The RWJBarnabas Health Arena on the campus of Toms River High School North was filled with some 400 people Sunday morning to honor 94 high school seniors who best understand that sports are more than just the final score.

The Shore Conference of High Schools in partnership with the Shore Sports Network presented the 2019 Sportsmanship Awards to a male and female from each of the 48 schools, and at the same time saluted a pair of athletic directors as well as two other individuals who have made lasting contributions to high school sports. The event was presented in part by Thrive Spine & Sports Rehab of Spring Lake.

SNN Sportsmanship Carosel

I had the pleasure to serve as master of ceremonies for this annual event, which truly is one of my favorites because it brings together student-athletes who are as different as the sports they play. There are those who have garnered plenty of headlines during their careers in marquee sports and others who competed in relative obscurity with their achievements only know to family and friends.  However, they all share a common belief in that you can play the game to win and do so in a fair manner with respect for your opponent. When asked what receiving this award means here is just a sample of the responses:

“I came to the U.S. not knowing the language and customs, sports gave me a way to participate in my school and community.” - Fadia Edmond, Asbury Park

“Being recognized as a Shore Conference Sportsmanship award winner means that qualities on and off the field matter and people notice.” - Tyler Sindel, Brick Memorial

"It means a lot because I see sports as more than winning and losing; it’s about making sure everyone has a good time as well as making connections with your teammates and others.” - Olivia Haye, Donovan Catholic

“This award validates how I play the game and how I live my life. Being competitive and staying humble on and off the field.” - Cristian Corcione, Freehold Township

Each honoree was presented with a plaque and shirt by their athletic director or other school representative and 12 of them left with a $500 scholarship courtesy of the Pine Belt Automotive Group and the Shore Conference of High Schools.  \As he’s done for the past several years Rob Sickel, Executive Manager of Pine Belt Cars, was on hand to award eight of those scholarships in random drawings while the Shore Conference athletic directors awarded four additional scholarships. The recipients of this generosity were:

Jada Baker, Barnegat

Sean Morris, Barnegat

Olabobola Aluko, Donovan Catholic

Claudia Schreier, Lacey

Yarielys Acevedo, Lakewood

Ryan O’Leary, Manasquan

Eugene Graves III, Marlboro

Alina Ogurek, Matawan

Casey Bogues, Middletown North

Michael Wright, Jr., Red Bank Catholic

Lauren Hickey, St. Rose

Nick Duncsak, Toms River North

Sunday’s breakfast event also saw Chuck Donohue Jr. of Southern Regional and Raritan’s John DeGenito honored as the Ocean and Monmouth County Athletic Directors of the Year as voted by their peers. In addition, Deb Morante, who spent more than 35 years as Toms River South’s athletic trainer, received the Professional Service Award and longtime Central Regional soccer coach Rob Bechtloff received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

2019 Sportsmanship Cover

The Shore Sports Network produced a full-color, 48-page program for the event thanks to the efforts of Steve Meyer (with a little help from yours truly). Special thanks go to Ocean Township Athletic Director Rusty Todd and his assistant Teray Ciezak for their coordination of this year’s event, and to the Toms River Regional School District for once again serving as host under the direction of District Athletic Director Ted Gillen and his administrative assistants. In addition, the Shore Sports Network would like to thank Toms River North Athletic Coordinator Paul “Barno” Barnoski for the time and effort he put in once again in making the event such a positive experience for the honorees and their families.

More From Shore Sports Network