The Olympic Conference is an athletic conference consisting of public and private high schools located in Burlington County,Camden County and Gloucester County, New Jersey. The Olympic Conference operates under the aegis of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
DEPTFORD -- Six of the best Roadrunners to ever take the field, mat or court were inducted into the Gloucester County College Sports Hall of Fame on Friday Dec.12 at the Adelphia Ballroom.
Current softball coach Steve DePasquale, former wrestler and wrestling coach Dan Calhoun, former baseball shortstop Brian DuBois, former cross country and track and field star Lisa Jones, former softball centerfielder Katie Lavin and the basketball star who made the biggest shot in Roadrunner history, Marvin Stinson, were all given the prestigious honor of hall of fame induction.
DePasquale, the winningest coach in Roadrunner history has amassed 622 victories in his career. His 2011-2012 teams won back-to-back softball National Championships, resulting in him winning the NJCAA National Coach of the Year honors both years.
In 20 seasons of Roadrunner softball, Coach “D” has produced 17 NJCAA All-Americans, including his own daughter, Danielle, who played for him during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, earning her All-American in 2008. He is the only softball coach in school history.
“I’m incredibly proud to be in the Hall of Fame,” said DePasquale, who had over three tables of supporters and well-wishers there just for him. “I have been around for 20 years now and watched some of the likes of the Chuck Williamson, Barry Davis and Steve Solomone. When I came in, those guys were at their peak. So to stay around and be consistent and have incredible players like we have had from our area, makes me really proud."
What was most special for DePasquale was being inducted alongside his former player, Lavin.
“It’s an honor to be inducted with Katie,” said DePasquale. “I’m blessed and honored to go in next to her. She was a hard-nosed player. I can remember rolling her out of the airport in a wheelchair and a couple days later she was back on the field. Hobbling every day. She just threw her heart in every day. It’s nice to go in with one of our own kids.”
“I’m definitely deeply touched,” DePasquale said of having some his current players in attendance. “I had girls from the first year that I coached and players from the present team. Not just kids from the championship teams but kids from the teams that just competed, so I’m incredibly proud of every one of them.”
During his induction speech, DePasquale made mention to the hard work not only has assistant coaches put in but also Athletic Director Ron Case making sure the team was prepared with everything they needed.
“In 1994, I was awarded the chance to coach at a college level alongside my (GCIT) co-worker Ted Marshall. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous. You made your expecations from your coaches clear from the start. The softball program success is because you found a way to make sure we got everything that we needed. You always stood behind my decisions on and off the field. You were my boss but you are also a lifelong friend.
“My assistant coaches dedicated countless hours with anything that I needed. They are not only members of the GCC/RCGC grounds crew and team drivers, but also great character role models.”
DePasquale has coached over 200 athletes in his career, including the one that was also being inducted alongside of him, Katie Lavin.
Lavin, was the second two-time softball and the most recent All-American under DePasquale while also being named to the first team NJCAA and a NFCA All-American in both of her playing years, 2002 and 2003.
Her 2002 team held the college record for wins in a season with 38 until the 2011 National Championship team broke it.
After her two fantastic seasons as an excellent hitter, superb fielder, having great speed on the base paths and being an excellent team leader, she went on to play for Rowan University, where she was named team captain. She was named to 1st Team All NJAC and All East Region during her time at Rowan.
The Washington Township High School graduate went on to be an assistant softball coach at Rowan for seven seasons.
Lavin gives much of her success to Coach “D”, citing in her induction speech that “this program wouldn’t exist if he wasn’t around or he didn’t put a lot of hard work or dedication into the program.”
“It’s an incredible honor (to be inducted to the Hall of Fame) because I am being inducted alongside my coach, my mentor and my friend,” Lavin said in her speech. “Thank you Coach “D”, Mary Holden and all of my teammates from ’02 and ’03. I wouldn’t have accomplished all of my things without my incredible coaches and teammates along the way.”
Said Lavin: “I couldn’t ask for a better way to be inducted. He made the program with all of his hard work, dedication and spending time away from his family. As excited and thrilled for myself to be inducted, I was even more thrilled and excited for him. It’s just awesome, I couldn’t ask for a better way.”
The word of Coach "D" earning the honor was making a buzz not just around the campus of RCGC, but also from other legendary Region XIX coaches.
""(The award) is well deserved for Steve," said Brookedale Community College long-time head softball coach Bo Scannapieco. "He has done such a great job with that program. We know each other so well and we have played each other in so many important games and we always bring out the best in each other. He will be the first one to tell you that. But I want to congratulate him because that is a tremendous accomplishment. They have had many great coaches at Gloucester and I wish him continued success, we will see him in the spring and I wish him the best of luck this year."
Zach Bates is a sports writer for South Jersey Sports Digest. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachBatesSJSD.
In 2004, John Biasi along with Pam McCabe (current Triton softball coach) and Dawn Mader (current Paul VI softball coach) founded a softball program that has become home for the region's most talanted players.
The Jersey Gators were formed and started as a 12U team, moved to 14U and then jumped right to 18U where they continue to rule the diamond as the region's best team.
The concept at the time was simple: provide a high level of training and develop players so they can get prepared to play at the collegiate level. They worked on developing good technical skills along with a strong work ethic which ultimately resulted in a team that competes well with other nationally ranked teams.
Training takes place a few times a week in Laurel Springs and somtimes in a "swamp". The Gator's have a 25' x 25' indoor facility they dubbed "The Swamp," where they work on hitting fundamentals, fielding fundamentals, footwork and basic mechanics. Those sessions are sometimes videotaped and used as a training tool to further develp the girls' skills. They also provide the tape to college coaches as another recruiting tool.
The roster (found below) reads like an all-star team of players who, during the high school season, can be found competing against one another but clearly unite to play at a very high level as teammates the rest of the year.
Several players have smashed records or reached significant milestones this past season like Jessica Hughes of Washington Township High School who got her 100th hit early in the season as a junior, or Valerie Pineiro who matched an Audubon High School record by becoming the school's second girl to score 1,000 points in basketball and smack 100 hits in softball.
"I heard about the coaching staff and their approach to teaching softball skills to help get you ready for college, that's what brought me to this team", said Tori Danner. Danner, who graduated from Kingsway High School this year, will be joining fellow Gator product Kristen Turner at Iona University this fall.
Biasi, who played semi-pro baseball in an Independent League for Florence (Ky.) Freedom and collegiately at Rutgers Camden, found the transition from baseball to softball easy. "It is a more abreviated game, the movements need to be quicker with base paths that are 30 feet less then baseball," Biasi said.
The Gators' season starts right after high school season and continues until late November. Each year they do 13 to 14 high-level tournaments, all designed to get their players recruited to college.
This year the Gators have already played in five tournaments and recorded an 18-5-2 record. This weekend they are travelling to Binghamton, N.Y. to play in an event called the Tournament of Champions. The Gators are the defending champs.
As soon as they return from that, they'll be going to Atlanta to play in an invitational tournament, the Triple Crown Nationals, where they are currently ranked 78th out of 656 teams by Triple Crown Sports.
"Train at a high level, teach the girls to play at the next level, and get them recruited is our main focus," Biasi said.
Biasi personally takes an interest in every girl on the team and contacts well-known programs and has done a tremendous job placing his players.
"This is a great group of girls to play with, it's been a lot of fun and helped me get ready for college this fall," said Brianne Innamorato who just graduated from Bishop Eustace and will attend Florida Gulf Coast University this fall.
Often teams of any sport that have so many committed players struggle to keep a full roster at this time of year. That doesn't seem to be the case with this group, they still have seveal tournaments to go, all far from home, yet they all seem to just want to play together a little longer.
This is indictative of the positive environment Biasi brings to this team.
We'll have full coverage of the Jersey Gators tournament progress throughout the summer. Check out a photo gallery of the team, below.
The Jersey Gators will hold tryouts July 29 and 31. Details can be found on their website, http://www.jerseygators.com/.
Kristen Turner made her mark on South Jersey as a standout student, softball player and person. After completing her first year at Iona University, the first baseman is blazing a trail on her college and breaking NCAA records.
Turner graduated from Washington Township High School in 2013 where she achieved great academic status but also was a standout athlete. As a four-hole hitter for the Minutemaids during her senior season, she eclipsed 100 career hits and was a standout defensively at first base. She finished her high school career with an impressive 130 hits.
While at Township, Turner earned first-team all-conference, All-Group 4 and all-state. Plus, she capped it off with an academic award, being named the German student of the year.
Turner's impressive softball career didn't end on the fields in Washington Twp. She was a four-year member of the high-performing Jersey Gators, an ASA softball team. In her final season with the Gators she batted .489 and mashed 17 home runs.
"Kristen is the best hitter I ever coached, she hits for power and high average," said Gators coach John Biasi.
Biasi has been at the helm of the Gators since their inception in 2004. And over the last 10 years, the team has compiled an incredible record so being the best hitter he ever coached is a pretty impressive achievement.
It's not just Biasi's opinion that should be considered, in Turner's four-year career with the Gators she batted .461, had 42 home runs and 162 RBIs. On five separate occasions, she hit two home runs in the same game.
"I learned so much playing for the Gators and Coach Biasi, he prepared me to play at the next level and we had such a fun 4 years I will always cherish it"', Turner said of her time with the Gators.
"She was the most feared hitter in the region, our own players refused to throw batting practice to her. I have seen several players with similiarities to her in my 17 years of coaching but never one as good as Kristen Turner, and I dont think I ever will.
Turner who was recruited by schools such as Hofstra and Florida State decided to take a scholoarship to attend Iona University (N.Y.) and play softball where she would also major in Speech Pathology. She won a starting position as a freshmen and retained her four-hole batting spot and first base position.
Turner then went on to show everyone why she deserved to be there as a first year player.
In her first collegiate season, she set an Iona school record with 52 RBIs, a record previously held by fellow former Minutemaid Alyssa Maise (49). Turner also tied an NCAA record with five grand slams while tying the the Iona freshman home run record with 11 round-trippers. For her efforts, she was selected the 2014 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year, first-team All-MAAC and second-team All-ECAC.
Three times during 2014, she was named the conference's rookie of the week and she was the conference's player of the week for the season's first week.
To no one's surprise, with a player like Turner on the roster Iona went on to win the MAAC title this year.
As summer is now upon the D1 college player and she's home spending time with family and friends, she certainly hasn't forgotten what helped her achieve all that she has done.
On a hot night in July, Turner was on the practice field with the current Gators working with them as they prepare to head out to two very high-level tournaments.
"Coach John helped me become the player I am today, so I want to always be there to assist him if he needs it", said Turner. "My best friend is on the team and it's great to know I created a bond with the girls. I love coming back to practices with them."
Kristen Turner certainly made her mark on South Jersey and will undoubtly continue to do so at Iona and in the NCAA.
Please come back to our site tomorrow for a story on Coach John Biasi and the Jersey Gators. Their success is nothing short of remarkable.