North 2: Skyland Wins 6 Team Titles, Langon, Roop Smash CR's

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Course records by Marco Langon and Cassidy Roop, four team sweeps, a remarkable showing by the Skyland Conference, historic victories, and repeat champions highlighted an electrifying day of racing at the North Jersey, Section 2 Championships on Saturday at Oak Ridge Park in Clark.

The meet was a giant victory party for the Skyland Conference, which won six of the eight team titles, and captured three individual titles! Three schools from the Skyland Conference, North Hunterdon, Ridge, and Voorhees, swept team titles, and Hasbrouck Heights grabbed both titles in Group 1. Four team sweeps is unheard of in one sectional!!!

More on these amazing broom jobs later.   


Let's get into the most eagerly anticipated showdown of the season between Langon and Jackson Barna of Ridge, the two top runners in the state all season. The two undefeated runners were together for half the race before Langon pulled away over the final mile before charging across the line to win the Group 4 race in 15:02, shaving seven seconds off the course record of 15:09 that he set at the Bernie Magee Class Meet in September.

The Georgetown-bound Barna, who was leading Langon by a step at the halfway mark, wound up fourth in 15:56. According to Ridge coach Nicole Gilhuley, Barna told her he was dealing with a cramp during the race.

The Villanova-bound Langon said after the race that he's knows Barna will bounce back next week when they clash again in the State Group 4 race at Holmdel Park, and Langon feels he's capable of sub 15!!!  Only two runners have ever gone under 15 at Holmdel, Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep (14:53 in 2011) and Joe Rosa of West Windsor-Plainsboro North (14:56 in 2009).
The girls course record also went down as Roop, a sophomore at North Hunterdon, ran 18:22 and edged Lara Cota of Summit by a step. Cota, also timed in 18:22, set the CR of18:24 at the Bernie Magee Memorial Class meet in September.


While Roop was excited to become the new course record holder, she was even more ecstatic to help lead her team win its seventh straight sectional title to send head coach Sean Walsh out on top. North Hunterdon won the last six sectional titles in Group 4.

North Hunterdon, ranked No. 8 in the state, put three runners in the top five and averaged 19:16 to edge defending champion and No. 6 Mendham, 43-51. North Hunterdon was the most impressive girls team of the meet, coming out on top in the merge, 84-90 over Mendham.

Walsh, one of the greatest coaches in state history, is retiring from coaching after this season, his 18th at his alma mater. This was the eight sectional title during his remarkable career, which is highlighted by three straight M of C XC titles. He's one of just four coaches in state history to win three straight girls M of C titles.   

"I told the girls before they left that I know I'm stepping down and today meant a lot to me,'' said Walsh. "Then I teared up. I'm so proud of them!''   

The top boys team of the day was No. 3 Ridge. Despite Barna's off race, Ridge still averaged 16:11 and won its third straight title in Group 4, 40-59 over runner-up and No. 7 Westfield. The Ridge girls won its first title since 2014, edging runner-up Westfield, 61-68.  Ridge also finished on top in the merge, 77-107 over Westfield.

The North Hunterdon boys, ranked No. 4 in the state, received huge races from Jeremy Bavaro (15th in 16:43) and Lucas Miller (21st in 16:57) to win the Group 3 race, 55-67 over No. 13 Chatham. It's the first title for the North Hunterdon boys since 2016.

In Group 2, the Voorhees boys, led by runner-up Jack Tavaglione (15:30), defeated runner-up Parsippany, 71-82, and the Voorhees girls rolled to a 27-83 victory over Bernards. It's the first title for the Voorhees girls since 2017, and its the sixth title in the past eight years for the Voorhees boys. 

One of the most eye-popping stats of the day came from Voorhees, which had its top five boys and top five girls runners all run PR's!!! Talk about peaking at the right time!!!    

Group 1 was all about Hasbrouck Heights. 

The Hasbrouck Heights girls got things going by jamming four runners in the top eight on the way to winning its first sectional title ever, 46-69 over Secaucus. Then it was the boys turn as senior Evan Morrow led the charge by winning in 16:38 to spark the Hasbrouck Heights boys to its third sectional crown.

Morrow was jacked up after his victory.

"Last year I was 10th in the race and was so disappointed with how I ran that I threw that medal away,'' said Morrow. I made it my goal to come back this year and win and help our team get back on top''

The victory was especially sweet for Morrow after coming back from a broken ankle suffered last spring. Morrow is so tough that he ran on the broken ankle for two months (he didn't know it was broken until the season was over) and qualified for the State Group meet in the 1,600 last spring.       


Adam Angelone of Madison pulled off a rare feat when the senior at Madison won his third straight title in Group 2 by running a 1 huge PR of 15:36 to edge Tavaglione by four seconds. Angelone  is just the seventh boy in NJ. Sec. 2 history to win three straight titles.    

Brandon Chen of West Morris won his second straight Group 3 title and broke his school record with his time of 15:43. Chen's time broke the school record for any course of 15:46 that was set by Luke Lusskin at the 2018 Morris County Championships at Greystone.


Brooke Hunter of Philipsburg continued her amazing rookie season on the trails by making history in the Group 4 race when the junior crossed first and stopped the clock at 18:44. Hunter is the first runner from Phillipsburg (boy or girl) to ever win a sectional XC title, and her 18:43 is the fastest time ever run by Phillipsburg girl on an course!

Hunter was a star on the P-Burg's field hockey team, but always loved running and decided to give it a try this year. Hunter is certainly a rare and remarkable talent. Not many first year runners crack 19 and win a sectional title!

Tara Kibbe, a junior at Lyndhurst, also made history when she won the Group 2 race in 19:31. Kibbe is the first girl from Lyndhurst to capture a sectional XC title.

Kibbe is a great story. A soccer player until last year, Kibbe, fifth in the sectional last fall, only started running last year when she was looking for something to do during the quarantine to stay in shape for soccer. Now she's a sectional XC champ!!   

In the girls Group 1 race, Cedar Grove senior Tara Smurla, determined to improve on her 7th place finish last year after placing 5th as a sophomore. etched her name in school record book by becoming the first girl from her school to take home a sectional cross-country crown. Smurla won the race in 19:39.