New Jersey Weekly Roundup
Reviewing Week of Nov. 12
Previewing Nov. 19 All-Group Championships
By Ed Grant

The lines are pretty well drawn now for the 34th annual New Jersey all-group cross-country championships which go off at 10 a.m. this Saturday at Holmdel County Park.

The boys’ race is, as it has been all season, a two-team affair with defending Christian Brothers going after its 15th title against Morris Hills. Both teams won easily at the group championships last Saturday at Holmdel with CBA posting a 16:27 average in its 21st Parochial A victory even though lead runner Chris Horel was content to follow the pace set by Brian Guterl of Union Catholic, matching his performance a week earlier at the time-comparable 3.2M Warinanco Park course in Elizabeth.

This was five seconds slower than Kyle Soloff of Morris Hills ran in placing second to Craig Forys of Colts Neck in the Gr. III race, but it is unlikely that this “finish” will be duplicated on Saturday when Horel is expected to challenge Forys, Gr. II champ Ben Massam of Chatham and Gr. IV winner Jeff Perrella of Westfield for individual honors. Horel has hopes of a double national appearance in December, a sure bet for the team race in Portland and a somewhat longer shot at the Footlocker finals a week later in San Diego.

The team race is likely to be decided by the fourth and fifth finishers for each school. The first three for each---Horel, Kevin Rogers and Greg Leach for CBA and Soloff, Jayson Decker and Brandon Rodkewitz for Morris Hills---should battle up front to a near standoff. The Colts had an advantage in both the rear positions last Saturday, a big one in fifth as the Knights’ usual closer, Ryan Uhrynowich, had a bad day and sixth-man Adam Wasser had to fill in with a 17:28, 40 seconds slower than his CBA counterpart.

Massam had the fastest time of the four individual contenders, picking up his eighth win of the season with a 125-yard margin over Owen Boyle of Manasquan in 15:44. Forys finished 40 yards ahead of Soloff in 15:54 and Perrella had a close win over surprising Matt Ciambriello of Old Bridge in 15:57. The others winners were Ryan VanAlstine of Midland Park in Gr. I at 16:19 and Chris Scavone of Pingry in Parochial B in 16:29.

CBA, Morris Hills and Pingry all won with comfortable margins. The other races were much closer, with each going to a first-time champion: Phillipsburg by 10 points over Hillsboro in Gr. IV, Spotswood by 24 over Hopatcong in Gr. II and Keansburg by four over Maple Shade in Gr. I.

Roxbury now looks like a clear favorite to repeat in the girls’ race. The much-underrated Gaels came within three seconds of the total team record as it won by 42 points over constant rival Morris Knolls in Gr. IV (It was the seventh open meeting of the season between the Morris County rivals; Roxbury has won the last five since soph Ashley Cromartie returned in mid-season.) Jenn Ennis led the victory as she placed third in 18:35, followed immediately by Kris Stevens in 18:46. Soph Lauren Penney ran 8th in 19:19 and Cromartie and Sarah Tencza were 12-13 in 19:44 and 19:52. It all added up to a 19:16 average.

Colts Neck, which had the best previous average at the course this season with a 19:22 at the Shore Conference meet, was well behind this as it won Gr. III with a 19:44 average, the time being mostly due to another 1-2 finish from Briana Jackucewicz and junior Ashley Higginson in 18:21 and 18:54. Roxbury’s quintet will likely finish between these two and the other Cougar runners this week and Ennis could even split the first two.

Jackson, which had figured to be a third party earlier in the season, barely made the all-group race as a “wild card,” finishing fourth in Gr. IV. Senior Jen Clausen, the team leader the past three years, did not run and freshman Devin Solvik had an off day, placing 27th in 20:16, 50 seconds behind her best at Holmdel this season. The third-best performance last Saturday came from Pope John in Parochial A, led by Lara Heigis who ran 18:41.

The other team winners, all by wide margins, were Haddonfield in Gr. II (where Vanessa Wright won her fourth title in 18:29), Mt. Lakes in Gr. I (with Abby Hinds scoring in 19:06) and Pingry repeating in Parochial B (where Mater Dei frosh launched her bid for a four-year sweep in 19:42.

The big individual race of the day was, of course, in Gr. IV where the two seasonal leaders went at it again with the usual result, Danielle Tauro of Southern Ocean finishing 60 yards ahead of Amanda Marino of Jackson in the day’s best time of 18:05. They are the obvious favorites to finish 1-2 again this Saturday with Ennis, Heigis, Wright and the two Colts Neck runners following in some order.

The major disappointment of the day went to the VanAlstine twins, who were hoping to score an unprecedented double (as they have been doing in other meets all season). Ryan did his part, but sister Amy, who had won Gr. I the last two years, suffered a minor leg injury while running with Hinds in “the Bowl” and gamely limped in second, tears in her eyes, some 250 yards to the rear.

There were two items of family interest in local road races the day after the group meet. Andrew Hanko of Trinity Christian, one of Jackucewicz’ 30-plus first cousins, who was mysteriously missing through the season, won a 5K race in 16:06, indicating he may be someone to contend with at the Footlocker Trials. And Kathy Castles, mother of the 10th-place finisher in the Gr. I girls race, won the top women’s prize at the Giralda Farms race on a hilly 5K course in Madison in 17:46.

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