Westfield, UC, Russo, Granrath Win Union County Titles

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Abby Granrath finished first to lead a potent frontal attack that sparked the Union Catholic girls to the title, the NJ#6 Westfield boys won for the fifth straight year, and Max Russo of Oratory used a big late surge to repeat as champion at the 82nd Union County Championships on Tuesday in soggy conditions at Warinanco Park in Elizabeth.

Granrath, who finished seventh as a freshman last year, ignited a 1-2-5 finish for UC with her winning time of 19:10 over the 3.19-mile course as the Vikings averaged 19:50 on the wet layout on the way to a 51-61 victory over runner-up Summit. Defending champion Westfield was third with 74.

Right behind Granrath was her teammate, senior Leena Morant, second in 19:14. Freshman Kathryn Power picked off two runners just before the finish line to cross fifth in 19:44. 

Granrath, Morant, and Power all finished ahead of Summit's No. 1 runner, which was a huge key to the victory. UC's underclassmen-powered pack (Morant was the lone senior in the top five) also featured freshmen Elsa Spoor, 21st in 20:31, and Maameyaa Nyinah, 22nd in 20:32. 

Granrath is the third girl from UC to win the county title as she joined Caitlin Glynn (2014) and Jerika Lufrano (2018). The team title was the first for UC since it won back-to-back championships in 2014 and '15, and is especially satisfying for the Vikings after placing third in 2017 (two points behind first-place Westfield), and second last year (three points behind Westfield).

UC coach Mike McCabe is proud of how his runners executed their race plans, and with how fast they closed.

"Really excited to win it again,'' said McCabe. "Very proud of our girls. Abby and Leena had a similar race plan, with the goal of winning the race if it played out properly. Very proud of both of them. Leena and Abby have developed together throughout the season. Having each other all year is what allowed them to race so well. Kathryn was huge. She made a big move late to to grab important team points. Freshmen Elsa and Maameyaa never gave up and raced hard to the finish, each passing three girls in the last 800 meters to secure the win."

Two-time girls champion and course record holder Victoria Vanriele of Gov. Livingston, who has won six NJSIAA Meet of Champions titles in the 800 in her career, finished 12th in 20:06. Vanriele, who won this championship as a freshman and sophomore and was second last year, set the course record when she won the title in 2017 in 18:26.

In the boys race, Westfield threw down a remarkable performance, and Russo, who last year became the first boy from Oratory to win the county title, ran 16:18 to capture his second straight title.

Westfield jammed its first five in the top nine and its full seven in the top 13, averaged 16:44 on the sloppy course, and had a 1-5 compression of 41 seconds as the Blue Devils extended their county record to 37 titles with a 27-70 victory over runner-up Summit.

Westfield's top five were Will Loggia, second in 16:21, Kevin Yucetepe, fourth in 16:32, Jack Maranz, sixth in 16:48, Will McGlynn, seventh in 17:00,  and Zachary Spergel, eighth in 17:02.

"It was an awesome day for the team,'' said Loggia, a senior. "We were all really excited to race and this was really or first big race of the season where we were ready to put everything together. It was a solid showing as we start championship season. It was some pretty rough racing conditions as far as the wet course, but it didn't really faze us. Today was more about racing the people around us instead of the time.''       

Russo, who is headed to Cornell, had to hold off strong challenges from Loggia, and Union Catholic sophomore Myles Plummer, third in 16:25 as the three waged a great battle up front the whole way. 

Russo finally got a small gap with about 600 meters left, and then used a big kick with around 300 left to secure the three second victory over Loggia.