Cherokee and Cherry Hill East, two of the best programs in the state, dominated the day by splitting the boys and girls Varisty 1 titles in a pair of great showdowns, Cole Kolodziej won a dramatic three-man battle, and Nico Grilli and Kate Ruona ran the fastest times at Saturday's Olympic Conference Batch Meet at DREAM Park in Logan Township.
The best team race of the day came in the girls Varsity 1 as unranked Cherokee and NJ#13 Cherry Hill East hooked up in a dandy.
With the score deadlocked at 21-21 after each team had four runners across, Cherokee's freshman Olivia Parkinson finished 10th in 21:15 and CHE's Sabrina Rounds was 11th in 21:24 to give Cherokee the heart-pounding 31-32 upset victory. Cherokee and CHE combined for 10 of the top 11 finishers in the race.
Cherokee's top five went 2-5-6-8-10 and averaged 20:44 and Cherry Hill East finished 1-4-7-9-11 and averaged 20:45.
The other scorers for Cherokee, which had just one senior in its top seven, were sophomore Kelsey Niglio, 5th in 20:35, and three freshmen, Kerry O'Day, 6th in 20:39, Alaina Bromley, 8th in 20:57, and Parkinson.
In a clash of state powerhouses in the boys Varsity 1 race, NJ#4 Cherry Hill East had a 1-5 compression of 46 seconds, averaged 16:38, and put six runners ahead of the fourth runner for NJ#12 Cherokee on the way to a very impressive 25-38 victory.
Kate Ruona ran the fastest time of the meet at 19:23.
Related: Week 1 Results & Coverage Hub
Grilli, a senior at Cherokee, won the race in 16:11, but then CHE went 2-3-4-7-9 to clinch the victory.
CHE's top five were senior Aidan Groff, second in 16:17, senior Gabe Rodriguez, third in 16:20, Aidan Eyre, fourth in 16:39, sophomore Mike McCurdy, seventh in 16:51, and junior Dylan Hagan, ninth in 17:04.
Cherokee's scorers behind Grilli were senior Brett Shea, 6th in 16:48, sophomore Conor Jacob, 8th in 16:54, senior Dylan Odud, 11th in 17:22, and sophomore Patrick Ditmars, 12th in 17:47. Cherokee averaged 17:00.
The Division 2 competition featured an epic finish in the boys race between Kolodziej, a senior at Washington Township, Julian Lawson, also a senior at Washington Township, and Shawnee senior John Ruona.
How close was it?
All three were clocked in 16:38!! Kolodziej was first with an FAT time of 16:38.19, Lawson second in 16:38.75, and Ruona third in 16:38.92.
Kolodziej and Lawson's 1-2 frontal attack sparked Washington Township to a 1-2-5-6-9 finish and a 23-50 victory over Shawnee. The others three scorers in Washington's strong pack were junior Chris Colavita, fifth in 17:03, senior Mason Brewster, sixth in 17:13, and junior Nate Kidwell, ninth in 17:40.
On the girls side, Ruona, a talented sophomore, blew the race apart with a winning time of 19:23, nearly two minutes ahead of runner-up Emma Klouchek of Seneca was second in 20:58.
Ruona's victory helped lead Shawnee to the team title, 39-51 over Washington Township. Shawnee put its seven runners in before Washington's No. 4 runner to secure the victory.