New Jersey Weekly Roundup
Reviewing Week of Oct. 15; Previewing Week of Oct. 22
By Ed Grant

The big news of the past week of mostly local action in New Jersey was the return to action of Ashley Cromartie of Rixbury which immediately made the defending all-group champions the favorites to take top honora again this season.

Cromartie finished ninth in the Iron Division of the Iron Hills Conference meet on Tuesday at Freedom Park in Randolph as Roxbury reversed two previous losses to Morris Knolls in resounding fashion, 24-45. Jenn Ennis won the race for the Gaels by 35 yards from Lauren Gregory of Knolls in 18:33 and the team averaged 19:08 on a course which rates 35-40 seconds faster than the state championship layout at Holmdel County Park.

On the same day, Colts Neck took its first Monmouth County title from Howell at Holmdel, 44-75, with Ashley Higginson and Briana Jackucewicz finishing in a virtual dead-heat at 18:58, almost a minute ahead of Janel Parker of Freehold Twp. The team average of 19:51 is the best recorded at Holmdel this season and would have been even faster had the leaders gone all out. But the 83-second gap between Colts Neck’s second and third finishers, if repeated at the all-group meet might allow the entire Roxbury team to get between them.

It was not only Cromartie’s race that boosted the Roxbury chances, but also the continued improvement of sophomore Lauren Penney who finished fourth at Freedom Park in 19:01. Penney gives the Gaels the kind of 1-2-3 punch they enjoyed a year ago when Ali Caruana---who recently won the Met Collegiate meet for Rutgers---teamed with Ennis and Kris Stevens, who finished third on Tuesday in 18:48.

Another team that showed a strengthened lineup last week was Pope John, which won the girls’ A race at the Fordham Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park, 69-82, over Oakton, Va. Lara Heigis won the race for the Lions by 150 yards over Vanessa Wright of Haddonfield in 14:49, but just as important was the performance of transfer student Lauren Bariexca, who made her first appearance for the Lions, placing 8th in 15:51. The team averaged 15:52, slightly faster than Colts Neck had registered a week earlier in the dreadful conditions at the Manhattan Invitational.

The Fordham meet was a big one for New Jersey girls. Bridgewater took the B race behind a second-place finish by Rachel Mangean. Nicole Briggs won that one for Haddon Heights as both girls clocked 16:27. Kim Standridge of Randolph took the C race in 16:35. Haddonfield might well have won the A race had not its No. 2 runner, Colleen Brogan, not been absent on a college visit.

At the Brown Invitational, Emily Sherrard and Megan Fitzpatrick placed 2-3 in one of the class races in 19:37 and 19:41 as Hopewell Valley finished second to Shoreham-Wading River, 80-91.

Blair Sullivan led Mendham to a 34-47 win over Chatham in the Hills Division of the Iron Hills meet, finishing 150 yards ahead of Amanda Hefferan of Parsippany in 19:04. In Wednesday’s Somerset County meet at Pleasant Valley Park, Eleonora Spinazzi and Amanda Herrman of Montgomery finished 1-2 in 18:54 and 18:59, but Ridge’s balance prevailed in the team battle, 59-71, over Bridgewater. On Thursday, Laura Gallo of Cranford won the Watchung Conference title again in 19:36 and the Cougars easily took team honors.

Christian Brothers had a busy week with a trip to the Brown Invitational on Saturday for a 76-132 rout of Saratoga and a return to Holmdel on Tuesday for a 30-95 runaway over Red Bank Catholic for a fourth straight title (36th all told). At Brown, Chris Horel finished third in 16:00, Kevin Rogers 9th in 16:24 and Greg Leach 11th in 16:32. The Colts ran as a team in the Monmouth, Leach leading a six-man parade in 4th place in 16:51. Justin Wheat returned earlier than expected from his recent injury, falling and finishing well back at Brown, but placing 14th at Holmdel in 17:21. Craig Forys of Colts Neck was a repeat individual winner in 16:02 over Owen Boyle of Manasquan.

Morris Hills, the other all-group contender, restricted its action to the Iron Hills meet where it ran away from the field, placing 2-3-4-5 in the Hills Division behind Ben Massam of Chatma, who picked up his fifth win of the season in 15:37. Brandon Rodkewitz led Morris Hills in 16:10 with fifth man Ryan Uhrynowich the fifth man across in 16:51. The Iron Division went to Liam Mulcahy of Morristown in 16:51, but the Colonials lost the title to Roxbury on a sixth-man count as both clubs totaled 53 with their first five.

New Jersey boys also enjoyed a good day at the Fordham meet. Joe Ennis of West Windsor-Plainsboro South, half-brother to Jenn, led the Garden State contingent in the Eastern title race, placing 5th in 12:59. Anthony LaMastro of Pope John was 8th in 13:02 and teammate Jeremy Scheid 15th in 13:15.

St. Benedict’s soph Brandon Jarrett of St. Benedict’s had his third win of the year in the B race in 12:54 with Matt Mitchell of Haddon Heights 2nd in 13:01 and Mike Burke of Haddonfield leading his team to a second-place finish in 5th at 13:19. Brian Guterl of Union Catholic took the C race in 13:21 and Jay Rodgers led Haddon Twp to victory in D, taking the race from South Jersey rival James Bulnicky of Maple Shade in 13:24.

New York teams dominated the Ridgewood Invitational, which was transferred to Garret Mountain because of excess water at the usual Veterans Park site. Warwick Valley won both team titles, even though Aislinn Ryan took the day off. Matt Ciambriello of Old Bridge provided a bright moment for the home state when he won the boys’ race in 16:52, leading his team to a 2nd-place finish.

Jeff Perrella of Westfield tossed his hat into the all-group individual sweepstakes when he won the Watchung Conference in a record 15:53 on the dual meet course at Warinanco Park. He won by almost a minute from Joe McKenney of Cranford, who had beaten him in both conference and Union County races last year and also led a team victory. (The dual meet course is about 80 yards shorter than the championship course for which the record is a faster 15:28 by Mike Mykytok; it is used only for duel meets and the Watchung and Union County affairs).

Hillsboro won the Somerset County title, 40-72, over Ridge, with Ryan DiOrio of Bridgewater taking individual honors from Fred Irizarry of Hillsboro in 15:57.

Conference and county meets will not come thick and fast through the rest of October with the state meet due to begin with 32 sectional affairs---16 boys and 16 girls) on Nov. 5, plus the New Jersey Catholic Track Conference championships.

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