Mike Pichardo, Lyndhurst
In the summer of 2003, a Lyndhurst Board of Education member invited Mike Pichardo to a barbecue.
“I had been a hurdler for [longtime Lyndhurst track coach Tom Shoebridge] and I was teaching in grammar school,” remembers Pichardo, The Record Boys Cross-Country Coach of the Year. “The board member, who is a friend, told me ‘no one wants the cross-country job.’ ”
Eleven years later, Lyndhurst is one of the most respected programs in North Jersey and Pichardo couldn’t be prouder.
“We went from having three or four kids to nearly 60 in our program,” said Pichardo, who had led his team to six straight state group meets after Lyndhurst hadn’t been in one since at least 1972. “When Patrick Rono joined our team, it legitimized our program, but after he graduated our teams have gotten better.”
This year’s team, led by seniors Dylan Stanco, Will Hooper, Stephen Covello and Andre Francisco, won the Golden Bears’ second straight division and state sectional titles, and came within nine points of their first trip to the state Meet of Champions despite losing a fifth star senior, Kane McDermott, because of nasal surgery early in the season. Senior Chris Barretto, juniors Isaiah Aviles and Anthony Dell Aquilla and sophomore Xavier Locke added depth.
“I used to wake up in the fall, smell the fresh air and say it’s football season,” said Pichardo. “Now I say it’s cross-country season.
— Paul Schwartz