Members of the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame are those that have made a lasting impact on the school’s sports program as either student players, coaches, or supporters. Often the student players have continued to influence their chosen sports after high school by ongoing participation in athletics.
Kandie Latham, 2012 Inductee
Kandie was a kid before her time, what we call a pioneer, but she helped establish traditions that continue today. She came out to the 2nd RHS track team in 1973 and the 1st RHS cross country team in 1974 when there were few girls’ high school Teams in North Jersey; Title 9 existed only as a law just written, and girls track wasn’t on people’s minds as a sport to be taken seriously. When Kandie graduated in 1975 there was a dawning of girl’s high school sports in North Jersey, Kandie had helped The Ridgewood Girls establish a national record and had a state championship medal in her pocket and Ridgewood had a recognized track and field program.
Kandie’s running career had many examples of those early frustrations. For a woman to even come out for a sport in 1973 was a challenge over peer group influence. When she started track Kandie quickly established herself as the fastest kid on the team. But what to do with it. There was no league champs, or country champs to develop your embryonic skills. Seasons were quickly over and you waited 6 or 8 months for the next year’s seasons to evolve.
Then to a larger example of frustration for the athletes of the era, Kandie’s college career was cut short by lack of support and lack of interest. Kandie went to Villanova to study nursing and ran for them for her Frosh year. She participated in the AIAW National Championship. The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was the organization that over saw college women’s athletics prior to Title 9 implementation and prior to the NCAA taking an interest in college women’s sports. But college sports at the time were not sympathetic to a woman who wanted to excel. Kandie’s class schedule made practice difficult and the Villanova men’s coach would not let the women on the track during the men’s practice time. He was afraid the girls would be distracting to his boys! So after one year of college running Kandie quit and focused on her nursing studies. A New Jersey champion finding no support at a school with a famous men’s program. But that was the athletic landscape for women in 1975.
A closer look at Kandie’s Ridgewood career will give a better idea of her tremendous contribution. RHS was a 3 year high school at that time so Kandie’s first experience was her sophomore year and as a “fast kid” she ran a lot of sprint races for the team, but in those days the schedule consisted of a few local dual meets and a couple of Saturday relay meets. Not exactly a program that was going to develop a state level talent. But her work ethic and attitude helped create a track and field athletic team. Kandie was on a relay team at the Long Branch Relays (a long established meet that had added a few girls events) that won Ridgewood’s first medals of any kind. The entire team exploded with excitement at the accomplishment of one of their relays.
Kandie’s junior year her coaches recognized that she had some talent in the middle distances and convinced her to run the 880 yard run in a 2 mile relay event at The Red Bank Catholic Relays. At the time Penn Relays had no high school women’s events and the Red Bank Relays were offered as alternative to Penn. Ridgewood had a trio of great 880 girls (Jane Green, Cindy Hansen, and Nancy Reed) and needed a 4th for the relay. The coaches convinced Kandie to “move up” to the 2 lap event for just this one race. Kandie joined this group for several weeks of focused training under distance coach Bob Stickles and in her first 880 yard race Kandie lead off the team with a time that would have scored in the State Championship later in the season. She handed off a lead and the rest of the team ran equally well and Ridgewood established a new National High School Record. In those days there were no real governing bodies but a publication called Women’s Track and Field World kept track of High School marks and Ridgewood High School Girl’s Track and Field received its first national recognition. Kandie went back to her signature event and placed 6th in the New Jersey State Championship in the 440 yard dash. Kandie’s junior year accomplishment was a remarkable National relay record and 6th in New Jersey in her event.
In the fall of 1974 Ridgewood started a girls’ cross country team and Kandie again put on her pioneer shoes and took her speed to the distance event. She and her friend, Jean Leach, quickly established themselves as the best distance runners at Ridgewood. An unfortunate ankle sprain at Garret Mountain kept Kandie from running in the State Meet. But Ridgewood had established itself with a cross country program that soon gained area wide recognition. Kandie and Jean lead with an attitude of excellence that still permeates Ridgewood’s distance program.
She and Jean then went out for Winter Track at Ridgewood High School their senior year. They were the first and only girls on a team that had been all boys up to this point. Kandie raced on the old 168th Armory board track (the place where anyone who fell had a load of splinters to remove!). Training with the boys was challenging but gave Kandie a background of endurance that enabled a great spring season to unfold. With new found endurance this “fast kid” was able to move up to the 880 yard run and make it her event. Losing only once her entire senior spring she toed the line at Rutgers Stadium cinder track in the 2nd State Championship meet for high school girls. She won the gold with a new meet record and left a legacy of excellence that Ridgewood runners still feel today.
Kandie has had a very successful career in the health care industry. She has two daughters who have excelled in sport and her husband Mike is a successful lacrosse coach. She lives in Glen Rock, ironically only a few blocks from her high school coaches. Her life from athlete to mother of athletes and wife of a coach has spanned a history of girls’ sports that has been quite remarkable.
John Marshall, Jim Bruni, Mark Romeo, Jean Hughes, Chris Van Note, Nancy Hogan, RHS Football Team 1913, Don Taylor, Rachel Grygiel, John Cerf, Paul Tornatore, Michele Marangi, RHS Boys’ Lacrosse 1990-92
Craig Halyard, Tom Flatt, Tricia Pappalardo, Mike Henderson, Kandie Latham, Leigh Jester, Tom Dusel, Roger Sweeney, Linda Zabielski, Patty Capasso, Dennis Sullivan, Nick & Dottie Capasso, Track and Field (Bain-Daley-Oliver Era)
Kitty Batterson, Henry Blauvelt, Frank L. Bradley, Jr., Lucia Cancelmo, Chris DuFlocq, Renee DuFlon, RHS Girls’ Basketball 1922-1923, Harry Grundy, Jim Jones, Joe LeMay, Jen McDermott, Shannon McGarrigle, Tony Napier, Margaret Niemann, Vince Robertiello (Jamie Roberts), Damian Ross, Mike Springer
Paul Arrigoni, Pete Campbell, Doug Cook, Becky Deetz, Otis Grendler, Jodi Hartwig, Gene Links, Debbie O’Connell, Aimee McGuire, Walt Perdue, Tom Simos, Kazbek Tambi, Jack Van Yperen, Bob Whitaker, Margaret Scutro