For the first time since 2010, the Clifton High School Athletic Hall of Fame has announced a new class of inductees.
The class of 2015, which will be inducted in October, includes three teams and eight individuals.
The Clifton Journal will run a series of articles on each inductee over the next few weeks.
The individual inductees include:
Kevin Szott (CHS class of 1981); Joe Hathaway (CHS class of 2005); Corey Bleaken (CHS class of 2006); Michael Lombardo (CHS class of 1991); Mickey Soccol (CHS class of 1989); Emily Urciuoli (CHS class of 2010; and Pete Lehr (CHS class of 1958).
A lifelong gymnast, Emily Urciuoli realized early in high school that her heart just wasn’t in the sport anymore.
Such an admission is often difficult for young athletes to make, but Urciuoli had the strength of character to know that if she didn’t love it, gymnastics might not be the right sport for her.
After her ninth-grade gymnastics season, she began competing in track and field, and soon, she was hooked.
She went all-in on track (particularly the pole vault), and her move proved fruitful, as she would go on to become one of the best athletes in Clifton history—and a rightful inductee into the Clifton High School Athletic Hall of Fame’s class of 2015.
“Forcing yourself to do something you might be good at but don’t enjoy isn’t a good thing,” Urciuoli said.
“It turned out I really loved track. I wasn’t even that good at first. I would win a couple races here and there. I had to work real hard and learn a lot. It didn’t come easy to me at all. Then, I got more serious at it once I realized I could hit another level.”
Urciuoli would become a four-time Passaic County champion in outdoor pole vault, not to mention a three-time champ in the indoor version of the event.
Most significantly, though, she won an outdoor individual state title and a gold medal at the state Meet of Champions as a junior in 2009. Urciuoli tied a MOC record of 12-6 that season, as well.
She earned a second-place finish during her senior winter season, behind future college teammate Catherine Shih of Bernards.
Urciuoli became a first team All-State athlete in the vault twice according to The Star-Ledger, and was the 2010 Passaic County Coaches’ Association’s Athlete of the Year.
And it was all the result of Urciuoli’s willingness to take a chance and make a change.
“I think my sophomore year, my parents and coaches and I realized I was doing well enough that I should try to take it seriously,” she said.
“My freshman year outdoor counties I won the county in pole vault. It was sort of a surprise, as no one expected me to really contribute to the team that year. That summer, I just started working really hard, and it paid off.”