Perez, Lakeland, Haddonfield, Bednar Roll At Shore Coaches

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Angelina Perez made history to lead No. 6 ranked Lakeland to an impressive victory,  No. 7 Haddonfield had the top team performance of the meet, and Lawrenceville star Charlotte Bednar made her season debut at the 45th Shore Coaches Invitational on Saturday at sun-drenched Holmdel Park.

On day that saw temperatures reach the low 70's, Perez, who loves running in the heat, showed how incredibly fit she is and solidified her status as the overwhelming favorite to win the Meet of Champions title next month by burning a 17:37 to runaway with the F Division title

Perez, a senior, is now the only girl to ever run two sub 17:40 times on the historic 3.1-mile layout. Perez clocked a 17:36 last year at the Holmdel Invitational, which places her in a tie for No. 5 all-time in course history. 

Perez, who led Lakeland to a meet-best average of 19:59 and a 43-80 victory over No. 18 Union Catholic, said she wasn't pushing herself to run fast on Saturday, feels she can make a run at the NJ Holmdel course record of 17:21 set by Bednar last year at the State Group Championships and Meet of Champions next month. The overall course record is a mind-blowing 16:21 that was set in 2018 by Katelyn Tuohy of North Rockland (NY) at the Shore Coaches Invitational. Tuohy is the only girl to run faster at the Shore Coaches meet than Perez.


As great as Lakeland ran, there was one team that ran even better

Haddonfield jammed six runners in the top 10, averaged 20:08, and had a 1-5 compression of 48 seconds and scored a D Division record 18 points, smashing the record of 27 points set in 2003 by Voorhees. The Dawgs won by 23 points over a strong Rumson squad, which is ranked No. 15 in the state. 

Haddonfield also finished on top of the team merge, outscoring Lakeland, 148-224.

Junior Helene Usher (19:49), sophomore Annie Earp (19:54), and junior Sabrina Miller (20:01) went 3-4-5 for Haddonfield, and sophomore Sarah Fetter (20:20), senior Jess Goode (20:37), and sophomore Audrey Naticchia (20:39) finished 7-9-10.

It's amazing what Haddonfield has done after losing four of its top seven runners to graduation from last year's team that finished No. 1 in the state. Usher, Earp, and Goode are the three remaining members in the Haddonfield pack that ran at the Holmdel Invitational last year when the Dawgs finished first to secure the top ranking in NJ. Haddonfield coach Jason Russo is proving once again why he's one of the very best coaches in NJ.


No. 5 ranked Cherokee made history by winning its first team title at the Shore Invit. as the Chiefs averaged 20:25 and rolled to a 73-140 victory over No. 12 North Hunterdon in the A Division. Cherokee also placed third in the team merge behind Haddonfield and Lakeland.

Cherokee was led by sophomore Olivia Parkinson (19:27), senior Nicole Clifford (19:57), and junior Kelsey Niglio (20:24), who finished 4-6-9. Sophomore Kerry O'Day was 17th in 20:52, and freshman Megan Niglio was 38th in 21:28.

Bednar, one of the nation's top runner who holds the state records on the track in the 3,200 (9:59.34) and the 5K (15:52.10-No. 5 in U.S. history), opened her season by running 18:42 to win the G Division race and lead No. 17 Lawrenceville to a 53-54 victory over No. 9 Kent Place. 

No. 3 Mendham placed four runners in the top 16, and averaged 20:41 on the way to a 71-119 victory over Princeton in the B Division race.

Sophomore Christina Allen of River Dell, the 3,200 winner at the Meet of Champions last spring, rolled to victory in the D Division in 19:05.   

Senior Lara Cota of Summit, who set the course record at Oak Ridge Park last week, ran a personal Holmdel best of 19:08 to win the C Division race and lead her team to a 97-100 victory over runner-up Old Tappan. Summit's No. 5 runner, Virginia Lustenberger, finished 21 scoring spots ahead of Old Tappan's  No. 5 to give the Hilltoppers the comeback victory. 

"I'm really excited with how my team and I ran today,'' said Cota. "We were all looking forward to challenging ourselves and wanted to leave a good time at the course, and that's what we did! Our goal is to continue to improve every day and hopefully come back to Holmdel in November! We ran for each other, and the rest of the team cheered for us all the way through to the very end!''

Freshman Liliah Gordon of Northern Burlington, running the first 5K of her high school career, continued the torrid start to her rookie season by winning the B Division race in a school course record 19:00, the fourth fastest time of the day. Gordon is now 4-0 this season. 

Julia Scrudato of Montgomery came up with the biggest win of her career when the sophomore ran 19:13 to finish first in the A Division race.