The thunderous roars of sheer joy that came between all the high-fives and fist-bumps could be heard echoing throughout Holmdel Park on Tuesday afternoon.
It was coming from the Union Catholic boys and girls cross-country teams and their supporters, who had every reason to be loud and proud because the Vikings had just pulled off a rare sweep of the State Non-Public A Championships, which touched off a spirited celebration.
Union Catholic is the first program to win both the boys and girls Non-Public A titles in 27 years! Paul VI is the last program to pull it off back in 1994.
How did it happen?
First, the UC girls, ranked No. 11 in the state, won another thriller over Union County rival and No. 12 ranked Kent Place, 77-78, for its third state title. The Vikings also won in 2015 and 2017.
Then in an eagerly anticipated showdown between the state's two best teams, the No. 1 ranked Union Catholic boys, defeated No. 2 ranked Christian Brothers Academy, 32-43, to win its first state championship ever.
CBA, which owns the state record with 30 state championships, had won four in a row and nine of the last 10.
The Union Catholic boys are the first team other than CBA or Don Bosco Prep to win the Non-Public A title since 1995!
"This is the best day in the history of our program,'' said Union Catholic coach Mike McCabe. "The girls really closed well and came back to beat a very strong Kent Place team. And the boys have been building for this all season, and they all stepped up with their best races ever here at Holmdel. It's the biggest win ever for our boys!''
CLASH OF TITANS
The UC-CBA matchup had been hyped up all season, and each team rose to the challenge with their best races of the season. Both teams had all of its scoring runners break 17, and CBA and UC took 10 of the top 16 places.
Union Catholic's frontal attack once again set the tone for the Vikings as senior Shane Brosnan (15:45) and sophomore Jimmy Wischusen (15:48) went 1-2 as they threw down the two fastest times ever by Union County runners in the history of Holmdel Park. Westfield's Cliff Sheehan (1980) and Jeff Perrella (2005) had shared the record of 15:50. And Wischusen's 15:48 is tied for the fourth fastest ever run by a sophomore in the history of the course. Holmdel's current course has been used for the State Championships since 1979!
The only sophomores to run faster at Holmdel than Wischusen are Joe Rosa of West Windsor-Plainsboro North (15:38 in 2008), Blasie Ferro of CBA (15:45 in 2013), and Doug Smith of Gill St. Bernard's (15:47 in 2005).
All five scorers for UC ran Holmdel personal bests, which added up to a sizzling 16:13 average, the eighth fastest average in course history.
CBA, which suffered some misfortune when star freshman Joe Barrett lost a shoe just before the mile mark and eventually had to drop out, averaged 16:25.
The Colts received a fourth-place from senior Jack Moran (16:05), a sixth from sophomore Jack Falkowski (16:16, which is No. 4 in CBA course history for soph.) an eighth from junior Nick Sullivan (16:17), a ninth from sophomore Alex Kemp (16:30), and a 16th from junior Matt Mastroly (16:59).
Brosnan said winning the first state title in school history has been something UC has targeted for a long time.
"We've been training hard since the summer to make history,'' said Brosnan. "We've been building every week this season for this, so it feels great to see it all come together.''
Plummer, who dropped his Holmdel PR by 16 seconds, said he's dreamed of this moment since his freshman year.
"For the last four years, this is something I've always thought about,'' said Plummer. "All the hard work paid off for all of us. We knew we'd all have to run our best, and we did. I can't say enough about how well everyone ran. Caudell and Ryan are very strong 4-5 guys for us, and it took all five of us to put this puzzle together.''
UC and CBA will clash again this Saturday at the Meet of Champions at Holmdel. The girls race is at 11 a.m. and the boys at 11:45.
"We know we have to do this again in a few days, and it will be another tough race,'' said Plummer. "But we will be ready.''
CBA coach Sean McCafferty was proud of how his guys ran.
"If Barrett doesn't lose his shoe it's neck and neck, probably a one or two point meet either way, which is how we thought it might go, '' said McCafferty. "He ran for another mile and we pulled him off so he didn't hurt his foot. He's okay. Saturday will be another bad ass race.''
Does McCafferty like his chances of avenging this loss at the Meet of Champions?
"Absolutely,'' he said. "We'll be ready.''
UNION COUNTY TRIOLOGY
In the girls race, Kent Place, seeking its first title since winning the State Non-Public B title in 2013, opened a big lead as expected up front, taking a 13-29 advantage over UC after each team had three runners across the line. But UC's No. 4 and No. 5 runners each finished ahead of Kent Place No. 4 runner to give the Vikings a heart-pounding 77-78 victory.
This is the third time this season that UC has edged Kent Place by less than four points. UC defeated Kent Place by three points to win the Watchung Conference Division at the Union County Conference Championships, and by two points at the Union County Championships.
CATE THE GREAT
Cate DeSousa came into the girls Non-Public A race as the big favorite, and she didn't let anyone challenge her as the RBC junior took control of the race right away and just kept rolling on her way to victory in 18:33.
DeSousa is the eighth girl from RBC to win a state XC title, and the first since Molly McNamara won in 2010.
DeSousa grabbed a 10 second lead with a 6:12 first mile, had a 15 second gap coming out of the bowl, and was up by 20 seconds as she charged toward the tennis courts.
"This is something I've always wanted to win,'' said DeSousa, who won state titles on the track in the 800 and 1,600 last spring. "I remember seeing Nicole Vanasse of Pingry win this race when I was a freshman, and ever since then I wanted to get this championship. It was tough not having this race last year because of Covid, so to come back this year and win this is such a great feeling.''
DeSousa said time wasn't really on her mind today, but it will be on her mind at the Meet of Champions.
"I really want to get the school record at Holmdel (18:21 by Molly McNamara in 2010), so that will be one of my big goals for the race,'' said DeSousa, whose Holmdel PR is 18:26. "I know the race is going to be very fast, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do.''