New Jersey made its presence felt in a big way when several of the best runners and teams from the Garden State combined to put on a sizzling show at Saturday's 49th Manhattan Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx.
When the dust settled after the 13 varsity races were completed, NJ racked up nine of the 26 titles (five individual and four team), and produced the two fastest boys times of the day as Somerset County rivals Jackson Barna of Ridge and Marco Langon of Bridgewater-Raritan lit up the 2.5-mile course with all-time great performances.
Barna, who rolled an ankle last Saturday when he dropped out of his race at the Shore Coaches Invitational at Holmdel Park, bounce back with jaw-dropping performance as the Georgetown-bound star shredded the legendary layout by dropping a red hot 12:04.8 to win the boys Eastern States race to lead No. 2 ranked Ridge to a sixth-place finish. That places Barna No. 5 on Vanny's all-time list, and makes him the third fastest runner in course history from.
The only NJ runners who've run faster at Vanny are Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep, who ran the course record of 11:55.4 in 2011, and 11:58.7 in 2012, and Joe Rosa of West Windsor-Plainsboro North (12:03.8 in 2009).
A few races after Barna's bomb, Langon countered with an eye-popping masterpiece of his own, winning the D Division race in 12:13.0, No. 12 all-time in course history and No. 6 among NJ runners.
Barna and Langon, both undefeated this season, are the top two runners in the state right now, so there is obviously a lot of buzz about how fast they will go when they square off. While it's possible that the first head-to-head showdown between Barna and Langon could happen at the Somerset County Championships this Thursday, there's a strong chance that one or both of them skips that race. If so, then the Skyland Conference Championships on Oct. 21 at Phillipsburg could be their first of many showdowns. They are also scheduled to race each other at the North Jersey, Section 2 Championships, the Group Championships, and the Meet of Champions, so stay tuned!
GOING THE DISTANCE
Christian Brothers Academy, ranked No. 5 in the state, rolled out its strongest lineup so far this fall, and the Colts responded with its best race of the season, winning the A Division race, 55-120 over runner-up Boston College. CBA, led by Jack Moran's fourth place finish in 13:08.9, averaged 13:25 and had a 1-5 split of just 32 seconds.
In the team merge scoring (all the races combined), Ridge came out in sixth place with 364, just edging CBA, seventh with 378. No. 3 ranked North Hunterdon, eighth in the Eastern race, was 10th in the merge with 600 points, and No. 12 St. Peter's Prep was 20th with 814.
WORTH THE WAIT
The whole state has been waiting anxiously to see if the Ridgewood girls were worthy of the No. 1 state ranking they've held since the preseason. You bet they are!
The Maroons, loading up its lineup for the first time this season, placed a very strong second in the Eastern States race, 62-66 to Bethlehem Central of NY. Ridgewood averaged 15:49 and had a 1-5 compression of 42 seconds. Ridgewood also placed second behind Bethlehem Central in the team merge (all the races combined), 159-167.
Senior Olivia Shattuck led the charge for Ridgewood, placing seventh in 15:23.9, the fastest time of the day by a NJ girl.
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS
The girls team winners from NJ were No. 5 Middletown South, No. 7 Mendham, and No. 10 Rumson. And the other NJ individual winners were sophomore Aubrey Pierontoni of Kingsway, who won the girls E Division race in 15:24.5, the 2nd fastest NJ girls time of the meet, and senior Dennis Fortuna, who smashed the Triton school course record when he won the boys F Division race in 12:45.7, the fourth fastest NJ time of the meet.
Mendham averaged 16:14 and had 1-5 split of 50 seconds en route to winning the B Division title. Freshman Rosemary Shay (15:36.9) led Middletown South to the D Division championship with a winning time of 15:36.9, and Rumson averaged 16:30 and had a 1-5 compression of 56 seconds to capture the A Division race. Freshman Logan Rettino led the way for the Rumson, placing seventh in 16:00.
In the girls team merge, Ridgewood, as mentioned earlier, was No. 2 overall behind Bethlehem Central and No. 1 in NJ, Mendham was fourth with 322, Middletown South was eighth with 450, and Rumson was 10th with 455 points.
Senior Jacob Heredia of Clifton ran the third fastest NJ time of the day when he placed sixth in the Eastern race in a school course record 12:39.5.
Senior Amiri Whittle of Hackensack also broke his school course record with his runner-up time of 12:51.5 in the C Division race.
Kyle Rakitis of Kingsay, who won the 1,600m at the Meet of Champions last June, placed third in the B Division race in 12:53.1 to help Kingsway finish sixth over seventh-place and No. 17 Chatham, 169-189.
VAN CORTLANDT'S UPDATED ALL-TIME BOYS LIST FOR THE 2.5-MILE COURSE
11:55.4-Edward Cheserek, St. Benedict's Prep, NJ, 2011 (Cheserek also ran 11:58.7 in 2012)
11:57.2-Alex Ostberg, Darien, Conn., 2014
12:02.3-Bryce Millar, Fayetteville-Manlius, NY, 2014
12:03.8-Joe Rosa, West Windsor-Plainsboro North, NJ, 2009
12:04.8-Jackson Barna, Ridge, NJ, 2021
12:05.7-Nick Ryan, Fayetteville-Manlius, NY, 2012
12:06.6-Solomon Haile, Sherwood, Md., 2008
12:08.7-Jim Rosa, West Windsor-Plainsboro North, 2009
12:10.6-Tom Gruenewald, Fayetteville-Manlius, NY, 2006
12:10.6-Noah Affolder, Carlisle, Pa, 2016
12:10.7-Craig Forys, Colts Neck, 2006
12:13.0-Marco Langon, Bridgewater-Raritan, 2021