Holmdel Park has been the mecca of NJ cross-country for almost five decades.
It's been the home of the Monmouth County Championships, the State Group Championships, and the Meet of Champions since 1976, and it's been the site for the Shore Coaches Invitational since 1979.
So any thought of going through an entire NJ cross-country campaign without any championship races or Invitationals at Holmdel Park had always seemed unfathomable.
But that became a real possibility when COVID-19 delivered a knockout blow that caused the NJSIAA to eliminate the State Group Championships and the Meet of Champions this fall, forced the Shore Coaches meet to cancel, and resulted in the Monmouth County Championships moving to Bucks Mill Park.
However, just when it appeared that the only racing on Holmdel Park's legendary layout this season would be some batch meets, Christian Brothers Academy Head Coach Sean McCafferty came to the rescue.
Over the last few weeks, McCafferty hustled to receive commitments from many of the top teams in the state to clash at the inaugural Colt Invitational, scheduled for tomorrow (Oct. 21) at Holmdel Park.
MileSplit will have race videos, photos, interviews, and more from this event.
The Colt Invitational will be varsity only with the girls race scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and the boys race at 4:25 p.m. No spectators are allowed for the meet, masks are mandatory for officials, coaches, volunteers, managers, and athletes when not running.
McCafferty sure did put together a powerhouse meet.
Check out these stacked fields!
In a boys race that will likely decide who finishes No. 1 in the state, CBA will put its No. 1 state rankings on the line against No. 2 Ridge, No. 3 St. Peter's Prep, No. 6 Colts Neck, No. 8 Haddonfield, and No. 12 South Brunswick.
This will be the second meeting of the season between CBA and Ridge. CBA defeated Ridge, 70-89, at the Cougar Invitational at Bucks Mill on Oct. 10.
Individually, some of the state's best will square off as Matt Bogdan of Colts Neck, Jackson Barna of Ridge, Edwin Klanke of St. Peter's Prep, Chris DeSousa of CBA, Vidhur Polam of South Brunswick, and Nathan Armstrong of Pompton Lakes, should provide plenty of firepower up front. Bogdan edged Barna, 15:24 to 15:25, at the Cougar Invite.
The girls race is just as loaded with No. 2 Haddonfield, No. 3 Middletown South, No. 8 Colts Neck, No. 11 Metuchen, No. 19 Ridge, Trinity Hall, the State Non-Public B runner-up last year, and Rumson are set to battle it out.
This should be another epic clash between Haddonfield and Middletown South.
Haddonfield defeated Middletown South on a sixth-runner tiebreaker to win the team title at the Cougar Invite after both teams finished with 54 points. Individually, Lilly Shapiro of Colts Neck, who won at the Cougar Invite in 18:07, No. 2 in Bucks Mill course history, is favored to win.
McCafferty was determined to set up a great meet on the state championship course, and was finally able to do it.
"We wanted to do something special for our kids.,'' said McCafferty. "We tried to set up dual meets with La Salle Academy in Rhode Island, and LaSalle College High School in Pa., and obviously that couldn't happen,'' said McCafferty. I talked to Coach Brian Gould about a late season dual with West Windsor-Plainsboro North and Ridge coach Nicole Gilhuley. I started planning this meet in August. Then early on, we were told we had to stay in the Shore Conference so a lot of that conversation ended.''
But then Matt Coleman, a former runner at CBA (Class of 1995), who is now the Assistant Superintendent of Parks for Monmouth County, reached out to McCafferty.
"A couple weeks ago, Matt (Coleman) asked if we were still interested in running this meet,'' said McCafferty. "It was a quick turn around. With the help of Coleman and CBA AD Mike Mazzaccaro, and with the blessing from the CBA administration, we're in the home stretch. These kids need stressful, exciting races. It's what teaches them most about life. We hope the boys and girls racing Wednesday cherish this opportunity and rip some fast 5ks.''