Simply the best: Northeast finest athletes named

Jameel Coles was a star wrestler and football player.

It’s hard to believe another school year is almost in the books.

Not quite. Spring season is reaching the most exciting part of the season as teams jockey for playoff positioning before finding out who is the best in the league, district and eventually state. But for award purposes, it’s time to pick the best.

Because the Northeast Times holds its annual sports banquet midway through May, we must determine the best now. And just like the winter and fall, it’s a tough task because the area has great athletes in every sport.

But it’s a job we gotta do! So here are our spring award winners, as well as our overall scope winners.

This was once again an incredibly tough year because we had champions and all-stars in just about every sport. Here is a look at the winners who will be honored on May 16 at the 35th annual Northeast Times Sports Award Banquet.

Baseball

Catholic League Player of the Year

Lenny Gipson, Father Judge

The Crusaders had a huge void to fill when Chuck Kelley graduated. Gipson was the perfect fit.

The junior pitcher is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA while facing the toughest teams in the Catholic League and is one of the main reasons Judge is fighting for a top seed in the upcoming playoffs.

He’s also been successful with the stick, hitting .413 with 19 hits, 12 RBIs and three doubles, leading the Crusaders in many offensive categories.

His efforts have paid off in the standings, as Judge is 9-4-1 on the season.

Public League Player of the Year

Rico Lugo, Frankford

It’s hardly a surprise Frankford is atop the Public League standings, but this year the Pioneers brought a young team to the field. They needed strong play from a senior, and that’s exactly what they got from their leader.

Lugo, an infielder, is hitting .639 with a ridiculous 23 hits in 36 at-bats. He also has 16 RBIs, two doubles, three triples and a home run while scoring 23 runs.

While he’s not a pitcher, he’s also chipped in on the mound, where he’s yet to allow an earned run. He also has a win and a save to his credit as the Pioneers jumped out to a 12-1 start to the season.

Coach of the Year

Juan Namnun, Frankford

Juan Namnun (right) is the Baseball Coach of the Year. SOURCE: ADAM ANDERSON

When the season began, Namnun was cautiously optimistic. He knew he had some great leaders, but he also knew the team was full of underclassmen who really never had a chance to shine at the varsity level. He knew their maturity would be the key to the season.

I guess it’s safe to say they matured in a hurry.

With Namnun leading the way, Frankford won its first 12 games of the season. And his offense been a big key, with his young squad hitting .473 with an on-base percentage of .553. His pitchers have also come through, allowing 1.11 earned runs per game.

Frankford is no longer in rebuilding mode. With the way this team is playing, the goal is a Public League championship and maybe even more.

Softball

Catholic School Player of the Year

Megan Dignam, Nazareth Academy

This was supposed to be the year the seniors led Nazareth to a strong season, and to be fair, they are doing that. But the most productive player on the diamond thus far is this junior second baseman.

Dignam, who is in her third season as a starter, is hitting .370 with 16 runs, 20 hits, 16 RBIs, six doubles, a triple and a home run. She’s also been a strong force in the infield.

According to her coach, the reason she’s been such a key to the Pandas’ success is because of her consistency, which is not easy considering the Pandas play in the Catholic Academies League.

Public League Player of the Year

Corinne Mundy, Benjamin Rush

The Public League is full of good softball teams, and every year it seems to be the same four or five teams competing for the championship. This year, a new squad is in the mix and their pitcher has a lot to do with that.

The Knights are 9-2 in Public League play, which is good enough for second place in the top division. Last year, the Knights showed promise and this year the junior hurler is 7-2 with a 2.29 earned run average and 100 strikeouts.

She’s been productive at the plate, hitting .433 with 15 runs and 16 RBIs. She also has shown power, hitting a double, two triples and three home runs.

Coach of the Year

Danielle Vittitow, Nazareth Academy

Winning a game in the Catholic Academies League is challenging. Competing for the division with many of the best teams in the area is quite a daunting task. But the Pandas are right there this year, and their coach has been making all the right calls.

The Pandas are 12-1 and are 10-1 in their league, which puts them in first place in the division.

Nazareth is doing it with a strong senior class, and the players have improved every year under Vittitow. And this year, while the seniors are the catalysts for the success, the Pandas use a mix of underclassmen to round out the team. Those players are gaining valuable experience that will help make the Pandas a force in the coming years.

Mickey McGroarty, who started Catholic League girls soccer and has been the only coach of the St. Hubert soccer team, retired after 43 years. TIMES FILE PHOTO

Lifetime Achievement

Mickey McGroarty, St. Hubert

After 43 years and nine Catholic League championships, this Cardinal Dougherty grad decided to step away to spend time with his family. But he’s done far more than just be a successful coach in the Catholic League. He is the father of girls soccer in the league and in the area.

McGroarty got his start by coaching his daughters and then brought a team to St. Hubert. He then brought the sport to schools around the Catholic League.

The Bambies were among the best teams in the league for most of his 43 years. During his tenure, his team finished below .500 only once and more importantly, he sent hundreds of girls to play college soccer.

George Todt, Archbishop Ryan

It’s impossible to think about Archbishop Ryan without Todt, and the good news is it will be a long time before you ever have to. But officially, Todt is retiring from his title of athletic director. This year, he served as “athletic director emeritus” as Joe Zeglinski got used to the role, and the plan is for him to remain active in all aspects of the job. But officially, this is his last year.

Todt has meant just about everything to the school. He was the all-time winningest soccer coach in the state of Pennsylvania when he was leading the Raiders, and his teams dominated Catholic League play. He also coached tennis and taught French. And he was the longtime athletic director of the school, where he would help any athletes who needed it.

The Father Judge grad loved to tell people he didn’t go to Ryan because the school wasn’t built yet. And he’ll remain a Raider forever.

Shareef Miller was selected by the Eagles in the fourth round of the NFL draft. PHOTO: PENN STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS

Special Achievement

Shareef Miller, George Washington

This George Washington graduate never had anything easy. He worked hard in high school to get a Division I scholarship and settled on Penn State. There, he worked hard to get the attention of the NFL. And once again, he got exactly what he wanted.

Miller entered the NFL Draft after his junior year and last month he was selected in the fourth round by his favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles.

The selection was a product of Miller’s hard work.

Last season, he was third-team All-Big Ten, was Penn State’s co-Most Valuable Defensive Player of the year and was on the preseason watch list for the national defensive player of the year.

He started every game, recorded 41 tackles, including 15 behind the line of scrimmage, and 7.5 sacks.

Scoring sensation: Patrick Robinson averaged nearly 19 points a game this year as a freshman. Source: Stephen Pellegrino Photography

Holy Family University Male Athlete of the Year

Patrick Robinson, Basketball

It couldn’t have been a better freshman year for the guard, who led Conwell-Egan to great things during his high school days.

Robinson scored nearly 19 points per game during his first year that saw him win the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference rookie of the year. It was an easy choice considering he won rookie of the week seven times during the season.

He ended the year by making Second-Team All-CACC and helped the Tigers reach the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

Holy Family University Female Athlete of the Year

Chase Wassel, Volleyball

The Holy Family volleyball team enjoyed quite a season this year, advancing all the way to the NCAA Division II East Region Championship. And while the Tigers had a well-rounded squad, their senior star led the way.

Wassel was an All-American, selected to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America third team and first team Division II CCA All-America.

She ended her storied career with 1,992 kills and 1,501 digs. She also notched 202 career aces.

For the year, the Tigers won 31 games, which was a school record.

Mike Bernstein (center) takes part in New Foundations Charter soccer senior day with his parents Catherine and Mike. His father died after suffering a heart attack in March. CONTRIBUTED

Most Courageous Athlete

Mike Bernstein, New Foundations Charter

You don’t come much tougher than Mike Bernstein.

A warrior on the baseball diamond, Bernstein’s best sport is soccer and behind him, the Bulldogs reached new heights. He scored 25 goals and helped New Foundations win the Penn-Jersey Athletic Association championship.

He also showed tremendous heart in baseball when he returned to the lineup shortly after his father, a firefighter, passed away after suffering a heart attack while on duty at Engine 78 at Philadelphia International Airport.

Bernstein has continued to play baseball, but he also took on the role of man of the house. He’ll continue to do that next year when he plays soccer at Gwynedd Mercy University.

Sarah Hartigan is the all-time leading goal scorer at St. Hubert. CONTRIBUTED

Sportsmanship Award

Sarah Hartigan, St. Hubert

While they were three different sports, this senior brought the same thing to every team she played on. Hartigan was All-Catholic in field hockey and basketball, and she’s currently one of the best players in lacrosse, and recently became the all-time leading scorer in school history, but Hartigan brought leadership to all three of her teams. In fact, that may have been her biggest attribute.

While she’s a great scorer in lacrosse, the midfielder had an opportunity to set the scoring mark during a blowout win, but she volunteered to come out to give backups a chance to play.

She also routinely gave up scoring chances to get teammates involved. That, according to Theresa Gorman, who coaches Hartigan in field hockey and lacrosse, is what made her such an asset.

Shane Dooley was All-Catholic in both football and basketball this year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Leadership Award

Shane Dooley, Father Judge

In both of his sports, Dooley was a true star. He was a great quarterback and linebacker on the football team, helping the Crusaders by rushing for more than 500 yards while throwing for 1,800 yards. He also accounted for 30 touchdowns, 12 on the ground and 18 touchdown passes.

He also was a star on the basketball court, scoring an average of nearly 18 points per game in Catholic League play. This was good enough to rank sixth in the league in scoring.

But Dooley’s best attribute might not be his athletic ability. It might be his ability to make those around him better.

Dooley showed toughness and leadership in football by taking huge hits from the best defensive players in the state and popping right back up. In basketball, he was the perfect mentor for his young, but talented, teammates. His help this year will make Judge a contender down the road.

Next year, he’ll play football at West Chester.

Unsung Hero Award

Jessica Ruk, St. Hubert

This was not a great season for the Bambies’ soccer team. But if you saw Ruk play, you would never notice. The senior, playing on a young and inexperienced squad, went out every game and played her heart out. The scoreboard was no reflection of the hard work she put in, but anyone who watched her noticed the effort she gave.

Now she’s doing the same in lacrosse, but the Bambies are having more success. She goes out every game and plays like it’s her last.

In the winter, she didn’t play a sport, but she still helped the team. She served as a manager on the basketball team.

Since missing his freshman year, Sean Lopez has become one of the top bowlers in the Catholic League. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Spirit Award

Sean Lopez, Archbishop Ryan

Even if Lopez wasn’t one of the best bowlers in the Catholic League, he would have been an incredible asset to the Raiders. But he was. He helped Ryan make the Catholic League championship, and went on to finish fourth in the All-Catholic championships. This was the second straight year he was First-Team All-Catholic.

But Lopez was more than just a bowler. He was the heart and soul of his senior class, and was one of the most popular people in the school.

Loved by all, Lopez was the homecoming king of his senior class and during a rally for the bowling team, the entire school chanted his name.

Next year, Lopez will attend Holy Family. His goal is to start a bowling team at the school.

Northeast Philadelphian Award

Jared Dillon, Roman Catholic

There’s little argument about who was the top soccer player in the Catholic League last year. It was Dillon, who once again had a great season. For the third year in a row, he was First-Team All-Catholic, and this year he was the league’s Most Valuable Player.

This year, he scored 17 goals and added 15 assists while leading Roman Catholic to the Catholic League championship game. The Cahillites then went on to win the District 12 championship. He ended his career with 59 goals and 36 assists.

Dillon will continue his soccer career next year at Fairleigh Dickinson.

Northeast Philadelphian Award

Ola Owodunni, Central

It’s been a pretty successful run for the Central girls soccer team, and Owodunni is a huge reason for that. The Lancers won three straight Public League championships and brought home the District 12 title in two of the past three seasons.

She was All-Public in each of the past three seasons, All-State in the past two campaigns and won the Public League MVP this season.

She is also a two-year starter on the softball team.

Next year, she’ll continue her soccer career at Carnegie Mellon.

Female Scholar Athlete

Taylor Teal, Philadelphia Academy Charter

If you’re looking for the total package, that’s this senior, who was one of the top soccer players in the state this year.

A four-year starter and four-time All-Public, Teal scored 39 goals and added 33 assists during her days at Philadelphia Academy Charter. She was a three-year captain and the all-time leading scorer at the school

Teal also spent four years on the Chargers’ softball team, starting the last three.

And she might be even better in the classroom, where she ranks fourth in her class. She’s also on student council and the president of the National Honor Society.

Next year, she’ll major in speech pathology while playing soccer at Temple.

Liam Logue is ranked seventh in his senior class. CONTRIBUTED

Male Scholar-Athlete

Liam Logue, Father Judge

The eldest Logue on the Crusaders’ wrestling team just wrapped up an incredible career. He won 135 matches during his career, including 41 during his senior campaign, and 18 of those victories were via pin fall. He also had a hand in helping the Crusaders bring home the Catholic League championship.

Logue was First-Team All-Catholic and placed first in District 12 at 126 pounds.

Logue is also a star in the classroom, where he ranks seventh in his senior class. Next year, he plans on wrestling at the Coast Guard Academy.

Female Athlete of the Year

Haley Waring, Little Flower

It’s not as common as it used to be, but there are a few good two-sport athletes. But it’s rare to find a three-sport star in this day and age. But Haley Waring is that. And more than just being a three-sport star, she’s good at every sport.

Waring was an All-Catholic during the fall in soccer and then accomplished the same during the winter in swimming. Now she’s helping the Little Flower softball team make noise. The Sentinels are 7-3 and have won five straight.

And while it’s her skill that gets her the honors, she also helps the team by being a mentor to younger players, especially on the swimming team, where she helped first-year swimmers learn the tricks of the trade.

Next year, she’ll attend Penn State.

Male Athlete of the Year

Jameel Coles, Northeast

It was quite a senior season for Coles, who picked up more than his share of accolades.

During the fall, Coles helped Northeast win the Public League Class 6A championship. He started on the offensive and defensive lines. He was then named the Most Valuable Player of the big school division in the Public League.

And that was just the beginning.

Coles took fifth in the state in wrestling at 195 pounds to cap off an incredible season that also saw the Vikings win the Public League championship.

He finished the season with 43 victories. He took first in the Public League and District 12 and second at the regional tournament.

The fall winners are Catholic League Football Player of the Year Colin Boyd (Archbishop Ryan), Public League Football Player of the Year Marlon White (Northeast), Football Coach of the Year Frank McArdle (Archbishop Ryan), Catholic League Boys Soccer Player of the Year Brendan McCarthy (Judge), Public League Boys Soccer Player of the Year John Simpson (Franklin Towne Charter), Boys Soccer Coach of the Year Chris Logan (Franklin Towne Charter), Catholic Schools Girls Soccer Player of the Year Belle Spinelli (Nazareth Academy), Public League Girls Soccer Player of the Year Amanda Stapf (Franklin Towne Charter) and Girls Soccer Coach of the Year Jon Geist (Ryan).

The winter winners are Catholic League Boys Basketball Player of the Year Ja’Quill Stone (Ryan), Public League Boys Basketball Player of the Year Emeuel Charleston (Abraham Lincoln), Boys Basketball Coach of the Year Joe Zeglinski (Ryan), Catholic League Girls Basketball Player of the Year Monee Moore (Ryan), Public League Girls Basketball Player of the Year Bella Vazquez (George Washington), Girls Basketball Coach of the Year Chris Reid (Washington), Catholic League Wrestler of the Year Eamonn Logue (Judge), Public League Wrestler of the Year Emmanuel Santana (Northeast) and Wrestling Coach of the Year Jim Savage (Judge).

All winners will be honored May 16 during the annual Northeast Times Sports Awards Banquet. The event will be held at the FOP Lodge 5, 11630 Caroline Road. The guest speaker will be Molly Sullivan.

Tickets to the event are $25. Winners are free. For tickets, visit nmg.ticketleap.com/hs35.