Chloe Gonzalez of North Hunterdon ripped up the Holmdel Park course en route to the meet's fastest time of the day, Nicole Vanasse of Pingry snagged a third straight state title to enter an elite club, Emma McGill of Voorhees and Reese Fahys of Middletown South brought home state titles and in the process connected with two of the all-time greats in NJ cross-country, Corina Vidal repeated as champion for Henry Hudson, and Mater Dei has a state XC champion for the first time in more than a decade thanks to Hayley Amisano.
These stories and more headlined the NJSIAA group championships on Saturday at Holmdel Park.
The top 10 individuals and the top two teams from each of six girls races advanced to the Meet of Champions, slated for Saturday, Nov. 23 at Holmdel. In addition, eight wild card teams will be selected for the M of C based on a combined meet merge of results, and 10 wild card individuals will also be selected. These individuals must be the meet's 10 fastest among non-automatic qualifiers.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the girls group meet was the triumphs of McGill from Voorhees and Fahys from Middletown South. Both girls ended long droughts for their programs which point back to a pair of all-time greats in New Jersey.
When McGill won the Group 2 championship in a Holmdel PR of 18:43, beating Lakeland sophomore Angelina Perez by three seconds, she became the first Voorhees girl to win a group title since the great Melanie Thompson won her third straight in 2008. Thompson was a two-time XC M of C winner (2007-08).
When Fahys won the Group 3 gold medal in a Holmdel PR of 18:49 -- upsetting Colts Neck junior and Monmouth County champ Lilly Shapiro (second in 19:08) -- she became Middletown South's first group winner since 1998 when Cate Guiney championed Group 3 and went on to become the school's only M of C winner.
North Hunterdon has a rich cross-country history of team championships -- 10 titles and counting -- but individual success has come at a premium. When Gonzalez, a senior and Georgetown commit, crossed the Group 4 finish line in 18:00, she was the first Lion to win a group title since 2014 (Eve Glasergreen) and just the fourth overall, joining NJ greats Jodi Bilotta (1985-87; also a three-time M of C winner) and Julie Culley (1997).
Vanasse, a Pingry senior and Columbia commit, entered an elite club in NJ XC annals. She won her third straight Non-Public A title in 18:57, making her just the 12th girl in the 47-year history of the girls group meet to win at least three titles, and the first to do so in a Non-Public event.
Amisano, a Mater Dei sophomore, won the Non-Public B title in a Holmdel PR and school course record of 18:34, the third fastest winning time ever in that group, following Oak Knoll's Katie McCafferty (18:13 in 2007) and Villa Walsh's Megan Curham (18:17 in 2012). Amisano is also the first Mater Dei champ since Marie Walsh in 2008, who held the school record of 18:47.
Vidal, a senior at Henry Hudson, earned her second straight Group 1 title by crossing in 19:48. She remains the only girl from her school to capture a group championship.
A quick rundown of the team champions produced some historical results. Gonzalez led North Hunterdon team to its third straight Group 4 title, which has only been done once before in that group, by Hillsborough (2010-12). North Hunterdon also won its 10th title overall and moved into fourth place in state history, behind Red Bank Catholic (21), Bernards (12) and Voorhees (11).
Speaking of RBC, the Caseys extended their meet record for state titles by jamming four runners into the top 12 and beating Union Catholic 46-48 to win their second straight Non-Public A title and seventh in 10 years. Senior Maddy Kopec led the charge, finishing second in 19:14.
A huge key to RBC's march to the title was the career best race by junior Kase Torchia. Torchia, RBC's usual No. 7 runner, was RBC's No. 5 runner with a time of 20:53, a Holmdel PR by 1:23!!!
Another two-point battle was fought in Group 1, where New Providence fended off Schalick 76-78. The Pioneers, led by junior Clare Kelly (third, 20:14) won their first title since going back to back in 2014 and '15.
Villa Walsh won a tight race with defending champion Trinity Hall, 62-67, to capture its fifth Non-Public B title in six years. Defending individual champion Sarah Hanifin led Villa Walsh by placing second in 19:41.
Holmdel ended the longest drought of any team winner at the meet, capturing the Group 2 crown for the first time since 1984, when the Monmouth County program won its third straight title. Senior Emily Levonas led the Hornets by placing fourth in 19:16.
When Reese Fahys won the Group 3 individual title, it was the beginning of a flurry of Middletown South girls crossing the finish. The end result was the Eagles winning their first state title since 2002 and their third overall.