Guaschino could personally relate to the scene where Rocky Balboa, portrayed by Sylvester Stallone, was shown running through the streets of his native Philadelphia, preparing for his big fight against champion Apollo Creed.
"When 'Rocky' came out and he's running and the people are throwing him food and cheering for him as he ran, it reminded me a lot of myself running through the streets of North Bergen," Guaschino said last week. "I'd run by the fruit and vegetable store on Broadway and the guy who owned it would throw me an apple. People would be yelling from their cars, honking their horns, cheering 'Go Guash.' Just like it helped Rocky, it helped me, knowing that I had all that support. It gave me the extra push."
Back in the 1970s, Guaschino, now a Guttenberg resident, would readily be seen running through the streets of North Bergen while training for his next track meet for North Bergen High School. He had diligently worked himself from his humble beginnings as a pure natural talent, to the title of national high school champion in the 880-yard run in June of 1971.
Last week, Guaschino added another title to his impressive resume.
He was inducted into the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame along with 18 other local sports legends at the 11th annual induction ceremonies at the Hi-Hat Restaurant in Bayonne.
Began at NBHS
Guaschino had a brilliant career, both in high school at North Bergen (1968-1972) and later at the University of Tennessee (1972-1977).
In high school, Guaschino was a two-time All-County selection in the 880-yard run and was the All-County honoree in the high jump in 1970. He earned All-State honors in the 880-yard run in 1971.
That same year, Guaschino also won the Golden West Invitational Meet in Sacramento, Calif., which was considered the national championship. He also competed in the High School All-American championships in Chicago, earning Scholastic Coach All-American honors.
"By the time I was a junior in high school, I realized that I was faster than everyone," Guaschino said. "I played football, but I realized I was truly special in track. And I was fortunate to have the two finest coaches in the world in Tom Muir and Ira Wolfe. They were very supportive and kept me healthy and made me what I became." While Guaschino began to blossom, Henry Rose, a North Bergen native who ran for the University of Tennessee, spotted him.
"The school was a major national track power and Henry was the one who put the bug in my ear," Guaschino said. "The very thought that I could actually go to college blew me away. I wanted to get a job, buy a car, do what everyone else was doing. But Coach Muir kept pushing me and made me believe I could go to college. Henry was the one that got me to go to Tennessee on a track scholarship."
While at Tennessee, Guaschino's career continued to blossom. He helped Tennessee to win the national championship in 1974, earning All-Southeast Conference honors both during the indoor and outdoor seasons. He won the SEC championship for the 880-yard run in 1974 with an impressive time of 1:49.9.
Also, during his tenure at Tennessee, Guaschino was called upon to be a recruiter. There was another Hudson County native who was tearing up the local track scene at the time, and the coaching staff asked Guaschino if he could somehow reach out and convince Sal Vega of Memorial High School to also come to Tennessee.
"We were friends before college," Guaschino said. "We used to go running together. I guess I helped to recruit him to come to Tennessee."
The rest was history. Vega, the best track performer in Memorial history, joined Guaschino in Knoxville, where he also had a stellar career.
"Sal was my roommate for one year, his freshman year and my senior year," Guaschino said. "We became very good friends and we remain that way."
Ten years ago, Guaschino and Vega were inducted into the Hudson County Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame together. Last Thursday, they duplicated that feat, as both were inducted together into the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame.
Pals with Sal
"It's very special for me to go in with Sal," Guaschino said. "Anytime you do something with a good friend, it's very special. We speak to each other almost every day. It was really enjoyable for me to be honored with Sal. It's really remarkable that we came from the same area, went to the same college. It adds a lot to the honor."
Not to mention, to take his place among the greatest sports legends in the history of Hudson County, like his two former high school coaches, Muir (inducted in 1997) and Wolfe (1998).
"It really is an honor to be considered with those great athletes," Guaschino said. "Hudson County has had a lot of great athletes over the years and to think that I can share a spot with them is amazing. I'm also proud to share it with Coach Muir and Ira Wolfe, because I really wouldn't have been anything if not for their dedication to me."
After graduation from the University of Tennessee, Guaschino remained in Knoxville, but was encouraged to come back to his native Hudson County nearly seven years ago by Vega, who is now the Chairman of the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
"He kept telling me that this is your home and it's where you belong," Guaschino said. "So I came back." Guaschino is currently a lieutenant school law enforcement officer for the Hudson County Schools of Technology. He resides in Guttenberg.
"When we were in school together, I was like Sal's big brother and looked after him," Guaschino said. "Now, he looks after me."
Guaschino was asked if the induction gave him the opportunity to look back on his brilliant athletic career. "It's something that will last forever," Guaschino said. "It really makes you stop and wonder, 'Did I really do all that?' It really brings you back to those glory days. I was lucky to come along at a time when track and field was a very popular sport, with hundreds of people in the stands cheering you on. The sport's popularity was at its peak. Maybe that inspired me as well."
Guaschino added, "Being in the Hall of Fame made me a star again. Even if was for only a few minutes."