Loveys, Vanasse, Multiple Teams Repeat at Groups

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Abby Loveys tore up the course on the way to a Group 4 record and second straight title, and NJ #1 North Hunterdon, NJ #8 Metuchen, Colts Neck, and Nicole Vanasse also repeated as champions at Saturday's NJSIAA Group Championships at Holmdel Park.

In other highlights, Alexa Westley of Warren Hills, Corina Vidal of Henry Hudson, Corinne Barney of Indian Hills, and Trinity Hall all made history, Red Bank Catholic scored an upset victory, and Sarah Hanifin rolled to a title.      

Loveys, the 1,600 winner at the Meet of Champions last spring, was the individual star of the day as the senior at Randolph continued her undefeated season with another blazing performance as she dropped a Group 4 meet record 17:52, No. 11 in course history, to win the Group 4 title. The previous Group 4 record of 17:55 was set in 2010 by Megan Lacy of Cherokee

Loveys, who broke the Garret Mountain course record when she ran 17:41 to win the NJ. Sec. 1 title last week, could make a run at the NJ record at Holmdel Park (17:28 by Megan Venables of Highland in 2010) at the Meet of Champions this Saturday.

The top team performance of the meet came from North Hunterdon, which packed its five scoring runners in the top 25 and averaged 19:18 on the way to a 60-91 victory over NJ #2 Ridgewood. North Hunterdon, led by the potent 1-2 punch of Chloe Gonzalez, second in 18:23, and Emily Nugent, third in 18:34, has now won nine state titles, tied for the fourth most in state history.

North Hunterdon will head into the M of C race favored to win for the second straight year and eighth time overall.

The team with the most girls state titles is Red Bank Catholic, which upset defending champion and NJ #10 Union Catholic in the Non-Public A race to capture its 20th state championship. 

RBC, with five underclassmen doing its scoring, put five runners in front of Union Catholic's No. 3 and received a huge PR from Gioanna Curci to outscore UC, 55-70. Curci finished 14th in 20:47, a 35 second Holmdel Park PR. This was just the second race of the season for Curci, who missed most of the year with a stress reaction. 

In the Group 3 team race, Colts Neck won its third straight title and sixth overall with a 55-76 victory over NJ #6 Mendham. Colts Neck went 2-4-12-17-20 and averaged 20:00.

Metuchen, which won the previous two state titles in Group 1, had no problem stepping up to Group 2 for the first time since 1976 as the Bulldogs defeated NJ #5 Holmdel, 64-74, to capture the Group 2 championship.

Metuchen trailed Holmdel by one point after each team had four runners across the line, bu Metuchen No. 5 runner, sophomore Bridget Thomas, finished 11 spots ahead of Holmdel's No. 5 to clinch the title for the Bulldogs.    

In the Group 1 race, Mountain Lakes outscored runner-up McNair, 71-88, to win its first title since 2011 and its fifth overall. McNair's runner-up finish secured the team a spot in the M of C for the first time in school history.  

Trinity Hall, a program on the rise in recent years, made its biggest breakthrough by winning the Non-Public B championship, 54-96 over Villa Walsh. Villa Walsh was seeking its fifth straight title.   

Individually, Vanasse, a junior at Pingry, won her second straight Non-Public A title in 18:31. Vanasse, the indoor M of C 3,200 winner last winter, will have a chance next year to become just the 11th girl in state history to win three straight state XC titles.   

Westley, Vidal, and Barney all made history by becoming the first state XC champions (boy or girl) from their schools.

The Wisconsin-bound Westley, who has won two outdoor M of C titles in the 3,200, became the first state champ from her school when she crossed first in 18:09. Westley was seventh in 2016 and fifth last year.

Vidal, a junior who ran 19:27 to win Group 1, and Barney, a junior who ran 19:09 to win Group 2, also became the first runners from their schools to win state XC title.   

Sarah Hanifin of Villa Walsh, third as a freshman last year, continued her breakout sophomore season by winning the Non-Public B race in 19:27, a Holmdel PR by 19 seconds. Hanifin is the fifth state XC champ from Villa Walsh and the fourth since 2012.