do something to help other people, that’s what it’s all about.”
Unsung Hero Award
Mohamed Conde, George Washington
When you’re on the same team with one of the top soccer players in the Philadelphia Public League, it can be easy to stand in the shadows.
But Mohamed Conde shone even brighter.
An All-Public League selection as a sophomore, Conde shared the pitch with superstar (and Boys Public League Soccer Player of the Year) Wilo Mimbar, considered by many to be the best soccer player in the city. But Conde never complained about being overshadowed by Mimbar or any of Washington’s other senior leaders, always giving 100 percent on and off the field. And though he may not have been in the spotlight as much as his more experienced teammates, Conde played with the poise and presence of a veteran all season long, helping Washington to a 13-1-1 season, including the ultimate prize of a Public League championship.
And the Eagles know they never would have gotten there without their unsung hero. With his team trailing 2-1 to Central in the Public League semifinals, Conde scored the equalizer with 10 minutes left in regulation, then sent Washington to the title game by scoring the game-winner with five minutes left in overtime.
Conde proved time and again that hard work and perseverance do pay off. Although he is the Times’ unsung hero this year, he left no doubt that he is a superstar in the making.
The Northeast Philadelphian Award
Andrew Guckin, Archbishop Wood High School
Coming from a family of Father Judge football players, Andrew Guckin wrote his own legacy this year — for Archbishop Wood.
Guckin, a junior linebacker for the Vikings, was the key defensive leader on a team that won the PIAA Class AAA state championship this season. Wood opened the season with a 20-17 loss to a Pittsburgh-area team before knocking off 14 consecutive wins. In those blowout victories, Guckin helped lead a defensive unit that didn’t allow a first-half touchdown in any of the games. Wood pulverized its opponents, routinely reaching 40- and 50-point outputs while pitching five shutouts on defense.
Guckin is a Mayfair native who moved to Southampton in his childhood, His shining moment came in Wood’s 52-0 championship win over another Pittsburgh-area school, Bishop McDevitt. With his team already up 31-0, Guckin’s 75-yard interception return for a touchdown was the exclamation point on one of the finer high school football seasons Philadelphia has seen in some time.
His father Mark, uncle Vince (a 1979 Judge grad and member of the school’s football Hall of Fame) and cousin Josh had exemplary careers for the Crusaders, but Guckin’s place on such a special Wood team gave the soon-to-be-senior family bragging rights for years to come.
Female Scholar Athlete of the Year
Tyanna Hudson, Frankford
Often in high school and collegiate athletics, coaches and players will emphasize the importance of academics over sports; sometimes the emphasis isn’t sincere and comes off as a bag of wind, but that certainly is not the case with Tyanna Hudson and the Frankford softball team.
On the field, Hudson has been a godsend for the Pioneers. She has teamed with Chelsea Taylor in the pitching circle, helping guide Frankford to an 8-2 record to start the season. In addition, she has brought a thunderous bat to the lineup, pacing a Pioneers offense that has scored double-digit runs in every game but one. Hudson also is an extra-base-hit machine, and her most shining performance came in a 20-7 win over Olney. The senior went 5-for-5 with two home runs, a bases-loaded triple and eight RBI.
But more important, Hudson also is the leader of a team that preaches success in the classroom over athletic glory. All of coach Ken Tomczuk’s players from the last three years have gone on to college or other post-secondary education, and he spoke of Hudson’s eagnerness to rally her teammates to succeed in school and to gather them for voluntary study halls in Tomczuk’s classroom.
The hard work is surely paying off for Hudson. She is leading the Pioneers toward the postseason and was honored with the Jackie Robinson Award before the April 15 Phillies game.
Male Scholar Athlete of the Year
Kevin Nelms, Archbishop Ryan
A first-team All-Catholic soccer player for Archbishop Ryan, Kevin Nelms led the Raiders to a 13-4-1 season and a berth in the Catholic League quarterfinals this year, but his most impressive contributions have come inside the classroom.
A Ryan legacy (Nelms’ two brothers, uncles and father played soccer for the Raiders), Nelms is a member of the National Honor Society and the school’s student council. Because of his success in the classroom, Nelms was invited to meet NASA astronaut and Ryan alum Chris Ferguson during a visit to the school last fall. Nelms was one of 17 students to accompany Ferguson to his college alma mater, Drexel University, for a panel discussion of NASA’s space-shuttle program.
Nelms carries a 4.0 grade-point average and plans to study engineering in college. He expressed hope of continuing his soccer career at the next level, but told the Times in the fall that his education comes first.
George Todt, the Ryan athletic director and soccer coach for the past four decades, gives Nelms the highest praise, calling him a “superb student-athlete.”
Female Athlete of the Year
Courtney Weidner, Little Flower
Courtney Weidner does it all for Little Flower, and that’s just the way she likes it.
Weidner excels on the soccer, basketball and lacrosse fields for the Sentinels, and it’s safe to say the school will miss her presence when she graduates this spring.
But she has left a lasting imprint on Little Flower, something that is bound to happen when so much time is spent in one place. She has told the Times that she “basically lives at Little Flower” and that she “loves it.” Additionally, she’s a star in the classroom and participates in Little Flower’s Diocesan Scholar Program, which allows her to take classes at the collegiate level. The program lets standout students take classes at a local Catholic college (Widener specialized in psychology at St. Joseph’s University) while also attending high school.
With plans of becoming a lawyer the long-term goal, Weidner is savoring the little bit of time she has left at a school she loves so much.
“It (the next level) is exciting, but it’s also upsetting because Little Flower is my life,” she told the Times in the fall. “It’s my second home.”
Male Athlete of the Year
Howard Lynn, Northeast
It’s not entirely out of the ordinary for a student-athlete to participate in three sports; however, what is extraordinary is playing two sports within the same season.
That’s just one of many accomplishments for Northeast senior Howard Lynn, a goalie on Northeast’s soccer team, as well as the kicker for the school’s football squad. After a short time to rest his weary legs, Lynn picks up a baseball bat and glove in the spring for the Vikings; he’s the captain and the team’s first baseman (and chips in on the mound when needed).
What sets Lynn apart is his leadership ability. He knows the importance of his position as a senior student-athlete at Northeast. Playing two sports in the fall allows him to impart his leadership qualities to two teams, and as a captain on the baseball squad, Lynn is leading a blistering comeback season. A year ago, the Vikings went 2-12, and now, despite fielding a very young, inexperienced team, they stand at 7-1 and are a half game out of first place.
The bottom line is that Lynn is a winner. The Viking football team went 7-5 and ended its season on a three-game win streak; the soccer squad was 11-2-1 and was runner-up in the Public League championship game; and at 7-1, the Northeast baseball team is in the midst of writing its own success story.
It won’t be easy to replace a stellar student-athlete like Lynn, but Northeast is just concentrating on celebrating what time is left with one of the faces of the school’s athletic program. ••EndFragment