For New Jersey's top athletes it was another successful trip to Van Cortlandt Park on Saturday, as four of those hoping to advance to Foot Locker Nationals out of the Northeast Regional made it a reality with strong performances. To advance to the big show individuals had to finish in the top ten during the Championship races.
The boys kicked off the Northeast Championship action with a fast paced race and for New Jersey there were three senior distance stars who toed the line together for the third straight week.
Liam Murphy, 15:23.6, Kevin Antczak, 15:24.0, and Jack Jennings, 15:30.0, all qualified out of the Regional finishing third, fourth, and fifth! All three are from the NJSIAA Group 3 and have seen plenty of each other in racing competition over the past few weeks through the NJSIAA State Championship series.
For Murphy this is his second straight Foot Locker Nationals trip, last year he ran fourth out of Regionals and finished 33rd at the Foot Locker National Championship. Experience goes a long way with this event and there is no doubt having run the course and having experienced the cross country travel last fall is going to be a big plus heading into his final high school cross country race.
For Antczak this is his first Foot Locker Nationals advancement, he had finished 16th at Regionals last year running 16:02.
Jack Jennings, after finishing 14th for two straight years at Regionals, broke through to qualify for his first Foot Locker Nationals trip as well. Still battling a cough after a week of fever and sickness leading into the Meet of Champions the weekend prior the Mendham star "felt good enough to make it." With more time to recover for Foot Locker Nationals in San Diego on December 14th it could end up being a big final high school cross country race for the senior to let loose.
This was a quick race too, both Murphy and Antczak cracked the top ten all-time for New Jersey athletes on the Van Cortlandt 5K layout, now listed as sixth and seventh all-time.
- Craig Forys 15:15.5 (2006)
- Jason DiJoseph 15:17.6 (1988)
- Brad Hudson 15:18.0 (1983)
- Cliff Sheehan 15:19.8 (1980)
- Edward Cheserek 15:21.8 (2012)
- Liam Murphy 15:23.6 (2019)
- Kevin Antczak 15:24.0 (2019)
- Tom Fischer 15:24.8 (1981)
- John Carlotti 15:24.9 (1982)
On the girls side, in a stacked race that included a defending National Champion, Pingry's star senior Nicole Vanasse qualified for Foot Locker Nationals for a second straight year running ninth with a course PR of 18:01.4, her previous best was an 18:16.4 that earned her 10th at this meet in 2018.
Last year she ran an 18:54.5 in San Diego for 32nd at the Nationals meet.
The Columbia University bound Vanasse is closing her senior season strong. She won her third straight Non-Public A state title on November 16th, and followed that with a third place run at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
While not advancing, Caroline Mehlhorn of Montgomery had a respectable finish to her season with a 14th place run of 18:22.7, the sophomore will have two more years to go after that National meet bid and finished second the week prior at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions. Hayley Amisano 23rd at 18:46.3 also finishing in the top 25 for New Jersey.
Austin Gabay of Cinnaminson was 22nd in 16:07.4, Philmon Mehari of Livingston was 24th in 16:08.4, and South Brunswick's Vidhur Polam finished 25th in 16:09.1, all breaking into the top 25 in the boys Championship race.