By Tim Morris |
Sean McCafferty had the unenviable task of following a legend last fall. He was replacing Christian Brothers Academy’s retired boys cross country head coach Tom Heath, the sport’s most successful coach in state history, with a record 21 NJSIAA Meet of Champions crowns and a Nike Cross National Championship, which confirmed CBA’s place among the elite programs in the country.
Under McCafferty’s guidance, the Colts didn’t miss a beat.
“It was challenging but the kids responded well,” he said of 2016. “It was really, really stressful. Colts Neck was tough. We always had a tough team around.”
The Colts only faltered once, finishing third behind Princeton and Colts Neck at the Meet of Champions (MOC). But they rebounded the following week to win the Nike Cross Northeast Regional and went on to place seventh at the national championship.
As he looks ahead to the 2017 season, McCafferty is in firm control of the program.
“This year it’s a little easier,” he pointed out. “The kids are used to me.”
CBA begins the season in a very familiar position, as the team to beat again. The Colts have a very strong core led by Brian Hill, a senior. He finished 21st at the MOC, the highest finish of any returning harrier in the area. He has a Holmdel Park personal best of 15:59.
“He’s really, really fit,” McCafferty said of his No. 1 runner.
Juniors Patrick Kilcooley, Tim McInerny, and Luke Reid and sophomore Troy Hill, Brian’s younger brother, are the returning veterans from last year’s squad. Seniors John Sheridan and Ryan Miele provide CBA with the depth that has separated them from the pack for so many years, making them the team to beat.
“Every year is different,” McCafferty explained. “We’re a little different this year. We’re younger but we have senior experience.
“We’ll be alright,” he added. “We’ll get better as the season goes on.”
While the Colts cast a huge shadow over the rest of the teams in the area, they are not the only squad hunting championships.
Colts Neck, which chased CBA in every meet in ’16 and won the Group III state title, lost its top three runners, including the MOC runner-up Jordan Brannan. But, head coach Jim Schlentz believes his team, which has three returnees, can again be a factor in November.
“We can be pretty good by the end of the season,” he said.
The Colts will be led by Matt Schaefer, who blossomed during the outdoor season finishing fifth in the 3,200 meters at the MOC. He could be one of the top harriers in the state this fall. His cross country 5,000 meter personal best is 15:47 and he was 25th at the MOC.
Matt Harman and Liam Hoagland, who were the fifth and sixth runners last year, are back. Schaefer, Harman and Hoagland are all seniors with a lot of experience.
Junior Jack Hayes, senior Aidan Tucker, sophomore Kyle Roeder and senior Matt Bogdan complete the 2017 Cougars.
Holmdel finished second in Central Jersey Group II and has its one-two-three runners in the fold. Head coach Damon Godfrey said the Hornets want to qualify for the MOC as a team.
Ean Jaffe, who has run 15:59 for 5K and qualified for the MOC, is the team’s solid No. 1. The senior is one of the up-and-coming harriers.
Seniors Srithanay Parvataneni and Jacob Snodgrass give the Hornets a solid trio up front. Junior Arun Movva, who was one of the team’s top seven in 2016, is also back. Kevin Silvergold, Andrew Cruz and Andrew Gargiulo complete Holmdel’s first seven.
Mike Tursi begins his 29th year at Mater Dei Prep with a senior-loaded team looking to make some school history. The Seraphs have won three straight Shore Conference Division titles in the past, including their current run from 2014-16, but never four straight. That is the regular season goal. The showdown with St. Rose, Mater Dei’s great rival, that will likely determine this year’s “B” North winner, is Oct. 4 at Holmdel Park.
Senior John Spinelli, who won the Non-Public “B” 1,600 and 3,200 meters during the spring, is the Seraphs No. 1.
Behind him seniors John Meskin, Jake Roberts and Sean Tonne, and junior Pat Osborne, the Non-Public B sectional 800-meter champion from the spring, provide a very strong nucleus.
Freshman Connor Scott is showing a lot of promise and is in the top seven. Ryan Phillips, Justin Coreman and Adam Chaney, all seniors, provide the depth.
Along with holding onto the division title, the Seraphs want to make a run at the Non-Public “B” state title.
Mel Ullmeyer’s Shore Regional is a Group I power. Year in and year out, the Blue Devils are at or near the top at the state sectional championship meet. This fall, the veteran coach has another contender with five harriers returning from the team that finished third in Central Jersey Group I.
Senior Drew Maher, who was sixth at the Group I state meet, is the Blue Devils No. 1. He’s one of the best in the Shore and will be one to watch in November.
Also back are junior Cameron Janovic, sophomore Robert Weeden, junior Matthew Perri and senior Ryan Loehr. They will keep the Blue Devils serious contenders in Central Jersey Group I.
Red Bank Regional would like to get to the Group III state meet after finishing sixth in their sectional in 2016, one place from advancing to the Groups. Junior Tyler Schwinn, the team’s No. 1, has a chance to be one of the state’s best by November, according to head coach Brendan McGoldrick.
The Bucs have seniors David Gilday and Sam Goldzweig, sophomore Teddy Purdon, senior Trey Soya, and senior DJ Vega also back, giving the Bucs a very good chance at making it to the Group Championships.
Red Bank shared the Shore Conference “A” Central Division title last year with Holmdel and Raritan – it was Raritan’s first division title in 30 years. The Division Championship meet is Oct. 4 at Holmdel.
Ocean Township had the state’s No. 1 runner in Elliot Gindi, the school’s first MOC champion. He’s now running for Northern Arizona University.
But the Spartans will remain competitive thanks to seniors Matt D’Auria and Dan Dombrowieki, who were keys to the team’s Central Jersey Group III championship. They provide veteran leadership.
The Spartans return five of their top seven from that state sectional winner with senior James Hoffman, junior Tom D’Auria, Matt’s younger brother, and sophomore Matt Frabrizio rounding out the scorers.
Even without Gindi, Mark DeComma’s Spartans will be a force in the sectional.
Middletown North head coach Brock Silvestri is also looking for his harriers to be contenders in Central Jersey Group III. The Lions return four of their scorers from 2016, led by seniors Frankie Marrone and Joey Guerrieri. Senior Jake Zappala and sophomore Kevin Carragher are the other scorers.
Middletown South’s Matt Lepine is one of the fastest returners with a 5K personal best of 15:34. The Eagle senior finished fourth in his state sectional and 36th at the MOC.
Bill Clifton’s Eagles also return junior Jack Harrington, junior Michael Smith, senior John Raisley and junior Liam Broadhurst.
It’s a rebuilding year for Tim McLoone’s Rumson-Fair Haven squad. Their goal is to qualify for the competitive Shore Conference meet.
Junior Ford Stevens and senior Ethan Fajerman are the Bulldog leaders.
Red Bank Catholic’s Rob DiFilippis is looking to senior Brandon Carroll to lead the Caseys.
This article was first published in the Sept. 14-21, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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