For more than four decades, Stan Fryczynski's calling card has been the powder blue bucket hat he wears to every single high school cross-country and track event.
Suffice it to say that the hat, at least in New Jersey circles, is as iconic as the presence of the veteran Secaucus coach himself.
"I didn't make it a legend. It made itself," Fryczynski said. "It just kind of took off."
As Fryczynski reflected on reaching 500 cross-country dual meet victories this week -- a milestone reached Tuesday after the Secaucus boys and girls teams swept Harrison and Weehawken in a tri-meet at Bayonne County Park -- the origin of his career, and his headwear, came into view.
"The summer after my senior year at St. Peter's College, I took over the Jersey AC Track Club," Frycznski said. "We had all summertime meets at Randall's Island (in Manhattan), and those meets would go from 9 in the morning to 5 or 6 in the evening. We were roasting in the sun all day.
"So I got a hat like the one I have now, and it was great because you could put it under water and cool off. And it was good because my kids could see me wherever I was. It was easy to spot because no one else wore one like it. That's how it started. I never thought of changing it because the kids got used to looking for it."
Fryczynski, 66, said each hat only lasts about four years, which is to say he's gone through about 10 of them during the course of his 46-year coaching career, the last 42 at Secaucus.
He coached at St. Peter's Prep for four years and moved over to Secaucus in the fall of 1978. Since then he has led the Patriots cross-country teams to 13 conference and/or division titles, and two sectional crowns. He even manned the athletic director post at Secaucus from 1989 through 2011.
Fryczynski is flattered by the attention the milestone has brought, but it seems he may be more proud of the impact he has left on the hundreds of student-athletes who have sought his guidance.
"The number doesn't tell the whole story," Fryczynski said. "I know good coaches who didn't have the opportunity to coach as long as I have. But you're not defined as a coach, at least in cross-country, by wins and losses entirely because there are a lot of variables. There are a lot of good coaches who don't get that big number but who inject a lot of good things into their kids."
Success and longevity have allowed Fryczynski to brag about his Secaucus alumni. He coached his daughter, Amy, and her son Austin.
He has coached a runner who is now his physical therapist, and a javelin thrower who is now his dentist.
He even had three siblings, the Kasper brothers, who ran for him in the late 1980s and helped him further the legend of the blue hat.
"They were on vacation in Wildwood, I think, and they saw a rack of blue hats like the one I had, so they actually made their mother buy the whole rack," Fryczynski said with a laugh. "By that time it had taken on a life of its own."
Case in point: Fryczynski's Twitter account boasts the iconic lid as its avatar with the handle, @BlueHatXC.
Those hats have seen their share of special times. Fryczynski won a sectional title with the boys team in 2005 and the girls team in 2013. There's the 25 boys teams and 12 girls teams which qualified for the NJSIAA group meet at Holmdel Park. And there are also those 13 combined Bergen County Scholastic League and North Jersey Interscholastic Conference championships.
"The girls winning their first BCSL title in 1994 -- I'd be fibbing if I didn't tell you that was special, especially because my daughter was on the team," Fryczynski said. "It makes it more difficult to win championships when you stay at a small school, but I'm proud of what we've put out."
Fryczynski's commitment to the athletes is unquestioned. When he stepped down the the AD post in 2011, he made it known he wanted to hang on to the cross-country reins.
"I wanted to stay with the kids. I didn't want to leave the scene," he said.
When asked how much longer he would want to remain at Secaucus, Fryczynski didn't even hazard a guess. It's just not a question right now.
"The kids you coach come back to be your friends, and that's a heck of a thing to receive," Fryczynski said. "That's why I stay -- because of the people. When I retired as AD and stopped coaching all three seasons, I never felt more relaxed. As long as I don't lose touch and I serve the district respectably, I'd like to stay if they'd like to have me."
For Fryczynski, a longer stay at Secaucus comes with a caveat -- a long-term investment in powder blue bucket hats.