While Christian Brothers Academy and the Haddonfield Memorial girls come into Saturday's 50th NJSIAA Meet of Champions at Holmdel Park as heavy favorites to win the team championships, the battle for the individuals titles have never been more wide open.
The race times for the Meet of Champions, NJ's crown jewel event of the season, are 11 a.m. for the boys and 12 p.m. for the girls. It's going to be warm again with temps around 70 expected.
- Meet Information & Coverage Hub
- Predictions Preview - Individuals & Teams
- Holmdel Park Season Rankings 2022
- Top 20 Team Rankings: Boys | Girls
- Group Championships Coverage
As usual NJ MileSplit will be on site for results, race videos, interviews, photos, and more.
Let's get this preview rolling with the outlook for the team titles.
2022 Meet of Champions Preview
DRIVE FOR 25
CBA, No. 1 in the state all season, has steamrolled its way to an undefeated season this fall and the Colts head into this race favored to extend its state record to 25 titles. This will be the 49th boys team championship, so a CBA victory would make the M of C scoreboard read, CBA 25, the rest of the state 24!!!
The top five for CBA last week when it won the Non-Public A title were Joe Barrett, Nicholas Sullivan, Jack Falkowski, Lucas Ward, and Zach Shroba, who had a 1-5 spread of 38 seconds and averaged 16:06, No. 7 in Holmdel history.
While winning the title after placing second to Union Catholic last year is the obvious goal, CBA is also targeting the course record average of 15:52.2 that was set by CBA at the 2013 M of C.
If CBA wins and breaks the course record it would certainly elevate its status as one of the best teams in state history. What the Colts do at the Northeast Regionals and and the Team National Championships will determine exactly where this squad ranks all-time.
Can anyone knock off CBA?
The only teams that seemingly have a realistic chance of challenging CBA or pulling off what would be a monumental upset are No. 2 ranked Union Catholic, No. 3 Haddonfield, the Group 2 winner, No. 4 Cherokee, the Group 4 champ, No. 5 Westfield, the Group 4 runner-up, and No. 6 St. Peter's Prep.
Union Catholic, the defending champs, poses the biggest threat. UC finished second to CBA in the Non-Public A race and in the overall team merge, and its average of 16:32 was the second fastest of the day.
WIILL THE DAWGS FINALLY HAVE THEIR DAY
The No 1 ranked Haddonfield girls, one of the best programs in state history, have a great opportunity to win its first M of C title. Haddonfield finish as the No. 1 team in the state in 2020 after it won the Holmdel Invitational, viewed by many as the unofficial Meet of Champs that year, which was held after the Meet of Champions was canceled due to COVID.
The strength of Coach Jason Russo's team is it's tight pack. The Dawgs have the most impressive 1-5 compression in the state. At the South sectional meet they pitched a perfect score of 15 with a 21 second spread. Last week, the Dawgs went 5-6-7-8-11, averaged 19:36, and had a 1-5 split of 19 seconds.
If Haddonfield can keep its pack together again and not have an off race from any of its to runners, the Dawgs will be very tough to knock off.
Who is Haddonfield's biggest challenger?
No. 2 ranked Union Catholic, the No. 1 team for most of the season, No. 3 Clearview, the Group 3 champs, and No. 4 Freehold Township, the Group 4 winners, are the only teams that seem to have a chance of defeating Haddonfield.
Union Catholic, also seeking their first girls M of C title, won the Non-Public A race and averaged 20:09 despite junior star Peyton Hollis being unable to finish the race due to a leg injury. She is questionable for this race. If Hollis can't go, UC still has plenty of firepower led by senior Kaleigh Gunsiorowski and junior Courtney Kaiser, who have both gone sub-19 at Holmdel this season.
WHO WILL WIN THE BOYS INDIVIDUAL TITLE?
There's almost never a M of C race with more than two or three runners who have a realistic shot at winning the individual title, so Saturday's race is as rare as it gets as at least five runners appear to have an even chance at crossing the line first and being crowned NJ's best.
Wischusen, the top returning finisher from the M of C last year when he was fifth, is out with a foot injury. He ran 15:22 at the Shore Coaches Invit., the fastest time in the state this season at Holmdel.
Boler, who finished a step behind Wischusen when he ran 15:23 at the Shore Coaches meet, didn't qualify out of the Group Championships after he was hit with the flu last week, which severely affected his performance in the Non-Public race.
So who will win the showdown and be crowned the XC King of the Garden State?
There's a lot to choose from.
Nine runners broke 16 minutes at the State Group Championships, and most of them are contenders to win.
Let's take look at the five biggest favorites.
George Andrus leading the South Group 2 Sectional at DREAM Park on Oct. 29th.
The Villanova-bound Andrus looked very comfortable running 15:41 to win the Group 2 title. Andrus, 16th last year, is attempting to join Jim Smith (1981) as the only boys from Haddonfield to win. Andrus looked like he he had a lot more run in him last week, so it wouldn't be surprising to see get close to 15:30 and even under 15:30.
He won the Non-Public A title in 15:43, edging Delbarton's Collin Boler (15:45). Barrett is seeking to become the first sophomore boy to ever win, and he has a great shot at taking down the course sophomore record of 15:35 set last year by Jimmy Wischusen of Union Catholic.
Boler owns the fastest Holmdel time of anyone in this race with the 15:28 he ran to place third at the Shore Coaches Invit. Boler, who was second to Barrett in Non-Public A in 15:45, was sick all week leading up to the race last week. A healthy Collin Boler will be very tough to beat.
The senior ran 15:45 to win the Group 3 race to become the first champ from Rahway since Len Phillips won the Group 4 title in 1960. No runner from Rahway has ever won an XC M of C title.
time at the Group Championships, burning a 15:39 to win Group 4 and become the first state XC champ ever from Elizabeth. Reguinho and Michah Lawson of Rahway are bidding to become just the second runner from Union County to win the boys race. The late Cliff Sheehan of Westfield won the title in 1980.
Other sub 16 minute Holmdel runners to keep an eye on who should be in the lead pack and could challenge for the top spot are Akshay Vadul of Edison, Owen Horevay of Lakeland, Nicholas Sullivan of CBA, Nick Kuenkel of Cherokee, Avery Keith of Westfield, and Patrick Ditmars of Cherokee. Also, Group 2 runner-up Peyton Shute of Gateway/Woodbury should be in the mix for a top 10 spot.
LOTS OF GIRLS HAVE A SHOT TO WIN
Unlike recent years when there was a slam dunk favorite like Angelina Perez last year, Chloe Gonzalez in 2019 and Abby Loveys in 2019, the girls race is completely up for grabs this year as six girls who have broken 18:30 at Holmdel will square off.
Here's the tale of the tape-
The University of Virginia-bound DeSousa won her second straight Non-Public A title last week in 18:42, the top time of the meet. DeSousa, who was 10th last year at the M of C and has a Holmdel PR of 18:26, always runs her best at Holmdel. She defeated Zawatski at the Monmouth County Championships at Holmdel, and was second to Zawatski at the Shore Conference Championships at Ocean County Park.
The junior, who won the 1,600 at the Meet of Champions last spring, won the Group 4 title in 18:44. Zawatski ran her Holmdel PR of 18:37 at the Shore Coaches Invit. last month. She placed second to DeSousa at the Monmouth County Championships at Holmdel, and avenged that loss by winning the Shore Conference title at Ocean County Park
The Villanova-bound O'Connor won her second straight Non-Public B State title last week in a very relaxed and unpushed 19:01. O'Connor is the top returning finisher from the M of C last year where she was fourth in 18:12. O'Connor was third behind DeSousa and Zawatski at the Monmouth County Championships, and fourth at the Shore Conference Championships.
Hausman, headed to Duke, was second to DeSousa at the Non-Public A race in 18:54, and owns a Holmdel PR of 18:29, which she ran to place sixth last year.
Gordon, who became the first state XC champ from her school when she won the Group 3 race in 18:57, ran 18:29 last year when she placed eighth as a freshman at the M of C.
Don't forget about Roop. Although she was third in the Group 3 race last week, Roop ran 18:29 last year when she placed seventh at the M of C.
There are several other runners that are capable of top 10 finishes. Among them are Group 2 champ Morgan Uhlhorn of LaKeland, Leanna Johnston of IHA, Olivia Murray of Pingry, Kaleigh Gunsiorowski of Union Catholic, Abigail Waddington of Clearview, Melina Johnston of Robbinsville, and Megan Donlevie of Shore Regional.