SCOREBOARD SDA rolls to yet another Hudson County track championship

Hudson Catholic garners the boys’ HCTCA team crown

A lot is written about and talked about St. Anthony and the Friars’ dominance in boys’ basketball, not just on the local level, but on state and national spectrums. And the attention that the Friars get — much like they are gathering this season with an undefeated No. 1-ranked team – is so richly deserved.
But there’s another dynasty in Hudson County sports that doesn’t soak up the headlines like St. Anthony does. Yet, this dynasty’s run at local dominance is equally as impressive. People wait for the run of success to wither and fall, but yet, the team remains as strong as ever, year after year.
St. Dominic Academy won the Hudson County Track Coaches Association girls’ indoor track team title last week at the New Balance Track and Field Center (formerly known as the 168th Street Armory), outdistancing runner-up North Bergen by 22 points.
What gets lost in the shuffle is that it’s the 19th time that the Blue Devils have collected the top honor among Hudson County girls’ indoor track teams in the tenure of head coach John Nagel.
Just think about that for a second. For 19 years, St. Dominic has been the best team in a highly competitive track and field county for indoor track. Overall, Nagel’s teams have won 100 Jersey City team titles and 50 Hudson County titles, when you include cross country and outdoor track.
But 19 times during the winter months, Nagel’s teams have been crowned as the county’s best. That’s an astounding accomplishment.
And it never gets tiring to Nagel, who trudges along as the head coach, through a serious illness a few years ago, through graduations and injuries and illnesses to his athletes, and still manages to win county crown after country crown.
“It’s a challenge all the time,” Nagel said. “I really enjoy the challenge. I enjoy taking a group of kids and bringing them together like this. There’s strategy involved. It’s like playing checkers. You have to put the right kids in the right slots.”
What made this year’s county title a little different is that Nagel had to rely on a small contingent of athletes. Usually, SDA wins team titles because they have a deep roster and kids competing in a host of events, collecting points.
The Blue Devils had seven kids who scored points last week at the county championships. That was it.
“We don’t have depth,” Nagel said. “The plan was to have Camille (Bertholon) and Malia Gray to get to 55 points and the rest of the team to get 10. Then, I thought we had a shot.”
As it turned out, Nagel’s two studs, Bertholon and Gray, did better than expected. So did the others, who collected unexpected points. That’s what happens when you take the time to train kids properly. Sometimes, they get a chance to overachieve.
Gray, the talented junior, won three events, the 55-meter hurdles, the long jump and the high jump. Bertholon, who has been the mainstay of the SDA program for what seems like forever, won both the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs and finished second in the 800-meter run.
Nagel was asked if Bertholon has earned her place on the SDA “Mount Rushmore” list, meaning if she would be among the four best athletes the school ever produced.
“She’d be the fourth,” Nagel said. “She’s pretty good. She’s also made a lot of sacrifices for the good of the team. She’s done everything we’ve asked of her. She’s a team girl to the core. She did her job in her three races. There was no need for more. She doesn’t need to run more races than she has to.”
Gray is following in Bertholon’s footsteps quite well.
“She’s always been talented,” Nagel said of Gray. “She has mastered performing when the lights are on. You can see she’s an athlete from 10 miles away. I never want to use the ‘star’ word, but who’s kidding whom? They combined to score 58 points. That’s impressive.”
The others are seniors Destiny Foster, Brenna Nadrowski and Jianna Bustamante and juniors Aliya Perry and Celeste Aurora.
Aurora’s performance stood out in Nagel’s mind.
“She never made 4-6 in the high jump before and got 4-8 and almost got 4-10,” said Nagel of Aurora’s surprising fourth place finish in the event.
Bustamante got a fifth place in the 800-meter run, with Foster securing fifth in the 3,200-meter run. Nadrowski secured three medals, finishing fifth in the 55-meter hurdles, sixth in the high jump and as part of the Blue Devils’ relay team.
Speaking of the relay, North Bergen’s team won in 4:16.28, setting a new meet record in the process.
Sabrina Ozoria of Union City won the 55-meter dash, with Jeffania Cherry of Ferris getting gold in the 400-meter dash and Nyoki Jones of Snyder winning the gold medal in the 800-meter run.
Hudson Catholic captured the boys’ title by dominating the 55-meter dash and winning five gold medals in all, giving the Hawks their first county crown since 2006 and the fifth overall.
Hudson Catholic head coach Jerry McCann knew that his team had a chance to win the team title, even after one of his top sprinters, football standout Jonathan Barber, missed the train to Jersey City in time to compete.
No problem, as Royaal Jones, the rugby standout, won the 55-meter dash, followed closely by Sef Penson and Tomatse Ogedegbe.
“When you go 1-2-3 like that in one event, it’s almost impossible for anyone to beat you,” said McCann, the former Jersey City mayor. “When you start adding points like that, you’re going to win. It just became a matter of us being able to score in events where we were good at.”
Ogedegbe went on to win both the high jump and the long jump.
“He’s only a junior, but he’s a tremendous athlete,” McCann said. “He’s coming into his own.”
Barber showed up in time to finish third in the long jump.
The Hawks also won the 4×400-meter relay and took second and third in the 400-meter dash, with Courtney Johnson and Terrell Bush doing the honors.
“The misconception in the past was that Hudson Catholic didn’t have a good track team,” McCann said. “But the athleticism is there.”
Brandon Parrado of St. Peter’s Prep won both the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs.
All in all, it was an impressive county meet for both SDA and Hudson Catholic.

Jim Hague can be reached at
You can also read Jim’s blog at

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group