For the first time in award history, the male and female winners of the Passaic County Coaches Association Athlete of the Year Awards are from the same school, and the same athletic program within that school.
Stephanie Bitcon and Brendan Ungemach, both track athletes from Wayne Hills High School, achieved the high honor earlier this month.
According to their co-coaches Robert Bell and Chris Monaco, the accomplishment is one the athletes, school, and community can be proud of.
"This is the first time that both winners have been from one school, let alone both being from the cross country and track and field program," Bell told Patch.
"They are some of the best runners the county has ever seen - they've broken school and county records, won really everything there is to win, and they're both national qualifiers. We are just so proud that they were both able to achieve this, especially because it's so rare."
According to their coaches, the two runners took different paths to the title 'Athlete of the Year.'
Ungemach has been running since his freshman year at Hills, and has focused on "building up his talent" since then, Bell said. Bitcon took a different approach, running spring track, but also playing volleyball and skiing during her freshman and sophomore years. She honed in on track over the past two years.
Now, they both remain committed to the sport, and plan to run in college.
Ungemach plans to attend Providence College in the fall, and Bitcon Syracuse University, both on athletic scholarships. Their final high school award certainly left a mark in Wayne.
"It's just tremendous," Bell said of the award.
"And, their two trophies look really good displayed in the [school's] Main Office."