Ridgewood High School (NJ) Award For Excellence In Athletics

Ridgewood NJ Public School

History And Recipients By Class

The Ridgewood High School Award for Excellence in Athletics is the highest honor a student athlete can receive from RHS. The athletes listed below were voted as the outstanding athletes of their class for their participation as a student athlete over the entire duration of their high school career.

With the advent of women participating to a greater extent as varsity athletes because of title IX legislation, the first class to recognize a female athlete for this prestigious award was the class of 1974. Our research of the RHS Athletic Department archives shows that women participated in varsity (major sport) athletics with the creation of the Ridgewood Athletic Association (RAA) in the period of 1913 to 1916 and continued participating in various sports until the 1930’s. Female participation in interscholastic athletics can be traced back to the formation of the “Girls Athletic Club” in the 1904-05 school year. There were no male or female athletes recognized during that early period of athletic participation to receive this award.

The awards first recipient, Earle Hopper a male, was in 1914 which coincides with the development of the RAA. From that point on the records show a drop off of female participation in varsity athletics starting in the late 1920’s and disappearing entirely in the first part of the 1930’s. Participation by females in varsity interscholastic athletics expanded dramatically again in the 1970’s with the passage of title IX legislation to the point where it is today, sharing half the athletic participation of the student body. The first female recipient of the award, Nancy Hogan, was recognized in 1974.

The award originally was entitled the “Ridgewood High School Award for Excellence in Athletics.” It was renamed the “Rutgers Cup” in the 1940s through sponsorship of an award given by a local patron. The original award name, The Ridgewood High School Award for Excellence in Athletics, was reinstated in the 1950’s. Then with the retirement of former Athletic Director Dave Vanderbush was renamed and now is called the “Dave Vanderbush Award for Excellence in Athletics.” —Jeff Yearing, RHS Class of 1966

Jeff Yearing Update (August 12, 2021)

I was doing some research for our Hall of Fame banquet book and ran across some new information that significantly changes the picture of how our most prestigious athletic achievement award “The Vanderbush Award for Athletic Achievement” was created.

I hope you enjoy it and acquire an appreciation for the significance and the history of this award that has been presented every year since 1914 to 118 Ridgewood High School male athletes and 57 Ridgewood High School female athletes. 

The origin of the award is found in a 1915 document “Yearbook Of The Schools November 1915” published by the Board of Education Ridgewood, New Jersey. It states, “Through the generosity of Mr. Geo Foster Sanford, a cup bearing the Rutgers College seal is annually awarded to that boy of the graduating class who has been distinguished during his high school course because of his excellence in athletics.” The 1915 Year Book also gives us the information that Mr. Sanford was a towns person who served as the coach of the RHS football team at that time and was given credit for training the team to championship caliber performances leading to their renown in the surrounding area and across the state for that period of time. The 1913 team dubbed “The Ridgewood Invincibles” were inducted into the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame with the Hall of Fame Class of 2014.

The first recipient was Earl B. Hopper in 1914. In 1915 it was Peter Pagano. Somewhere between 1915 and 1926 the Rutgers Cup was renamed The High School Cup for Excellence in Athletics. This is evidenced by a report in the “Year Book Of The Schools The Ridgewood Public Schools” for 1926. In the commencement section (Page 61) under “Prizes and Awards 1926, it shows the names of all of the recipients of “The High School Cup For Excellence In Athletics” to date 1914-1926. The preface to the award recipients’ names for 1914-1926 states “The main prize awarded at graduation for athletic supremacy is the High School Athletic Cup presented by the High School Athletic Association to a member of the graduating class. This cup is given for the broadest participation in athletics during the four years.” The name of the award evolved over the years to “The Ridgewood High School Award For Excellence in Athletics” (eliminating the original concept of a cup given to the recipient). No date is available for that transition, but it is significant that the basis for the award has remained the same over the years. With the retirement of the former athletic Director Dave Vanderbush, the award is now named “The Vanderbush Award For Excellence In Athletics.” It is noteworthy that the award has been given every year since its inception with female athletes also being recognized with their male counterparts since 1974. There are also multiple winners in both the male and female categories in various years which began in 1981. This was not the case prior to that year.

Jeff Y.

Ridgewood High School Award For Excellence In Athletics

Renamed The Dave Vanderbush Award

Recipients (1914-2021)

1914 Earle Hopper

1915 Peter Pagano

1916 George Lilly

1917 Charles Ward

1918 William Caramella

1919 Harry Troup

1920 William Dreier

1921 Gwynn Fielding

1922 Harold Aldrich

1923 Milville Hiler

1924 Everett Wadsworth

1925 George Cantrell

1926 Lucius Howard

1928 Walter Vandenburgh

1929 Donald Seixas

1930 Robert Glynn, Charles Peraino

1931 Mario Placa

1932 Herman Stewart

1934 Richard Leopoldt

1935 Frederick Sommerrock

1936 Edward Wilson Jr.

1937 Clarence Bergsma

1938 Stanley Kay

1940 Ralph Mendillo

1941 Hubert Brown

1944 Wallace Hedman

1945 Dolph Walter

1946 Gene Links

1948 John Morrison

1950 Fred Dickman

1951 Frank Walter

1952 James Davidson

1953 Larry Higgins

1954 William Wilcoxson

1955 William Scott

1956 David Bain

1958 Joseph Thompson

1959 Leslie Davies

1960 William Gryson

1961 Michael Henderson

1962 Thomas Dusel, Bob Frame

1963 Peter MacDonald

1964 John Harper

1965 Gregory Corcoran

1966 David Blackford

1967 Fred Mina

1969 Robert Hopkin

1970 Robert Bauman

1972 Rick Hartung

1973 William Lamb

1974 Nancy Hogan, Robert Groat

1975 Cathy Deyoe, Robert Cummings

1976 Renee DuFlon, Brian Miller

1977 Cathy Kraft, Paul Ferraro

1978 Nancy Stroker, Dee Lander

1979 Amy Lyons, Steve Baldacci

1980 Lucia Cancelmo, Brian O’Callahan

1981 Cathy Crocco, Margaret Niemann, Gordon Young, Tom Hughes

1982 Colleen Wright, William O’Leary

1983 Patricia Mileski, Mary Ellen Mileski, Robert Sullivan

1984 Donna O’Connell, Roger Jones

1986 Kathy Brienza, Damian Ross

1987 Norine D’Arcy, David Herzig

1988 Mary Ellen Foley, Scott McMurray

1990 Molly Hooper, TJ Crocker

1991 Jodi Hartwig, James Reilly

1992 Sarah Grygiel, Dennis Sullivan

1993 Renee Pavelski, Mark Kossick

1995 Kate Brunner, Kevin Brophy

1996 Stephanie Doyle, Craig Myatt

1997 Jennifer Sielicki, Jamie Carifa

1998 Celeste Sedo, Jay Landgraf

1999 Kate Ferguson, Meg McDermott, Tim McDonagh, James Ruhlen

2000 Kelly Behan, Andrew Clarke

2001 Karen Seavers, Andrew Reenstra

2002 Clair Nowakowski, Tyler Rhoten

2003 Trisha McGowan, Rodolfo Crispin

2004 Justine Lupo, Jack Riley, Ari Zamir

2005 Paige Woodruff, Chuck Kaliades

2006 Ellen Seavers, Michael Cator, Byron Williams

2007 Cristina Law, Chelsea Steinberg Randall DeFeo

2008 Elizabeth Donovan, Kate Michel, Nikola Mirkovic

2009 Kelly Conheeney, Kelly Hommen, John Freemen, Taizo Shigenobu

2010 Samantha Cermack, Abby VanHorne, Thomas Devita

2011 Sarah Devita, Kyle Gibson, Insoo Hwang

2012 Courtney Tarleton, Kelci Smesko, Ievi Jennings, Evan Bartlik

2013 Lauren Beausoleil, Noah Pounds

2014 Kelly Skettini, Jamal Locke

2015 Carleen Jeffers, Antonio Hroncich

2016 Katie Bourque, Samantha Halvorsen, Michael Thurston, Cooper Telesco

2017 Zachary Feagles, Olympia Martin, Haley Ricciardi

2018 Nicole Lester, Jack Barclay

2019 William Baginski, Katherine Muccio

2020 Kiera Boucher, Luz van Schijndel, Davis Flusche, Kawame Grant

2021 Sarah Policano, Wes Penne


John Dunphey & Lucia Rabolli