Devin Hart of Point Pleasant Boro and Fahd Nasser of McNair made history, Jack Stanley was a surprise winner, and Brian Hill of CBA, Will Hare of Princeton, and John Spinelli of Mater Dei all captured titles under chilly conditions at Saturday's NJSIAA Group Championships at Holmdel Park.
Hart, who won the Meet of Champions 3,200 as a sophomore last spring, was able to get a small gap near the tennis courts and then pounded his way through the back woods on the way to a sizzling victory in 15:34, the top time of the day, No. 20 in course history and a new record for an Ocean County runner. The UPenn-bound Romero was second in 15:41, the 2nd fastest of the day and tied for No. 41 in course history.
Hart, who was second last year and is the first state XC champ from Point Boro, broke the Ocean County record for Holmdel Park that was shared by Pete Hess of Toms River North (15:37 in 2002) and Kyle Kroon of Toms River South (15:37 in 2013).
Hart, undefeated this season, said his goal for the Meet of Champions next Saturday at Holmdel Park is sub 15:20. That would put alongside some legends of the sport as only five runners have ever gone that fast at Holmdel Park-Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep (14:53 in 2011), Joe Rosa of West Windsor North (14:56 in 2009), Jim Rosa of West Windsor North (15:15 in 2009), Craig Forys of Colts Neck (15:16 in 2006), and Jason DiJoseph of Paul VI (15:17 in 1988).
Hart and Romero were the only two runners to go under 16 on the day.
Senior Will Hare of Princeton narrowly missed going under 16 for the first time at Holmdel as he ran 16:01 to win the Group 4 race. The UPenn-bound Hare is Princeton's first Group 4 champ, is the first boy from his school to win a state XC title since Tom Patrick captured Group 2 in 1980, and he's just the third champ ever from his school.
Hare said after his race that he has a lot more in him and feels he can contend with Hart for the title at the M of C next week.
Junior Jack Stanley of Mendham, who led his team to the state Group 3 title, was the only upset winner of the day as he ran a big Holmdel PR of 16:01 to win the Group 3 race. Stanley reversed his loss last week in the N.J. Sec. 2 race when Teddy Meredith of Hopewell Valley edged him. Meredith was fourth in 16:11.
Senior Fahd Nasser made history in Group 1 when he became the first state champion ever from McNair with his winning time of 16:15 as he matched his Holmdel PR and held off Drew Maher of Shore (16:19) for the win.
CBA senior Brian Hill, who has been so close to winning a state title in the past, finally got his first state championship by winning the Non-Public A race in 16:05, just off his Holmdel PR of 16:02, to lead the Colts to its state record 28th title, and 7th in the past 8 years. Hill, the 13th runner from CBA to win a state XC title, was second in the 3,200 at the Non-Public A Championships both indoors and outdoors as a junior.
In the Non-Public A race, senior John Spinelli of Mater Dei, fifth last year, won his first state title in decisive fashion in 16:28, just off his Holmdel PR. Spinelli, who won by 14 seconds, led Mater Dei to its first state title in 10 years and became the first Mater Dei boy to win a state XC title since Rob Dobson in 1996.