Three Two River Area Teams Capture Cross Country State Titles

November 17, 2017
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The Colts Neck Cougars girls cross country team emerged from the Group 3 state championship race as champions, capturing titles in consecutive years.

By Tim Morris |

HOLMDEL – As he climbed out of the famed bowl section of Holmdel Park’s 5K cross country course, Mater Dei Prep’s John Spinelli knew it was time to strike.

“At the top of the bowl I told myself I have to go now and I went for it,” he said.

The Seraph senior was going for the NJSIAA Non-Public B state championship on Nov. 11. After Spinelli put the hammer down he ran the last half of the race on his own. He stopped the clock in 16:28 well clear of the field.

“It feels so great,” said the Seraph harrier. “I worked hard for it. This is the goal I wanted to get.”

The state championship wasn’t the only goal that Spinelli achieved. His Seraphs edged Montclair Kimberley Academy, 75-85, to claim its first team state title since 2007.

“It was great to get the team title,” said the Seraph. “It was a big goal for us.”

Patrick Osborn’s fifth place time (17:20.0) helped the Seraphs match the 2-4 finish of MKA’s top two runners. From there, Mater Dei won it with John Meskin (18:12.0), Connor Scott (18:24.0) and Sean Tonne (18:34.0) finishing 19-23-27 while MKA runners went 13-30-36.

Spinelli and the Seraphs weren’t the only area harriers to capture state titles on Nov. 11. Brian Hill and Christian Brothers Academy ruled in Non-Public A while Colts Neck’s girls repeated in Group 3.

It was another day at the office for the CBA boys, the top-ranked team in the Northeast Region by DyeStat. Led by the individual champion Hill (16:05.0), the Colts waltzed to their 28th state championship, winning by 100 points with a low score of 37 points to St. Peter’s Prep’s 137.

“We look at this (Group state championship) as just as important as the Meet of Champions,” said Hill.

Behind Hill were Tim McInerney (16:22.0), Tanner Crochet (16:35.0), Mike Morris (16:43.0) and John Sheridan (16:52.0) placing 3-8-11-14. There was a split of just 47 seconds between the Colts top five.

Holmdel Park will host the 2017 Meet of Champions on Nov. 18, with races starting at 11 a.m.

While the win was old hat for the Colts, it wasn’t for Hill. He tasted his first individual championship as a Colt at the county championships defeating a very talented field. That lifted his confidence and on Saturday he was aiming for a state title.

Like Spinelli, Hill made his move exiting the bowl. The Colt senior said running uphill is one of his strengths and that’s why he used the bowl’s steep climb to break away from the lead pack he had been following. As the others slowed leaving the bowl, Hill picked the pace up and had more than enough to hold off Seton Hall Prep’s Dan Gizzo, who posted a 16:12.0 in second place.

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“It’s a big deal to have a state title,” he said.

It’s now onto the Meet of Champions on Nov. 18, the only title to elude CBA last fall. It’s something Hill said they want to rectify.

“The team is very confident right now,” he pointed out. “McInerney had a big personal best today and that is big for us.”

The marquee team competition at the Group championships was in Group 3 where the Northeast Regional-ranked girls from Colts Neck and Middletown South resumed their rivalry. The Cougars and Eagles split their first two meetings with Colts Neck taking the Monmouth County championships and South winning the Shore Conference.

Each won their respective sectionals last week and entered the Group championships in peak form.

The defending champion Cougars relied on their balance to overcome the Eagles placing Maddie Brand (third, 18:41.0) and Kathleen Shay (eighth, 19:10.0) ahead of their No. 1, Colleen Megerle, who was ninth (19:10.0) to prevail, 89-100.

Behind Megerle, Eva Gibson (19:50.0), Delia Russo (19:55.0) and Natalie Shapiro (19:57.0) went 16-17-18. Catherine Anderson (20:41) sealed the win for defending champions in 29th place.

“We’re a team that peaks in late November,” said Megerle. “This win was incredible.

“This team has such a close bond,” she added. “We’re really close friends.”

Mater Dei Prep’s John Spinelli won the individual Non-Public “B” state championship with a time of 16:28 helping the Seraphs capture a team state title.

The second time around for the Colts Neck girls was just as rewarding as the first, but in a different way.

“Last year it was exciting because it was new,” Megerle explained. “We had a lot of high expectations for this season. This year we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could do it again and winning was just as exciting.”

Noting that all of the Cougars are coming back, Megerle said Colts Neck will be back in 2018 running for a third straight state championship.

The Cougars and Eagles will duel again this Saturday with a MOC title possibly on the line.

Shore Regional’s Drew Maher was looking to add a Group 1 state title in cross country to his track championships but he was thwarted in the attempt by McNair Academy’s Fahd Nasser, who held off Maher’s charge in the closing half-mile to win in 16:15.0 to Maher’s 16:19.0.

“He (Nasser) took it out from the start and I was chasing him the whole time,” Maher recalled. “In the backwoods, I thought I might catch him, but he had enough left.”

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Maher still reached his goal of going to the MOC and he won’t be going alone. Teammate Cameron Janovic qualified for the MOC by finishing seventh  (17:00.0).

The top 10 individuals and top three teams from the Group meets all advanced to the Champions’ meet.

For Raritan senior Louis DiLaurenzio, winning meant qualifying for the MOC. The Rocket remarked he had something to prove to both himself and everyone else after not reaching the meet last year. He was determined to get there and did so, after finishing seventh in the Group 2 race (16:45.0).

“I’m happy,” he said of advancing. “My goal was just to get in the top 10.”

Besides reaching his individual goal, DiLaurenzio was also running for his Rocket teammates.

“As a senior and a leader I wanted to prove something to the younger guys on the team,” he said. “They have a lot of potential.”

Red Bank Regional’s Charlotte Cochrane accomplished both of her seasonal goals. The Buc senior qualified for the MOC by finishing seventh in the stacked Group 3 field and she broke 19:00 at Holmdel (18:55.0).

“I’m so excited,” she said. “I ran the best race of my career. I knew I had to stay mentally tough. My goal was to finish in the top 10.

“I’m happy about my place and time,” she added.

Cochrane was also happy because she won’t be running alone on Saturday. Teammate Catherine Wimmer ran fast enough (19:49.0) to 15th place in the Group 3 race to earn one of the 10 Wild Card entries. Those went to the fastest non-automatic qualifiers.

Henry Hudson Regional sophomore Corina Vidal was another individual qualifier. She finished fourth in the Group 1 race clocking 20:23. The sophomore has a lot to look forward to.

Also in Group 1, Shore Regional’s Alyssa Costello will be racing next week thanks to her ninth place (20:48.0).

Two boys gained Wild Card entries to the MOC. Both were from the Group 3 race – Colts Neck’s Matt Schaefer (16:30.0) and RBR’s Tyler Schwinn (16:35). They were 13th and 14th.

In addition to CBA’s and Mater Dei Prep’s boys and Colts Neck’s and Middletown South’s girls, Red Bank Catholic’s and Holmdel’s girls moved on as well with top three finishes.

The Caseys came up two points short of Union Catholic, 63-65, in their bid for a second straight Non-Public A crown.

Maddy Kopac (19:53.0) and Bridge Byrne (20:11.0) led RBC in fifth and eighth place.

Led by Emily Levonas (20:31.0) and Claudia Zhang (20:33.0) in 16th and 17th, Holmdel finished third in Group 2 with 127 points.

The 2017 Meet of Champions is set for Nov. 18 at Holmdel Park. It will kick off at 11 a.m. with the girls championship race, followed by the boys championship at 11:45 a.m.

This article was first published in the Nov. 16-23, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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