Some key highlights that caught our eye from the first week of competition. Items are listed in no particular order.
Cherokee Boys Have Depth
Cherokee boys ran very well at the Cherokee Challenge despite missing their number one. Ethan Wechsler did not open his season in week 1, college visit, but his teammates stepped up to the challenge on their home 3200m course.
They averaged 10:09 among their top five runners leading the MileSplit merge with a point total of 108, ahead of second ranked West Windsor Plainsboro North at 116 points. They also split 26 seconds between their top five led by Tyler Jackson at 10:02, Chase Miller 10:04, Brett Shea 10:06, Nico Grilli 10:07, and Michael Gavio 10:28. Jackson's time was the fifth fastest of the entire meet on Saturday.
Jennings is Ready for Tough Racing
Mendham's Jack Jennings entered this season as New Jersey's top returner at Holmdel Park and is among the favorites to compete for the Meet of Champions title. That kind of preseason build up comes with plenty of pressure and the best way to tackle that is to go out and perform right away - Jennings did just that with his first race of the season.
In a come from behind victory Jennings made a hard charge for the leader, Owen Johnson of Calvert Hall College HS (MD), and nipped him at the line in what could very well be the closest finish of the fall by season's end. Both were recorded at 15:46 separated by .2 on the official results.
This is big in multiple ways.
One, it came against some stiff competition with Owen Johnson being one of Maryland's very best and Virginia's powerhouse Loudoun Valley, who averaged 16:01 as a team, who were also biting at their heals.
Two, this is the type of gritty racing that we've seen required multiple times over the past year en route to a Meet of Champions title. Jennings will be in competition with Liam Murphy, who won his own MOCs title in a mad dash to the line, and other very capable runners this fall in what could be tight racing over multiple weeks of the state tournament. Knowing you have this kind of grit in the tank to get a win is only a good thing.
McGill and Lorsbach Had an Early Statement Race
Voorhees' junior Emma McGill took home the leading time at the Roxbury Invitational this past Saturday and she did so while out running some tough competition. With an 18:12 at Horseshoe Lake Park in Roxbury, NJ McGill led a Fastest Four race that including names like Miranda Lorsbach, 18:18, Daisy Liljegren, 18:20, who was fourth at the Meet of Champions last year, and Madison Orlins, 18:57.
McGill is coming off two top ten finishes in Meet of Champions 1600m races during indoor and outdoor. She was eighteenth at the cross country Meet of Champions last fall and could be in store for some more prestigious wins as this season continues.
Miranda Lorsbach, a sophomore out of Kent Place, was 11th at last years Non-Public A Championships and followed that up with Meet of Champions qualification both indoor and outdoor on the track. Her second place performance this past weekend came at 18:18 just six seconds behind McGill in a strong season opening run. Lorsbach is another young star to look out for.
Luke Johnson Couldn't Have Had a Better Start
Coming over from one sport to another for your senior year can be a tough decision for anyone. But at least for Luke Johnson the results from his first career cross country race should help any nerves. At the Cherokee Challenge the West Windsor Plainsboro North senior led the meet winning the senior division with a time of 9:33, just seven seconds off the 3200m course record.
He still has to hit the 5K course in a race environment but like for many who were breaking the rust off in week 1 on the shorter two mile Cherokee course it was a great introduction to the season.
Pair that with a big day from his NJ#10 ranked team as a whole finishing second in the MileSplit merge along with taking home two class wins and it looks like a fun season ahead.
NJ#6 Red Bank Catholic Just Became Even Better
Back to the Cherokee Challenge where we saw class racing shine some light on the future of the state. The Red Bank Catholic girls came into the season looking strong and now have some great incoming talent to add to the mix.
The freshman race went to RBC's Cate DeSousa with a 12:02, the eighth fastest time of the meet and RBC's #2 runner on the day. As heard in the interview above, DeSousa has picked up some great racing experience at the middle school level running unattached and looks forward to training the competing with a team.
With the future bright for the Caseys their senior Maddy Kopec clocked the fastest time of the meet at 11:33 winning the senior division by nine seconds. RBC averaged 12:15 among their top five in the merge and led with a score of 86 over second ranked Allentown at 107.
Because there is always more to cover.
Ridge boys and Jackson Barna had a great start at the Season Opener read more - Recap. They scored a 1-3-5-11 finish in the Fastest Four race to defeat North Hunterdon 19 to 61.
Allentown sophomore Andie Murray had the third fastest overall performance at the Cherokee Challenge with her grade 10 division winning 11:46. She doesn't run outdoor but was ninth at the indoor Meet of Champions in the 800m.
Caroline Mehlhorn won her second straight Blue Division race at PTXC to open her season, last year this run put her on the map as a freshman and she went on to finish fifth at the Meet of Champions. With yet another strong performance on opening weekend we could see even bigger things ahead for this Montgomery sophomore.
Even when you aren't in the top five, run like you are. Our first week of the season and we already had an invitational win decided by extra runners. Oak Knoll's sixth runner Maura Ferrigno sealed the win for her team over Pingry, who was missing Nicole Vanasse, at the Newark Academy Invitational when she finished 19th running 23:46. Every. Place. Counts.
At the Season Opener Invitational Clifton's Jacob Heredia and Villa Walsh Academy's Sarah Hanifin both posted 10+ second meet leading performances. Read More - Recap