The Race to Portland Begins
CBA Opens @ Bowdoin Classic
Special to NJRunners.com
Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls NY is the site of Saturday's aptly named Bowdoin XC Classic. It is also the home of the NXN Northeast Regional Qualifier. It is here that, along with a numner of Jerser squads, Christian Brothers Academy will begin the road that hopefully leads to Portland Oregon in December.
Our special correspondent brings you a preview of what to look for
This meet is the real beginning to what the Colts hope will be another "Path to Portland" as they seek to become the first boys team to ever win two national titles. But there are a lot of races and a lot of miles between Lincroft and Oregon, beginning with Saturday’s race, which will be run on the rugged layout that also serves as the course for the Nike Northeast Regional Championships in November.
Senior Jack Boyle, one of the main cogs that ignites the front of CBA’s attack, said his team is pretty pumped to get the season going. ``I'm really looking forward to Saturday, as is the rest of the team,’’ said Boyle, the 3,200 champ at the Meet of Champions last spring. ``We are just ready to finally race. ``I think some people will be surprised at the depth that we have now in underclassmen. We are ready to show everyone what we are capable of running.’’
Coach Tom Heath will send Boyle, senior Billy Bragg, junior Mike McClemens, senior Aaron (Sandy) Liberatore, and juniors Tom Rooney, Fran Bogan and Drew Reda to the starting line. ``We are just looking to run for the win,’’ said Heath. ``Whatever the times and places are is fine as long as we win. But I will say that this team is way stronger at this point in the season than the team last year. While that’s great, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win.’’
CBA will face a strong field in the Division 1 race at 10:30 a.m., which features the second and third place finishers from the Nike NE Regional last year- runner-up Pembroke of Massachusetts and third-place Westfield- as well as US #25 Northport of New York, and N.J. power Holmdel. Southern Regional will also be on the line for this race.
``Since this is our first race of the season we are simply trying to run as fast as we can at this point in the season,’’ said Boyle. ``At this meet we are focusing more on going for the win in what looks like a pretty strong field and getting used to the regional course. As we know from past experience, running this course twice can really help lower our times when it counts at regionals. For me personally, the pack is so strong that we may have four or five guys in the lead pack, so whatever it takes to get a low stick I know each of us will do whatever they can. But we know after the race we are going to compare ourselves to last year just to see where at this point in the year and our training compared to last year. It would be nice to know that after this race that we are actually ahead of last year because that will just give us more confidence in our potential.’’
What kind of potential does this CBA team have? ``I feel like we really do have a chance to be as good if not better than last year just because of the improvements that many of us have made since last year,’’ said Boyle. ``The depth that has been created over the spring and summer has also added to our potential. Our main goal is to repeat, and if that means that we are better than last year, then we'll take it.’’
``I can tell you that Bragg, Sandy (Liberatore) and myself have thought about it all summer because after last track season Coach Heath told us this was our team, and as seniors this was our national championship (last year was Kelly's, Gorman's, Lippert's, and Zapcic's),’’ said Boyle. ``After that statement we decided that was the way we wanted it to be. We feel like winning two straight national titles would be the best legacy we could leave at CBA. I think that after the summer we had and the improvements we have seen, winning nationals is a definite possibility, we just have to keep training at the same level and make sure we build up and peak at the right time.’’
Westfield, which has just two returning runners this season (Matt Luppino and Kevin Smith) from its state Group 4 championship and Nike Nationals qualifying team, is focused on gaining experience on the course and showing that it can once again be a major factor at the regional championships.
``Last year this race was an important step toward reaching our long term goals for the season,’’ said Westfield coach Chris Tafelski. ``With five guys this year who are new to the varsity , the key is to gain experience racing at this level.’’
Westfield will send Luppino, Smith, Jason Colasanti, Phil Edwards, Rob Marczydlo, Mike Reilly and Dan Luzzi. Luppino said his team is hoping this race can have the same impact on the rest of the season that the race last year did. ``It's important for us to get some confidence now for when we come back when it really counts,’’ said Luppino. ``Last year we ran this meet and had a pretty solid race for varsity and some JV guys who later made our top 12. We didn't do anything great, but we proved to ourselves that we could run with good teams like CBA and Don Bosco. When it came to regionals after peaking through Groups and MOCs, we knew we had the course experience and great fitness, so we attacked and did very well.’’
Luppino said the Blue Devils do want to prove something in this race. ``We are really looking to show that we can still run at a high level with the other N.J. teams even though we lost a lot of people from last year,’’ said Luppino. ``We would really like to beat all the other N.J. teams there besides CBA, and perhaps see how we stand against Pembroke, who beat us at regionals last year. As for time, we just want to be competitive and high up in the race with a close team average. Expect some guys below 17 and pushing towards the front of the pack.’’
Holmdel should be right in the thick of things with Westfield, Northport, and Pembroke for the top spot behind CBA. The starting seven for the Hornets will be Jack Baisley, Eric Williams, Aaron Barlev, Andrew Tsai, Dan Barlev, Nick DeMaio and James Marzano.
``This race is part of our journey,‘’ said Holmdel coach Sean McCafferty. ``Our goal is to run as a team as well as we can on September 22. We simply want to get the most out of our fitness levels on this day. We can only control what we do.’’
In the Division 2 race will be perennial NJ Top Ten Ridgewood and the one Varsity Girls race will have a dangerous Ridgewood team and Marlboro HS