High school hockey, swimming, bowling, track: A look at 37 athletes having breakout seasons

·9 min read

We looked at some of the top Shore Conference athletes when the hockey, swimming, bowling and indoor track seasons began and kept tabs on more players in our "Here are 42 athletes who stood out in December" feature.

But with the postseason not far off, there are more athletes who have exceeded expectations with "breakout" seasons. Let's take a look at some of the best who haven't gotten their proper due yet or deserve more of a shout out.


Christian Chouha, Christian Brothers Academy

The sophomore forward, after notching four goals in his debut season, scored in CBA's opening night 3-0 victory over then-No. 1 Don Bosco Prep and hasn't let up, adding four goals in the past week to boost his season total to 14. When CBA won a rematch with Bosco, Chouha dished out an assist. The Colts started this week as the lone undefeated team in the elite Gordon Conference.

Dakota Vastola, St. John Vianney

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound sophomore defenseman has "great size and talent who is one of the best for his grade in New Jersey," coach Mick Messemer said in the preseason. Vastola had four goals and four assists through Jan. 16.

Brandon Gronau, Middletown South

The senior forward has five goals and four assists for nine points. He had two goals in the Eagles' 7-0 and 8-2 wins over Morris Knolls and Jackson Liberty.

Charlie Tallman, Rumson-Fair Haven

Tallman, a senior forward, has four goals. He had two goals in the Bulldogs' 7-1 win over Manasquan.

Virginia Avery, Trinity Hall

The freshman defenseman picked up a pair of assists in her high school debut - an 8-2 win over Westfield - and has continued to be a contributor for the Monarchs, one of two remaning undefeated teams in the New Jersey Interscholastic Girls Ice Hockey League.

Jack Toye, Brick

Toye, a senior, has 12 goals and five assists. He had a hat trick in the Green Dragons' 4-1 win over Central.

Matthew Leonard, Southern

The senior forward has seven goals and two assists for nine points. He had a hat trick and assist in the Rams' 6-2 win over Toms River East.

Corey van den Berg, Central

The senior has 11 goals and six assists for 17 points. He had a hat trick in the Golden Eagles' 4-4 tie with Toms River East and two goals and two assists in Central's 6-2 win over Red Bank.

Jason Hook, Wall

The senior forward has six goals and 14 assists for 20 points. He has had three games with three points.

Tony Brandl, Howell

Brandl, a sophomore forward, has 11 goals and five assists for 16 points. He had two goals in Howell's 5-2 win over Central and both of the team's goals in a 5-2 defeat to Southern.

More: High school winter sports Player of the Week: Every winner of our APP.com weekly polls

Boys bowling

Matthew Baxter, Toms River East

Beyond the established names like Jackson Memorial's Dan Robertson and Barnegat's Joe Spagnola, there are few who are rolling better than Baxter. He's averaging a 215.5 this winter.

Nino Cantalupo, Manchester Township

Cantalupo rolled the second highest series at the Brick Tournament. He bowled a 691, just behind the 699 series of Burlington's Nick Mehalchick.

Tommy Hastry, Matawan

Hastry owns one of the highest averages this year in the Shore Conference, a 218.5.

Anthony Paulucci, Manalapan

Paulucci has quietly been an excellent bowler this year. His average score this season thus far is 208.2.

Justin Tilton, Brick Memorial

Brick Memorial's girls team has been a perennial winner for the past few years, but the boys team has fielded plenty of stars such as Tilton. He is averaging a 205.1 this winter.

Girls bowling

Mikalah Carter, Brick Memorial

On a stacked Brick Memorial team, Carter is making a name for herself. Her average this winter is 188.5.

Madison Mosley, Howell

Mosley has averaged one of the highest series this year. Her 199.49 average is fifth best in the Shore Conference.

Kristi Nardiello, Brick Township

Nardiello bowled the highest game at the Brick Tournament, a 266.

Gianna Remo, Freehold Borough

Remo has surprised in the early going. She's averaging a 188.9 this year, one of the highest totals in the Shore Conference.

Boys Swimming

Daren Chen, Ranney School

Chen is a freshman and he’s already made a big impression on the Panthers swim program. He’s posted solid times in the 200 IM (1:54.15) and 100 breast (1:00.05) and should be a contender in those events events at the Shore Conference meet. Chen currently holds the 200 IM and the 100 breast school records at the Ranney School.

Allen Zhou, Ranney School

Zhou is a junior on the Panthers program and a top point scorer as well. He’s recorded respectable times in the 100 back (57.28) and the 100 fly (1:00.05). Zhou should be a name you hear during the Shore Conference meet.

Kevin Carr, Freehold Township

Carr is a freshman for the Patriots and he's consistently placed in the top four spots in any event he's entered during the 2021-2022 season. His best time in the 100 breast was 1:10.77 in a second-place finish versus Long Branch. He's won the 100 fly twice (1:04.18 and 1:13.00) in wins over Middletown North and Ocean. In his best event, the 200 IM, he's won the race six of the seven times he's stepped on the platform. His best time of the season (2:06.33) came during a win over Long Branch.

Hunter Kuenzel, Holmdel

Kuenzel broke into the spotlight last season and he's continued with solid performances now during his sophomore year. Kuenzel has recorded numerous first place finishes for the Hornets this season in events like the 100 back (56.06 vs Rumson-Fair Haven), 100 free (54.04 vs Shore), the 200 free (1:58.53 vs Shore) and the 500 free (4:49.25 vs Rumson-Fair Haven).

Jacob Werner, Southern

Werner is a regular member of the Rams' 200 free relay and 400 free relay units, which has racked up a number of first and second places finishes this season. In addition, Werner has recorded a ton of team points with individual success in events like the 500 free (5:38.03 versus Barnegat), 200 IM (2:20.89 versus Cedar Creek), 200 free (2:03.08 vs Barneat), 100 free (0:57.42 versus Cedar Creek) and 100 fly (1:05.18 versus Brick Memorial).

Girls Swimming

Francesca Fields, Southern

Fields is having a fantastic freshman year for the Rams. She's swam on all three relays and is top individual point scorer this season in events like the 100 breast (1:12.48 against Point Boro), the 100 fly (1:04.37 against Toms River East), the 100 free (1:00.34 against Barnegat), and the 200 IM (2:28.29 against Point Boro).

Sam Dugan, Toms River South

Dugan, a junior, showed her versatility in a recent meet against Brick on Jan. 4. She was on the winning 200 medley relay (2:02.78) and the 400 free relay (4:10.61) and also had success in 50 free (26.54, first place).

Ella Cohn, Donovan Catholic

Cohn, a sophomore, has powered the Griffins to a success in various meets this season. She's been a consistent top 3 scorer in the 100 fly (1:07.50 against Barnegat) and as a member of the 200 medley relay (2:08.19 against Barnegat) and on the 400 free relay (4:18.66 against Barnegat).

Kylie Spalt, Manasquan

Spalt, a sophomore, has swam the 100 breast (1:21.63 against Barnegat), 100 free (1:05.45 against St. Rose), the 200 free (2:19.23 against St. Rose) and the 500 free (4:53.73 versus Ocean) with great results. She's also contributed to strong performances in the 200 free relay and the 200 medley relay.

Elizabeth Wright, Rumson-Fair Haven

Wright, a senior, has been a top performer all season for the Bulldogs. She's had various first-place finishes in the 100 free (2:03.24 against Ocean) and as a member of the 200 medley relay (2:01.34 against Ocean), the 400 free relay (3:51.62 against Ocean). She's also had second-place finishes in the 50 free (26.0 against Holmdel) and in the 500 free (5:34.75 against Holmdel).

Boys track

Boys indoor track
Boys indoor track

Jack McBarron, Rumson-Fair Haven

After contributing to the Bulldogs' postseason succes in the spring, McBarron in indoor ran a great time to help boost the 4x800 unit (8:23.34) to the Monmouth County Relays championship.

Diego Rodriguez, Toms River North

Alongside teammates Teddy Wilson, Jack Cordiano and Matt Sabo, Rodriguez led the Mariners to an overall championship at the Ocean County Relays. They ran a 8:21.67 in the 4x800 and narrowly bested Manchester Township.

Ben Skrincosky, CBA

The Colts have been without some key runners due to illness, but athletes such asSkrincosky stepped up to lead CBA to its 30th Non-Public A Relay title. He ran in the shuttle hurdles, the 4x200 and placed first in pole vault with a 10-6.

Gabe Stypul, Rumson-Fair Haven

Stypul, a big point-scorer for the Bulldogs in the spring, took home the pole vault title at the Monmouth County Relays with a height of 11-6.

Girls track

Paige Dezenforf, Donovan Catholic

Dezenforf continued her long record of success by putting on another big performance at the Non-Public A Relays. She placed third in shot put with a 33-8.1.

Ava Ellis, Toms River North

The sophomore joined with Emma Fortuna, Ayo Folwewo and Lia Malave to win the shuttle hurdles at the Ocean County Relays in this season's state-best indoor time, with the Mariners winning the meet to snap Southern's 14-year dominance.

Fiona Olsen, St. Rose

A win at high jump by Olsen helped push the Purple Roses to an overall win at the Non-Public A Relays. The freshman's best jump was 4-4.

Emerson Dirk, Toms River East

The junior at the Ocean County Relays cleared 9-0 in pole vault (matching winner and teammate Nina Casalino) and added top three finishes in pole vault and high jump at the Group 3 Relays.

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: NJ hockey, swimming, bowling, track: breakout stars of 2022

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