Girls Storylines At NJSIAA State Group Championships

Holmdel Park Course Tour, Filmed 2019

Here we go!! The greatest day of the season is finally upon us! Get ur Group Cross Country Championships on!!!

It just doesn't get any better than this. Anyone who disagrees should have their pulse checked!

The NJSIAA Meet of Champions (Nov. 12 at Holmdel) is obviously a great event, but it comes and goes way too fast. Nothing compares to the State Group Championship because of the never ending drama that plays out at New Jersey's cross country Cathedral - Holmdel Park, the Holy Grail of NJ XC courses!!

The Group Championship meet this Saturday is NJ cross country's Mardi Gras!!!! Nothing better than seeing fans running all over the course screaming, blowing horns, banging drums. There are students/fans decked out in war paint and dressed in crazy costumes as they show off their school spirit!!

There's are a lot of awesome storylines!!!

Oh, wait a second. 

Before we get into the previews, there is something else to keep an eye on... the weather!! Hey parents and XC fans, you better climb back into the attic and grab some shorts!! This will be the warmest day ever for the Group Championships, with temps expected to soar into the 70's. Yup, it's hard to believe that it's November in Jersey!

NJ MileSplit will have full results updates, race videos, interviews, photos, and more from NJSIAA Group Championships.

Girls Group Championship Preview


Sparks will be flying in this one as three of the state's best, defending champion Cate DeSousa of Red Bank Catholic, undefeated Peyton Hollis of Union Catholic, and Lindsay Hausman of Kent Place School will run shoulder-to-shoulder, and Union Catholic, the No. 1 team in the state, will take aim at the course record average!!!

This should be the fastest race of the day, both individually and team-wise, and could produce the closest and most dramatic individual finish of the day.

There just isn't much separating DeSousa, Hollis, and Hausman.

Rankings: Girls Holmdel Park Individuals 2022

DeSousa, who is committed the University of Virginia, ran 18:37 when she won the Monmouth County title at Holmdel Park. Hollis, a junior who is running her first season of XC, and the Duke-bound Hausman both ran 18:33 when they won their races during the Shore Coaches Invitational at Holmdel, and then those two nearly finished dead even when they produced an epic classic at the Union County Championships. Hollis edged Hausman by a hair as both runners stopped the clock at 17:49, the fastest time in Warinanco Park history.

So who has the edge? Who is the favorite?

It's really a toss up and the toughest race of the day to call since all three runners are so talented. It's hard to imagine anyone breaking away from the other two. There really is a chance that all three stars could be together as they emerge from the woods and on to the final straightaway. A three-way kick to finish with the crowd going nuts!!! How awesome would that be!!!

When the dust settles, it wouldn't be surprising to see DeSousa, Hollis and Hausman all close to 18 minutes, and it might just take sub 18 to win!

In the team competition, there is no question that Union Catholic will rock the competition on its way to a second straight title and fourth overall, and the Vikings have the firepower drop something historic at Holmdel!!! The course record of 19:01.6 set by the great Voorhees team at the 2012 Meet of Champions is in serious jeopardy.

I told you this race will be fast! There's just too much talent for it not to be.

UC averaged 19:16 at the Shore Coaches Invitational last month at Holmdel, which is No. 11 all-time in course history. UC has one of the most  potent frontal attacks in state history in Hollis, senior Kaleigh Gunsiorowski, and junior Courtney Kaiser. They all ran under 19 at Shore Coaches, and are all capable of making big drops.

Could Union Catholic average under 19?? I wouldn't bet against it! 


Is there any team in Group 2 that can derail the Haddonfield Memorial Express from steamrolling its way to a second straight title in Group 2 and a 10th state title?

I don't think so.

This isn't a shot at the other teams in this race, it just speaks to how loaded Haddonfield is.

There are lots of strong teams that will try to dethrone Haddonfield, led by No. 6 ranked Rumson, the Central champ, No. 16 Voorhees, the North 2 winner, and North 1 champ Old Tappan, but coach Jason Russo's pack is just too talented.

Much like the Non-Public A race, Haddonfield should dominate the Group 2 race, and it could also flirt with the course record average.

The Dawgs are coming off an amazing 15-point shutout with a crazy 1-5 split of just 21 seconds and a blistering course record of 18:19 at the South Sectional meet at Dream Park. Haddonfield also threw a perfect score down last year at the sectional meet, and just two of the runners last year were in the top five this year.

So how fast would 18:19 convert to at Holmdel?

Lots of coaches use around 50 seconds as a conversion from Dream to Holmdel, so that would put Haddonfield in the 19:10 range at Holmdel. Last year, Haddonfield averaged 18:51 at Dream and ran 19:51 the following week in the Group 2 race.

It remains to be seen if Haddonfield will push the pace or pack up and run a controlled race. Either way, the Dawgs should leave Holmdel with another trophy to add to its huge collection.

Individually, Central champ Melina Johnston of Robbinsville and Ava Thomas of Haddonfield, the South Sectional champ, look like the favorites to win.

Johnston, a junior who also won the Mercer County title, won the Central title in 18:50, the third fastest time at Thompson Park this season. She's attempting to become the second state XC champion ever from Robbinsville, the first since Megan Flynn won Group 1 in 2008. Thomas, a junior who has made huge drops in her times this season, won the South Jersey Sectional race in 18:07.


Will Freehold Township's greatest season ever continue with its first state title? Ridgewood finally breakthrough after recent near misses? Or will another team pull off a shocking upset?

Those are some of the biggest questions heading into the Group 4 race.

Freehold Township, behind individual favorite Emma Zawatski, is ranked No. 3 in the state and is coming off its first sectional championship ever when it captured the Central Jersey title with a 20-point win over No. 12 Hillsborough. Freehold Township also won the Monmouth County title this season for the first time ever, and is carrying a lot of confidence and momentum into this showdown with several ranked teams.

Among the top teams in the field are No. 3 Freehold Township,  No. 7 Ridgewood, the North 1 winner, No. 12 Hillsborough, No. 14 Westfield, the North 2 winner, No. 15 Hunterdon Central, No. 18 Toms River North, the South champ., and No. 20 Southern Regional.

Rankings: Top 20 Girls Teams Post-Sectionals

Ridgewood, who held out two of their top five when they captured the North 1 title, is seeking its first title since 1999 and its fifth overall. Ridgewood was second in Group 4 in 2018, 2019, and last year.

Individually, Zawatski, who won the CJ title in 18:27 and the Shore Conference Championships in 18:10, is rolling right now and is expected to finish first.

Defending champion Remy Dubac of Clifton, the North 1 winner, freshman Jessica Abbott of Toms River North, the South champ, and North 2 winner Brooke Hunter of Phillipsburg are among the top runners who will attempt to knock off Zawatski.


There's a lot to dive into in the Group 2 race as No. 4 Clearview, No. 5 Northern Highlands, and No. 8 North Hunterdon, and No. 9 Ramapo all collide, and a very good individual battle is on tap. Also keep an eye on CJ winner Allentown.

In the team race, Clearview, the South champ, has made a huge leap this season after finishing11th in Group 3 last year. They are led by  the 1-2 punch of Abigail Waddington, the South winner, and Abigail Kotran.

Clearview, which has never won a State Group XC Championship before, defeated Northern Highlands by 10 points and averaged 20:18 at the Shore Coaches Invitational at the start of October.

Northern Highlands comes into this race on fire. Two weeks ago, it won the Bergen County Meet Of Champions, and last week it defeated Ramapo by 41 points, averaged 20:13, and had an impressive 1-5 split of 45 seconds on the rugged Garret Mountain course. If Northern Highlands can keep that spread under 60 seconds it will could win its first title sine 1993.

North Hunterdon, second to Colts Neck last year, is a very dangerous team now that the Lions are finally at full strength. North Hunterdon had its top seven runners on the line for the first time this season last week when it averaged 19:49 and rolled to the North 2 title. Cassidy Roop led the way with a winning time of 18:46. The Lions won the State Group 4 titles in 2017, '18, and 19, and have won a total of 10 championships.

Roop should be in the very strong lead pack that should consist of Waddington, Liliah Gordon of Northern Burlington, the CJ winner, Lily Oliver of Toms River South, and North 1 winner Amelia Keogh of Ramapo.

Gordon won the CJ title in 18:27, which ties Zawatski for the fastest time at Thompson Park this season. Waddington's 18:02 to win South Sectionals is the fastest time at Dream Park this season. Keogh won the North 1 race in 19:40, and Oliver, the Ocean County champ, is more than capable of a big bounce back race after placing fifth in South Jersey. Oliver owns the fastest time of all the runners in this race at Holmdel this season with an 18:51.


Megan Donlevie is back to defend her title as she tries to lead Shore Regional to its second straight championship and sixth overall.

Last week, Donlevie, a senior won the CJ in 19:20 when Shore outscored a strong Metuchen pack by 24 points to win.

Among the teams looking to knock off Shore are Bogota, the North 2 winner,  North 1 champ Glen Rock, and Maple Shade, the South winner. Maple Shade is comprised of seven runners who never ran XC before this season.

Donlevie's biggest challengers are probably Gianna Hernandez of Metuchen, who was second to Donlevie last week in 19:39, Meghan Lex of Haddon Township, the South champ, Amandine Fernandez of Bogota, the North 2 winner.   


No. 10 ranked Villa Walsh and defending champion Tilly O'Connor of St. Rose are close to the biggest locks of the meet as both should win the Non-Public A titles.

Villa Walsh, the 2019 state champs, is clearly the best team in the race, and comes into this meet on a roll. Villa Walsh has won the Morris County, NJAC, and NJCTC titles, and should add this trophy to its collection. Villa Walsh has captured six state championships, all since 2009.

O'Connor is the overwhelming favorite to win this race for the second straight year.

The Villanova-bound O'Connor is coming off a sizzling victory in 17:52 at the NJCTC Championships last week, the second fastest time in the history of Oak Ridge Park.