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New Jersey Report

NJ legends on hand at Group Meet; Meet of Champs next

November 14, 2006

By Ed Grant


The past, the present and perhaps the future of New Jersey cross-country were all on hand last Saturday as Craig Forys of Colts Neck and Danielle Tauro of Southern Ocean Regional comfortably passed the second stage of a five-meet odyssey which they hope will end with victories at the Foot Locker Finals Dec. 9 in San Diego.

Among the spectators at the 88th annual group championships at Holmdel County Park were two legendary figures in the state’s track and field history: Jason DiJoseph (Paul VI), who set the course record in the 1988 Parochial A race, and Kevin Byrne (Paramus Catholic), who won the 1975 all-group race and, in 1977, ran a pair of 4:08.0 miles in the high school invitationals at the Phiadelphia Spectrum and in the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden.

DiJoseph was there to watch Forys challenge his 15:16.2 mark, a challenge which failed, partly due to the unseasonably warm (70 degree) weather and mostly due to the lack of competition. His main rivals in this Saturday’s all-group race, Doug Smith of Gill-St. Bernard’s and Tom Poland of Delbarton, were busy winning their own races by wide margins, Smith setting a sophomore class record of 15:48 in Parochial B and Poland taking Parochial A in 16:02. Forys ran 15:30.

The other individual winners were Chris Southwick of Voorhees at 16:13 in Gr. III, James Grimes of Chatham at 16:11 in Gr. II and Michael Soroko of Kinnelon at 16:50 in Gr. I. Grimes succeeded his former teammate, Ben Massam, who won in 2004 and 2005 and, afterwards, fielded a call of congratulations from 1991 Footlocker winner Brendan Heffernan of North Hunterdon, whose father Frank is the Chatham coach. (Forys' time moved Heffernan back to No. 4 on the Holmdel all-time list.

There were no surprises in this list of winners, but a big one in the team contests as Old Bridge reversed its sectional loss to Jackson, defeating Ridgewood, 95-104. Jackson, however, will be a co-favorite this weekend with Parochial A winner Don Bosco, since its loss was entirely due to a mid-race incident which saw its No. 2 runner Ryan Fenimore suffer a digestive attack which caused him to limp home three minutes behind his usual Holmdel average of 16:00-plus.

Don Bosco ended an 11-year reign by Christian Brothers with a healthy 51-140 margin and was the only team to average under 17:00, though Jackson would have easily done so with Fenimore in his normal form. Ridge took Gr. III, 105-181, led by Alex Brenner in seventh place, Haddonfield topped neighbor Haddon Twp, 74-121, in Gr. II with Mike Burke in fourth place and Pennsville defeated Kinnelon, 58-96, in Gr. I with Mark Kearney placing third. Pingry’s Parochial B victory over Roselle Catholic was a slight upset and made up for Chris Scavone’s loss of his individual title, as he placed third to Smith and Andrew Hanko of Trinity Christian, both of whom were playing soccer last year.

Forys and Smith were the only ones to beat 16:00 on the day, though Matt Ciambriello of Old Bridge and Christian Gonzalez of Franklin were only a few ticks away in the Gr. IV race. Given a drop of 10 degrees or so this weekend, things should be different this weekend.

Tauro obviously was running under wraps as she defended her Gr. IV title by 20 yards over Ashley Higginson of Colts Neck, also a prime candidate for the Foot Locker finals. Danielle looked over her shoulder several times as she eased into the finish line in 18:06 in only her second race of the season. This was by far the best winning time of the day; in fact, seven of the nine sub 19:00 times came from this race.

The number should have been 10, but Lauren Penney of Roxbury tripped over a tree root just as the field was about to leave the woods and never finished. At the time of her mishap, she was running with Briana Jackucewicz of Colts Neck who finished fifth in 18:53 behind Amanda Marino of Jackson and Theresa Cattuna of Cherry Hill East. The others under 19:00 in this race were sophs Katie Kellner of West Windsor-Plainsboro South and Tori Berard of Morris Knolls

Undefeated Melanie Thompson led her Voorhees team to a 66-85 victory over Ridge in a repeat of their sectional duel, winning the race by 50 yards from Laura Gallo of Cranford in 18:44. Abby Hinds of Mountain Lakes, who won in Gr. I a year ago, took Gr. II this time in 19:33 and Lindsay Pedersen of Waldwick scored the only individual upset of the day in Gr. I in 20:39.

Lara Heigis of Pope John joined Tauro and Hinds as a repeat winner, as she led a 1-2-3 finish for her team in 19:22, yielding individual glory to bring teammates Lauren Bariexca and Sarah Cariati home well under 20:00. Heigis, who finished sixth in last year’s all-group race in 18:22, should be running with the top group this weekend. In Parochial B, Liz Campbell of Mt. St. Mary’s repeated her New Jersey Catholic Track Conference defeat of defending champ Marie Wash of Mater Dei, this time for the gold in 19:21.

Missing people played a big role in the girls’ meet. Roxbury, for example, had to scramble for a wild card berth in the all-group meet thanks to Penney’s mishap; with her in the top 10, the defending all-group champs would have edged Cherry Hill East for second in Gr. IV, still well behind Colts Neck, which averaged 19:39.

The Parochial A race saw favored Msgr. Donovan go to the post minus its top runner, Molly Kempton, who came up with a stress fracture after finishing fourth behind Heigis, Campbell and Walsh in the NJCTC meet, and wound up losing to first-time winner Holy Angels, 69-71. This was an extremely close race with Red Bank Catholic taking third from Pope John at 73 points on a sixth-girl comparison. The Lions, however, easily qualified as a wild card, having the fourth-fastest average of the entire day at 20:27.

The other team winners were Haddonfield, repeating easily in Gr. II , 62-120, over New Providence behind a ninth-place finish by frosh Marielle Hall (the rest of the team are sophomores); Metuchen in Gr. I, 92-141, over Verona; and Wildwood Catholic, another first-time winner, 72-77, over defending Pingry in possibly the biggest surprise of the day. It is only the second time a Cape May County team has won a group title; Pennsville’s win was a first for Salem County.



BOYS                                                GIRLS

1. Don Bosco                                     1. Colts Neck

2. Jackson                                          2. Msgr. Donovan

3. Old Bridge                                      3. Roxbury

4. Pope John                                      4. Cherry Hill East

5. Haddonfield                                    5. Holy Angels

6. Ridgewood                                      6. Voorhees

7. Christian Brothers                          7. Red Bank Catholic

8. Ridge                                                 8. Pope John

9. St. Benedict’s                                   9. Ridge

10. Phillipsburg                                   10. Lenape

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