Marco Langon, who missed the entire cross-country season last year with an injury, has wasted no time making up for lost time.
In his first XC race in 23 months, the junior at Bridgewater-Raritan overcame a wrong turn and used a huge finishing kick to rally for the biggest win of his career when he stopped the clock at 15:43 to win the boys stud race (top three runners from each team) at Saturday's Central Jersey Shootout at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.
Langon, who missed the XC season last fall and half of the indoor season last winter with a stress fracture in his foot, went off course just after the two-mile mark, losing the lead to Vidhur Polam of South Brunswick, the GMC and Central Jersey Group 4 champ last year.
But Langon, who sliced 1:13 off his previous 5K PR, quickly recovered and made a huge push on the uphill to overtake Polam, and then he kept hammering his way his way to the finish to secure the two second victory over Polam.
While there are probably many people surprised by what he did, Langon, who took the state by storm when he ran 4:17.57 for 1600m as a freshman in the spring of 2018, said he worked hard over the summer and isn't surprised. He said he wanted to make a statement with his race.
"To me this win was not that surprising because I pictured myself winning ever since I heard I would be running in this race,'' said Langon. "This race was just testing the supreme fitness I have gained over the summer. But by no means am I satisfied with what I achieved, and I promise that there will be much more to come in the future. Many people may know the mile is really my highlight event, but I wanted to make a statement that you can throw me in any distance and I will do what it takes to win. The summer has been great and it may not come as a surprise to some people but I have been doing around 30-35 miles a week with my long runs being around 10 miles. My coach preaches quality over quantity, and it has definitely been very good quality training.''
As for his race strategy and the recovery he had to make after veering off course, Langon said he felt strong at the end of the race when he made his decisive move.
"We went through the two mile at 9:58, and at the last mile I started to pick up the pace pushing past the leader and putting myself in first,'' said Langon. "After I took a wrong turn it put me back into second on the hill, but then I ended up blowing past him on the uphill, and at that moment I knew that if I slowed down I was going to lose the race, so I kept pushing and when I got to the last 400, I gave everything I had.''
After the wrong turn I had to trace back and get back onto the course which added I believe a solid 10-12 seconds.
Langon's next big race is the Delaware Division Championship on Oct. 22 at Deer Path Park in Readington.
"I'm definitely going into that race looking to drop a nasty PR as well as a win,'' said Langon.
The top individual girls performance of the meet came from junior Caroline Schleif of Metuchen, who won the girls stud race with a time of 19:28, nine seconds ahead of runner-up of Eleni Alvarez of St. Thomas Aquinas (19:37). Schlief is the defending GMC champion.
In the team competition, the Union Catholic girls and Old Bridge boys finished first in the merged scoring.
On the girls side, Union Catholic defeated South Brunswick on the combined scoring, 41-66. UC's top five runners were junior Abby Granrath (20:29), freshman Leilani Gibson (20:41), senior Morgan Williams (21:27), senior Danielle Coyne (21:38), and sophomore Asydiah Pray-Brown (21:52).
The boys team race was a three-way thriller as Old Bridge edged runner-up Union Catholic and third-place South Brunswick, 78-79-80.