Primo “Duke” DeRochi
In 1936, Irwin B. Somerville, superintendent of the Ridgewood school system, hired Primo “Duke” DeRochi to coach boys basketball at the high school. The basketball team needed a lot of help, having won only one game in the previous two seasons.
In his first year as coach, DeRochi moved the team from last to second place in the division. In 1943, the Maroons finished first in what was then called the Northern New Jersey Group Three League.
When Howard Richardson, then athletic director and baseball coach, left Ridgewood in 1938, DeRochi took over as athletic director and began a 15-year tenure as baseball coach.
DeRochi died on Oct. 9, 2003 at his home in Venice, Fla., one week short of his 98th birthday.
During his tenure as head baseball coach, DeRochi worked with a number of gifted players, including Harry Grundy, who, as his ace pitcher, helped him win back-to-back championships in 1940 and 1941, and Don Haldane, a star in football, basketball and baseball, who died in World War II.
DeRochi dedicated himself to athletic fitness at all levels, In addition to his coaching responsibilities, he also served as fitness trainer for the football team. In 1942, he introduced a strenuous calisthenics program, including rope climbing, track workouts, pull-ups and coordination drills in all boys gym classes. DeRochi knew many of them would be called on to serve in World War II, and he wanted to make sure they were in top physical shape.
A year later in 1943 at the age of 37, despite having a young wife and two growing boys at home, DeRochi answered his country’s call and joined the Navy as a lieutenant. Stationed in the Pacific, he participated in the amphibious landings that put the Marines ashore at Iwo Jima and Okinawa before returning in 1946 to Ridgewood, where he resumed his responsibilities as director of athletics and baseball coach. He continued coaching baseball until 1956.
DeRochi also served as director of the water safety program at Graydon Pool for 18 years and teamed up with a friend in the operation of a small grocery and delicatessen on East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood.
A native of Waterbury, Vt., DeRochi graduated from the University of Illinois in 1928, but when his best teaching job offer turned out to be a $1,400 post in Southern Illinois, he decided to go for his master’s degree, which, in 1929, earned him a teaching job in the Glen Rock school system for a salary of $2,000 a year.
“That was fantastic pay in those days,” DeRochi recalled in an article published in The Record on June 2, 1966. “Most of the teachers were starting at $1,200 right out of school. I got a $100 raise each year, and in two years was making $2,200. But then bad times set in, and I had to give back 20 percent, so that after three years in the system, I was making less than when I started. The main thing was that I was working, and I didn’t care what they paid me as long as they continued to let me work. You’ll recall that in the early 1930’s, there were a lot of people who couldn’t get work for any kind of money.
DeRochi remained in the Glen Rock school system until 1936, when he moved on to Ridgewood.
His leadership abilities did not go unnoticed. In 1953, he accepted an appointment to the New Jersey Scholastic Athletic Association and became president of the group a year later. In 1956, he served as president of the Bergen County Coaches Association.
On June 8, 1966, DeRochi retired from Ridgewood High School, having served almost 30 years (1945-66) as athletic director. About 150 men who either played on his basketball or baseball teams or were in his physical education classes gathered at the Suburban Restaurant on Route 4 in Paramus to pay tribute to DeRochi’s accomplishments. The event was chaired by Warren Byrne and Dr. Mario Ferraro
Ed Van Tassel, who pitched for DeRochi in 1940, spoke of him as a leader and an inspiration, a man they reverently called “Coach.”
In 1966, DeRochi took issue with those who felt that participation in athletics interfered with an athlete’s scholastic work.
“A boy goes out for a team and develops the habit of working according to schedule,” DeRochi said. “He has to watch his marks, or he becomes ineligible. His sports activity takes about two hours a day, and he learns to budget his time. The boy who is active in no extra-curricular program of any kind gets into the habit of wasting his time and, more often than not, has more difficulty with his studies than those who are busy with other activity.”
Debbie Paul made her mark at Ridgewood High School in softball, delivering on 32 seasons as head coach, and in girls tennis, serving as head coach for 31 seasons.
Paul joined the Ridgewood High School faculty in 1973 as a physical education teacher. She had just graduated the previous spring from one of the best physical education preparatory schools in the world, Springfield College in Massachusetts.
Growing up in Milford, Conn., and graduating from Milford High School in 1969, Paul’s life was immersed in athletic endeavors, even though formal high school varsity sports had not yet emerged for women through Title IX legislation from the United State Congress.
As a 16-year-old junior in high school, she played a very high caliber of softball during the spring and summer for the Raybestos Brakettes, based in Stratford, Connecticut. This semi-pro team was one of the first women’s teams to offer organized opportunities for women to compete at an extremely high level. She excelled for five seasons for the Brakettes as a middle infielder while also playing intercollegiate field hockey and basketball at Springfield College.
Upon taking up her teaching position at Ridgewood High School, Paul took the reigns of the fledgling girls tennis and softball programs created at RHS, as Title IX legislation took effect, providing equal athletic opportunities for girls. Paul became a pioneer in the Bergen County sports scene and a strong advocate for equal opportunity for women in sports.
Her 1973 tennis team won the first Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) championship offered, and then in 1974, she took over as the head field hockey coach for one season.
Upon returning to the tennis courts for the next three seasons (1975-77), Paul’s teams quickly reflected the excellence of her tutelage, sporting a 54-9 record over those three seasons, winning an NNJIL championship in 1977 as well as two Group 4, Section 1 State Titles in 1976 and 1977 and the outright Group 4 State Championship in 1977.
From 1978 to 2006, Paul had two interruptions in her tennis coaching career. In 1978, she took a leave of absence from the Ridgewood school district to earn a master’s degree in bio-mechanics from Purdue University. In 1985, she was on a one-year sabbatical, studying national patterns in the development of wellness-based curriculum in high schools across the United States
In each of those seasons (1978 and 1985), the tennis team reflected her development of guidance through interim coach Mary Ann Tierney winning a Group 4, Section 1 State Title in 1978, and taking an NNJIL Championship as well as another Group 4, Section 1 State crown in 1985. Both years, the team made the Group 4 State finals. In 1980, the Maroons racked up the first of four Bergen County championships and their second outright Group 4 state title.
Overall in 31 seasons (1973, 1975-77, 1979-84, 1986-2006) under Paul, the girls varsity tennis teams at RHS amassed a 567-112 match record, 25 league championships, 23 Group, Section 1 state titles and two outright Group 4 state championships while appearing in the state final four times. Paul was named Bergen County Girls Tennis Coach of the Year three times.
In 1974, Paul organized and coached the first girls softball team at Ridgewood High School. The sport was in its infancy in Bergen County, as Paul recalls schools having teams call each other to arrange playing formal games. There was no formal league structure in place. The team held varsity status from the school’s athletic department that season and would compete the following year in the newly organized girls division of the NNJIL.
The softball team took a slower climb to success than the tennis program, but under Paul’s steady leadership and coaching, the team emerged with a 17-7 record in 1978 while claiming its first Bergen County Tournament victory and its first two wins in the State Tournament. Paul was named Bergen County Softball Coach of the Year that season and would be named Coach of the Year three more times during her 32-year softball career (1974-78, 1980-2006).
Paul had built the framework of a very solid team when she took a leave of absence for her masters’ degree program in the study of bio-mechanics at Purdue University in 1979. The core of that team was built around 2010 RHS Hall of Fame inductee Amy Lyons and current RHS head softball coach Patti Auger. The team, under interim coach Dave Vanderbush, went 26-2 and won the NNJIL, Group 4, Section 1 and Group 4 State Championships.
Upon her return to Ridgewood, Paul’s teams went on a great run of success from 1980 to 1986, amassing a record of 152-30 and winning their first Bergen County Tournament championship in 1981 while repeating in 1983. Those teams also won three NNJIL titles, four Group 4, Section 1 State championships and the 1983 Group 4 State championship. The 1983 team was named No. 1 in the state and awarded the Star Ledger trophy as such. The Maroons would go on another great run from 2004 through Paul’s final season of 2006, producing a record of 70-14, winning three NNJIL titles, the Bergen County Tournament championship in 2005 and the Group 4, Section 1 State title in 2006.
Overall, Paul’s softball teams amassed a record of 473-270 with six league titles, three Bergen County Championships, five State-sectional crowns and two outright Group 4 State championships. Her career win total of 473 currently ranks No. 1 all-time in Bergen County history.
In 2006, Paul was honored by the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations by being named New Jersey Softball Coach of the Year and Northeast Softball Coach of the Year. Paul was further honored in 2006 by the Greater YMCA of Bergen County, receiving its prestigious award for significant contributions to youth.
Paul also excelled as a teacher in the Ridgewood school district, where she helped develop Ridgewood High School’s excellent reputation for its physical education and wellness curriculum. She was a leader in the fitness field and was instrumental in the incorporation of the school district’s Project Adventure programming. Her efforts helped move Ridgewood High School’s wellness programs into being a model that districts all over the state would try to emulate.
Having spent her entire career in the Ridgewood school district, Paul retired from the teaching and coaching profession after the conclusion of the 2006-07 school year.
Paul states she feels “very blessed to have had an opportunity to teach and coach in a district like Ridgewood.” She would like to recognize and express her appreciation for the professional mentoring she received during her career from Dave Marsh, former director of wellness for the Ridgewood school district, as well as from her teaching and coaching role models, Dick Bennett and Kitty Batterson.
Batterson, the former girls volleyball coach at RHS, is a 2008 Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame inductee. Bennett was named Bergen County Boys Soccer Coach of the Century by The Record in 2000.
George Monro, a 1939 graduate, is one of the all-time great three-sport athletes in the history of Ridgewood High School. Monro capped his stellar sports career at RHS by receiving the Ridgewood High School Award for Excellence in Athletics, established in 1914 and awarded annually to the member of the graduating class who compiles the best record in various sports.
Occasionally referred to by the nickname “Scotty”, Monro excelled in football, basketball, and baseball, earning six varsity letters.
As a fullback on the gridiron for head coach Jack Broomall, he was the Maroons’ leading rusher, playing alongside halfbacks Gus Anton, George Bolding, Stew Moore and Eddie Walsh and quarterback Charlie Brown, while running behind a line that featured standout Walt Livingston.
One of Monro’s top games came on Nov. 5, 1938, when he scored two touchdowns in Ridgewood’s 20-6 victory over Leonia. According to the Nov. 6 edition of The Sunday News, the first came when “the husky Scot crashed through the center” of the defense from the 1-yard line. His second trip over the goal line also came from the 1 as he “went through that same hole at center for the touchdown.”
In the 1938 season, the Ridgewood football team also scored wins against Tenafly (a 26-0 triumph in which Monro ran for one touchdown and threw for another), Park Ridge and Hawthorne, in addition to playing a scoreless tie with Pompton Lakes on Thanksgiving Day.
Although the Maroons could not crack the end zone against Pompton Lakes, The Ridgewood Herald noted in its Dec. 1 edition, “Monro was by far the outstanding player on the field, banging out one hard earned gain after another and picking up as much as 5 yards at times, after he had apparently been stopped, with his terrific leg drive.”
In basketball, Monro played guard and was one of the team’s leading scorers. Come spring, he played second and third base and was one of the best hitters for the Maroons. One of Monro’s more memorable games came against Pompton Lakes. According to an article in the May 25 edition of The Ridgewood Herald, “George Monro’s circuit drive in the final frame drove in the winning tallies and pulled the game out of the fire for Cal Dinkins, as Ridgewood set Pompton Lakes back for the second time in a tight 3 to 2 contest yesterday afternoon at the Lakeside Oval.
Monro was popular with his coaches and fellow players, being strictly a “team” player, and was rated highly with the fans throughout his brilliant career.
George Monro went on to have a stellar football career at Franklin and Marshall College and was inducted into the F&M sports hall of fame in 2001.
He served with the United States Marine Corps in World War Two after his graduation from college in 1943.
Bill Dunne, a 1947 graduate, is one of the greatest running backs in the history of Ridgewood High School football. The 5-foot-8, 170-pound gifted three-sport athlete earned nine varsity letters during his career at RHS.
In his senior year, Dunne captained the football team for head coach Frank Mozeleski. He alternated between quarterback and left halfback, played middle linebacker and returned and kicked punts. His 25-yard field goal against Lodi was the first in RHS annals.
The 1946 team had few returning lettermen, but the Maroons won their final six games to finish the season with a 7-2 record. Dunne was named All-Suburban in The Ridgewood News, All-County in the Bergen Evening Record and All-State Group 3 at the quarterback position.
According to a Ridgewood News article published following the 1946 season, “Dunne was a very capable broken field runner and dashed away for numerous long touchdown runs and gains. His educated kicking toe accounted for many conversions, including the one which beat Pompton Lakes, 14-13, in a thriller of a ball game [witnessed by 4,200 people at the Pompton gridiron].” Another highlight of Dunne’s final football season was receiving the Hi-Y Grid Award, given by the Ridgewood YMCA for clean sportsmanship, scholarship and all-around student.
In basketball and baseball, Dunne was named All-State Group 3 his senior year. In George Lucas’ column in the Paterson Morning Call following the 1946 football season, he wrote of Dunne, “Just say the word to Ridgewood, and it was Dunne — by Billy Dunne, the super-dooper special. A star in baseball and basketball as well as on the gridiron, Billy could pick his sport and be a collegiate success. If he had any spare moments, the blond-special could probably do all right with soccer, ping-pong, and checkers.”
In the summer of 1947, Dunne and fellow RHS Hall of Fame member Gene Links (Class of 2004), played outfield for Uncle Sam’s Shoes, the leading semi-pro baseball team in North Jersey. The ball club won the New Jersey State Tournament, and Dunne hit a home run in the championship game. Uncle Sam’s Shoes traveled to Wichita, Kan., to compete in the National Semi-Pro Tournament.
Dunne attended two colleges. He first went to Potomac State Junior College in West Virginia, where he was a three-sport starter. He transferred to Stetson University in Deland, Florida, where he became the starting quarterback. In the eighth game of the season, he sustained a lower back career-ending injury.
Dunne enjoyed a successful 38-year sales career with Lehigh Cement Company with assignments in Baltimore, New York City and Minneapolis/St. Paul. He retired in 1992 as sales manager of the North Central region.
Dunne and his wife, Mary, who reside in Edina, Minnesota, celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary last June. They have five children, 11 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
In retirement, Dunne has donated over 60 pints of blood to the Memorial Blood Bank.
Amy Lyons, a 1979 graduate, is one of the outstanding softball players in the history of Ridgewood High School, and the shortstop capped her four-year varsity career by playing an instrumental role in the Maroons winning the Group 4 State Championship her senior year.
In the June 14, 1979 edition of The Ridgewood News, Lyons was tabbed the Maroons Star Athlete of the Week after her team won the state title, and, in his story, Ron Phillips wrote for a lead paragraph: “A quarter century ago, Ray Bolger was the star of Broadway in the musical, “Where’s Charlie?” with his refrain, “Once in love with Amy, always in love with Amy…”
Those are the sentiments, Phillips wrote, of Ridgewood High School sports followers about Amy Lyons, the senior shortstop who excelled at bat and in the field as the Maroon softball team won the state title Saturday.
In the 4-2 win over Woodbridge in the State-Championship game, Lyons tripled in the fourth inning and scored Ridgewood’s first run, then hit a liner to left in the fifth that enabled Jean Simmons to score the go-ahead tally. Besides her 2-for-3 day at the plate, Lyons made several sparkling fielding plays, including a running catch of a soft line drive in the sixth with two runners on base.
Ridgewood finished with a 26-2 record, also winning the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) title and reaching the Championship Game of the Bergen County tournament before falling to Demarest.
For the season, Lyons batted .480, smacking eight home runs, five triples and six doubles, and drove in 47 runs, tops in Bergen County. She attempted 22 stolen bases and was only thrown out once. Wrote Phillips, “Lyons was hailed as Bergen County’s premier scholastic softball player this season.”
Her junior year, Lyons hit .481, slugging nine home runs and collecting eight other extra-base hits, and drove in 27 runs. She compiled an incredible 1.216 slugging percentage.
In 1978, Fair Lawn head softball coach Tim Cullen was evaluating to Ridgewood News sportswriter Ron Fox the softball talent he saw that year when his voice suddenly raised, in octave and decibel: “That Amy Lyons is beyond belief!” he exclaimed. Her sophomore year, Lyons was a starting outfielder.
One of Lyons’ classmates and teammates was Ridgewood’s current head softball coach, Patti Auger, the Maroons’ centerfielder, who batted .342 her senior year and .410 her junior season. Both Lyons and Auger were named First Team All-County in 1979. Lyons continued her softball career at the University of South Carolina. She returned to RHS, where she was an assistant softball coach for several years.
In 1979, Lyons’ head softball coach was Dave Vanderbush, who was filling in that season for Debbie Paul, who was pursuing her master’s degree at Purdue University. Paul was Lyons’ head coach in 1977 and 1978, and she will join her former star player in this year’s Hall of Fame class.
Lyons also excelled in tennis for coach Paul at RHS, playing first doubles her senior year, when the Maroons captured the NNJIL and Bergen County championships. Lyons works for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is based at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. On July 21, 2009, she was named assistant director of the FBI Inspection Division by Director Robert S. Mueller, III
“In her new role, Amy will be responsible for oversight of internal investigations and the evaluation of FBI programs to ensure their effectiveness and compliance with FBI objectives, governing laws, rules, regulations and policies,” said Director Mueller. “Her previous experience in the Inspection Division, coupled with her years of operational work in the field, makes her an excellent fit for this position.”
Lyons entered on duty as an FBI special agent in January 1990. Upon completion of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., she was assigned to the New Haven Division. While there, she investigated international drug money laundering cases and led a Safe Streets Task Force focused on the Almighty Latin Kings Nation. After six years, she was promoted to the International Training and Assistance Program at the FBI Academy. She was later assigned to the Latin American Unit in the Criminal Investigative Division’s Organized Crime/Drug Section at FBI Headquarters.
In February 1999, Lyons transferred to the New York Division, where she managed an Italian Organized Crime Squad focused on the Columbo Organized Crime Family. She served in this position until July 2001, when she was appointed to assistant special agent in charge (ASAC) of the Special Operations Branch. Shortly thereafter, she served as the on-scene commander in the New York Division’s Joint Operations Center in response to the 9/11 attacks.
She was subsequently assigned to FBI Headquarters to work on the investigation of Zacharias Moussaoui. Upon her return to New York, Lyons spent three years as the ASAC of the International Terrorism Branch, supervising the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force.
In August 2006, Lyons was promoted to an inspector in the Inspection Division at FBI Headquarters. In this role, she led teams responsible for sensitive investigations and the assessment of FBI operations and performance throughout the country. She was designated as the chief inspector in the Inspection Division in January 2008. She was named special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore Division in April 2008.
Lyons received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in psychology from Ball State University. Prior to her employment with the FBI, she was a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Newark.
James Sullivan, a 1995 graduate, is one of the top swimmers in the history of Ridgewood High School. Sullivan was ranked 101st in the world in the 1,500-meter freestyle (for all ages) after his junior year, and for three years, he was a captain of the Ridgewood High School swim team.
His senior season, he was named First Team All-County in both the 200 and 500-meter freestyle, winning both events at the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) meet, and he racked up the most points for his team, as the Maroons finished with a 10-2 record and a third-place showing at the NNJIL meet.
Said Ridgewood head coach Annie Fischer at the time, “James has always been very dedicated to the team. He has shown a lot of leadership and has always been a positive influence on the other kids.”
Sullivan was ranked among the top five college recruits in the nation and was invited to attend the USA Swimming National Team Eagle Camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
In the 1993-94 campaign, Sullivan was the team’s points leader and was First Team All-County in the 200-meter freestyle and Second Team All-County in the 500 freestyle, as Ridgewood placed second at the league meet. He beat out Bergen Catholic’s Kevin Pchola with a time of 1:47.22 for the 200 freestyle championship of the league meet.
In the 1992-93 season, Sullivan was named the Most Valuable Swimmer for the Maroons, who compiled a 10-1 record and had a second-place finish at the league meet. He made Second Team All-County in the 400 relay and Honorable Mention All-County in the 100 butterfly.
As a freshman in the 1991-92 season, Sullivan was named the Most Promising Swimmer for the Maroons (6-5) after being named Second Team All-League in both the 200 and 500 freestyle. While in high school, Sullivan was a four-year captain (1991-95) of the Ridgewood YMCA Breaker swim team. He was a three-time Y National Champion in both the 500 and 1,650 freestyle.
Sullivan also was a Junior National East champion in the 1,500 freestyle and a Senior National finalist.
The summer after his senior year of high school, Sullivan was training to make the Olympic trials cut at the Senior Nationals, but badly injured every muscle in his upper back.
“That ended up slowing down my swimming career,” he said. “I spent freshman year at Princeton University at kicking practice rather than swimming and saw about 100 different doctors. Over the course of the four years, I spent 20-to-30 hours a week in rehab or visiting doctors. By sophomore year, I was splitting my time between kicking and swimming and only able to compete in a limited few meets. It wasn’t until the end of junior year that I had recovered enough and scored a personal best time in the 1,000 freestyle. I was awarded the John Alan Swabey Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the swimmer for their contribution through spirit, sportsmanship and improvement in swimming.”
His senior year at Princeton, Sullivan was elected captain of the swim team. After graduation, he spent several years consulting in the energy industry and then received an MBA from Duke University.
Sullivan is currently a vice president of operations for a national real estate developer and oversees the process of greening/creating eco-friendly apartment communities.
After a long hiatus from swimming, Sullivan has taken it back up and completed the 4.4-mile Chesapeake Bay Swim this summer and plans to do similar races as well as triathlons.
Mike Culver, a 2002 graduate, is one of the top lacrosse players in the history of Ridgewood High School. He was named The Record’s Boys Lacrosse Player of the Decade this past spring.
Culver is the youngest athlete to be inducted into the RHS Athletic Hall of Fame for his play not only in lacrosse and football but for his success on the lacrosse field for the University of Virginia, the Chicago Machine of Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and the United States World Champion U-19 team, as well as his continued dedication to the sport of lacrosse on a national level.
While at Ridgewood, Culver was a three-year varsity letter winner and Co-captain on the gridiron for Chuck Johnson’s football teams and garnered first team All-League, first team All-Suburban and first team All-County honors while playing linebacker for the Maroons as well as being awarded the prestigious Stroker Award in 2002.
On the lacrosse field, Culver was a three-year varsity letterman and a multiple All-League, All-Suburban and All-State honoree, capped off by his senior season, when he was named First Team All-League, First Team All-Suburban, First Team All-State, Gibbs Division Player of the Year, All-Suburban Player of the Year, Bergen County Player of the Year, New Jersey Player of the Year and All-America.
He moved on to Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, where, in his freshman year, he made the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Honor Roll, and the Cavaliers won the ACC championship. In 2003, Virginia claimed the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s lacrosse national championship. Culver capped off the year by captaining the United States U-19 Team to the gold medal in the 2003 World Championships.
In his next three years, Culver accumulated numerous All-ACC and All-America awards, and, in 2006 as the captain of the Cavaliers, he led Virginia to an undefeated season and his second NCAA lacrosse National Championship. At the conclusion of his senior season and his career with Virginia, he was honored with the UVA Team Leadership Award as well as All-ACC, Academic All-America, First Team All-America and the NCAA National Defenseman of the Year Awards.
He was the sixth overall draft pick in the MLL Draft and went on to start for the Chicago Machine. He made the MLL All-Star game and was voted as the Sportsman of the Year for not only his athletic performance but for his work with charities and youth lacrosse programs in the State of Illinois.
Culver works for MetroLacrosse, an organization driven to provide urban youth the chance to learn and experience the game of lacrosse, as the director of external affairs, where he concentrates on fund-raising and connecting the inner city lacrosse programs on the East Coast.
Keith O’Connor, a 1994 graduate, is one of the most prolific and clutch scorers in the history of boys soccer at Ridgewood High School. He started varsity four years and scored 133 points on 46 goals and 41 assists. He is first on the school’s all-time list for most varsity wins as a player (55) and most career assists (41) in boys soccer.
O’Connor’s distinguished soccer career was recognized by The Record, when the newspaper named him to its All-Decade Boys Soccer Team in 2000.
O’Connor played for Ridgewood’s winningest boys soccer coach, Dick Bennett. He kicked off his freshman year in 1990 in grand style, emerging as the team’s leading scorer, racking up 14 goals and eight assists, to help lead the Maroons to a trio of titles — including the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL), Bergen Countyand Group 4, Section 1 Championships. As a result, O’Connor was named First Team All-NNJIL, Third Team All-County and Honorable Mention All-State Group 4.
In 1991, he set the program record for most assists by a sophomore with 11 and was named First Team All-NNJIL, Second Team All-County and Honorable Mention All-State Group 4. In addition, he was named the All-Suburban Boys Soccer Sophomore of the Year by The Ridgewood News.
In 1992, O’Connor became the first RHS boys soccer player to be appointed a captain in his junior year. Again, he led the Maroons in scoring with 17 goals and 13 assists, the latter number a program record for a junior, and he also established the school record for career assists (32) in boys soccer. Recognition of O’Connor subsequently escalated with him being named First Team All-NNJIL, First Team All-County, First Team All-Suburban, First Team All-State Group 4 and Second Team All-State All-Groups.
In his senior season of 1993, O’Connor earned the ranking of team captain. Unfortunately, he was injured in his first game versus Passaic and missed the next nine contests. Still, he scored 12 goals and had nine assists and was a driving force behind the Maroons again striking gold by winning the Bergen County Championship and the Group 4, Section 1 State Title. O’Connor’s postseason honors would reach the summit, as he was named First Team All-NNJIL, First Team All-County, First Team All-Suburban, First Team All-State, the All-State Top 22 and the Associated Press’ Second Team All-State.
O’Connor was also captain of the Wyckoff Torpedoes U19 team that won the New Jersey State Cup in 1994. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
O’Connor also played baseball and was a three-year varsity letter winner for head coach Jack Van Yperen and assistant coach Jeff Yearing. He played the outfield, shortstop (despite being left-handed) and on occasion pitched. He was a career .280/.300 hitter.
In college, O’Connor was a four-year varsity award winner in soccer at Loyola University Maryland. After college, he was the JV boys soccer coach at Ridgewood for two seasons, compiling a 23-9-5 record, and also coached JV boys lacrosse at RHS for two years. In addition, for two summers, he was an assistant coach for Yearing’s Jersey United girls soccer team that traveled annually to Europe to play in several countries.
O’Connor then moved on to coaching men’s soccer in college, serving as an assistant coach at the University of Delaware for three years. While there, he served as a player assessor for the Delaware Olympic Development Program (ODP).
In 2002, he was the head coach of the AC Milan U16 team that advanced to the semifinals of the Delaware State Cup. In 2003, he was the head coach of the AC Milan U17 team that advanced to the Delaware State Cup Finals. Presently, O’Connor is the men’s soccer head coach at Centenary College in Hackettstown. In 2006, he was the Skyline Conference Men’s Soccer Coach of the Year and the Centenary College Coach of the Year.
O’Connor and his wife, Ellen, and daughter, Cadey, reside in Easton, Pa.
Josh Kauke, a 2000 graduate of Ridgewood High School, is a three-time State Champion in the 800-meter run and regarded as the best-ever in that event in Bergen County history.
Kauke made his mark in both indoor and outdoor track, first winning the 800-meter state title in spring track his junior year with a time of 1:53.27, coming from behind to stun the prohibitive favorite. Paul Schwartz described the performance in The Record’s Friday, June 4, 1999 edition with the words, “[Kauke] burst ahead of favored Eric Motzenbecker of Wall in the 800 meters and raced to an upset victory, one only he and those closest to him thought he could achieve.
That same spring, Kauke earned the Bernard Smith Award for outstanding running performance in the Bergen County Relays, and he went on to place fourth in the 800 at Foot Locker Nationals in North Carolina.
His senior year, Kauke ran a 1:57.42 to claim the 800 indoor track state crown and, come spring, topped that with a 1:50.19 to run away with the State Meet of Champions 800-meter title. The latter time broke the previous Bergen County record that had stood for 24 years, and the mark still endures today.
In addition, he helped the Maroons to a national championship in the sprint medley relay, combining with Dan Cooper, Andrew Dolgin and Steve Pawlowski for a 3:27.58 that still stands as an RHS record in the event.
Upon his graduation in 2000, Kauke’s 1:50.19 ranked as fifth-fastest in New Jersey history. That year, he was named All-American with the nation’s fifth-best time in the 800 meters. Olympian Alan Webb had the eighth-best time.
A soccer standout for much of his youth and early high school athletic careers, Kauke wound up winning dozens of league, county and state-sectional titles in track, setting records in the 400-, 800- and 1600-meter runs and in the relays. His effort of 1:52.04 in a Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League Meet broke the record held by 1993 Ridgewood graduate Bob Keino.
Kauke’s clocking of 1:53 in the 800 meters in the 1999 Bergen Meet of Champions is still the event record.
After graduating from RHS, Kauke went to Princeton University, where he had a solid four-year varsity career. He was All-Ivy League in indoor track in 2003 and 2004 and has the sixth-best indoor time in the 800 meters in Princeton history.
A great relay runner, he was part of the outstanding Princeton 4 x 800 squad that won IC4A National Championship in 2002. His relay teams in the indoor 4 x 800 and distance medley both hold Princeton records.
Patti Mileski, a 1983 graduate, is one of the top-flight cross-country and track athletes in the history of Ridgewood High School. Patti joined the Ridgewood cross-country program her sophomore year when she arrived at the high school.
For the next three seasons, the Maroons had an unprecedented run of three triple crowns, a Group 4 State Championship and a second in the State Meet of Champions (SMOC). With her sister, Mary Ellen, as a training partner, she achieved First Team All-County three times and First Team All-State twice and was a First-Team All-American selection her senior year.
Patti was equally successful in track and field, setting school and Bergen County records in the one-mile and two-mile runs. Teaming with Mary Ellen on the relays, Patti had a fabulous series of accomplishments: school record in the javelin relay, a national record in the indoors distance medley, finalist in the Penn Relays 4 x 800, Bergen County records in the sprint medley, 4 x 800, distance medley and 4 x 1-mile relays. Her performance in the 4 x 1-mile relay still stands as a Bergen County record and was the national record when run in 1983 and stood as the best mark ever for 17 years.
Patti was third in the SMOC in the 3200-meter run as a senior and competed and placed in the inaugural National Prep Championship in Portland, Oregon. Patti attended Texas A& M for one year with full track scholarship. She then transferred to the University of Notre Dame where they only offered club track and field because there was no intercollegiate program for women at the time. Today, Patti has an active group of athletic children in New Hampshire. Winter time finds her teaching adaptive skiing at the local ski hills.
Mary Ellen Mileski
Mary Ellen Mileski, a 1983 graduate, is one of the top-flight cross-country and track athletes in the history of Ridgewood High School. At the end of her 8th grade year at George Washington Junior High School, Mary Ellen decided to run in the Ridgewood Memorial Day Run. This experience led her to try out for the high school cross-country team as a GW 9th grader. Back in the days of the three-year high school, ninth graders tended to focus their sports at the junior high level. But Mary Ellen enjoyed running and thought she might find some success in the sport.
This decision enabled Mary Ellen to be one of the few four-time All-Bergen County athletes (in any sport). As a freshman, she placed second in the Bergen County Cross-Country Championships and in the spring won the County Title in the mile, setting a new Ridgewood record in the process. Her freshman success foreshadowed an outstanding running career in cross-country and track and field at Ridgewood High School. Mary Ellen set school records in the 1,500-meter and one-mile runs. She joined with her sister, Patti, to lead Ridgewood to Triple Crown Team Titles in both cross-country and track and field. Mary Ellen was outstanding in the relays, running everything from the 4 x 440 to 4 x 1-mile and throwing in the javelin relay. With her sister, Patti, she set school records in six relays. The 4 x 800, sprint medley and distance medley were all county records. Their crowning achievement, however, was the 4 x 1-mile relay, as Ridgewood set a national record in that event that lasted for 17 years. Mary Ellen was the Group 4 State Champion in the 800 meters her senior year and placed in the top five in the National Prep Meet in Portland, Ore.
Mary Ellen attended Texas A& M for one year with full track scholarship. She then transferred to the University of Notre Dame where they only offered club track and field because there was no intercollegiate program for women at the time. She coached track and field and cross-country in the Chicago area after college for several years before raising her family.