Boys Group Recap: CBA, Haddonfield, Reguinho, Lawson Rock

A jaw-dropping masterpiece by the state's No. 1 team, shocking upsets, historic victories, and a delayed celebration after a scoring mishap highlighted one the wildest and warmest NJSIAA Group Championship meets of all-time on Saturday at Holmdel Park.

Let's take a deep look into each of the boys races. 

Boys Group Championships Recap

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Non-Public A Results

In a meet full of surprises, one thing that certainly didn't come out of nowhere was the performance by Christian Brothers Academy.

The No. 1 team in the state showed why it's also one of the top teams in the nation by throwing down one of the greatest races in meet history as the Colts torched the 3.1-mile layout.

Sophomore Joe Barrett led the assault by using a big kick to overtake heavily favored Collin Boler of Delbarton right after he came out of the woods and onto the final straightaway. Barrett charged across the line first in a CBA sophomore course record 15:43!! Boler, who ran 15:28 at the Shore Coaches Invit. on tis course last month, was second in 15:45. 

MERGE: Group State Championships

The win by Barrett ignited a 1-3-7-9-11-12-13 finish for the Colts, who averaged 16:06 and had a 1-5 compression of 38 seconds and a 1-7 split of 47 seconds. That added up to a 31-62 victory over defending champion and No. 2 ranked Union Catholic, which averaged 16:32, the second best of the day.

With its victory, the CBA added to its legacy as the greatest XC program in state history by extending its state record to 31 state championships!!

Six of seven CBA runners ran Holmdel PR's!! And CBA's 16:06 average is No. 7 all-time in course history, and it was faster than all but 11 runners in the six races combined on the day. That's right, CBA's 16:06 would have tied them with the 12th fastest runner in the whole meet!!!

CBA's seven were Barrett, senior Nick Sullivan (15:53), junior Jack Falkowski (16:13), senior Lucas Ward (16:20), senior Zach Shroba (16:21), junior Alex Kemp (16:28), and junior Conor Clifford (16:30). It was Clifford's first time running with CBA's top seven.  

Barrett, who ran the No. 3 time ever by a soph. in course history, said CBA had a lot of motivation after finishing second last year, and that he was seeking some personal redemption after he lost a shoe during the Non-Public A race last year and wasn't able to finish.

"This is something we've been working toward ever since we lost last year, and we knew if we stuck with our race plan and executed it that we'd run a great race like this,'' said Barrett, who broke the CBA soph., record of 15:45 set by the great Blaise Ferro. "We knew we were ready, and we all ran the way were were capable of.''

Barrett said he was bit surprised with his victory, but also said he was feeling good and just gave it all he had in the final 250 meters to pull off the upset.

One of the big topics after CBA's race was whether they felt the course record average of 15:52.2, which was set by CBA at the 2013 Meet of Champions, was within their reach at the M of C next Saturday. Every runner said they can run faster and were confident that record could go down.

CBA, the greatest program in state history, has a had a lot of great teams over the years. If this group breaks that record, its place as one of the best teams in state history will be secure.

Another note regarding the M of C next week is that Brian Boler of Delbarton, Collin's twin, failed to advance after placing 24th in 17:11. It's a tough break for Boler, who ran 15:22 at the Shore Coaches Invitational last month. But he and his brother got hit with the flu this past week, which kept them out of school for three days. That obviously affected Brian's performance.


Group 4 Results

This race had everything!!!    

There was Lucas Reguinho's stunning victory as the senior from Elizabeth stopped the clock at 15:39, the fastest time of the day. More on that shortly. 

And there was the unfortunate confusion over who won the team title.

The team battle featured a showdown between ten teams ranked in the Top 20, most notably No. 3 Cherokee, No. 4 Westfield, and No. 11 Southern.

It was obvious that the race was very close and it was tough to tell who won. When the results were finally posted about two hours after the race, it showed Westfield in first-place with 106, Southern second with 114, Ridge third with 126, and Cherokee fourth with 167.

Westfield celebrated when they saw the results!

But hold everything!! The results were wrong. 

After further review, one of Cherokee's runners, Patrick Ditmars, who finished third, was omitted from the result sheet that was posted. When the results were corrected and revised, Cherokee was the winner, 102-111 over runner-up Westfield. Southern was third with 119.

"We saw those guys (Westfield) celebrating, so we just figured we lost,'' said Ditmars, who ran 15:59. "So we were all disappointed. But then our coaches came over and said there was a mistake and that we won. It was crazy!!''

Westfield coach Chris Tafelski was understandably upset about what transpired.

"It's very unfortunate and disappointing,'' said Tafelski. "It's something that shouldn't have happened.''

Cherokee, which captured its first title since 2019 and seventh overall, overcame a lot of other anxious moments to capture its championship.

Junior Nick Kuenkel was in second place with about 25 yards to go in the race when his legs just gave out under the 75-deegre heat and crashed the ground. He fell two more times before valianltly wobbling across the finish line in fifth place. And usual No. 6 runner, sophomore Anthony DiBatista, stepped up and ran the race of is life as he finished as Cherokee's No. 5 runner, running 17:55 and placing 71st to clinch the title for the Chiefs.


There weren't a lot of people picking Reguinho to win the Group 4 race after he placed third at the North Jersey, Sec. 2 Group 4 race and had very limited training over the last two weeks due to what he described as a "medical emergency.''

But he never lost his confidence and was determined to prove people wrong.

He did exactly that.

Using his aggressive style of running by making several surges, Reguinho dropped a group of very talented runners when he threw down the hammer as he approached the tennis courts. He waited for someone to respond. But nobody had an answer. 

Reguinho then poured it on in the back woods on his way to a nine second victory as he became the first state champion ever from Elizabeth. Reguinho's 15:39, the fastest of the day, is even more impressive when you consider that he ran when it was around 75 degreee out!

Akshay Vadul of Edison, who finished ahead of Reguinho when he won the sectional race last week, was second in 15:49. 

"I came out here to show that I was a better runner than the way I raced at the sectionals,'' said Reguinho, who won the Union County Championship last month. "And to get this win and bring this back to Elizabeth is something I'm very proud of. "Elizabeth isn't really known as a distance running school, so it feels good to get us back on the map.''

Reguinho, who is now the third fastest runner in Union County history at Holmdel, said the blistering pace (5:10 at the mile and 10:10 at two miles) combined with the heat took its toll.

"I was really good when I made that move by the tennis courts and I think the other guys were feeling it from the pace and the heat,'' said Reguinho. "I knew I had to push through it if I wanted to be a state champion.''


Group 3 Results

Micah Lawson of Rahway and Summit made the Group 3 race a Union County sweep with impressive victories.

Lawson, a senior, made a huge surge coming out of the bowl to get away from favored Peyton Shute of Woodbury/Gateway on his way to victory in 15:45!! Lawson finished 39 seconds ahead of runner-up Shute, the largest margin of victory on the day.

Lawson, who became Rahway's first sectional champ last week, is Rahway's first state champion since Len Phillips won the Group 4 title in 1960!

"I know coming out of the bowl is a tough place to make a big move,'' said Lawson. "It's a place when runners like to relax a little, so I felt that if I could go hard there that it would be my best chance to win. And it worked out just the way I hoped.''

When Lawson came storming down the final straight, a huge group of family, friends, and classmates erupted in epohoria.

"I have a lot of people in my bag that have supported me, and it felt so good to have them her cheering for me,'' said Lawson. "Hopefully, I can run another great race next week and try to win again.''

In the team competition, No. 7 Summit won its second title (the other came in 2014) on the strength of its superior running at the back of its pack.

Summit was trailing No. 8 North Hunterdon, 25-47, after each team had three runners across. But Summit erased that deficit but putting six runners ahead of North Hunterdon's No. 4 runner to lock up a 106-126 victory over North Hunterdon. No. 9 Chatham finished third with 129. Summit averaged 17:18 and had a 1-5 spread of 1:00.

Summit's top five were senior John Cho, ninth in 16:42, senior Jackson Levine, 23rd 17:11, sophomore Dan Cota, 28th in 17:22, junior Emre Kusmin, 38th in 17:35, and senior Sam Ard, 39th in 17:42. 


Group 2 Results

Haddonfield, ranked No. 5 in the state, added to its rich legacy when George Andrus finished first in 15:41 to lead the Dawgs to its fifth straight Group 2 title and its 20th state championship overall.

The Dawgs averaged 16:49 and put their five scorers in the top 16 en route to a 47-118 victory over Cinnaminson. Haddon Heights finished third with a 137 as South Jersey teams took the top three places. 

The 20 state titles by Haddonfield is the third most in state history behind CBA (31) and Bernards (23)., and its five straight championships is the longest current streak in the state.

Andrus is the ninth boy in Haddonfield history to win a state XC title, and his 15:41 ties him for No. 2 in school history with by Jon Vitez in 2009. The Haddonfield record is 15:36 by Seth Clevenger at the M of C last year.


Group 1 Results

Keanu Ray of Weehawken and Kinnelon made history in the Group 1 race.

Ray,  one of the most unlikely state champs ever, ran 16:46 to became the first state champion ever from his school.

This was Ray's first race ever at Holmdel, and he was coming off a third-place finish in the North Jersey, Sec. 1 race. And now he's a state champion!!!! How incredible is that!!

The door was left open for Ray's historic triumph when defending champion Colin Riley of Dayton had to scratch due to an IT band injury. Ray, who moved to NJ from England in 2020 and started running in the spring of 2021,  made the most of the opportunity.

Kinnelon, in what looked like a close battle on paper, blew the lid off this race to win its first state title since capturing the Group 2 championship in 1950. Kinnelon outscored Metuchen, 88-136. It's Kinnelon's third state title. It also won the Group 1 title in 1967.  

Kinnelon, which averaged 18:02, put five runners in ahead of every teams No. 4 to secure the victory.

Senior Andrew Garcia was the No. 1 runner for Kinnelon, placing third in 17:01. Kinnelon's other four scorers were junior Kyle Bjornson  (12th), sophomore Jayden Hur (24th) Matt Mazurkiewicz (29th), and sophomore Will Portman placed 40th.


Non-Public B Results

Not many teams can overcome the loss of a state champion and still win a state championship.

But St. Rose, despite missing the injured Brian Theobald,  the 2021 champ, pulled it off by putting its five scoring runners in the top 22 and averaging 18:51 on the way to a 74-91 victory over runner-up Bishop Eustace.

It's the first title for St. Rose since 2009 and its seventh overall.   

Individually, Jeremy Sallade continued his breakout senior season by becoming the first state champ ever from Wilberforce, stopping the clock at 17:01. Sallade finished 23 second ahead of runner-up and teammate Caleb Brox (17:24).