Kevin Antczak's dramatic kick to win a thrilling and red shot showdown with XC rookie Luke Johnson put an exclamation point on one of the most memorable meets in the 41-year history of the Shore Coaches Invitational on Saturday at Holmdel Park.
Antczak, a senior at Mainland, was in third place with a mile to go in the boys A Division race, but he made a huge push to get within striking distance of Johnson, a senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro North, setting stage for an epic finish. Antczak still trailed coming out of the woods, but he was finally able to get past Johnson with about 20 meters left on his way to a record breaking victory and huge Holmdel PR of 15:32.
Antczak and Johnson, also timed in 15:32, shared the top time of day with Allentown senior Liam Murphy as six runners broke 16 minutes on the day.
Murphy, a Foot Locker National XC finalist last year, had more left in the tank when he came across the line to win the C Division race in 15:32. Antczak, Murphy, and Johnson are now tied for No. 17 all-time at Holmdel, the state championship layout.
Sub 15:20 at Holmdel next month is certainly within reach for Murphy, Antczak, and Johnson, something only five guys have ever done!
There's a lot to break down in the Antczak-Johnson battle.
Antczak, who shaved 29 seconds off his previous Holmdel PR when he placed 8th at the M of C last year, broke the Mainland school record, the Atlantic County record, and is the second fastest time in South Jersey history behind only the legendary Jason DiJoseph of Paul VI, who ran a then course record 15:16 in 1988.
Antczak's 15:32 broke the Atlantic County record of 15:35 set in 2013 by Lou Corgliano of Hammonton, and the Mainland record of 15:39 run by Greg Hughes when he took second at the 2003 M of C behind Mohamad Khadraoui of Paterson Kennedy.
As for Johnson, his performance will go down as one of the greatest debut races ever run at Holmdel Park.
What this guy has done in his first season of XC is nothing short of amazing. According to what I could dig up, Johnson's 15:32 is the second fastest debut race ever at Holmdel, behind the great Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep, who many consider the greatest high school distance runner in U.S. high school history. Cheserek ran a Holmdel Park record of 14:53 at the 2011 Shore Coaches meet.
Johnson's performance also spearheaded a sensational showing by WW North, which made a huge statement by throwing down the top team performance of the day, which makes the Knights the favorite to win the state Group 3 title next month.
The Knights, who came into the meet ranked No. 5 in the state, should up to No. 2 after winning the loaded Boys A race by averaging 16:23 and going 2-14-16-22-26. WW North defeated No. 6 Mendham, 80-100. No. 2 Cherokee was 3rd with 100, No. 3 Westfield was fourth with 144, and WW South placed 5th with 165.
WW North also placed first in the team merge, 153-220 over Cherokee.
- No. 1 ranked Christian Brothers Academy held out its top guys as it prepares for next week's Eastern States race at the Manhattan Invit. at Van Cortlandt Park., but its young guns put on a sizzling show in the Freshman A race. Nick Sullivan went 11:09 over the 3,200-meter race to tie the course record and lead the Colts to a course record average of 11:36. CBA destroyed the CR average of 11:47 that Cherokee set in 2016.
- Ryan Hamblet of Lake Braddock in Va. won the B race in 16:17, and afterward said that Holmdel with "mad bowl'' makes any course in Virginia look like a joke. Hamblet came from way back to reel in Edwin Klanke of St. Peter's Prep. Ridgefield of Conn. with the team title, 95-101 over North Hunterdon.
- No. 7 Ridge takes the boys C race, 37-104 over No. 9 Ocean City. Ridge went 2-3-5-10-17 and averaged 16:41.
- Voorhees beats Haddam-Killingworth of Conn. on a tiebreaker!! Josh Kinsky was the No. 6 man for Voorhees, edging the No. 6 man from Haddom-Killingworth by six places and six seconds.
- TJ Harkins of Immaculata continues his huge Sr. season by going 16:10 for the win in Boys D race!! Huge Holmdel PR!!!! His previous best at Holmdel was 17:05.
- Delbarton senior Stephen Daly won the Boys F Race in 16:23!! That's a 23 second Holmdel PR!! Look out for Daly at the State A race next month. He's super fit and ready to go under 16 at Holmdel.
- Zach Williams of Audubon won the G race in 16:36, crushing his former Holmdel PR of 17:20!!
- Great team battle in the E race as Bernards edged Gov. Livingston, 113-117. Bernards went 7-14-19-23-50 and averaged 18:00. GL finished 6-10-20-39-42 and averaged 18:03.
- Haddon Township packed its five scorers in the top 25 and averaged 17:22 on the way to the Varsity F title.
- Lawrenceville won the G race, 60-93 over Hasbrouck Heights. Lawrenceville averaged 17:33, went 7-8-9-13-23 and had an impressive 1-5 spread of 45 seconds.