South Sectional Notes and Highlights

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It was a wet muddy day at DREAM Park for the NJSIAA South Sectional Championships on Saturday. This meet was loaded with ranked teams on the boys and girls side and some tough points were earned all the way down to the final muddy steps across the finish line.

Sarah Naticchia of Haddonfield defended her individual title and her No. 1 ranked Haddonfield squad came through right behind her. The Dawgs scored their top five within the first seven finishers! In second was Allison Colflesh with an 18:59, Payton Weiner third at 19:19, Anne Earp sixth 20:11, and Lindsay Colflesh closing the top five at 20:18. Sabrina Miller and Jess Goode put a bow on the win crossing in eighth and 11th as their six and seven runners!

This is 11 straight for Haddonfield and their 15th in the past 16 seasons. The girls averaged 19:29 en route to their 20 point victory, a course record average despite the muddy wet conditions at DREAM Park. 

Cedar Creek ran to second as a team with 92 points led by freshman Lexi Sears and Delsea third at 118 led by Carly Nicholson in fifth at 19:31. 

Also running up front with the leaders was Sophie Steidle of Collingswood  in third clocking 19:13. Mackenzie Cubbison of Manchester Township and Lilie Widmer of Delsea also running top ten in ninth and 10th at 20:44 and 20:50. 

Group 2 Boys

Brady Shute looks like he was in full control of the race when he came around the final field before the finish, the Gateway / Woodbury senior ran to 16:03 to secure the Sectional title. He closes out his season undefeated on the cross country schedule with six recorded wins including a Colonial All-Star win and Gloucester County title. 

Second overall was Josh Forrest of Collingswood running 16:11 before we get to the start of Haddonfield's title defending team performance led by sophomore George Andrus in third at 16:15. 

Haddonfield scored 31 points averaging 16:34 with a 42 second top five split to win their 17th in a row and 38th all-time. Haddon Heights was second with 101pts and the Gateway Woodbury Co-op charged by Shute's individual win ran to third as a team with 119. Brady's younger brother Peyton Shute ran 11th for Gateway Woodbury as a freshman at 17:04, second all-time among freshmen at the course.

The Haddonfield boys saw all five scorers cross the line by tenth place. Andrus up front in third followed by Tobias Janssen fifth at 16:26, Caleb Clevenger sixth 16:34, John Hurly seventh 16:36, and Sean Eisenhower 10th 16:58. Ian Romea and Robert DiMedio closed their top seven in 16th and 20th. 

Also running top five was Zeb Hinker of Lower Cape May Regional, he ran fourth in 16:21 and is the second fastest returner for next year from the race only behind Haddonfield's Andrus. 

Group 3 Girls

Grace Wassel defended her South Group 3 title running 19:24 and it was a rewarding end to a cumulation of patience and hard work training back from injury. The star Highland Regional sophomore found out she was dealing with bone marrow edema over the summer and needed to use the valuable building months and start of the season to rest and let the injury pass. 

Saturday marked a exactly month since she started training again, listen to Wassel speak on her training to come back in the interview above. Her win was the first half of a sibling sweep for South Group 3 as her brother Cole followed up with a win of his own shortly after. This is all part of a building family tradition as their father Jay Wassell won two Sectional titles for Highland in 1994 and 1996. 

In the team race Mainland Regional blocked Ocean City's attempt at four straight Sectional wins with an impressive 47 to 73 victory. Mainland averaged 21:07 splitting 1:38 between their top five. This squad is built to last as well, returning six of their seven runners and scoring three freshmen in their top five!

Freshman Claudia Booth led the team effort in fifth with a 20:21 performance, junior Lily Malone seventh 20:44, frosh Gillian Lovett eighth 20:56, senior Giselle Obergfell 12th 21:36, and closing their scoring was freshman Chloe Malone 15th 22:00. Their sixth and seventh runners Sydney Luff and Savannah Hodgens ran 16th and 23rd. 

This was Mainlands third title in school history, last winning in 2016 led by the great Alyssa Aldridge as well as in 1981. 

Group 3 Boys

Cole Wassell made it a sibling sweep for the South Group 3 individual titles, shorty after his sister Grace won her second straight he came home with the win at 16:05, more than 30 seconds ahead of the field. He also follows in his father's footsteps who won two Sectional titles for Highland Regional in 1994 and 1995. 

His one card finish wasn't thrown away in the team results either, Highland Regional ran to their first win since three straight from 2013 to 2015. They scored 47pts to out run Ocean City, 66pts, and Mainland Regional 93. Behind Wassell's win was Tom Raws in fourth running 16:47, Gavin Gallo 11th 17:17, Cole Knoedler 15th 17:44, and Anthony Imperatore 16th 17:46. Joseph DeBeaumont and Steven Sherill were their sixth and seventh in 25th and 35th. 

Also in the top five individually was Dennis Fortuna of Triton Regional second at 16:38, Linden Wineland of Mainland third 16:46, and Owen Ritti of Ocean City fifth 16:52. Fortuna, a junior, is the top returner from the race for the 2021 season.

Group 1 Girls

Julia Smith of AP Schalick joined an elite club of girls on Saturday when she won her third straight Sectional title. The senior took the Group 1 South with a time of 20:10, over a minute ahead of the field, to close out her high school cross country career strong. Her team, the defending champions, ran to second in scoring with 43 points. 

Haddon Township placed four girls in the top ten of the race to to overpower the field with 29 points and a 22:48 average. The entire team returns for 2021 as well putting a great foot forward for a title defense. They were led by Regan Shemeley in second running 21:13, Meghan Lex third 22:23, Genieve Gentlesk ninth 23:03, Kaelin Marshall 10th 23:07, and Ellie Sennhenn 16th 24:15. Simona Thoder and Georgia Knorr making up their six and seven in 21st and 22nd.

Also running top five individually was Pennsville's Taylor Bruchfield in fourth running 22:23.10 and Mia LaMarra of Schalick fifth at 22:23. 

Group 1 Boys

Luke Overbeck added to the rich history of Haddon Township winners at the South Group 1 Sectionals on Saturday. The junior won the race clocked at 16:34, a good 30 plus seconds ahead of the field.

The early finishers in this race made for some exciting score counting as Haddon Township and Audubon traded points between each of their first three scorers, Audubon eventually proved to be too much to handle however with a strong fourth and fifth run to bring in all five by 12th place. 

Audubon's winning team performance, 34 to 65 over Haddon Township, was led by Zachary Williams in second running 17:08. Following him was Enrique Herrera in fourth at 17:23, Joseph Gaspari seventh 17:50, Jonathan Lapp ninth 18:02, and Tyler Wells 12th 18:12. Aaryn Myers and Clifford Gilmore running as their sixth and seventh in 16th and 23rd.

This was Audubon's second South Group 1 team title, the last came back in 1978!

Also placing top five was Matt Conway of Haddon Twp in third at 17:19 and Jorge Cruz of Wildwood, a freshman, in fifth 17:35. 

Group 4 Girls

Sophomore Lexi Tepper went from 14th at last year's Sectional to first this year, becoming the first Cherry Hill East winner since 1983's Lori Watson. Tepper won with a five second gap on the competition running 19:51, her run led Cherry Hill East to a second place finish in the team standings with 61 points and a 20:42 average. Teammate MaryKathleen McCurdy also making the top five in fifth at 20:23. 

The rest of that top five? Well they all went to the girls of Cherokee. Led by freshman Kerry O'Day, 19:56, Kelsey Niglio, 20:08, and Nicole Clifford, 20:19, placed second through fourth to jump start and relentless Cherokee scoring attack. Freshmen Olivia Parkinson and Alaina Bromley closed their top five runners in seventh and eighth running 20:24 and 20:26. 

This all came to 24 points, a 20:15 average, and a mere 29 seconds between their top five. Noelle Falzone and Allison Rathman came through as their six and seven placing 15th and 17th. 

This is Cherokee's second title and first since 2003 when Lisa Burkholder helped lead the way with the individual title. Keep an eye on this squad for years to come, the entire top seven come back for the 2021 seaosn and four are freshmen with one sophomore.

Group 4 Boys

The Group 4 Section brought us a great team race with multiple ranked squads going head to head. Cherokee put together a great race averaging 16:47 splitting 40 seconds and scoring 48 points to stay ahead of Cherry Hill East and Southern Regional both listed at 63 points. Cherry Hill East earned second place on extra runners with Southern. 

For Cherokee this is their second straight Sectional title and their third in five seasons. The early attack saw two seniors take the lead with Nico Grilli in third at 16:28 and Brett Shea sixth at 16:33. Sophomore Patrick Ditmars their third scorer in 11th at 16:53, Dylan Odud 12th 16:54, and Conor Jacob 16th with 17:09. Nick Kuenkel and Bradley Popler their sixth and seventh in 18th and 36th. 

The Cherokee boys completed a school sweep with the girls winning their section moments before. This squad will return four of the seven into the 2021 season. 

On the individual front Jackson Braddock of Southern Regional defended his title with a 16:03 run, tied for the fastest time of the day with the Group 2 winner Brady Shute. Braddock worked his way back after missing most of the season due to injury, only had a few weeks of training under his belt.

Anas Bensaoud of Clearview had a second place run of 16:25, now a senior he's never finished past 12th place at Sectionals and owns three top seven finishes. Southern Regional's Timothy Sincavage, who played a key role this season as their number one runner while Braddock was sidelined, ran to fourth with a 16:29. Washington Twp's Julian Lawson closed up the top five with a 16:31.

Cherry Hill East's second place team run was led by Gabe Rodriquez in seventh at 16:39.