Bernie Magee Recap - Special to NJRunners.com
While the established stars all put on a great show at Saturday’s 33rd NJCTC Bernie Magee Class Championships, some runners that don’t get a whole lot of publicity also grabbed some glory with breakthrough performances at historic Warinanco Park in Elizabeth.
The headliners, Mackenzie Barry of Mendham, Marisa Ruskan of Bridgewater-Raritan, Eve Glasergreen of North Hunterdon and Rob Napolitano of Red Bank Catholic all threw down great times in winning their respective races. Barry had the time girls time of the day (18:44.3) in the girls Division race. Napolitano opened his season with the fastest boys time, 16:41.2 in the Senior Division.
But runners like Leland Jones of Summit, David Mugavero of North Hunterdon, Shayne McNally of Red Bank Catholic, Jordan Price of New Providence, and David Gray of Franklin all opened plenty of eyes as well on a day that saw a meet record 70 teams compete in ideal conditions.
Neither Jones or Mugavero were favored to win their races and both were squaring off with runners they lost to at this meet a year ago. But things were different this time around.
In a duel between two of the state’s top sophomores, Jones and Paul Ehmann of Mendham were shoulder-to-shoulder for the first two miles of the 3.25-mile race, splitting 5:10 for each mile. But about a quarter mile past the 2-mile mark, Jones got a small gap and then opened up a 15 meter lead with a half mile left. Jones went on to win in 16:43.2, the second fastest time of the day and a 51 second PR on the course.
``I know how strong of a runner Paul is and that it would be a tough race to win,’’ said Jones. `` When we got to two miles I told myself that I wasn’t going to win this if it came down to the track (the last 400 of the race). So I started to make a surge and pushed it in the part of the course they call ``death valley’’. I was able to get ahead a little and just ran it in with everything I had. I wanted to get under 17, so to go 16:43 and win makes this even better.’’
Mugavero took the line as the underdog in the boys junior race. Justin Naselli of Mendham, the sophomore champ last year, and the Junior/Senior winner at Roxbury last week, was the favorite. But Mugavero ran very smart and aggressive to win the first cross-country race cof his career. Mugavero led at the mile in 5:08 and two miles in 10:25 on his way to victory in 16:54.0, his best ever at Warinanco. Naselli, stung by a bee just before the race started, wound up seventh.
``I was looking for him (Naselli) in the first mile, but I didn’t see him so I had to just kind of run my own race,’’ said Mugavero. ``I am not used to leading, but I was trying not to think about that and just run smart and hard.’’
Mugavero said the thrill of victory felt pretty sweet. `` To win a race for the first time is a great feeling,’’ said Mugavero. `` I was second at this meet last year in the sophomore race, so it makes it that much better to come back finish first this year.’’
The freshman races (3,600 meters) gave a glimpse at some potential future stars. Price scored a decisive win in the boys Divison 2 race (12:17.1), Gray won the boys Division 1 race in 14:41.1, and McNally used a big late kick to outsprint Cassandra Harasts of Montville to capture the girls race, 12:59.2 to 14:00.2.
Price is following in the footsteps of his brother Everett, a star runner at New Providence who is now a now a freshman at Princeton). ``Ever since fourth grade I’ve been inspired to run by my brother,’’ said Price. ``I’ve been pushing myself hard and have some big goals. My biggest is to get under 17 at Holmdel this season.’’
Now for the big names.
Barry continued her torrid start to the season by winning the girls junior race by a quarter mile. Barry also won the Junior/Senior race at Roxbury last week.``It’s kind of hard to push yourself when no one is around you,’’ Barry said of the final mile. ``But I’m happy with what I ran since it’s my best time here.’’
Meanwhile, Napolitano let Andrew Tedeschi of Montville handle the pace setting for the first mile (5:09) before taking over with a 5:02 second mile in the boys Senior Division race."About 400 past the mile mark I got the word from my coach to open it up, so I started rolling there,’’ said Napolitano. "Once I felt like I was in control at the end, I just kind of coasted.
Napolitano said it felt good to just get out and race. ``It felt good to get my first race in,’’ said Napolitano. "I wasn’t worried about time. I just wanted to get the win.’’
In the girls Senior Division, Ruskan reversed her loss to Mendham’s Abby Seel at the Roxbury meet by using a big urge over the final 600 to defeat Seel, 18:50.0 to 19:10.4. Ruskan, a Nike National finalist last year, and Seel went on a recruiting trip together to Richmond last weekend.
The girls Sophomore Division was a tight race early, but then Glasergreene dropped a 5:30 second mile to get away from Brittany Gibson of McNair on the way to a 63 second win in 19:02.3.
As for the team champions, the Magee meet uses a unique scoring method to crown its overall team champions. It takes the places from the top three finishers from each team in the sophomore, junior and senior races and combines them to get a total. When the numbers were added, the Mendham boys and Rumson girls were victorious.
But the true measurement of determining the best team performances of the meet is the merged results (Merged Results on Meet Page). When those were calculated, the South Brunswick boys and RBC girls were on top.
According to the merge, the South Brunswick boys edged Mendham, 119-128, and the RBC girls beat North Hunterdon, 97-112.