Max Russo and Leena Morant smashed the course records, and the Westfield boys and Union Catholic girls turned in the most impressive team performances at Thursday's Union County Conference Championships at Oak Ridge Park in Clark.
In the boys Mountain Division, Russo, a senior at Oratory who won the Union County title last year, ran 15:58 to edge Christian Cadmus of New Providence (16:00) and repeat as champion. Russo and Cadmus both dipped under the course mark of 16:01 set last year by Ben Fleischer of Scotch Plains.
In the girls competition, Morant, a senior at Union Catholic, shredded the 3.1-mile layout with a time of 18:40 to win the Watchung Division title and take down the girls course record of 19:02 set last year by Victoria Vanriele of Gov. Livingston.
Morant's victory spearheaded a potent UC attack as the Vikings rolled to a fifth straight division championship (three in the Mountain Division and two in the Watchung).
UC packed its first five runners (one senior, three freshmen and a sophomore) in the top 13, averaged 19:20, and outscored runner-up Summit, 34-46. Sophomore Abby Granrath had a huge race for Union Catholic, placing second in 18:48, No. 2 all-time in course history behind Morant.
The best boys team performance of the meet was provided by Westfield as the Blue Devils, ranked No. 7 in the state, won the Watchung Division, 26-37 over a very strong Summit crew. Westfield had a 1-5 spread of just 17 seconds and averaged 16:43. Zach Spergel (16:33) and Alex Maurillo (16:35) went 1-2 for Westfield, which packed its scoring five in the top nine spots.
Summit gave Westfield a run for their money by putting on a pack-running clinic with a ridiculous compression of just 10 seconds as the Hilltoppers averaged 16:48. Should be a great rematch when Westfield and Summit clash again at the Union County Championship on Oct. 29 at Warinanco Park in Elizabeth.
There were several other great performances at this meet!
Hunter Cromwell repeated as champion in 17:01 and led a 1-2 finish for Linden in the boys Valley Division, but Dayton overcame that deficit by pushing five across the line in the top eight to top Linden for the championship, 28-39.
In the boys Mountain Division, Gov. Livingston crammed its first five in the top 12 and had a split of 36 seconds on the way to a 34-61 victory over New Providence.
In the girls Valley Division, Niya Barden of Rahway won her second straight title in a school course record 20:22, and Union grabbed four of the first six spots to edge Elizabeth for the team title, 34-49.
Miranda Lorsbach finished first in 18:55 to spark Kent Place's march to the Mountain Division crown, 31-51 over runner-up New Providence.