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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    The 2016 U.S. Olympian and Manalapan H.S. graduate is competing in the Millrose Games

    U.S. Olympic runner Robby Andrews is among the big names competing Saturday at the Millrose Games in New York City.

    Andrews is one of 11 Olympians -- six men and five women -- taking part in the Wanamaker Mile, the signature event of the 111th annual indoor track and field meet.

    His fastest time in the mile is three minutes and 53 seconds, and Andrews said he needs to finish in under 3:55 to qualify for the U.S. indoor championships in Albuquerque.

    But Andrews, contacted Thursday by phone, said he is more focused on going for a win Saturday than his finishing time.

    "I'd be happier if I win the race in four minutes, than if I finish in 3:50 and lose it," said Andrews, a 2009 graduate of Manalapan High School and current resident of Lawrenceville.

    Andrews, 26, achieved a high point in his storied career last June when he won the U.S. 1,500-meter championship, finishing in 3 minutes and 43 seconds. 

    It was a redemption of sorts for Andrews, who a year earlier was competing in a semifinal round in the 1,500 meters at the Olympics when he took a step off the track near the finish line, after some apparent contact with another runner, and was disqualified.

    "It was just one big learning experience. I've been able to put my emotions aside," said Andrews, who is seeking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics and again compete in the 1,500-meter race.

    Andrews has been an assistant track and field coach since 2013 at Princeton University.

    Princeton cross-country coach Jason Vigilante said Andrews has "remained a humble Jersey guy and is a real credit to our sport."

    The Wanamaker Mile has taken place annually on the men's side since 1926 and for women since 1976, according to New York Road Runners, title sponsor of the Millrose Games.

    Andrews will have some tough competition. The men's race includes two-time Olympic medalist Nick Willis of New Zealand, whose personal best in 3:49 -- four seconds ahead of Andrews.

    Underway since the early 1900s, the Millrose Games experienced a surge in popularity after moving in 2012 from Madison Square Garden to a converted U.S. Armory that hosts more than 100 meets annually and is the home of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.

    "It's kind of taken on almost a second life, in terms of attracting people," said Andrews, who has run in more than a half-dozen Millrose Games.

    For the mile race, the women's and men's will start at 5:27 p.m. and 5:50 p.m., respectively.

    Rob Jennings may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find on Facebook  

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    "Hopefully they pull through," Trenton Fire Department Battalion Chief Clifford Willever said of the victims.

    A car crashed into a lake in Hamilton Township Saturday morning, leaving two people trapped in a submerged car for around 15 minutes in frigid conditions, according to information from fire officials.

    Divers from the Trenton marine rescue unit pulled both people from the vehicle and they were rushed to the hospital, according to Trenton Fire Department Battalion Chief Clifford Willever.

    Willever said he did not know the conditions of the victims.

    "Hopefully they pull through," he said. "Our guys did a good job."

    Hamilton Fire Capt. Ferdinand Mather said they got a call around 9:10 a.m. for a car that had driven into Gropp's Lake with two people trapped inside. He said the car was traveling East on South Broad Street when it went off the road.

    He estimated the car was about 50 feet from shore, and Willever said it was in about 12 or 15 feet of water.

    Trenton's divers were dispatched at 9:15 a.m. and two divers were in the water at 9:27 a.m., Willever said. The first diver to the car was able to pull open a car door, despite the water pressure, and pull the victims out, he said.

    After they were transported in ambulances a third diver went in the water to assist with towing the car from the water, he said.

    All three divers were also taken to the hospital as a precaution, Willever said. "They were cold," he said.

    Mather said he did not know any details about the victims or their conditions, but he believed they were adults.

    Mather and Willever said they did not know what caused the vehicle to go into the lake but Hamilton Township Police are investigating. Attempts to speak with the lieutenant in charge of the investigation were unsuccessful.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find on Facebook.

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    An elevator at the Trenton Battle Monument has been broken for four years, keeping the lookout shuttered.

    More than a century ago, as a local historian tells it, the Trenton Battle Monument opened to the public without a way to get to the top lookout.

    They didn't have enough money yet for the elevator, so they waited, fundraised and with enough change in their pockets, finally installed a top-of-the-line Otis elevator three years later.

    That elevator is still there, and is now more than a hundred years old. It remains the only way to get to the vantage point, and is at the heart of the reason why the inside of the monument has been closed for years to visitors -- and seemingly won't be reopening anytime soon.

    The monument marks the spot where George Washington's artillery was placed in 1776 to fire down at Hessian troops who were hiding in homes located on what were then the main streets of Trenton. The Battle of Trenton was an American victory and from the monument's spot, the Washington army kept the Hessian troops -- Germans hired by the English to fight Americans -- at bay.

    As the years went by, and history recognized what a significant battle it was, an effort launched to commemorate it. But Trenton, at the time, was focused on manufacturing and its rapidly growing industries, Historian Sally Lane said.

    "People were always racing to do the next thing and not necessarily focused on the past," said Lane, who sits on the board of trustees for the Trenton Historical Society.

    It took organizers more than 100 years after the battle there to build the monument. It opened -- sans elevator -- on Oct. 19 1893.

    To this day, the exterior of the monument -- a 148-foot-tall granite column -- is "in good shape," NJ Department of Environmental Protection Larry Hajna spokesman says.

    "However, there are a number of challenges that we face in reopening access to the top of the monument that are necessary to protect public safety," Hajna said.

    For one, the elevator (still the original) is not operating or safe, and the DEP closed it down about four years ago. DEP's Division of Parks and Forestry contacted more than a dozen firms to see if they could fix it, but the project is cost prohibitive, he said.

    "What's really needed is an entirely new elevator that would have to be specially designed to function within the tight constraints of the elevator shaft," Hajna said. "Compounding this issue is the need to remove mold within the shaft that would require steps to ensure the safety of workers."

    Work has been done on the monument, most recently when a restoration crew came through in December 2016 to disinfect the room, rinse things out and let it all dry. The bottom of the monument is brick and has plaques hanging on the walls.

    "There's really not much room in there. It's like a cave almost, it was very musty in there and there was debris," said Tom Peter, vice president of Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc., the company that did the work. "Nobody's been in there for years."

    The foyer doesn't have any exhibits that would justify keeping it open to the public, Hajna said.

    And if an elevator were up and running, he said, someone would have to be there to operate the elevator. Which would mean having to build a restroom.

    Previously, park service staff, when contacted, would take groups to the top. But, they only received about a handful of requests each year, Hajna said.

    Scott Miller, a man who works and lives near the monument, is passionate about having it reopen, and runs a Facebook group called "Friends of the Trenton Battle Monument."

    He fondly recalls a man named Henry who used to run the elevator, and who Miller said he used to visit on Sundays for a ride.

    "Sometimes he would be sleeping and you'd have to tap on the door and wake him up," Miller said. "I really do miss it, not just for kids but we don't have many tourist attractions here and the history is underutilized."

    Lane, who used to work for the DEP, says it would be nice to see an arrangement where a local entity offers programming on weekends and holidays, or a partnership that provides commentary for groups by appointment.

    "We would certainly entertain any offers from anyone wishing to partner with us by providing staffing and/or developing a longer-term vision plan for the monument," Hajna said.

    He added that the safety issues would first have to be addressed and noted that the Park Service has "numerous priorities" in terms of maintaining facilities throughout the state.

    "It was a really important thing that we could never duplicate today," Miller said. "To build an observation deck, we will never be able to forge something new like that. Sadly, it's been neglected."

    Sara Jerde may be reached at

    Follow her on Twitter @SaraJerde.Have information about this story or something else we should be covering? Tell us:

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    Nothing Mother Nature threw at Oliver Crane of Lawrenceville could stop him from rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in a 23-foot boat by himself. Watch video

    Nothing Mother Nature threw at Oliver Crane of Lawrenceville could stop him from rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in a 23-foot boat by himself.

    Not the blazing heat. Not the lack of drinking water. Not even a painful foot infection, which he cured himself by shaving off skin.

    "The thing that means so much to me is that I didn't quit," Crane, 19, said in an interview Thursday, days after completing his six week row across the Atlantic.

    The journey made Crane the youngest rower to cross the ocean on a solo voyage.

    Along with some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets he has seen, Crane said he experienced a oneness with nature he didn't think he would ever find anywhere else.

    "I wanted that extra challenge with the isolation," he said. "I like that added challenge of doing it all on my own."

    The voyage was part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, an annual transatlantic race that bills itself as "The World's Toughest Row." Crane rowed to raise money for ocean conservation and for HomeFront, a local organization that advocates for the homeless in New Jersey.

    Crane, who took a year off between graduation from the Peddie School and his first year at Princeton University, starting rowing on Dec. 14, 2017 and didn't stop until Sunday, Jan. 28.

    The voyage took him from the Canary Islands to Antigua.

    "I wanted to take on a challenge that tested my limits," he said. His sponsors, who included his parents, helped raise $50,000 to purchase a used, custom-made boat with an airtight water cabin that would be perfect for long-distance rowing.

    Crane faced competitors in the challenge, who formed two teams and rowed together. Both teams abandoned the race after their boats capsized - in one instance the boat's battery caught fire, he said.

    As for Crane, his challenges were many and he wasn't always sure he'd make it.

    In the first week, he developed a foot sore that wasn't getting better. Using a satellite phone, he called the organization's doctor.

    "I had a full medical kit onboard, but the wound became infected and I thought I needed antibiotics," he said.

    But after speaking with the doctor he learned side effects for medication included sensitivity to sunlight - which on the ocean there was an abundance of. The side effects might also cause him to slowdown, he said.

    "I was really struggling with the seasickness and now this foot infection," he recalled. "I remember thinking, 'If this wound gets worse, am I really willing to lose a foot for this?'"

    Crane ended up scrubbing the area "and cutting away the infected portion," he said.

    His foot bandaged and his face and body lathered up with SPF 90 suntan lotion, he got back on the oars and pressed on.

    "It was incredibly hot," Crane said, noting that daytime temperatures soared over 100 degrees.

    "There was no shade on the boat and the cabin turns basically into an oven," he said.

    Making things more unbearable, Crane said his desalination machine - a device that makes salt water drinkable - began to malfunction.

    "The salt content in the water was getting higher and higher," he said. "It was making me sick."

    The machine broke in the last few weeks of the voyage. Fortunately, Crane said, he had an emergency stash of drinking water, which he portioned over the remaining days.

    Before and during his voyage, Crane said he had practiced yoga.

    "I practiced yoga to bring myself to a calm place if I found myself freaking out," he said. "Mentally, it's just about not giving up. It's about saying, 'I'm going to stay on that boat until I get across."

    The isolation and sameness of each day was hardest to overcome, he said.

    "I don't think there is a way to prepare for two to three months by yourself in complete isolation," he said.

    "It's not only that you're not talking to people," he said. "You don't see signs of human life. It definitely sort of scares me."

    On Christmas Day a yacht full of revelers passed him and sang holiday songs, took pictures and wished him luck he said.

    Other than that brief visit, occasional calls from wildlife kept him company.

    "The same bird - or I like to think the same one - flew along with me as I rowed the first few days," he said. One time a whale popped up in front of him and he heard the air rush through its blowhole.

    "I saw the tail of the whale go back into the water," he said.

    Crane said he never saw sharks but was aware they could be near, especially when he dove into the water to bathe himself or to scrape barnacles off the boat.

    Arriving in Antigua, Crane said he was amazed by the large welcoming party, which included some New Jersey residents who were on vacation and following his voyage online.

    "I was a celebrity on the island," he said. "Everyone knew me and everyone knew how I got there."

    Crane stayed in Antigua a few days before flying back to JFK Airport Tuesday night.

    Walking on dry land has been difficult because because his body got used to the rocking of the boat.

    As of Thursday, conversations and interaction on social media remained difficult, too, he said.

    "Your body and mind get used to not dealing with all sorts of information as before," he said. "I'm still getting used to things."

    "It still feels like I'm in a dream," he said.

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find on Facebook.

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    The coach had been arrested in November following a disturbance at his home

    Brian Giallella stepped down as coach of the Steinert High School baseball team Friday, ending a 17-season run as coach as of the Spartans.

    And for the first time in 34 years, the high school in Hamilton will not have a Giallella at the helm of one of the more sought-after jobs in high school baseball in New Jersey.

    Brian's father Rich was the head coach for 17 years, from 1983-2000, before taking over the athletic director job at the school until 2010.

    Giallella was arrested in November on a simple assault charge following a disturbance at his Hamilton home. A woman, who police did not identify, alleged Giallella threw a lamp at her, Hamilton police said.

    giallellaBrian Giallella 

    The case against Giallella, 44, was dismissed on Jan. 23 in Hamilton municipal court, and on Friday, Giallella tendered his resignation to Steinert Principal Nate Webber via a letter.

    In it, Giallella wrote:

    "After long and thoughtful consideration, it is in my best interests to withdraw my name from consideration for the position of varsity baseball coach at Steinert High School for the 2018 season." 

    "I am going to use this time to spend some more time with my two sons, Kyle (15) and Gavin (11)," Giallella told NJ Advance Media on Saturday. He is also a teacher at the high school, in his 20th year, and currently teaches math and computers.

    Giallella's 17-year career brought numerous team titles. His 2006 squad won the NJSIAA Group 4 state title, and he has been at the helm for five Central Jersey and seven Mercer County titles, along with numerous Colonial Valley Conference crowns.

    Jim Maher, who played at Steinert and has coached against Giallella at the other two Hamilton high schools - Hamilton West and now Nottingham - shared his thoughts on Giallella.

    "Brian is a good friend of mine, and respect him and his dad as much as anyone I've coached against," Maher said. "I have always enjoyed competing against him and always knew I had to have my team ready to play against them.

    Maher and Giallella won the 2004 Carpenter Cup together with the Mercer County team, with Maher at the helm for the monumental victory. Giallella was in charge of the Carpenter Cup squad in 2013, the only other time the Mercer team won the title.

    Teams from all over the the Delaware Valley complete annually in the Carpenter Cup.

    "I hope at some point we compete against each other again. I will really miss that. He is a good coach and a better person," Maher said.

    Two-time All-State centerfielder Ryan Mostrangeli played three varsity seasons under Giallella, from 2015-17, while Shane Keledy was a three time All-Area shortstop for the Spartans from 2014-16. Both former players spoke highly of their time under Giallella.

    "Coach G (Giallella) had a huge impact on my high school baseball career," Mostrangeli said. "I've always thought very highly of him, and was lucky enough to play three great varsity seasons under his coaching. Getting to take the field everyday with him was truly an honor."

    "Coach G meant a lot to me on and off the field," Keledy said. "Not only was he one of the best coaches I ever had, from what I experienced, he helped everyone grow into mature and responsible men.

    "The growth from my sophomore year to my senior year really showed me what a great coach and person he is. I learned so much from being around him, and I'll always have those traits that he taught me. I'm grateful to have had a coach like G."

    Steve Gazdek, Steinert's athletic director, spoke Saturday morning during the Spartans home wrestling match with West Windsor-Plainsboro South about the process of hiring a new coach, and of Giallella's time as the coach.

    "We have to make a decision on the next coach probably sometime in mid-February," Gazdek said. "So he can get board approved, because they start the first week of March. Brian and Rich were part of the great tradition of Steinert baseball. 

    "It is an important job in the community. It means a lot to many people. When you look at the banners up here around the gym, so many of them have Brian or Richie's signature all over it. The Giallella name in Steinert baseball means a lot to the community.

    "Brian meant a lot to the program," he said.

    Multiple candidates for the job area already on the Steinert staff. They include:

    Rick Freeman, who has been the manager of the Hamilton Post 31 American Legion team since 1985 and recently won his 1,00th game in charge of that team, should be a candidate.

    Matt Wolski, who was the head coach at Mercer County Community College (a job Freeman also held) for six years, from 2006-11, and is now the junior varsity coach, should be a second.

    And Mike Hastings, who just won the 2017 Mercer County Tornament as head coach of the Steinert girls soccer team, could be a third.


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    Where is your team in the power points report?

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    Take a look at the girls basketball power points as of the cutoff date.

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    Saturday, after the Cherries comeback 2-1 victory, the future looks much brighter for Eddie Howe's squad. Watch video


    Take a look at the Premier League table back on match day 20, right before the calendar turned to 2018, and AFC Bournemouth was languishing in the relegation zone.

    Saturday, after the Cherries comeback 2-1 victory, the future looks much brighter for Eddie Howe's squad. Bournemouth sit all the way up in ninth place, and are now just five points out of a potential Europa League spot, with its next two matches against teams currently in or just on the outside of the bottom three.

    So what happened in a month to change the Cherries from relegation fodder to European hopefuls, in the span of just six matches?

    An unbeaten run of seven games.

    That is all it takes in the 2017-18 Premier League season to make a jump up the table. One look at the form of the 20 teams over the last five games shows a lot of green W's at the top, and just as many red L's near the bottom. 

    Bournemouth, with three wins and two draws (good for 11 points) over its last five matches, has jumped over teams struggling to find some form. The same happened to Crystal Palace last month, and Everton before that. From ninth to 19th place is separated by just seven points, and it gets even closer towards the bottom

    Just this weekend, Brighton & Hove Albion's 3-1 win over West Ham United, and Southampton's 3-2 victory over West Bromwich Albion (on the day the Baggies honored pioneer Cyrille Regis), showed how much movement can come with three points.

    While the title race has not materialized, the rest of the table has proved to be the most interesting season in recent memory. 

    The massive amounts of money flowing into the league has allowed almost every team to be able to spend with some established European powers, and has brought a level of parity that has not been seen in years. 

    The new television and streaming rights deals that will be signed in the coming months and years will bring even more riches to the coffers of Premier League clubs, which makes the race to stay up even more important for the clubs battling it out each week.

    Prepare for weekly chaos over the next three-plus months.


    Burnley 1-1 Man. City

    Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke

    Brighton 3-1 West Ham

    Leicester 1-1 Swansea

    Man. United 2-0 Huddersfield

    West Brom 2-3 Southampton

    Arsenal 5-1 Everton

    Crystal Palace 1-1 Newcastle

    Liverpool vs Tottenham, Sunday, 11 a.m. (NBC Sports and

    Watford vs. Chelsea, Monday, 3 p.m. (NBC Sports and

    F.A. Cup 4th round brings upsets, before massive Premier League week


    One of the teams that has battled out of the relegation zone (right now on goal difference) is Swansea.

    But Sunday, the Swans got some bad news on two players that were crucial to their hopes of beating the drop.

    Midfielder Leroy Fer and forward Wilfried Bony were ruled out for the rest of the season with serious injuries. Fer ruptured his achilles, and Bony torn his ACl, in the Swans 1-1 draw with Leicester City Saturday. Bony actually continued to play with the injury.

    Can Swansea overcome the devastating injuries? With Carlos Carvahal at the helm, it just might be possible. The new manager has changed the fortunes of the club, and brought an air of positivity to what looked like a bleak situation just one month ago.

    Still, the Swans need to keep racking up the points to stave off the drop.


    There are four F.A. Cup fourth round replays on tap this week.

    Three matches take place Tuesday, and the Tottenham Newport County (11th in EFL League Two) match Wendesday at Wembley (2:45 p.m. EST, FS1 and gives the team lowest in the pyramid a chance to play at England's showpiece stadium.

    Birmingham City hosts Huddersfield, Rochdale entertains Millwall (both 2:45 p.m. EST), while Notts County (third in League Two) travels to take on Swansea (3:05 p.m. FS2 and, all on Tuesday.

    Contact Sean Miller at Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here

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    Long suffering fans were the first to buy Eagles Super Bowl merchandise. Watch video

    Sometimes being a mom and an Eagles fan means you make sacrifices.

    Hilary Hofman, of Columbus, could have watched the excitement on television as the underdog Philadelphia Eagles dramatically dethroned Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for their first Super Bowl win.

    Instead, she listened to the nail-biting finish on her car radio while parked outside Modell's in Hamilton Township.

    People shop for Eagles NFC Championship merchandise at Modell's

    That was the price she paid to be the first customer to purchase Eagles merchandise, for her children who were in Philadelphia.

    Brown paper covering the glass doors and windows was removed and the store opened its doors immediately after the game ended at about 10:15pm.

    Hofman was followed in by Mike Woloszyn, of Hamilton, a self-proclaimed Eagles fan for fifty years.

    Soon after, more people trickled in and then bigger crowds swarmed in, jovially greeting each other as store employees directed them where to find what they were looking for.

    The Eagles fight song and chant erupted several times while shoppers picked up shirts, hoodies, hats, flags and footballs all proclaiming the Eagles as Super Bowl champs.

    The store closed later in the night to reopen at 6am Monday morning.

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso Find on Facebook.

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    Pets all over New Jersey wait patiently for adoption.

    Here is this week's collection of some of the dogs and cats in need of adoption in New Jersey.

    We are now accepting dogs and cats to appear in the gallery from nonprofit shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey.

    If a group wishes to participate in this weekly gallery on, please contact Greg Hatala at or call 973-836-4922.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    Check out the best potential matchups of each rounD.

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    West Windsor Police found the man inside a vehicle in Mercer County Lake Monday morning.

    West Winsdor police found an 85-year-old man dead inside an SUV in Mercer County Lake Monday morning, a department statement said. 

    Township and traffic officers were dispatched to the Caspersen Rowing Center on the northern side of the lake around 8:30 a.m. Monday on reports that a vehicle was partially submerged in the water. 

    Screen Shot 2018-02-05 at 12.04.52 PM.pngMercer County Lake 

    The statement said officers found the man, a Ewing resident, inside the 2008 Ford Edge. His name was not immediately made public.

    The Trenton Fire Department's marine unit removed the man from the water, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. 

    The cause of the incident is not yet known, and is still under investigation by the West Windsor Township Police Traffic and Detective bureaus and the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.

    Anyone who witnessed the incident is encouraged to reach out to Officer Kyle Brown at (609) 799-1222 or

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find on Facebook.

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    The device was found in a bathroom at Hightstown High School

    Students had to be evacuated from Hightstown High School for several hours on Monday morning after a suspicious device was found in a bathroom, officials said.

    The device turned out to be "suspiciously constructed computer parts" that posed no danger, according to the East Windsor Regional School district. 

    The school was checked and cleared by police early Monday afternoon, according to Sgt. Benjamin Miiller of the Hightstown police. 

    After students were evacuated, they were moved to nearby Melvin H. Kreps Middle School. School officials said Monday morning that the investigation might "take some time."

    Students spent the rest of the morning there before returning to the high school after lunch.

    School officials didn't immediately return a call from NJ Advance Media.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook. 

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    Have you seen him?

    Trenton police are asking for the public's help in identifying a young man man - possibly a teenager - who tried to rob a Bank of America last week. 

    The suspect walked into the Bank of America on the 300 block of Hamilton Avenue, around 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 31, and handed the bank teller a note asking for cash, police spokesman Lt. Steve Varn said.

    Varn said bank security cameras show the suspect getting "spooked" by something inside the bank and fleeing on foot before collecting any cash. He ran in the direction of Chestnut Avenue, he said.

    The suspect was described as being about 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 8 inches in height with a thin build. He appeared to between the ages of 17 and 19. 

    Police have been investigating the incident, but are now reaching out to the public for help in identifying the suspect. The department on Monday made public photos from the bank's security system.

    Anyone with information regarding the crime is asked contact Detective Roberto Ramos at 609-672-0172 or any on-duty detective at 609-989-4155. 

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find on Facebook.

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    The biggest questions in N.J. girls basketball as postseason play hits the court.

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    Who's signed, who's not and who's still deciding: Signing Day is Wednesday

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    The ShopRite chain announced recently that it is broadening its Kids Club free fruit program, until now available only at select stores throughout the state.

    Stop us if you've witnessed this scenario before: Dad or Mom takes ravenous 2-year-old into the nearest supermarket to pick up the fixings for dinner.

    Ravenous 2-year-old screams for Gummy Bears, Skittles, Oreos or anything else similarly loaded with sugar to satisfy those insistent hunger pangs.

    Dad or Mom gives in - "Just this once!" - for the sake of buying even a few blessed moments of peace and quiet.

    But what if there's an alternative?

    The ShopRite chain announced recently that it is broadening its Kids Club free fruit program, until now available only at select stores throughout the state.

    Introduced last summer, the program offers children 12 years and younger a free Kids Club card, which entitles them to a banana, apple or clementine while shopping with a parent or a guardian.

    The company calls the initiative "a fun way to educate kids about healthy eating habits."

    We call it an innovative marketing program, but also a brilliant response to the growing incidence of childhood obesity in our overfed population.

    This is where the healthiest people in N.J. live

    The American Heart Association reports that one in three of our children is overweight or obese: conditions that are proven precursors to high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and elevated cholesterol levels.

    Candy, of course, is a prime villain here. But so are highly-sugared breakfast cereals, carb-heavy French fries and salt-laden canned spaghetti and meatballs - all of which cry out to kids with their siren song of quick gratification.

    Much credit goes to the ShopRites of the world for doing even a small part to stem the epidemic.

    In Hunterdon County, for example, the free fruit is available at the chain's stores in Raritan Township and Clinton; the option also is being offered at the ShopRite of Old Bridge in Middlesex County.

    The chain also hires in-store registered dieticians at more than 140 of its locations to provide family nutritional counseling, store tours and ideas for healthy meal planning - complete with recipes.

    We also salute other markets across the country whose owners are signing on to the healthy-kids concept in various ways.

    These include Whole Foods, whose Whole Kids Foundation supports schools with a variety of programs including Salad Bars to Schools, bringing vitamin-rich greens to cafeterias and lunchrooms, and the Garden Grant Program, which supports educational (and edible) gardens at schools and non-profit organizations.

    We're sensing a trend here, one we hope will spread. Why not ask the manager of your local store to consider becoming part of this health-promoting moment? Your pediatrician and your children's dentist will thank you.

    Bookmark Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find Opinion on Facebook.


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    The arrests bring to 8 the number of inmates at the federal prison charged in the alleged child pornography ring

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    Where does your favorite private school land in the latest rankings? Click here to see the best of the best when it comes to private school sports programs in the state.

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    She was last seen near a motel in Barnegat

    Police are seeking help locating a 23-year-old Barnegat woman has been missing since Friday.

    johnson.jpgTumonnie Johnson (Courtesy Barnegat police) 

    Tumonnie Johnson was on foot when she was last seen at 7 p.m. that evening in the area of the Barnegat Motel, township police said Tuesday.

    Known to frequent the Trenton and Hamilton areas, Johnson was wearing a black North Face winter jacket and brown Timberland boots.


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