St. Rose Run for the Roses

Last weekend I had a chance to really enjoy some basketball. I also had a chance to see what working together really means. I spend a few hours at St. Rose High School watching the run for the rose’s girls and boy’s championship. Now the Run for the Roses has been around for a long time. It was started by the St. Rose Athletic Club to raise money and off set some cost for the St. Rose Athletic department. I‘ve know about the RUN FOR THE ROSE for years, I just have never taken the time to find out much about it or to watch the games….If I had only knew what I was missing! But after this weekend trust me it….it will be a yearly stop for me!

What made my weekend so special were the people at this event. In a lot of ways for many of these kids it’s the last stop for innocent in the basketball world. This is one of the few times left before going to high school where kids play because of the competition and love for the game. So often once kids get to high school it all about how many college coaches are in the gym. They worry about what other players are in the gym, when working out. Many times it becomes all about trying to make a name for themselves or getting their name in the paper. In so many ways this is the last time parents are truly in the gym to enjoy their friendships with other parents before all the fighting and jealousy begins. It’s the last time when parents, kids, coaches and fans have one agenda and that’s for everyone to TRY their best, you DON’T have to the best. RUN FOR THE ROSES is like the last out post for true basketball fans.

The energy in the St. Rose gym on Saturday could rival any high school game. I was amazed how packed the gym was and then throw in the tension and excitement and you have the perfect atmosphere for a grammar school game, it was really something to see. You had parents from both St. Catherine’s and Rumson in the stands, cheering, laughing, yelling and encouraging their children to hang in there or to do more and most importantly not to give up. It’s funny because 7th and 8th graders confidence is fragile, but a few positive words at the right time can work wonders on a kid’s self esteem. It’s clear having friends and family mean so much more at this level. What I enjoyed most about this game was watching the benches. All the kids on the bench cheered wildly for their teammates and to be honest some kids where simply happy to just be part of something special. So often it’s about who the best is and who is playing well, when often for most of the kids it’s just about being part of something. Sometimes they simply like wearing a uniform and being part of the energy and excitement up close and personal.

Now what really blew me away was the people who run this event and the people out supporting RUN FOR THE ROSES….everyone WORKING is a volunteer. You have players who played in the event 15-20 years ago, back at St. Rose working the event and helping out. I saw future division 1 players and current All Shore Players in the stands watching the action, I saw high school coaches watching there future stars. I looked at the scorers table and saw Sam Clark of St. Rose working the score book, I saw her dad Mark making sure every soul brought a 50/50 ticket and then I saw her mother, former Monmouth star and Hall of Famer Barbara Clark selling tickets at the door. It was a total team effort by the people, who run the event and more importantly everyone seems to support RUN FOR THE ROSES.

Now the basketball part is what really makes this event special. The talent in Saturday’s championship game alone was insane, you had a little big of everything. You players like Grace Stant who is so smart and talented,  Marina Mabrey who is blessed with so much raw ability she has to be considered a future superstar, you had the rough and tumble Clair Stefanelli who one day will be one of the elite players in the shore. You had the 6ft tall and future division one player Catie Ebner shocking everyone by knocking out jump shots and scoring around the basket. No doubt fans got a real kick out of Kat Phipps who one day will be one of the big stars in the Shore Conference and will be an impact player right out the gate next year for St. Rose. If you had this group alone you would never lose a game. The Shore is clearly in great hands for years to come. The 7th grade group next year is just as talented and I expect the RUN FOR THE ROSES TO BE JUST AS GOOD NEXT YEAR. I just can’t wait to watch all the games.

By the way Rumson/Knollwood beat St. Catharine’s 40-33. The championship trophy may have felt good but the award the Rumson community, fans and players should be most proud of was the TEAM SPORTMANSHIP AWARD given to the team that shows the best sportsmanship. GRACE STANT was the MVP of the entire tournament; this doesn’t come as a surprise to those who have seen Grace play. Grace is a special player who one day will be one of the best players in the state of New Jersey. She has tremendous size for a point guard and is a great shooter with outstanding passing skills. But what I like about her most is her smile and her ability to relate to her teammates and friends; you see this is what makes all great players special. Grace also has a great work ethic and big time college coaches one day will beg for her services, but for now she and her teammates are just happy to be the Queens of the Roses!

In closing let me say this about THE RUN FOR THE ROSES. After the game both teams gathered outside. Parents mingled and the players smiled, nobody cared about why who won or who lost. What everyone was worried about was the pictures being taken and was everyone on the fire truck that gave players from both teams a spin around town….CAN IT REALLY GET ANY BETTER?