Non-Public South Sectionals Notes and Highlights

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Chris DeSousa had a lot of pressure on him when he toed the starting line at Sunday's NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A Sectional Championships at Oak Ridge Park in Clark.

It didn't come from his coach or his teammates, but from his younger sister, Cate, who had just finished first in 19:08 to lead NJ#8 Red Bank Catholic to the girls A Division title.  

"I told him last night that if I won and he didn't, he'd have to buy me dinner and ice cream,'' said Cate, a sophomore.

Well, Chris wasn't having any part of that.

Instead of losing that wager with his sister, DeSousa responded to the sibling challenge by completing a dazzling DeSousa Double by burning up the 3.1-mile layout with a sizzling winning time of 15:38, No. 2 in course history, to lead NJ#1 Christian Brothers Academy to the boys title. 

"There was a lot of pressure on me after Cate won '' said Chris, a senior. "Once I saw her win, I just knew I had to win, too. And fortunately I was able to pull through and get the win.''  

Although she didn't get that free dinner and ice cream, Cate was even more elated to be sharing the spotlight with her brother as they became just the second brother-sister duo to pull off the sectional sibling daily double, which had never happened before this season. 

Cole and Grace Wassell of Highland Regional became the first to accomplish the brother-sister double by sweeping the South Jersey, Group 3 titles on Saturday.   

"We both had winning this on our goal sheets,'' said Cate, who won the Monmouth County Small Schools title earlier this month. "So it's really exciting for us to both win. We both worked really hard over quarrantine, and I think that was the big difference. A lot of people didn't have anyone to run with, but I had my brother to go on runs with and push me, and that really helped us.''   

"It's definitley awesome,'' Chris said of the family double. "I'm super proud of us both to be out here and both get wins.''     

DeSousa's victory was the biggest of his career, and was especially satisfying after running several fast times this season that resulted in runner-up or third-place finishes.

"It feels really good to finally win a big race,'' said DeSousa, second at the Monmouth County Championships. "I was thinking about how nice it would be get this one after being close in a few other big races this season.''

DeSousa's triumph in the boys race triggered a sensational performance by the undefeated Colts, who packed their seven runners in the top 11, and averaged 16:08, No. 2 in course history, on the way to a 22-44 victory over NJ#8 and Union County champion Union Catholic.

Senior Ben Santos also had a huge race for CBA, placing second in 15:40, No. 3 in course history, as he edged Union Catholic junior Shane Brosnan, third in 15:41, No. 4 in course history.

CBA's other scorers were sophomore Nick Sullivan, fifth in 16:16,  junior Jack Moran, sixth in 16:32, and senior Daniel DeMasi, eighth in 16:34. 

This was the first state sectional championship meet for non-public schools in state history. The NJSIAA added this meet and the North Jersey, Non-Public meet to give the non-public teams a championship meet since the NJSIAA eliminated the State Group Championships and Meet of Champions for COVID-19 related reasons.

"We all knew that this was the last time our seniors would wear a CBA uniform in a cross-country race, so we left it all out there today,'' said DeSousa. "This was a huge meet for us, and we all ran really well, and feels great to win this.''

In the girls A race, DeSousa and the rest of RBC's pack stepped up to overcome the loss of the one of its top runners as the Casey's edged NJ#17 Union Catholic, 42-51.

Sophomore Grace Anderson, a consistent scorer for RBC all season, was pulled out of the race by coach Rob DeFilippis after the first loop because of an injury that flared up.

But RBC was able to withstand that loss thanks to the efforts of junior Kate DeFilippis, fifth in 19:43, junior Elena Dimitri, sixth in 20:00, senior Kase Torchia, ninth in 20:34, and sophomore Avery Hargis, 21st in 21:34. Torchia, who had a stunningly dramatic finish as she kicked hard to pick off a couple runners right at the finish, came up with personal best time. 

UC received several strong races in its upset bid as junior Abby Granrath (third in 19:31) and senior Danielle Coyne (eighth in 20:20) led the charge.


Monmouth County made it a clean sweep of all four team titles on the day as the Trinity Hall girls and St. Rose boys captured crowns, and James Ptack of Immaculata showed a tremendous amount of heart and grit to win the biggest XC race of his career.

In the boys race, Ptack went on the attack right away, opening a big gap right away when he charged out to a 4:48 opening mile. It looked like the senior was going to run away with the race, but in the final mile his pace slowed up and St. Rose sophomore Brian Theobald began to cut into the lead with each stride over the final 800.

But Ptack was able to fight through some breathing difficulties he was having and dug down deep over the final 400 to summon enough strength to will his way across the line first in 16:31. The fast-closing Theobald was second in 16:34.

After the race, Ptack was laying on his back for a couple minutes at the end of chute behind the finish line. 

"I was really hurting in that last mile,'' said Ptack. "It wasn't pretty, but I got the win. I 've been having some trouble with my breathing at the end of some races, and it happened again today. I just couldn't keep up the pace anymore and started to slow down. I just kept telling myself to keep fighting with everything I had, and fortunately I had just enough to hang on at the end.''

Ptack, who won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 to lead Immaculata to its first State Indoor Non-Public B Championship this past winter. said he plan was to try to runaway from the field.

"I wanted to be aggressive and make them chase me,'' said Ptack, second at the Skyland Conference Championships. "And it's a good thing I had such a big lead because I needed every bit of it at the end.

Theobald, who won the Monmouth County Small School title, ran a very smart race, and nearly reeled in Ptack.

"If the race was another 50 yards or so I may have caught him,'' said Theobald.

Theobald's strong finish ignited a great performance by the St. Rose pack, which rallied for a thrilling victory over Wilberforce.

St. Rose trailed Wilberforce, 31-32, after each team had four runners across the line, but St. Rose's 5-6-7 runners all finished ahead of Wilberforce's No. 4 runner to clinch a 49-54 victory.

St. Rose's top five were Theobald, sophomore Tyler Ferlise, third in 16:51, senior Cooper Williams, 12th in 18:36, sophomore Tim Clayton, 19:04, and senior David Oliver, 18th in 19:10.

 "For the seniors on our team, this was their last race, so we really wanted to run our best races and get this win for them,'' said Theobald.

The girls race was dominated by young star Tilly O'Connor and Trinity Hall.

O'Connor, a sophomore at St. Rose, scored the biggest XC win of her young career when she blasted out to a big early lead and ran away with the race in 19:04.

O'Connor, third at the State Non-Public B XC Championships last fall, refused to allow anyone to challenge her as she opened a 60 yard lead in the first mile and kept pounding the pace en route to a 55 second victory.

"I liked to run from the front and I really wanted to just control the race and keep pushing,'' said O'Connor, who placed second at the Monmouth County Championships to DeSousa. "With this being the last race of the season I really wanted to finish with a strong race, so I've really excited about how I ran.''

Trinity Hall was also very excited with its performance as the small school from Tinton Falls once again reminded everyone what a great program they have with a convincing 44-80 victory over runner-up St. Rose.

Trinity Hall, led by junior Madeline Barber (second in 19:58), put its scoring five in front of St. Rose's No. 3 runner to seal the deal.

Barber had plenty of support behind her as Trinity Hall put four runners in the top 11. Freshman Hayla Dora was fourth in 20:45, junior Hayla Dora placed eighth in 21:12, junior Ally Lawson was 11th in 21:45, and senior Anna Ferrigine rounded the scoring by placing 19th in 22:54.