The Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame proudly welcomes Patti Auger as a class of 2022 inductee for her dual accomplishments in the sport of Softball at RHS both as a player and a coach – a first for the Hall of Fame. Patti was a multi-sport athlete, competing in Tennis and Bowling, but it was on the Softball field where she stood out. The 1979 graduate was a 3 year starting outfielder for fellow HOF inductee coach Debbie Paul and in her senior year, captaining the team, led the Maroons to garner the New Jersey State Championship. In her senior year, Patti was named First Team All League, First Team All Bergen County and Second Team All State. These accolades followed on her junior year recognition of First Team All League and Second Team All County. After her high school career, Patti continued her softball career at East Stroudsburg as starting centerfielder all four college years, and being named team captain her junior and senior seasons. Patti continued play after her college career, participating on numerous teams competing at a national level. Notably were her affiliation with the Montclair 81’s and the Bergen Blue Jays, both of which won national titles. Several years after college graduation, Patti joined Coach Debbie Paul’s staff as an assistant coach.
In 2007, Patti succeeded the legendary Coach Paul, and led the Maroons to a career W/L record over 15 seasons of 246 – 101, a 71% winning record. Patti summarizes her 33 year softball coaching association with the Maroons best in her own words – “Mainly to help carry on the amazing tradition that Debbie Paul had created. I can’t begin to express the amount of life lessons that I learned from Debbie in high school and as her assistant. I loved working with so many amazing female athletes and perhaps having a positive influence on some of their lives. Nothing made me prouder than watching these athletes develop into confident and successful women on and off the field.” Congratulations and welcome to Patti Auger as a member of the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall Of Fame Class of 2022.
Ridgewood High School has a long and storied past in athletics, fielding teams as far back as the early 1900’s. The sport of lacrosse does not go back that far at Ridgewood but since its inception in 1985 Ridgewood Lacrosse, both boys and girls, quickly became recognized on the local, state, and national levels as a premier program. The boy’s program had a combined record of 20-34 in it first four years of competition. In 1989 the tide turned. Ridgewood finished 16-1, undefeated in the regular season and then went 16-1 and 19-0 in 1990 and 1991 respectively. It is no coincidence that those three seasons correspond with Eric Benedict’s time competing for the Maroons.
Eric was a 4-year letter winner for Ridgewood in lacrosse and part of the “Streak of 44” teams which established the Tradition of Excellence for Ridgewood Lacrosse and were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. He was selected 2nd Team All-Gibbs Conference in 1989, and 1st Team in 1990 and 1991. He was 1st Team All-State in 1990, an All-American and was awarded the Governor’s Cup as the Outstanding Athlete in lacrosse at the Garden State Games. In 1991, Eric was again 1st Team All-State, All-American, the NJ Co-Player of the Year and finished his high school career playing in the United States National All-Star game.
At the completion of his Ridgewood HS lacrosse career Eric ranked #3 in career goals, #3 in career assists and #3 in total career points. His 1990 19-0 team remains the best record in school history and the 1991 team set the school record for fewest points allowed in a season (51) and fewest goals per game given up, 2.68. The 1990 team gave up 53, and 3.12 respectively to take second in both categories.
Eric also played football at Ridgewood, and he played it very well. As a Senior Captain he rushed for 605 yards on 103 carries and had 10 catches for 115 yards. On the defensive side of the ball, he roamed the secondary where he was the team’s third leading tackler and punted compiling a 33 yards per kick average. At the end of the season, he earned 1st Team All NNJIL as a running bank and All-Suburban as the Most Versatile Player. To cap off his HS football career, Eric was honored with the coveted Stroker Award given to a Ridgewood HS senior football player who distinguished himself at RHS and participated in meaningful way in the Ridgewood Junior Football Association.
Upon graduation from RHS, Benedict moved on to Brown University to play Division I lacrosse. He was elected Captain his senior year despite missing much of his junior year with an injury. His senior year Brown finished as Ivy League Champions with a 5-1 league record and was awarded the #7 seed in the NCAA tournament where they lost to #2 Virginia in the quarterfinals. Eric finished the season with 5 goals, 10 assists in 16 games while also taking 80% of Brown’s face-offs and winning 60% of them. In his career at Brown, he played in 45 games, scored 10 goals, with 11 assists and garnered two Ivy League Championships.
As a member of the 2022 Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame, Eric Benedict joins a long line of successful student athletes who not only excelled in their chosen sports at RHS but continued to compete and have success at the college level. His success on the lacrosse field was instrumental in laying the foundation for what has become one of Ridgewood’s premier sports programs. Events like “Lax Day,” and continued success in league, county, and state competitions can be traced directly back to Eric and his teammates success in the late 80’s and he now takes his place amongst the “Best of the Best” at RHS
According to retired girls golf head coach Dave Vanderbush, “Eunae Jo is the best female golfer ever to play at Ridgewood High School.” Eunae Jo began playing golf at the age of five. Her father was a teaching pro and he served as her coach all throughout her golf career. Not only did her father coach her in the mechanics and tactics of the game, he always continued to motivate her. Eunae will tell you it was her father that always encouraged her to “work hard and dream big.” Going through the many layers of development and competition as a teenager, Eunae eventually came onto the golf scene at Ridgewood High School. Eunae recounts how she always considered golf a lonely sport spending many hours on the range and golf course, alone, perfecting her game. However, when she joined the golf team at RHS, she quickly learned how special it was to be a part of a team working towards a single goal together. Eunae remembers how playing rounds without her teammates, but knowing everyone was working to achieve one goal, was motivating and comforting. Eunae recalls “it was such an exciting time for us, especially as Julia (Rappa), our other teammates and I started to look forward to team practices, matches and tournaments.” She goes on to say she will always remember “the special bond we had as teammates.” Bond they did and brought RHS girls golf right to the top of the list of girls golf programs in the state.
The NJSIAA recognized girls’ golf as an individual sport from boys golf in 2004. In 2005 Dave Vanderbush organized the first girls’ golf team at Ridgewood. There was no league and the girls played an independent schedule. There was a state tournament that year for girls’ golf sponsored by the NJSIAA. Golfers had to shoot forty five or better over nine holes during the state qualifier to qualify to play in the state tournament. Eunae and her teammate Julia both qualified. Not only did they qualify, but they won the tournament with freshman Eunae Jo shooting an 89 and freshman Julia Rappa shooting a 90 for a 15 stroke victory over JP Stevens. The pair of Jo and Rappa would qualify for the tournament again for the next three years 2006, 2007 and 2008 winning the State Championship in 2006 by one stroke in a one hole playoff with Red Bank Catholic and then again in 2008 with a two stroke victory over Haddonfield. It was sweet revenge as Haddonfield had defeated Ridgewood by 3 strokes for the championship in 2007.
Eunae was named to many individual honors including first team all state twice and went on to play golf for four years at Georgetown University. During her time at Georgetown Eunae was named team captain for both her junior and senior years. She qualified and played in every tournament for her collegiate team over her entire four years as a Hoya. The learning experience and opportunities presented to her by her devotion to the game ring true her father’s words from many years before, “work hard and dream big.” That she did and it has paid off competitively as well in life lessons learned with many valuable relationships made. Eunae Jo, welcome to the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall Of Fame.
The Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall Of Fame proudly welcomes Peter McGinley to the 2022 induction class for his accomplishments in boy’s ice hockey. He is the first inductee for this sport at RHS. Peter, a class of 2012 graduate, was a standout for the two times Gold Cup Champion Maroons. During this period, the team enjoyed a remarkable 40-10-5 record. Upon his departure from the program, Peter left behind numerous season and career records. For his career Peter played a total of 102 games recording 79 goals and 78 assists for a total of 157 points averaging 1.54 points a game. His 79 career goals and 157 career points stand today as program records, and his 78 career assists are second. The single standout season for the center skater was his senior campaign, where he totaled 39 goals, and 72 points, season highs that still rank first today. These statistics support the recognition of Peter’s unselfish play. At 5’ 8” and 160 lbs. Peter made up for size with knowledge, skill and love of the game.
Like all great players, Peter had the gift of seeing plays develop before they would happen. Adept at both finishing and feeding his teammates his ice presence and vision were incredible. His knowledge of where to be on the ice without the puck led to his uncanny ability to get lost enabling him to get free of opponents defenses to effectively add to the Maroons offensive capabilities. His versatile and tenacious play led to his selection to numerous all league and county recognitions. In 2012 Peter was named “The Records” North Jersey Player Of The Year.
Peter was just one of 400 players that took part in the famous Boston Showcase Hockey Night in Haverhill, Massachusetts. It has been a showcase for many players who go on to professional careers in the sport. Hockey players from over 20 US states and many Canadian provinces were selected to participate. Peter was selected to play for the Mid-Atlantic squad based on his stellar performance for the North Jersey Avalanche team where he scored 25 goals and 23 assists. After another successful season with Ridgewood High School, Peter went on to continue his education and hockey career post graduate at Avon Old Farm Prep School.
At Avon, Peter was led by legendary coach John Gardner. Coach Gardner commented on how difficult it is to play as a 5th year walk on player. Peter earned his stripes starting out as a third line player. He began to earn the coaches trust with each shift he skated. As he learned and became confident employing Coach Gardner’s system, he began logging many minuets as a penalty killer. His discipline and positioning were highly valued and other players on the team thrived off of his work ethic. Peter quickly became an integral part of the team, helping to lead Old Avon to a winning season of 16-9-4 while tallying 5 goals and 5 assists.
Peter continued his education and hockey career at Providence College where his team competed in the American College Hockey Association Division 2 (ACHA II). At Providence, Peter competed in 75 total games at center while tallying 17 goals and 26 assists in his four years of collegiate competition. He captained the team for three seasons 2014 through 2017.
In 2020 Peter came back to Ridgewood High School, to take a position on the Maroons ice hockey coaching staff.
The Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame proudly inducts Karla Mixon into the 2022 Class for her accomplishments as Head Coach for the Ridgewood High School Girls Lacrosse program.
At the helm of the program from 2001 to 2018, an eighteen-season run, Karla lifted the program to a nationally ranked elite status, with perennial national rankings in the top 20. Her career won – loss record stands at 337 – 59, for a winning percentage of 85.1%, the winningest program in RHS history. Under Karla’s leadership, RHS Girls Lacrosse, in its history, has never lost to a Bergen County opponent and garnered 14 consecutive Bergen County Girls Lacrosse Tournament championships. At the New Jersey State level, Karla’s teams amassed 6 Group 4 Championship titles and two Tournament of Champions banners – consecutively in 2010 and 2011. She was feted as Bergen County Coach of the Year multiple times, and for the success of her 2011 team, she was honored by the New Jersey Star Ledger as the New Jersey Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year. The 2011 team was honored by the “Star Ledger” as the girl’s lacrosse team of the year, additionally “The Record” named Ridgewood Girl’s lacrosse the Team of the Decade ( 2000 to 2010) and Karla the Coach of the Decade.
Karla developed many female scholar athletes during her tenure who would achieve success at the collegiate level at nationally prominent programs – Duke, Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame, JMU, USC, Elon, Lehigh, Boston College, numerous Ivy League schools, to name a few. Karla was a fearless promotor of the Ridgewood Girls LaCrosse program, and supportive of Ridgewood Lacrosse Association’s youth program, which was the feeder system to the High School level.
Upon her retirement, in looking back at her coaching success, Karla’s balanced approach to coaching is summed up in this quote – “Extremely dedicated, athletic, hardworking; the girls work outside of the sport, and they have to work hard in the classroom too. I think, you know, though, that it mostly comes from their internal drive, but I think they push themselves, and I think their parents also want them to do well, and help them become better people. Everyone that’s in your life, your family, your teachers, and your coaches all push you to be the best you can be.”
Clair Nowakowski had played soccer in the Ridgewood youth leagues, but her family was on vacation during 9th grade soccer tryouts, so she showed up and started running with the Cross-Country team which had no tryouts. She trained easily up to the first meet making no impression on teammates, coaches, or herself. Then came the first race a Garret Mountain. She won easily and a star was born.
Clair has a positive and upbeat demeanor and she brought this to her life at Ridgewood High School. A hard worker, she brought her best every day to her classmates, teachers, and teammates. She is one of those people that make the “Tradition of Excellence” sign on the Ridgewood High School wall have meaning.
Clair’s statistics are remarkable. At Ridgewood she ran three sports: Cross Country, Winter Track and Spring Track, earning 12 varsity letters. In Cross Country she was 1st team All Bergen 3 times and won the Bergen Individual Championship as a senior. Statewide she was State Group 4 Champion and named 1st Team All-State as a senior. In her sophomore year she led the Ridgewood team to the New Jersey State Championship.
During Clair’s 4-year career the Ridgewood cross country team never lost a meet in northern New Jersey. In winter track Clair won All Bergen Country honors in the distance events and was an integral part of one of the best winter programs in the county. In spring track, her range from the 400 to the 3200 enabled her to lead the team to numerous championships. She frequently won 3 events at the league and country level. She was even on the Bergen Championship 4×400 team!
She ended her Bergen career with 9 straight All Country selections from sophomore to senior year. In both her junior and senior year she competed in the National Scholastic Outdoor Championship in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her 1600-meter personal record of 5:04.28 is still on the Ridgewood All-Time list.
At the University of Georgia Clair continued to improve her running. She was an important part of improving the Georgia cross country program and ran in the NCAA regional championship several times. In Track she continued her distance running exploits adding the steeple chase to her repertoire. Her pinnacle moment at Georgia was scoring in the SEC Championship steeplechase and standing on the podium with other great college runners.
After college Clair remained in the Atlanta area working a career in human resources. She met the love of her life, Chris Looney, married and had their child, Maddie, (the cutest child ever). She still runs most days and would do just fine on the Ridgewood team today! Clair has always exhibited an innocent enthusiasm for life in whatever she is doing. The qualities that made her a great teammate at Ridgewood High School now inform her life as a career professional, wife, and mother.
The Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame is proud to have her as a member!
1983 Softball Team
After the first game of the 1983 season, a victory, the Ridgewood players filed back to the dugout and said “only twenty eight more to go” according to Kim Norris in her article about Ridgewood High School Girls Softball Team incredible 1983 softball season. “It seemed too unrealistic at the time to think about going undefeated” recalled head coach Debbie Paul. But the reality was that when the 1983 season came to a close Ridgewood did in fact go undefeated making them the only public high school to do so that year with a record of 29 victories, no loses and no ties, with the Championship of the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League’s Bergen Division, the Bergen County Championship with a hard fought 1-0 victory in eleven innings versus a very strong Ramsey team ( 25-3 Ranked # 6 in the state) and the New Jersey Group 4 State Championship.
The team received the #1 ranking by the Star Ledger as the Best Team in New Jersey after a 7-0 RHS victory over Cherry Hill West behind the pitching of junior Donna O’Connell’s 2 hitter.
According to Norris in her article about the team “Anyone fortunate enough to have seen Ridgewood in action could readily understand the reasons for their success.” Thoroughly coached in the basics of the game, the Ridgewood players displayed a discipline and knowledge of the game rarely seen at the high school level. As Norris recounts “each player was well versed in the A, B, C’s of softball.” Coach Debbie Paul also pointed out the contribution the teams skill in base running played during the season. Coach Paul considered that phase of the game “crucial” in order to have success in the high school game. She went on to explain, “In high school a lot of runners reach on errors and walks and base running becomes particularly important. If you run the bases intelligently, hitting is not that important.” Running the bases well offensively was an important part of the Maroons game as well as all of the other parts of the game on the defensive side of the diamond.
On the field, the coaching showed, as well as the players’ capabilities. Routine plays were executed flawlessly throughout the season with the players making the difficult plays look easy. In the County Final against Ramsey, the game was on the line as Ramsey was bringing the winning run home on a base hit when Karen Rannala made a great play and throw from the outfield to catcher Debbie O’Connell blocking the plate and tagging the runner out on a close play to end the Rams bid at victory. In the bottom of the 11th inning, Heather Halm led off with a single, stealing second on the first pitch. When the catchers throw went into the outfield, Halm raced home on the error giving RHS a 1-0 victory and the county tournament title.
Part of the reason for this kind of play was described by the team’s assistant coach Dick Bennett. “There was no weakness in the lineup. All the players were contributors with the key being the consistency of their performance. If one player was having an off day, others would come through to pick up the slack.”
As Debbie O’Connell recounts, “Most of our starters played together in competitive tournaments for many years. We traveled together, had fun together and were friends.” She goes on to explain, “We all had determination and focus on playing our best and winning. We believed in ourselves and each other. Everyone worked hard and always gave their best effort every day.”
Much of the motivation for the team’s success can be traced back to the leadership of their coach Debbie Paul. O’Connell states, “There was an expectation of excellence, without the pressure of expectation. Coach Paul would push us individually and as a team to excel in terms of the fundamentals, effort, energy, and then cheered us on to execute. If the execution didn’t go as planned, we learned and improved.” Much of this philosophy can be attributed to Coach Paul’s own background athletically. Growing up in Milford, Conn. in a time before Title IX, Coach Paul Played semiprofessional softball for the Raybestos Braketts for five years and went on to Springfield College where she was a member of the intercollegiate field hockey and basketball teams. Bringing her skills to Ridgewood as a teacher at RHS, she formed the first girls’ softball team there in 1974.The rest is history as they say. The RHSHOF committee would like to welcome to the 1983 softball championship team as the newest team to enter the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall Of Fame.
When Joe Pedone finished his high school basketball career in 1992 his coach, Jim Stoker, was quoted at the year end team banquet as saying, “if there is ever a Ridgewood High School Hall of Fame, Joe Pedone will be in it.” It has taken some time for that statement to come true but with his inclusion in the Class of 2022, Joe Pedone is now a member for the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Joe Pedone joins other Ridgewood High School Basketball greats: Pete Campbell, Doug Cook, Tom Hopper, Tim Mullen, and Jim Dee. Joe was a two year varsity starter and a four year player for the Maroons. A slick, ball handing guard, he could get to the rim and score, but he was most feared as a deadly accurate outside shooter.
In 1990-91, his junior year, Pedone averaged 15.1 points per game while shooting 54% from the field, 35% from the 3-point arch, and 84% from the foul line. As a result of those marks Joe was awarded 1st Team All-NNJIL, 1st Team All-Suburban, and 3rd Team All-Bergen County. As noteworthy as that season was it only set the stage for his senior year where he really put himself on the North Jersey Basketball map. The 1991-92 basketball season saw Pedone put himself not just among the elite of All-Time Ridgewood High School basketball players but on the list of outstanding players in Bergen County and North Jersey history. He averaged 24.5 points a game, second in the county by .4 points a game. He shot 39% from three point range, 78% from the foul stripe, and 49% from the field against defenses designed and focused on stopping him. Joe finished his career with 973 points a number that would have exceeded 1,000 if not for three games lost late in the season to an ankle injury.
Career highlights included nine 30+ point games, 17 games of 20 points or more, 78 total points (38 & 40 respectively) against New Jersey state power Eastside High School, and an 18 win season for the 91-92 Maroons in the always tough NNJIL where every game was a challenge. As much as the focus on Pedone was his offensive skills and scoring prowess, Coach Stroker lauded him for his hard work in becoming an outstanding defensive player. Everyone who knows Coach Stroker, understands he is a “team first” guy and he speaks very highly of Joe’s work ethic, his quiet leadership, and steady team play. There were many coaches who felt Joe was the best player in Bergen County his senior year.
As a result of his great play his senior year Pedone was voted 1st Team All-NNJIL, 1st Team All-Suburban, 1st Team-All Bergen County, chosen for the Bergen/Passaic All Star Game, and recognized nationally when nominated for the 1992 McDonald’s All American High School Basketball Team. He accepted a full four year basketball scholarship to Stonehill College in Massachusetts where he had an outstanding career leading the Chieftains to the Northeast 10 Conference semi-finals his sophomore year. He earned numerous Northeast 10 weekly honor roll acknowledgments before missing his senior season due to a fractured femur.
Ridgewood High School is steeped in tradition of outstanding athletic teams, coaches, and athletes. With records of accomplishments in a wide variety of sports going back decades. There are thousands of athletes who have worn the Maroon and White and excelled during their high school and some later in their collegiate careers. Only the best are recognized with induction in the Athletic Hall of Fame. Joe Pedone is truly one of the best and now joins the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments in the sport of basketball.
Julia Rappa was introduced to golf through her Dad. As a young child, Julia was introduced to many sports, but golf was the one that Julia says “she picked up on quickly.”
As Julia got older she began taking lessons and competing in the Pioneer Junior Golf Tour which was a Bergen County based program for young people getting into golf. According to Julia it was a great place to meet other kids that played golf and a good place to sharpen her skills. Julia also competed in many junior tours such as the NJSGA, IJGT and AJGA tournaments that gave her a great deal of exposure to competitive golf.
Having played golf since she was about ten years of age, Julia was very excited about the opportunity to join the Ridgewood High School golf team as a freshman. Initially joining the boys’ team, Julia said playing competitive golf against the boys was a great experience that sharpened her competitive drive and proved to her how strong her game had become and how strong it could be.
The NJSIAA recognized girls’ golf as an individual sport from boys’ golf in 2004. In 2005 Dave Vanderbush organized the first girls’ golf team at Ridgewood. There was no league and the girls played an independent schedule. There was a state tournament that year for girls’ golf sponsored by the NJSIAA. Golfers had to shoot forty five or better over nine holes during the state qualifier to qualify to play in the state tournament.While Dave Vanderbush built the RHS girls golf program, Julia and her teammate Eunae Jo were excited to support the new girls joining the team. From that point on Julia would be an integral part of putting Ridgewood girls’ golf on to the top of the list for all of the girls’ golf programs in New Jersey.
Julia and her teammate Eunae Jo both qualified. Not only did they qualify, but they won the tournament with freshman Julia Rappa shooting a 90 and freshman Eunae Jo shooting an 89 for a 15 stroke victory over JP Stevens. The pair of Rappa and Jo would qualify for the tournament again for the next three years 2006, 2007 and 2008.Ridgewood would win the state championship in 2006 by one stroke in a one hole playoff with Red Bank Catholic with Rappa making a par 4 on the playoff hole. The pair would win again in 2008 with a two stroke victory over Haddonfield. It was sweet revenge as Haddonfield had defeated Ridgewood by 3 strokes for the championship in 2007.
Winning many individual honors through her interscholastic days, Julia went on to play golf for four years at Long Island University Brooklyn. Julia states that golf was a big part of her decision to go to LIU. She wanted an education in New York City and her ability in golf afforded her the opportunity to do so. Julia recounts the incredible teammates she had from different parts of the world. She was the only American on the team. Julia states “when you are competing and traveling for tournaments each weekend, your teammates become family. It was an incredible experience to study in NYC during the week and play on beautiful golf courses all along the East coast during the weekends.”
Julia placed in many tournaments during her collegiate career at LIU, but her high school coach Dave Vanderbush summed it up by saying, “Julia was an excellent, steady golfer who always played team golf.”
Julia Rappa , welcome to the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall Of Fame.