|2006 New Jersey Meet of Champions|
Group champions race at Holmdel Park for state titles
Nov 18, 2006 Holmdel Park
by John Nepolitan
John Nepolitan's Meet Report
Ed Grant's Meet Report
View the Gallery - photos by John Nepolitan and Stephen Camanto
Craig Forys 15:16 is new Holmdel Park course record - Danielle Tauro 17:47 and Colts Neck win girls race
|Boys - Colts Neck sr Craig Forys shaved 0.2 second off the Homdel Park course record (15:16.2 by Jason DeJoseph in 1988). Jackson 67 beat Don Bosco 135 for the team title.|
Girls - Southern Regional star Danielle Tauro and Colts Neck's Ashley Higginson battled neck and neck the entire way until Tauro gained a 3-second edge at the finish. Higginson led NTN Northeast region #5 Colts Neck to the team title with 80 points (Voorhees 146, Red Bank Catholic 159).
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The Colts Neck girls celebrate their MOC Championship. Photo John Nepolitan
It's Tauro, Colts Neck, Forys, and Jackson
by John Nepolitan
New Jersey State Cross Country Meet of Champs
Holmdel Park, Holmdel, NJ
November 18, 2006
Both races are 5000 meters
Boys Jason Di Joseph(Paul IV) 15:16 1988
Girls Janet Smith(North Edison) 17:35 1983
As soon as Craig Forys (Colts Neck) broke the long standing course record at the historic 2.5-mile Van Cortlandt Park layout at the Manhattan College Invitational, talk around the state of New Jersey centered on the possibility of the Michigan-bound runner taking down the Holmdel Park standard. A warm day and a too-ambitious 1st mile at last week’s State Group Championships took away that chance, leaving Forys with just one last shot at the mark.
Under near-perfect weather conditions and with a more reasonable opening mile (5:11) , Forys was set up for a run at the record. On a slight downhill approaching the mile, the defending champion surged ahead of Matt Ciambriello (Old Bridge), Doug Smith (Gill St Bernard) and Tom Poland (Delbarton) to pretty much assure the win – now the run for the record was on.
Approaching 1000 meters to go, Coach Jim Schlentz alerted Forys that he was right on record pace and so began a long sustained drive for the line and the mark. Cresting a small rise at the 3-mile point, and coming into view of the finish, Forys accelerated and noticeably shifted gears all the way to the finish to claim yet another course record, this time by a slim 2-tenths of a second. Forys joins a select group of five other runners who had repeated as All Group Individual Champions.
While Forys was involved in a runaway victory, the team battle was far from a one team affair as the final score would show. Out early, and establishing themselves toward the front of the huge field, was the state’s #2 ranked team for most of the season, Jackson Memorial. Tragedy almost seem to strike as #1 runner Kris Carle went down at the 800 meter point, but he quickly sprang up and turned what could have been a very bad day into a perfect example of team leadership, finishing 6th overall.
With a solid lead past the mile post, Jackson looked to maintain through the course’s signature hill, “the bowl,” then make one strong move between 3000 meters and 4000 meters to sew up the win. That they did, never allowing Don Bosco to get back in the race. As runners began to stream over the finish line it was clear that Jackson had ruled the day with 2 runners in before the #1 from Don Bosco and 4 runners in before Bosco had 2. Jackson claimed top honors with 67 points, ahead of Bosco (135) and Haddonfield (162), Ridge (164) and 2004 & 2005 Champions Christian Brothers Academy (181) rounding out the top 5.
Jackson, which had 6 of its 7 runners record course bests, posted a 5-man average of 16:36.5, which is believed to be among one of the 10 fastest ever run at Holmdel.
Jim Schlentz (Colts Neck Coach) – “When he (Craig Forys) came by the mile in 5:15, I did not think he had a shot at the record. But when he ran that second mile so fast, I told him with ¾ of a mile to go, ‘You are right on the record,’ and with a ½ mile to go ‘you’re ahead of it.’
“I didn’t want it to become a race where he had to think about it the whole way. I wanted it to be a race where he had to focus on it for a very short period of time. I told him with a half mile to go to use the little down hill to get to another rhythm.
“In the last race (State Group Championships on 11/11), we wanted to get an idea of what he could do going from the start. When he went down the hill right before the mile he was able to go right by them. So he knew he was strong on the downhill, and going down the hill into “the bowl,” he just used that to get away and get into a faster rhythm.
“The race plan was that if you felt that if you went through the mile, and it was slowing down, you could sit as long as you wanted. But sometime in the 2nd mile you had to decide that you were going to start to pick it up, and then try to pick it up more, and turn the screw harder and harder. The amazing thing about Craig is that nobody has a better sense of how his body is feeling. He just has the ability to focus in to make adjustments, whether it is a practice and he has had enough – like he only has 1 more 400 in him when there are 4 left in the workout.
“It has been one of the greatest seasons, but the bottom line is that it is going to be measured by what he does at nationals. From the start of the year, the focal point was not on this time here, but at making the nationals and getting a chance to see what he can do up at that level. This past Tuesday, we did a workout of 1 mile in 4:34, and then some 400s in 64, because we really cannot back down right now. There is still too much left.”
Craig Forys (Individual Champion) - “Coach told me on the flats that I had a shot, so I was thinking, ‘Now I have to go.’
“The first mile (5:16) felt great. At the 1st downhill, coming up to the mile point, I saw that I could run the downhills faster than them. So I said, ‘I’ll use this downhill (down into the bowl) to get away and make a gap and they never just never closed. Going out slower felt so much better that made all the difference.”
Steve Theabold (Jackson coach) –“At the mile mark, we were in real good shape. Kris Carle fell at the half mile mark, so that is why he was not up with the lead pack. But everybody else was about 10 seconds faster than where they were last week and we had a little separation on Don Bosco.
“At the 2 mile mark they kept it right there, and our goal was to make a move between 3k and 4k, and they all did. Last week we tried it and it didn’t work. This week we tried it and it worked. Ben Forrest came from way back and charged by a lot of people in the last 300-400 meters. He was really a big-time difference and ran, like, a 30 second pr.
“We knew that was going to be the difference right there, the #4, 5 and 6 guys. Besides Kris Carle. everybody ran a PR. This group of guys, since July 1st, they were dedicated and focused and they were pissed off from last week (when Jackson was upset by Old Bridge at the Group 4 Championships). Today they showed what they are capable of. This is a group of men and they proved that they are men today; they can fall down and not run well, and come back and prove to everybody that they are the best.”
While Ashley Higginson and her Colts Neck teammates were racing week after week through the 2006 season, hoping to earn a spot in the Nike Team Nationals field, Danielle Tauro (Southern Regional) was delaying her racing season. She waited to open up at the State Sectional and State Group Championships, making her All Groups title defense just her 3rd race of the season.
Tauro was not nursing an injury, but simply getting a late start as a result of her track season going so late after qualifying for the IAAF World Junior Championships in China this past summer. Tauro, the Nike Outdoor Nationals mile champion, quickly jumped to the front here and locked horns once again with Higginson in a battle for top individual honors.
In last week’s State Group championship, Higginson held onto Tauro until late in the race and was pulled to a Holmdel personal best in claiming 2nd in the Group 4 race. Today Higginson simply jumped on Tauro’s shoulder once again, hoping that her race sharpness would be able to catch Tauro. Through a first mile of 5:57, and a 2-mile split of 11:35, the two were neck and neck. But as the two runners approached the final 800, the wooded section before the finish, Tauro put on one last surge and was able to gap Higginson.
Down the final straight, Tauro glanced back a few times as Higginson gave one last charge, but the Michigan-bound Tauro would hold on for a 17:47 to 17:50 victory. Tauro’s winning time is the #3 performance ever recorded on the Holmdel 5000 meter layout (behind the course record of Smith and 17:40 performance of Michelle Rowen from 1982). Tauro now joins three other former NJ runners who claimed back to back state titles (4 other runners have won 3 straight championships) and can now turn her attention to improving on her Foot Locker Finals finish.
While the individual championship was in doubt until the later stages of the race, the team battle was never in doubt. A very strong 1-2punch of Higginson (1st in team score) and Brianna Jackucewicz (4th in team score) gave Colts Neck a solid base to build on. Through 3 runners, Colts Neck held a 10 point edge (20-30) over at-large qualifier Pope John XXIII (Sparta). But the superior depth of Colts Neck (Allie Flott-26th and Erin Donaghy-34th) was enough to secure an 80-146 victory over Voorhees, with Red Bank Catholic (159), 2-time defending champion Roxbury (167) and Pope John (168) rounding out the top 5.
Danielle Tauro (individual Champion) – “I think both Ashley (Higginson of Colts Neck) and I had the same thing in mind, so we were both pushing each other. She was right on me the whole time and I think we both decided to go for it.
“This is my third race and I pretty much have that race feel back. As far as training goes, we will start cutting down the workouts and start doing shorter, faster stuff, so I will start feeling even better. After cross country season, it will be back into the mile again. The mile is still my favorite event. Every year I do cross country, I feel stronger – and I feel better about it – but the mile is still the perfect fit for me.”
Jim Schlentz (Colts Neck coach) – “There is a good thing and a bad thing about Nike Team Nationals. The good is that it makes you train so much harder, but you almost don’t enjoy some of the things along the way, because you win a state championship, like last week, and it was warm and they didn’t run great times, and you lose track of that – that is the good and bad.
“What we had to do this week is re-focus and say the bottom line is we run well when we run against competition and not worry about times. So we said we had to focus on the fact that there are teams closing in on us and not think about other things. We were able to do that today – refocus on running against the competition or we were going to lose. I think our 3rd girl, Allison Donaghy, ran really, really well – 19:31, that is a PB by 13 seconds. She ran outstanding.”
Ed Grant preview -