CO-ATHLETES OF THE WEEK 01-24-2010 SDA track standouts Sisk, Sabbers have special bond

Sarah Sisk and Cecelia Sabbers are good friends. They have been for quite some time now, having both attended the same elementary school in Bayonne together.
“When we were young, we played everything together,” Sisk said. “Basketball, softball, soccer, ran track. We were pretty good friends then and I thought we would stay close.”
However, the relationship became even tighter when both decided to attend St. Dominic Academy.
“When it came time for high school, we became every closer,” Sabbers said. “There’s no competition or anything between us. We’re just very good friends.”
The two decided to join the soccer team together at St. Dominic. Sabbers – whose father Bill was a soccer coach and former athletic director at McNair Academic and mother Mary Jo was a standout athlete and later track coach at McNair – played center midfield and Sisk played defender.
But they also decided a year ago to join the storied track program at SDA as well.
Sabbers came from a track background, with her mother a former competitor and coach, so the transformation for her was natural. Sisk ran track for a grade school track program, coached by former Hudson Catholic great and Hudson County Hall of Famer Al Long.
“I’ve always enjoyed running,” Sisk said.
By the time that veteran SDA track and field coach John Nagel got to meet and know the pair of buddies, he knew one thing.
“They’re very mature for their age,” Nagel said. “Since they became involved in track here, they are willing to pay attention, willing to try things. They’re very mature. That’s evident. They’re not babies, despite their age. It would be hard to find a pair of sophomores who are as advanced as they are.”
Nagel liked the fact that Sisk and Sabbers had a close relationship before they joined the Blue Devils.
“They get along very well and they’re buddies,” Nagel said. “In situations like that, it helps, because they are willing to work together and push each other. They also pull for each other. Of course, you have to let them get their own identity. Sabbers is faster. Sisk is more of a distance runner, doing the mile and two-mile.”
But there is something the two friends do together very well. They both compete in the high jump. And they are both very good already.
“When the stars align, they can jump 5-feet, perhaps 5-2 on the same day,” Nagel said. “They’re both very good and don’t get rattled. The high jump can be very fickle, but I think these are kids who can do this for a very long time if they choose to.”
Sisk has already enjoyed some success in the high jump, having qualified last spring for the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, the first time a SDA freshman competed in the high jump at the prestigious state meet.
But last Saturday, the pair of sensational sophomores accomplished something together – namely winning a state sectional relay championship.
At the NJSIAA Non-Public A Relays at the Bennett Center in Toms River, Sabbers and Sisk both cleared 4-10, which tied for the best jump of the meet.
More importantly, the combined height of 9-8 enabled Sisk and Sabbers to claim the state sectional championship, the first time ever that a pair of SDA sophomores brought home state gold.
For their efforts, Sisk and Sabbers have been selected as The Hudson Reporter Co-Athletes of the Week, the second consecutive time that two athletes have been honored in the same week. Two weeks ago, the Secaucus girls’ basketball tandem of Andrea Innis and Shannon Waters were featured.
In more than 25 years of writing a weekly Athlete of the Week feature, there has never been two consecutive Co-Athletes of the Week before, including 19 years here for the Hudson Reporter newspaper chain.
Both athletes are proud and surprised with their early state success.
“I always have confidence, but I didn’t know we were going to win,” Sisk said. “I worked with Cece a lot to get ready. When we learned we won, we were excited. It was the first time I had ever won anything like this before. It’s definitely going to boost our confidence, but we always want to do better.”
“I just think it’s great that I have someone like Sarah with me,” Sabbers said. “It really hasn’t hit me that we won a state championship. Right now, it feels like any other win, but I think it will hit me that it’s pretty impressive. It is a good feeling.”
There’s another unique characteristic about the good friends. They are both parts of sets of twins. Sarah has a twin sister, Megan, who also attends SDA and ran outdoor track last year. Cecelia has a twin brother, Willie, who runs track for St. Peter’s Prep.
“It’s a remarkable coincidence,” Sabbers said. “Willie gives me pointers all the time. It’s great that Sarah and I can share that.”
Nagel expects even bigger and better things.
“I’ve trusted them at a very young age,” Nagel said. “I’ve trusted them early to be an integral part of what we do. They have a chance to be real good.”
“I definitely hope this is the beginning of big things for both of us,” Sisk said.
Sure looks that way. – Jim Hague

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