There were lots of memorable moments that came out of Sectional Saturday from all over the state, but there's one in particular that stands out. One that flew under most people's radar and can't be discovered by digging through the results.
It happened right before the start of the North 2 Group 3 boys race at Greystone when the seven runners for Chatham took the starting line just like they have done so many other times this season.
But this time was different.
Instead, they were sporting throwback uniforms donned by Chatham's 2005 XC team to honor the memory of Ben Massam, the greatest distance runner in Chatham history, a multiple All-State performer, and a Morris County legend.
Massam, who graduated from Chatham in 2006 before starring at William & Mary, died at the age of just 31 on Nov. 1 after a battle with cancer.
During his high school days, Massam was a multiple county and state champion in XC and on the track, placed second in both the 2005 NJ XC Meet of Champions and the 3,200 at the 2006 M of C, and had personal bests of 15:44 at Holmdel Park, 4:17.14 for 1,600, and 9:07.28, all Chatham records.
With Massam firmly on their minds and in their hearts, the Chatham crew went out and ran a race that would have made Massam proud, averaging 16:52 and placing fifth in the loaded NJ. Sec. 2 Group 3 race with 111 points to secure the final qualifying spot into the State Group 3 Championships next Saturday at Holmdel Park. Gironda led the way by placing third in a personal best 16:04.
Chatham coach Pat Barry said news of Massam's passing was heartbreaking, and he felt it was important to pay tribute to him.
"We were all stunned to hear of Ben's passing. "I'm particularly moved by the fact that he was only 31 years old. My memories are of a coach on the outside looking in. I was at Butler at the time and only came to Chatham in 2008, yet I have very vivid memories of Ben's four years at Chatham. With the retro uniforms, I just thought it would be a very visual way of tipping our hats to Ben and a way to show our deep respect for his accomplishments.''
Himstreet said Massam's legacy inspires everyone who runs for Chatham.
"I never had the honor of meeting Ben, but his career at Chatham and his character inspire every Chatham High School runner,'' said Himstreet. "And his long-standing records push us everyday to bring our best. We all strive to exemplify Massam's deep well of talent, courage, kindness, and sportsmanship that will live on as his legacy to us all. Ben Massam was in our hearts and minds throughout Sectionals. We honored him by wearing retro uniforms, which meant the world to us as we strive to reach the high bar that he has set. As we move into the Group 3 Championships this coming weekend, Ben is at the forefront of our training and preparation to give us the courage and drive to succeed.''