Dramatic finishes and stunning victories ruled the day at Friday's Middlesex County Invitational at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.
In a meet that was held to determine the GMC's Red Division champions, both team battles came down to the No. 5 runners, the race for the girls individual title produced an epic finish, and Vidhur Polam of South Brunswick ran away with the boys race.
Let's start out with the eagerly awaited clash of state powers in the boys race as NJ No. 10 Old Bridge and NJ No. 12 South Brunswick squared off in a dandy, which is nothing new for these two great programs.
South Brunswick, with Polam leading the charge at the front of the pack, led Old Bridge, 13-16, after each team had three runners across. But Old Bridge's 4-5 runners both finished ahead of South Brunswick's No. 4 man as the tightly bunched Knights squeezed out a 39-45 victory.
Old Bridge went 3-6-7-11-12, had a 1-5 compression of just 39 seconds, and averaged 17:01.
South Brunswick countered by grabbing places 1-4-8-13-19 and averaging 16:58.
The top five for Old Bridge were junior Kieran Donnelly, third in 16:37, junior Riley Appleton, sixth in 16:57 (a PR of 17 seconds), senior Steven Tan, seventh in 17:04, senior Evan Pratts, 11th in 17:11 (a four second PR), and senior Nicholas Medeiros, 12th 17:16.
The UPenn-bound Polam, the GMC and CJ Group 4 champ last year, won the race in 15:56, 31 seconds ahead of East Brunswick senior Matthew Gonzalez, second in 16:27. That's a nine second PR for Gonzalez.
The girls race was a thriller!
Up front, senior Eleni Alvarez of St. Thomas Aquinas was able to dig deep enough to just hold off Metuchen junior Caroline Schleif to score the biggest win of her career in 19:34, a personal best by 12 seconds. The hard-charging Schleif was also clocked in 19:34.
Although she came up just short in her valiant attempt to win the race, Schleif's runner-up finish ignited the NJ# 11 ranked Bulldogs to a 38-42 victory over South Brunswick. This was a huge win for Metuchen, who competed in the Red Division for the first time this season.
Metuchen's frontal attack was a huge key to the victory as the Bulldogs took scoring places 1-2-5-7-23 to hold off South Brunswick, which put together finishes of 4-8-9-10-11.
Metuchen's top five were Schleif, second in 19:34, junior Mary Malague, third in 20:07, senior Bridget Thomas, seventh in 20:52.00, Sara Lignell, ninth in 21:01, and junior Charlotte Waring, 29th in 24:27.