Jackson Barna of Ridge and Alexandra Carlson of North Hunterdon used similar formulas on the way to electrifying course record performances to lead their teams to convincing victories to highlight action at Saturday's NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2 Championships at Oak Ridge Park in Clark.
This was the first time that Oak Ridge was used for the state sectional championships
The meet also featured team sweeps by Bernards and Mendham, a three-peat by Jamie Habib of Madison, second straight titles by Adam Angelone and Haley Nowak, a memorable day for Dayton, a stunning victory by Brandon Chen, and a return to the top for the McNair boys.
The most impressive performances of the meet were delivered in the Group 4 by Barna and Carlson, who sparked their teams to huge statement wins.
Using big surges in the second mile, Barna dropped a bomb on the 3.1-mile layout with a red hot 15:18, and Carlson blasted away from the field to stop the clock at 18:38.
Barna, who took down the course mark of 15:57 set earlier in the day by Group 3 winner Chen, led a lethal 1-2-3 frontal assault for NJ#2 Ridge as the Red Devils broke the course record average and won its second straight title and 10th overall by defeating NJ#3 North Hunterdon, 21-34.
Meanwhile, Carlson celebrated the first victory of her career by taking two seconds off the course record and sparking NJ#3 North Hunterdon to its sixth straight title, its 22nd title overall, and a course record average of 19:28.
Barna, the first sectional champ for the Ridge boys since Ricky Gibson in 1997, said time was on his mind.
"It was a great day to go for a fast time on a fast course, so I really went for it today,'' said Barna, a junior, whose previous PR was 15:25. "In the second mile I kept pushing and started to get separation and I was feeling good so just kept on pushing it.''
While thrilled with his performance, Barna was even more jacked up when he turned around after crossing the line and saw teammates Will Pinto (15:49) and Andrew McCabe (16:12) cross the line in second and third.
"When I saw that Will and Andrew finished ahead of North's top two I knew we were going to win,'' said Barna. "Andrew got both of the North guys near the end of the race, and that was huge for us.''
Ridge, which picked up five PRs, went 1-2-3-6-9 and averaged a course record 16:02!
In the girls Group 4 race, North Hunterdon, winner of the last three NJ Meet of Champions titles, packed its first five in the top 10 (1-2-4-8-10) and averaged a course record 19:28 on the way to a 25-72 over runner-up Ridge.
It was the first big XC race of the season for North Hunterdon, which always trains through the early part of the season to gear up for Championship Season in November.
"Since before I was at North, this is the way we always do it,'' said Carlson, a senior whose previous PR was 18:41. "The whole season is focused on November. This was our first big XC race since Nike (the National Team Championships last December), so we couldn't wait to go out there and show everyone what we could do, and that we still have what it takes to be the best team in the state.''
There were plenty of other great highlights in the meet.
The Group 2 races were once again dominated by Bernards and Madison's Habib and Angelone.
Bernards continued its stranglehold on the team titles by pulling off a sweep for the third straight year.
The Bernards girls defeated runner-up Madison, 36-45, to capture its 17th title overall. The Bernards boys scored a 32-55 victory over Madison to raise its remarkable total to 34 sectional titles, No. 2 in state history behind Haddonfield's 38.
With a number of teams around the state unable to compete at the sectional meets because of COVID-19 related reasons, Bernards coach Dave Szostak was relieved his team wasn't impacted and had the opportunity to race.
"I am so proud of my teams,'' said Szostak. "It was a tough season with a lot of teams not able to compete here. We were hanging on the edge all season, so we are relieved to have made it here and win these titles again. Without any Group meet or Meet of Champions this season, this meet was the be all, end all.''
Individually in Group 2, Habib, a senior, became the 10th girl in the section to win for a third time when she ran 19:53 to finish way out in front.
MORRIS COUNTY PARTY
The Group 3 race was owned by Morris County as Mendham produced a team title sweep, and juniors Madison Orlins of Mendham and Chen of West Morris won the biggest races of their careers.
Orlins led a 1-2-3 finish for her team with a winning time of 19:10 as NJ#5 Mendham rolled to the girls title, 54-70 over runner-up Chatham. It's the second title in three years for Mendham, and its sixth overall.
Defending champion and NJ#6 Middletown South was one of a handful of teams who couldn't compete for COVID-19 related reasons.
The Mendham boys, with just two returning runners from its state championship team from last year, were big underdogs. But coach Roy Hamblen's crew put together its best race of the season to upset NJ#18 Chatham, 22-55, to capture its fourth straight title. At the NJAC Championships last month, Chatham finished first and Mendham was fourth.
Individually, Chen hammered out the best race of his life to become the first boys champion from West Morris since Scott Wolckenhauer (1991 and '92) when he ran a personal best of 15:57, which stood as the course record until Barna ran later in the day.
What a day for the Dayton Bulldogs!
First, the girls dethroned three-time defending champion McNair and outscored Secaucus, 44-71, to capture its first sectional title since 1983. Senior Abbey Hochreiner sparked a 2-3-9-11-16 finish for Dayton with a runner-up finish in 21:59.
Then, sophomore Colin Riley dropped a huge PR of 16:58 to become the first individual boys champion for Dayton in 50 years! The last boys winner from Dayton was Norm Reinhardt, who won his second straight sectional championship in 1970.
Hudson County made its presence felt in Group 1 as Secaucus sophomore Haley Nowak captured her second straight title (21:27), and the McNair boys recaptured its crown by outscoring Dayton, 29-52.
Nowak, the only two-time sectional champ in Secaucus history, had endured a long layoff from racing this season when Secaucus shutdown all sports earlier this season.
McNair, led by runner-up Adam Abushanab (17:24) jammed its top five in the top nine by going 2-5-6-7-9. It's the second title in three years for McNair, and it fourth title overall.