Let's rewind the NJ XC clock back to one of the most significant and dramatic days in N.J. cross-country history.
It happened 42 years ago-Nov. 17, 1979 to be precise.
That was the day the first Meet of Champions race was ever run on Holmdel's current 3.1-mile layout. Holmdel Park was first used for the M of C in 1976, but the course was different in '76, '77, and '78 than it is now.
The debut of the new course layout in '79 (which has been used ever since) featured one of the greatest individual finish in meet history, and also signaled the start of a dynasty.
Jim Smith of Haddonfield and Kevin Lundy of Long Branch christened the new 5-K course with one of the most dramatic battles ever run on New Jersey soil.
All these years later, no 1-2 finish at Holmdel has topped the thrilling show that Smith and Lundy put on that day, battling stride-for-stride to the line as both runners stopped the clock in 16:09.5. Smith was declared the winner.
Here's Smith's account of his historic victory.
``As I recall, though the weather was great (nice and cold, but not too cold), but the course was mushy from rains earlier in the week,'' said Smith. "If I recall correctly, there were fewer prepared trails at Holmdel back then and a lot more grass. The bowl was all grass, for example, and we had to run around flags set in the grass. The course was very tough when wet. I went out fast and had a gap on the field. I ran mostly alone until Kevin Lundy caught me just as we came out of the woods.
"I didn't know he was closing until I heard the crowd yelling as we came out of the woods,'' Smith continued. "Kevin passed me somewhere around 100-150 yards to go and I fought to get back to even. The last bit (50-100 yards?), we were pretty much dead even, sprinting with all we had. I recall forging ahead -- by inches -- as we approached the finish. We both lunged at the line and hit the ground. It seemed like we were on the ground a long time while people tried to figure out what happened and what to do... I am sure it was only a few seconds. Eventually somebody (my Dad?) helped me up and walked me through the chute; somebody else got Kevin up and through. After the race, I remember sitting down propped up against a tree for a long while, trying to regain my wits. This was not one of those races where I thought "I could have run faster if I had to." I gave it all I had that day.''
The Smith-Lundy epic showdown wasn't the only noteworthy performance that day.
In the team competition, a then very young coach named Tom Heath led Christian Brothers Academy to its first M of C title., 57-116 over runner-up Bernards. Manalapan was third with 118.
CBA's top seven that day were Marc Librizzi (fifth in 16:26), John McCabe (19th in 16:49), Kevin Brandon (26th), Greg Karpick (31st), Steve Apostolacus (40th), Ed Hillmann (44), and John Vickers (96th).
The 1979 CBA XC team is pictured above, and the original and official place cards for CBA from the 1979 NJ XC Meet of Champions are listed below
Forty-two years later, CBA, now with Sean McCafferty at the helm (Heath retired after the 2015 with 21 M of C titles), CBA has now piled up a state record 24 M of C titles. That's one more than the rest of the state combined!
While Holmdel has certainly had its share of magical moments over the last five decades, the 1979 M of C race will always hold a special place in NJ history as one of the most meaningful.
Happy Anniversary to Smith, Lundy, Heath, CBA, and Holmdel Park's current course.
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