CBA And Shapiro Extend Streaks, Valentino Wins At Monmouth

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Lilly Shapiro made history to lead the NJ#2 Colts Neck girls to a decisive victory over a loaded field, NJ#3 Christian Brothers Academy made a huge statement with its best race of the season to extend its record winning streak to a remarkable 20 in a row, and Dan Valentino of Freehold Township scored the biggest win of his career at Thursday's Monmouth County Championships at Holmdel Park.

The University of North Carolina-bound Shapiro, who won the 800 meters at the Meet of Champions last spring, started to pull away from a strong field coming out of the bowl and hammered her way through the woods before charging across the finish line, stopping the clock with a huge personal best of 18:10 to become the first girl to ever win three straight Monmouth County titles. 

Shapiro lead a lethal frontal attack for Colts Neck, which put three runners in the top six and averaged 19:28 on the way to a 42-92 victory over defending champion and No. 7 Middletown South. No. 18 Red Bank Catholic was third with 105, and No. 8 Rumson placed fourth with 108.

It's the first title for Colts Neck since 2017 and its fifth overall.

Shapiro was ecstatic with how fast her team ran as te enote top five for Colts Neck dropped massive Holmdel PR's.

"I'm so proud of how we all ran,'' said Shapiro, whose previous Holmdel PR was 18:39. "All the girls on the team are my best friends, and we all run for each other, and everything I do is for my team.''

Shapiro said she executed her race plan exactly how she wanted, and felt very strong the whole way.

"My plan was to not go out to hard, then pick it up in the second mile, and finish strong,'' said Shapiro. "Coming out of the bowl I was feeling good, so that's when I made a move and went to the lead and then I just kept pushing it. This is my first race here this season, so I'm really happy to break my PR by 20 seconds on this course.''

Colts Neck's top five were Shapiro, senior Presslie Mariner, fifth in 19:11 (a massive Holmdel PR by 1:19), junior Ava Wilmot, sixth in 19:16 (a 20 second Holmdel PR),  sophomore Ashley Pavlovsky, 14th in 20:18 (a huge Holmdel PR by 1:13), and junior Olivia Petschauer, 16th in 20:23 (a 14 second Holmdel PR).

In the boys team race, CBA, despite missing some key runners, still got exactly what it came for as the Colts received a flurry of PR's and put together their best race of the season by averaging 16:40 on the way to its 20th straight title and 44th county XC championship overall.

CBA put three runners in the top seven and had all seven runners finish ahead of Manalapan's No. 5 runner as the Colts defeated No. 6 Manalapan, 40-83. No. 11 Colts Neck placed third with 88 points.

CBA's top five were junior Nick Sullivan, second in 16:18, senior Jack Moran, fourth in 16:21, freshman Joe Barrett, seventh in 16:39, sophomore Alex Kemp, 13th in 16:55, and sophomore Jack Falkowski, 14th in 17:06. 

CBA's top five all ran Holmdel PR's.  

Sullivan's time was a 10 second PR for Holmdel. Moran dropped his Holmdel PR by 11 seconds. Barrett, running the 5K course at Holmdel for the first time, ran the second fastest time ever for a CBA freshman at Holmdel, trailing only the legendary Blaise Ferro. Ferro ran 16:37 as a freshman at the 2012 Meet of Champions at Holmdel. Kemp dropped his Holmdel PR by 45 seconds, and Falkowski sliced 24 seconds off his previous best on the course.    

"This is the kind of race we were waiting for all season,'' said Sullivan. "When we won our race at the Manhattan Invitational, that gave us some confidence, and to come here and have our best race is what we needed to keep the momentum going into the state meets. We had a couple guys out (Lucas and and Hill), but the lots of guys really stepped up and came through for us.''   

Sullivan said that CBA's long winning streak (it hasn't lost at the county meet since Red Bank captured the title in 2001), gives him and his teammates added motivation.

"We all know about the streak and how hard all the CBA teams before us worked to keep it going,'' said Sullivan. "So it's always on all of our minds whenever we take the line.'' 

For Valentino, the boys individual champ in 16:10 (a Holmdel PR by 3 seconds), he's been waiting a long time for this moment.

"This is my first major title,'' said Valentino, fourth at this meet last year and the top returning finisher. "I felt like it was finally my time to win one of these big races, so I went after it with everything I had.''

Valentino, who joined Dylan Tarpey (2012) as Freehold Township's only county XC champs, said that even though he had a big lead coming out of the woods and on to the finishing straightaway, he refused to take anything for granted.

"I never look back in a race,'' said Valentino. "I like to keep running as if a bunch of wild dogs are chasing me,'' said Valentino, who runs with a lot of grit. "When I crossed the line it was such a great feeling. I've always wanted to be a county champion.''