Don Bosco Prep vs. West Windsor-Plainsboro North.
They’ve been the state’s two best teams all season and come into Saturday’s NJSIAA Meet of Champions showdown nationally ranked and with something to prove.
Defending champion Don Bosco, No. 1 in New Jersey, No. 2 in the Northeast and No. 7 nationally, wants to become just the sixth program in state history to repeat and show that it’s much stronger than how it ran a week ago.
Meanwhile, West Windsor-Plainsboro North, No. 2 in New Jersey, No. 1 in the Northeast and No. 19 in the nation, wants to become the first New Jersey team in two years to knock off Don Bosco and become Mercer County’s first M of C winner in the 37 year history of the meet.
Don Bosco hasn’t lost to a New Jersey foe since placing second to Jackson, 67-135, at the 2006 M of C.
This will be the second meeting of the season between Don Bosco and West Windsor North. Don Bosco finished first (154) and West Windsor North fifth (208) in the Eastern States Championship race at the Manhattan Invitational on Oct. 4 at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
While the spotlight is shining on Don Bosco and West Windsor North, Haddonfield’s all underclassmen team, third at the M of C last year and No. 3 in New Jersey, and No. 4 Christian Brothers are lurking in the shadows. If Don Bosco and West Windsor North falter, Haddonfield and CBA could be factors.
West Windsor North is running much better now than it did at Manhattan, mainly because No. 2 man Jim Rosa and No. 3 Tyler Corkedale are healthy now.
West Windsor North is coming off its second straight Group 3 title last Sunday with the best average of the day (16:24, No. 11 in Holmdel Park history). Meanwhile, Don Bosco Prep won its third straight Non-Public championship and averaged 16:41.
Despite the 17 second edge on the clock, West Windsor North star sophomore Joe Rosa (Jim’s twin), said it doesn’t mean a whole lot.
``We still haven’t proven that we can beat them yet,’’ said Rosa, whose team was fifth at the M of C last year. ``Obviously we feel we are capable of it, but we have to go out and do it. I feel like whichever teams feels better that day and whoever wants it more will win.’’
Don Bosco knows it has to run faster than it did last week if it wants to hold onto its title. And if history is any indication, it will.
Last year, Don Bosco averaged 16:44 when it won the Non-Public A title and then dropped a 16:25 a week later at the M of C.
``They are a very strong team and we know we’ll have to run our best to win and we’re confident we will just like we did last year,’’ said Don Bosco senior Rob Molke.
Both teams have very strong 1-2 punches up front. West Windsor North has the Rosa twins, Jim and Joe, and Don Bosco counters with Molke and senior Leighton Spencer. But this race figures to come right down to the No. 5 runners.
``They have two guys that run well up front and Leighton and I will try to stay with them,’’ said the Syracuse-bound Molke. ``But that’s not where this race will be won. I feel there won’t be much more than a 5-10 point advantage for either team after the second runners, so I think it’ll be a battle of the packs.’’
Joe Rosa agreed.
``I think the four and five guys will be the key,’’ said Rosa, one of the individual favorites after running 15:51 to take third in Group 3. ``If those guys are clicking then we should have a very good race.’’
There’s also a chance this race could produce a new course record team average. The record of 16:15.6 was set in 2005 by Christian Brothers Academy.
The Holmdel personal bests for West Windsor North’s top five are 15:38 for Joe Rosa, 16:01 for Jim Rosa, 16:32 for both Tyler Corkedale and Ryan Sleeper, and 16:43 for Jon Squeri. That comes to an average of 16:17.
``I think we can make a run at it, but that’s secondary,’’ said Joe Rosa, who ran a Holmdel sophomore course record average of 15:38 at the Shore Coaches Invitational on Oct. 4. ``The most important thing is winning.’’
Lineups for the top four teams
Don Bosco Prep
Coach: Kevin Kilduff
Leighton Spencer, Sr.
Rob Molke, Sr.
Rafael Vargas, Jr.
Howard Rosas, Jr.
Michael Belgiovine, Jr.
Brendan Offer, Sr.
Erik Lapinski, So.
West Windsor-Plainsboro North
Coach: Brian Gould
Joe Rosa, So.
Jim Rosa, So.
Tyler Corkedale, Sr.
Jon Squeri, Jr.
Anthony Lee, Sr.
Ryan Sleeper, Sr.
Stephen Ellwood, Sr.
Coach: Nick Baker
Jon Vitez, Jr.
Colin Baker, Jr.
Ben Potts, Jr.
Matt Nussbaum, Soph.
Ray Schlitt, Jr.
David Twitchell, Jr.
Brian Jacobs, Soph.
Coach: Tom Heath
Mike Mazzaccaro, Soph.
Dennis Smith, Sr.
Dan Bailey, Jr.
Dan Mykityshyn, Soph.
Mark Lee, Jr.
Brendan Swan, Sr.
Colin Johnson, Jr.
Here is the list of the 20 boys teams in the field: Don Bosco Prep, West Windsor-Plainsboro North, Haddonfield, Christian Brothers, Pope John, Old Bridge, Cherokee, Southern, West Windsor-Plainsboro South, Ridgewood, Morris Hills, Mendham, Cinnaminson, Summit, Haddon Township, Haddon Heights, Metuchen, Roselle Catholic, Pingry and St. Rose.