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Winter Sports: A Recap


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Frank Gabriele
In one of the highlights of VHS’ winter sports, Frank Gabriele smashed the VHS record for most wrestling wins.
Smashed school records and athlete recognition at both the division and state level: That was the winter sports season at Verona High School. Robert Merkler, VHS’ director of athletics and special programs, took at few minutes at the start of the April 10 Board of Education meeting to recap the highlights of the basketball, winter track, hockey and wrestling teams, as well as the debut season of VHS’ newest sport–swimming.

“Each meet they improved,” Merkler said of the swim team, “and there was some really great sportsmanship and camaraderie throughout the season.” Kelly Nulty was named second team All-American Division in the 100 Butterfly while Jaime Hoimark and Killian Blitz were each named honorable mention.

Merkler noted that the boys basketball team took second place in the West Essex Area Holiday Tournament, qualified for the state tournament for the tenth straight season, and raised over $500 for a cancer charity. Joey Zecchino, who recently committed to playing for Division III Baruch College, as named first team All-Colonial Division and third team All Group 2. Andrew Siegelin made second team All-Division and Jeremy Boub made honorable mention All-Division.

Desiree Meyer
Desiree Meyer, seen here at the Essex County Tournament, was named first team All-Colonial Divison team, along with Brianna Horton.

Girls basketball, meanwhile, finished with a 17-8 record, advancing to the quarterfinal round of the Essex County Tournament for the first time in school history as well as the quarterfinals of the state tournament. Desiree Meyer and Brianna Horton were each named to the first team All-Colonial Divison team, while Cecilia “CC” Courter was named second team and Kylee Gallagher was named honorable mention.

Merkler said that the VHS girls winter track team finished second in a field of 16 teams at the SEC Championship and collected over 200 medals in meets throughout the season. The girls’ 4 x 400 team went to the Group Championships and qualified for the Penn Relays. “Kate Ashley had another outstanding season as she was state sectional 800m champion and ran a great race at the Meet of Champions,” Merkler said. “She also made second team All-State Group 1 in the 800m.”

The boys winter track team finished in fourth place at both the North 1 Group 1 State Sectionals and Group Championships. The boys 4 x 400 team of Evan Huaman, Bryan McKeen, Vincent Hogan and David Navarro also qualified for the group 1 championships. “Owen Fogarty had an outstanding season,” Merkler said. “He was the SEC Conference champion in pole vault, a Meet of Champions Qualifier and he broke the school indoor pole vault record of 12’6’’.”

Owen Fogarty
Owen Fogarty, a sophomore, broke the VHS boys indoor track pole vault record.

VHS wrestling had one of its most successful seasons in school history, posting a 17-8 record with divisional wins over West Orange and West Essex, Merkler told the BOE. The team qualified for the state sectionals for the third year in a row, winning its first round match at Belvidere and finished the season ranked in the top five in the county.

“We had four wrestlers make the All-Division teams, including first team Frank Gabriele, second team Frank Riggio and honorable mention Billy Fauerbach and John Gabriele. John Gabriele recorded his 100th career win, while Frank Gabriele finished his career with 146 career victories, which is the most in school history. He is also our first three-time state qualifier.”

The hockey team that Verona runs with Glen Ridge finished with a final record of 15-6-7 and were co-champions of the Essex Holiday Tournament. They advanced to the semi-finals of the Kelly Cup, qualified for the state tournament, and earned a state tournament win. Sean DeCandia was named second team All Kelly Division while Jarrod Keating was named honorable mention All-Division. “VGR scored their most goals since 2012-13 and gave up their least amount of goals since 2012-13,” Merkler said. “They also had a nine-game unbeaten streak.”

VGR DeCandia
Sean DeCandia was named second team All Kelly Division.

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