Over the first month of the season, Liam Murphy and Charlotte Bednar have been dropping red hot times despite not having anyone pushing them. So how fast would they go when they finally had someone challenging them?
How about two of the fastest times ever run at historic Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx!
In their biggest tests of the season so far against many of the top runners in the Northeast, Murphy and Bednar rose to the occasion at Saturday's 47th Manhattan Invitational by throwing down electrifying performances that place them very high on the all-time lists on the legendary 2.5-mile layout.
Murphy, a senior at Allentown, ran a blistering 12:15.2, tied for No. 11 in course history, to win the loaded Eastern States Championship boys race. Bednar, a sophomore at Lawrenceville, moved into No. 9 all-time on the girls list and smashed the NJ record for Van Cortlandt by placing fourth in the girls Eastern race in sizzling 14:01.4.
Murphy is now No. 5 on NJ's All-Time list at Van Cortlandt. The only four NJ runners ahead of him are legends in the Garden State. They are Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep, the course record holder at 11:53.4 in 2011, Joe Rosa of West Windsor-Plainsboro North, 12:03.8 in 2009, and Joe's twin, Jim Rosa of WWP-North, who ran 12:08.7 in 2009, and Craig Forys of Colts Neck (12:10.7 in 2006).
The undefeated Murphy, a Foot Locker National XC finalist last year and the NJ Meet of Champions winner in the 3,200 last indoors, had to run one of the fastest times in course history to defeat Matt Farrell of the Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut, who was second in 12:18.9. Murphy used a huge surge over the final half mile to get the separation he needed on Farrell.
In the girls race, Bednar, 12th at the Nike XC Nationals when she was a freshman at Hun last year, broke the NJ course record of 14:03.0 that 2018 NJ XC Meet of Champions winner Abby Loveys of Randolph set last year when she won the Eastern Race. Bednar also recorded the second fastest time by a sophomore in Vanny history.
The girls Eastern race was won by two-time Nike National XC champion and course record holder Katelyn Tuohy of North Rockland, NY in 13:33.2. Tuohy ran a course record 13:21.8 when she won the Eastern title as a sophomore in 2017.
In the team competition, NJ#1 and US#20 Christian Brothers Academy, seeking to win its fourth title in the past five years, finished third in the Eastern States race with 152 points, 20 points ahead of NJ#2 West Windsor-Plainsboro North in the first meeting of the season between the state's top two packs. NJ#5 Ridge was 10th with 333 points. CBA and WWP-North both finished ahead of US#7 Fayetteville-Manlius of NY, sixth with 182 points.
West Windsor North, which averaged 13:10.5, was led by senior Luke Johnson, who continued his remarkable rookie season on the trails by placing third in 12:23.1. WWP-North went 3-31-32-49-57.
- Austin Gabay of Cinnaminson also had a sensational performance, placing seventh in the Eastern race in 12:32.2, and Jackson Barna of Ridge was the first sophomore finisher and 16th overall in 12:53.3.
- The top NJ team in the girls Eastern States race was NJ#9 Red Bank Catholic, which placed 11th with 281 points. US#3 Fayetteville-Manlius of NY won the team title with 64 points.