Legends Of The Fall: Every NJSIAA XC Meet of Champions Race

In a sport where the clock is always moving forward, it's time to turn it back as we celebrate the 51st anniversary of the NJSIAA XC Meet of Champions with a historical rewind that looks at every single race since the M of C was born in 1972.

What better way to say Happy Anniversary to the single greatest high school event ever created then to relive more than a half century worth of races. Talk about the ultimate jog down memory lane!!

Here's your NJ XC history lesson for today, tomorrow, and forever!! You're welcome! 



In the first ever boys M of C race, Harry Kronick of Franklin outdueled the late Greg ``Bucky'' Miller of Northern Highlands, 12:33.0 to 12:33.1, over 2.5 miles at Ocean County Park in Lakewood (a photo of that finish is at the top of this article). 

Here is a story about the first boys M of C race ever, which was written last year. There was no team scoring for the boys in the first race. 

Longtime Shore Regional coach Mel Ullmeyer was 10th for Raritan in the inaugural race, and Ed Donohue of Collingswood (the father of NJ legend Erin Donohue of Haddonfield) finished 20th.

Kronick, a 4:14 miler in high school, went on to run at Manhattan College where he was part of a recruiting class that included  Chris Inman (Essex Catholic), Dave Wall (Dickinson), Peryte Gaughn from NYC (held national flat floor indoor HS miler record at 4:13.1 at the time) and Matt Centrowitz.

Meanwhile, in the girls race (all the girls M of C  races have been held at Holmdel), Red Bank Catholic and Hilary Noden of Hopewell Valley were victorious. It was the first of five straight titles for RBC, coached by the legendary Jack Rafter. Noden ran 12:41 to capture the first of her three straight titles.


St. Joseph (Met.), under coach Al McCafferty (whose son is current CBA coach Sean McCafferty), became the first boys team champion ever when the Middlesex County squad edged Pascack Valley, 125-128 and Greg Stremmel of Gateway won the boys race in 14:22.8, edging Steve McDuffie of Neptune (second in 14:25). The race was increased to 3.0 miles and held at Bridgewater-Raritan West High School.

The girls race was a repeat of 1972 with RBC and Noden (12:31) successfully defending their titles


Marty Ludwikowski of Cherry Hill East went wire-to-wire, like he always did, and ran 14:42.1 to beat runner-up Sal Vega of Memorial WNY by seven seconds (14:49) at Buccleuch Park in New Brunswick. Eventual champion Kevin Byrne, then a soph. at Bergen Catholic, was third in 14:54.

Ludwikowski, who finished 26-0 by winning all 14 duals and all 12 invitationals. He also won one of the most thrilling races in Millrose Games history when he edged a diving Kevin Byrne at the line to win the High School mile, 4:15.5 to 4:15.6, in 1975. Ludwikowski went on to have an All-American career at Manhattan.

Morris Catholic defeated defending champion St. Joseph (Met.), 80-106, for the boys team title.

On the girls side, Noden finished off her 3-peat by running a meet and course record 11:22.

Noden is one of just four girls to ever win 3 M of C titles. No one has won four. RBC made it three straight team titles with a 95-124 win over North Hunterdon.


Kevin Byrne, who transferred from Bergen Catholic to Paramus Catholic after he was third in 1974, wasn't favored to win, but he scored the upset to become the first underclassmen to win the title in 14:43.2. The race was held at Pennsauken High. Chris Hallinan of Bernards, the heavy favorite, was second in 14:48.

Morris Catholic repeated as boys champion, 129-130.

In the girls race, Carol Conlon of Nutley finished first in 12:47, five seconds ahead of runner-up Sandy Alexander of Roxbury, to become the only girl from Essex County to ever win. RBC once again defeated North Hunterdon, 98-124, for its fourth in a row. 


Defending champion Kevin Byrne had the flu and didn't finish the race as Bob Siehl of Morris Hills went on to win the three mile race by 18 seconds in 14:43.5 in the first M of C boys race ever at Holmdel Park. The bowl was run in reverse back then. The current course started being used in 1979.

Kevin Molteni of Morris Catholic was second in 15:01. The guy in third place is someone everyone sees at every state meet, Jim Casey from Manalapan (15:03). Casey is the guy that puts together the finish line chutes, and works that area during all the state meets.

Westfield dethroned 2-time defending champion Morris Catholic, 59-78.

On the girls side, RBC outscored Shore Conference rival Toms River North, 56-70, to complete its five-peat, the longest girls streak in M of C history. Lucy Sheldrick of Union City, the only Hudson County girl to win an XC M of C title, won the 1976 race in 12:22, eight secnds ahead of Nancy Fitzgerald of Cedar Ridge.  


The Cuban-born Estoquio Gonzalez of Memorial (W.N.Y), 11th the year before, won by five seconds over Bill Leonard of Bergen Catholic, 15:21.6 to 15:26. Gonzalez attended Clemson very briefly before dropping out.

In one of the closest three-way boys team finish ever, Bergen Catholic defeated Westfield, 68-72, and Memorial (WNY) was third with 73.

The girls race featured a great three-way clash between Shore Conference powers as Brick ended RBC's run of 5 straight titles with a 57-71 win over RBC and Toms River North, who tied for second. With the course extended to 3.0 miles, Nancy Seeger of Roxbury dropped a 17:47 to cross the line first, 34 seconds ahead of Mary Banks of Raritan.


Joe Weber of Kearny, 8th as a junior, didn't win a major race all season, but shocked everyone except himself and his coach (Jim Cifelli) when he crossed first in the first M of C 5-K ever run at Holmdel Park in 15:49.5. Weber was second to Dave Swatland of Columbia in the Group 4 race the week before. The course was run differently that year as the bowl was run in reverse.

Weber's son, Joe Jr., won the Hudson County XC titles for Kearny in 2004 and '05, making the Weber duo possibly the only father-son combination in state history to both win county XC titles.

In another dramatic team finish, Memorial of West New York won the boys team title, 102-105 over Brick. CBA and Morris Catholic fiinshed with 106.

The Shore Conference continued its stranglehold on the girls title as Toms River North defeated Brick, 51-65. RBC was third with 96. Anne Gladue of Bayley-Ellard won the race in 18:48. Mary Banks of Raritan finished second for the second straight year in 18:53. 


In one the greatest finishes ever, Jim Smith of Haddonfield won a lean at the line over Kevin Lundy of Long Branch as both were timed in 16:09.5. This was the first year that the current Holmdel 5K course was used.

This was also a very significant race because it marked the first of CBA's state record 25 titles.

Smith, who was third at the M of C as a junior, placed 5th at the Kinney Nationals (now Champs Champ) in 15:27.

In the team competition, a very young coach by the name of Tom Heath led his alma mater, Christian Brothers Academy, to its first M of C title, a 57-116 over runner-up Bernards. Manalapan was third with 118. A dynasty was born.

The 1979 CBA team won the first of its state record 20 Meet of Champions titles. ( Photo courtesy of CBA)

Thirty-six years later, CBA, with Heath still at the helm, has piled up a state record 20 M of C titles. The Colts will seek to make it 21 overall and six straight M of C titles at this Saturday's 44th annual meet at Holmdel. No team is even close to CBA's M of C total. Paul VI has the second most titles with four. 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).

While Holmdel has certainly had its share of magical moments over the last three plus decades, the 1979 M of C race will always hold a special place in NJ history as one of the most meaningful.

In the girls race, Hunterdon Central ended the Shore Conference run of seven straight girls titles with a 52-63 victory over Old Tappan, and Gladue made it two straight titles by running 18:17. Theresa Gschwind of Summit was second in 19:19. Gladue finished third at the 1979 Foot Locker National Championships.


Westfield's Cliff Sheehan, who passed away at the age of 48 in 2011, lost just one race all season. He won the M of C title in 15:50.0, seven seconds in front of Tom Fischer of Manalapan. Sheehan also won the Kinney NE Regional in 15:19.8, and was 14th at Kinney Nationals in 15:36.

At Harvard, Sheehan broke four minutes in the mile (3:59.2 indoors), finished fifth in the 3,000 at the NCAA Indoor Championships as a junior, and was second in the mile at the NCAA Outdoor as a senior.

Sheehan then went to medical school at the University of Texas, and was a well respected cardiologist. 

Here is Sheehan's obituary - http://www.tributes.com/show/Clifford-Jean-Sheehan-92012802

CBA made it two straight team titles with an 82-86 victory over Westfield. Bernards was third with 89.

In the girls race, Janet Smith of J.P. Stevens became the first freshman to win when she ran 18:43, 20 seconds ahead of runner-up Meg Waldron of Bernards, and North Hunterdon's all underclassmen pack, under the direction of legendary coach Bob McGivney, captured the first of its eight nine titles with a 53-99 victory over Ridgewood.  


Tom Fischer of Manalapan, 7th as a sophomore in '79 and 2nd as a junior in '80, finally got his title by running 16:01.6, three ticks ahead of Shore Conference rival Carlos Hanze of Central Regional. Fischer was fourth in the Northeast Regional, and 24th at the FL national meet in 15:36.6 Fischer attended Auburn University for one year and earned All-Southeast Conference honors before transferring to Monmouth.

The boys team champ was Bernards, 36-111 over St. John Vianney.

Smith made it two in a row in the girls race by running 18:01, 18 seconds ahead of Theresa Gschwind of Summit. North Hunterdon rolled to its second straight championships, 30-59 over Bernards.


Bernards became the first and only program to sweep the boys and girls team titles in the same year!!!

John Carlotti, 24th as a junior in 1981, led Bernards to a second straight boys title with a winning time of 15:53.0 as the Mountaineers outscored CBA, 53-90. Carlotti, 32nd at the Kinney Nationals in 16:29.8, edged soph. and eventual champion Brad Hudson of Voorhees, who was second in 15:55.

The Bernards girls dethroned North Hunterdon, 47-94, and Michelle Rowen of Washington Township ran a then course record 17:40 to upset two-time defending champion Janet Smith of J.P. Stevens, second in 18:19. Rowen finished 24th as a freshman and fifth as a sophomore.


Both course records went down as senior Janet Smith of J.P. Stevens won her third title by running 17:35, and Brad Hudson, a junior at North Hunterdon, ran 15:38.0.

Smith went on to win the Kinney National title in 16:44, the only NJ girl to ever win that title

In the boys race, Hudson and teammate Andy Martin went 1-2 and the Lions put three guys in the top 7 to capture its lone team title, 69-104 over Holy Cross.

North Hunterdon almost certainly would have won again in 1984, but Hudson moved to Oregon for his senior year.

Hudson finished seventh at FL Nationals in 1983 in 15:12, and he was third in 1984 as senior in Eugene, Oregon in 15:11.

Hudson, best known for holding the Van Cortlandt Park 2.5 mile course record of 12:15.7 from 1983 until 2006, ran at the University of Oregon, earning multiple All-American honors and winning a PAC 10 XC title. He won the Columbus Marathon twice and ran a marathon PR of 2:13.23.

The North Hunterdon girls avenged its 1982 loss with a 37-88 victory over defending champion Bernards.


North Hunterdon's Andy Martin, the runner-up in '83, took down former teammate Brad Hudson's Holmdel CR by running 15:35.0 at the Group 3 meet. He followed that up by winning the M of C title in 15:52.8, five seconds in front of teammate Bill Babcock.

Martin took second in the Kinney Northeast Regional in 15:30.3, and was 19th at the Kinney Nationals in 15:45.

Paul VI won the first f its four boys titles, 53-66 over defending champion North Hunterdon.

In the girls race, Toni Ann Angione of Bergenfield, who was 11th in 1982 and fifth in '83, ra18:30 to capture the title, and North Hunterdon repeated as champs and won for the fourth time, 75-89 over Bernards.


Ron Faith of Paul VI, sixth in 1984, Faith outran Carlos Martins of Newark East Side, 16:10 to 16:14 to take the title. He took 22nd at the Kinney Nationals in 15:22.6.

Faith went on to run for famed coach Vin Lananna at Dartmouth. Dartmouth finished in the top 10 of the NCAA XC meet all four years Faith was there. He was All-East and All-Ivy in cross country and track.

Bernards made it two straight boys titles, 49-138 over St. Joseph (Met.) and defending champ Paul VI.

For the girls, Jodie Bilotta won the first of her three straight titles with a time of 18:44 to a third straight title, 32-84 over Bernards. It's the fifth straight year that either North Hunterdon or Bernards finished first, and each year the other team was second.


Carlos Martins of Newark Eastside, the runner-up the previous year, ran 16:10 to win by three seconds over Cesar Gaudin of Union Hill. A sophomore star on the rise named Jason DiJoseph of Paul VI was third in 16:15. Martins was 10th at the Kinney Nationals in 15:17.

Jodie Bilotta won her 2nd straight title and led an amazing 1-2-3 finish for North Hunterdon, which blasted the competition with a 24-72 victory Brick for its fourth consecutive championship and sixth title overall. Anne Letko and Jeanne LaPlaca finished 2-3 for North Hunterdon.

CBA defeated Toms River North, 63-130, for its third title. This race began a stretch of dominance by the Non-Public teams, which captured every the team title from 1986 through 2000.


Junior Jason DiJoseph of Paul VI won the first of his two straight titles in 15:58.0, seven seconds in front of rival John Coyle of CBA. DiJoseph went on finish 21st in 15:44 as a junior in 1987. CBA won its second boys title in a row, 39-84.

In the girls race, North Hunterdon hammer Jodie Bilotta became the second girl to win 3 straight titles by winning in  18:34, three seconds ahead of eventual champ Christi Constantin of Kittatinny, but North Hunterdon was upset by Kearny, 73-74, to deny North Hunterdon a fifth straight title.


Jason DiJoseph of Paul VI  had one of the best seasons in state history in 1988.

The senior shredded the then Holmdel CR with a 15:16.2 to win the 1988 Non Public A race, and then made it two straight titles at the M of C with a 15:33.0 as he sparked Paul VI to a 62-65 victory over CBA. 

Mike Mykytok of Bound Brook was second in 15:41 and Urie Ridgeway of Bridgeton was third in 15:47.

A three-time national qualifier, DiJoseph won the Kinney Northeast Regional in 15:17.6 in 1988, and was second at the Kinney Nationals in 15:10.1.

In the girls race, Christi Constantin of Kittatinny, second in 1987, ran 17:55, No. 3 in course history at the time, to finish first, and Brick won its second title with a 45-69 victory over Toms River East.


Bryan Spoonire of Asbury Park won in 16:05.0 with Ken Flynn of Ramsey second in 16:12, and Monal Chokshi of Bridgewater-Raritan became the second freshman to win when she ran 19:13 to win.

Paul VI repeated as boys champion with a 50-89 victory over Highland Regional.

In the girls race, Mount Olive, led by runner-up Christine Engel, became the first Morris County squad to win a team title, 76-82 over Toms River East.


As a senior in 1990, Bryan Spoonire of Asbury Park won his second straight title, coming across the line in 15:56.0, 13 seconds ahead of Ray Beyer of Absegami. Spoonire finished 25th in 16:05.2 at Kinney Nationals in 1990.

Spoonire starred at Seton Hall University, winning 8 Big East titles, including the 10-K in 1994 and '95, and the 5-K in '94. He won the Millrose Mile, ran a mile PR of 4:05.18, 8:00.03 in the 3,000, and 14:11.33 in the 5-K.

The team title went to CBA, which defeated Paul VI, 96-130. 

Sophomore Monal Chokshi of Bridgewater-Raritan won her second straight title in 18:44, and Voorhees defeated Paul VI, 120-136, for the girls team title.


Brendan Heffernan, sixth as a sophomore in 1990, ran a then Holmdel #2 15:31 to finish first as a junior, winning by 37 seconds over Rob Reeder of Northern Highlands. That's the largest margin of victory in meet history.

Although he got upset in 1992 at the M of C by Ridgewood junior Bob Keino (15:52 to 16:00), Heffernan bounced back to win the Kinney Regional (now Foot Locker) and became New Jersey first national XC champion when he won the Kinney title. He also finished 10th at Kinney Nationals as a junior.

CBA repeated as champ and won for the sixth time with a 63-102 victory over Ridgewood.

On the girls side, Monal Chokshi of Bridgewater-Raritan got her three-peat with a time of 19:18. Kristen Hall of West Morris, fourth in 1989, finished second to Chokshi for the second straight year. Shawnee won its first girls title with a heart-pounding 99-100 victory over Toms River North.


Bob Keino, who moved to Ridgewood from Kenya, knocked off defending champion Brendan Heffernan of North Hunterdon, 15:52 to 16:00. Keino went on to place 4th at FL Nationals. Keino is the the son of legendary two-time Olympic gold medalist Kip Keino.

Don Bosco Prep won the first of its three boys titles with a 120-134 victory over Ridgewood.

In the girls race, Monal Chokshi's bid to become the only four-time winner was derailed by illness, which forced the senior at Bridgewater-Raritan to drop out of the Group 4 race. Heather Bury of West Orange won the race in 19:15, and Ridgewood edged Ocean Township, 80-89, for its first title.


Senior Jenna Rogers and Bob Keino of Ridgewood made history by becoming the first and only runners from the same school to sweep the individual titles.

Rogers ran 18:56 to win the girls race, and Keino made it two straight by capturing the boys race in 15:51. Keino won the FL NE title and was 5th at the FL Nationals in 1993. In the team competition, Hunterdon Central won its second girls title, and CBA defeated North Hunterdon, 46-64, for its seventh title.


In the team competition, Hunterdon Central won its second girls title, and CBA defeated North Hunterdon, 46-64, for its seventh title.


Eamon Blanchard of Lacey, ninth as a junior in 1993, drafted off Matt Illian of Pascack Valley through the bowl before hammering away from the top of the bowl to the finish to win in 16:06. John Williams of Paul VI was second in 16:21.

Paul VI won its fourth boys title with a 63-81 victory over defending champion CBA.

In the girls race, Red Bank Catholic won the first of three straight titles, and Jamie Weisgerber of Woodstown ran 18:51 to finish first.


Chris Robinson of North Hunterdon, probably the biggest individual surprise winner in boys meet history, only finished sixth in the Group 3 race in 17:07. But he shocked the field by running 16:02.9 to win at the M of C. Scott Keyser of Mainland was second in 16:06.1. Soph. Steve Slattery of Mount Olive was third in 16:09, Matt Elmuccio of Westfield fourth in 16:12.9 and current CBA head coach Sean McCafferty of Central Regional was fifth in 16:13.4.

Robinson's victory gave North Hunterdon its fourth different individual M of C winner, a meet record. No other school has more than 2 different individual champs.

CBA started a streak of six straight boys titles by outscoring North Hunterdon, 51-88. 

On the girls side, Autumn Fogg of Hunterdon Central ran 18:56 to finish first, and RBC won for the second straight year.


In one of the wildest finishes in meet history, CBA won it second straight title with a thrilling 66-67 victory over Westfield, and junior Steve Slattery, who along with Matt Elmuccio of Westfield are the only boys to finish in the top 10 four times at the M of C, staged the biggest comeback in meet history.

Westfield seemed poised to knock off CBA and win its second title, but misfortune struck the Blue Devils when Ryan Stefiuk, one of the top runners on the team, fell just before exiting the woods and was passed by several runners.

As for Slattery, he never even saw Adam Daniels of Seton Hall Prep as he made the turn past the tennis courts to head into the woods. But he ran him down over the final half mile on the way to victory in 15:48. Daniels was second in 15:52. Elmuccio was third in 15:57. Slattery went on to place 9th at FL Nationals.

Dana Satir of Ramsey (18:52) and Red Bank Catholic won the girls titles. It was the third title in a row for RBC under coach Mary Banks, who was second twice at the M of C during her running career at Raritan (1977-78) 


Steve Slattery successfully defended his title when he won a long awaited showdown with Murad Campbell of Overbrook on a muddy day in 16:09. Campbell was second in 16:15.  Slattery went on to place fourth in at the Foot Locker Nationals.

CBA received a huge race from No. 5 man Andrew Filachek, who finished 37 places ahead of Morristown's No. 5 runner to give the Colts a 73-104 victory over Morristown. Morristown started the season ranked No. 1 in the state, but the team was dealt a severe blow when Ryan Smith, one of the top runners on team, was lost for the season with stress fracture in October.

In the girls race, sophomore Kelly Behan of Ridgewood, a week after placing fourth in the Group 4 race in 19:41, became one of the biggest surprise winners in meet history when she dropped 43 seconds to shock the field by winning to in 18:58. Shawnee captured its second team title. 


Nate Miller became just the third runner to win the M of C after losing at the Group meet. Joe Weber (1978) and Robinson (1995) also won after losing. Miller, second to Jon Fasulo of Hunterdon Central in Group 4, changed his race tactics for the M of C and surprised Fasulo and Cranford's Tim Styler, winning in 15:57. Styler was second in 16:04. Miller placed 23rd in 16:21.2 at FL Nationals, and after a brief time at Stanford, he transferred to Villanova.

CBA, led by Geoff Fahey's fifth place in 16:12.5, averaged 16:48 and edged Cherokee, 55-66, for its fourth straight championship.

In the girls race, senior Cate Guiney, who had multiple sub 18 times at Holmdel during the season, ran 18:06 to win. Guiney is the first girl to finish first and be on the winning team as she and twin sister, Maggie, led Middletown South to the title.


Brian Kerwin became CBA's first champ when he won a Monmouth County showdown with Walton Kingsbery of Red Bank, 15:52.8 to 16:04.5, to lead CBA to the team title with a then meet record 31 points. CBA put four runners in the top nine and averaged 16:24.8 on the way to a convincing 31-95 victory over Paul VI.

In the girls race, Haddonfield junior Erin Donohue, a U.S. Olympian in 2008 at 1500 meters, won the first of her two straight titles as by running 18:45., and Ridgewood captured its second title, 111-132 over Moorestown.


Senior Mike Myers of Eastern won a SJ battle with junior Marc Pelerin of Cherokee, 15:50.3 to 16:01.5, and CBA captured its sixth straight boys title and 13th overall, 61-69 over Cherokee.

On the girls side, Erin Donohue of Haddonfield made it two in a row by running 18:27, and Hunterdon Central won its third team title.


Haddonfield, under Hall of Fame coach Nick Baker, became the first Public School to win the boys title since Bernards in 1985 and became the first team to ever have three runners, junior Chris Platt (15:49), senior Skip Stiles (15:55) and senior Breton Bonnette (15:56) go sub 16 at Holmdel in the same race.

The Dawgs, who bounced back after losing at the Group 2 meet the week before when Stiles couldn't finish due to illness, outscored Old Bridge, 87-124. CBA, which had won the last six titles, placed eighth. 

Individually, Cherokee's Marc Pelerin, after his second place finish in 2000, won in 15:43, the fastest winning time in 10 years. Platt, was second 15:49. Pelerin went on to finish 25th at the FL Nationals in 15:57.31, and also won the M of C 1,600 title in spring of 2002.

In the girls race, junior Lindsay Van Alstine of Hawthorne Van Alstine ran 18:43 to defeat Passaic County rival Jesse Mizzone of Passaic Valley (18:53), and Moorestown, second in 1999, captured the team title.


In their only season running cross-country, senior twins Katy and Amanda Trotter of Red Bank finished 1-2 as both crossed together in 18:43. Katy was declared the winner. They are the only sisters to ever place 1-2. Katy went on to finish second at the FL Nationals.

Mohamed Khadraoui of Paterson Kennedy, who was third in the Group 4 race (behind winner Keith Krieger of Cherokee and Pete Hess of Toms River North), put together a whole new race plan for the M of C and the Moroccan Rocket won a thrilling duel in the boys race with Keith Krieger of Cherokee, 15:48.0 to 15:48.9.

In the team competition, Mainland's No. 5 runner, Spenser Popseon, finished five places and five seconds ahead of the No. 5 man for Toms River North to give Mainland a 101-104 victory over TRN in the boys race, and Shawnee won its third girls title.


Mohamed Khadraoui of Paterson Kennedy ran 15:22 to win in 2003, a meet record and No. 2 all-time at Holmdel at the time. Khadraoui He came up one place short of qualifying for the FL Nationals, finishing ninth at the NE Regional.

Mo K' earned All-America status multiple times in college, highlighted by a 6th place in 29:29 to help lead Iona to a runner-up finish behind Oregon at the 2008 NCAA XC Championships.

In the boys team competition, Mainland put four runners ahead of CBA's No. 3 man as the Mustangs won its second straight title, 68-74, over CBA. Mainland joined Berrards (1981, '82) as the only Public School boys teams to ever repeat as champions.

The girls race saw Ocean City's Brittany Sedberry win the first of her two titles by running 18:42, and Shawnee captured its second straight girls title and fourth overall, which is still tied for the third most in meet history. Only RBC and North Hunterdon, who have captured nine each, have won more. 


Bobby Papazian, of Gill St. Bernard's, 10th as a junior in 2003, ran 15:39.0, 14 seconds ahead of emerging star Craig Forys of Colts Neck, who ran a then sophomore course record 15:53. At FL Nationals, Papazian finished 28th in 16:13.

 CBA returned to the top by winning its 14th boys title. 

In the girls race, Brittany Sedberry of Ocean City, a FL National qualifier, successfully defended her title by running 18:12, and Roxbury won its first of two straight titles.


CBA, ranked No. 5 in the nation at the time, made it two in a row and broke the 23 year-old course record average with a 16:15.6 as the Colts defeated Morris Hills, 48-100. CBA broke the CR average of 16:18.4 that was set by the 1982 CBA squad at the Monmouth County Championships.

Morris Hills, ranked No. 7 in the nation, had a tough day as Jayson Decker lost a shoe before the 2-mile mark, and Brandon Rodkewitz suffered from heart arrhythmia during the race and finished three minutes slower than his Holmdel PR.

Individually, Craig Forys of Colts  Neck, after placing second as a sophomore in 2004, blasted away from Ben Massam of Chatham in the final mile to win going away in 15:34.

On the girls side, Roxbury won its second straight title, and junior Danielle Tauro of Southern ran 18:03 to win the first of her two titles.


The only competition Craig Forys of Colts Neck had in the state in 2006 was the clock, and he beat that as well.

Forys ran 15:15.2 to break Jason DiJoseph's18-year-old CR at Holmdel by one second at the M of C. During his senior year, Forys also broke the Van Cortlandt Park record by five seconds with a 12:10.7, which was broken in the next race and has since been broken multiple times. He also won the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, and was second at the FL Nationals in 15:24.

Forys won nine Meet of Champions titles (two in XC, three indoors and four outdoors) in his high school career, the most ever by a male distance runner. Forys also won one national title (the indoor 2-mile when he outkicked U.S. Olympian Matt Centrowitz).

The boys team title was won by Jackson, which bounced back from a third-place finish in the Group 4 race to outscore Don Bosco Prep, 67-135.

The girls race saw Danielle Tauro of Southern drop a blazing fast 17:47, No. 3 in course history at the time, to win her second straight title by three seconds over rival Ashley Higginson, who led Colts Neck to the team title, 80-46 over Voorhees.


The Voorhees girls, led by winner Melanie Thompson, who edged Jill Smith of Southern, 18:02 to 18:03, ran a still-standing course record average of 19:01 to win its first title since 1990 and its second overall. Voorhees defeated Roxbury, 60-122.

On the boys side, the expected duel between Brian Leung of West Windsor-Plainsboro South and Doug Smith of Gill St. Bernard's fizzled when Smith dropped out near the midway point and Leung ran unchallenged to a 15:33 win. Leung went on to place 15th in 15:41 at the FL Nats. 

Andrew Brodeur of Brick Memorial was second in 15:51, Ray Coles of Msgr. Donovan third in 16:00 and pretty decent half miler/miler named Robby Andrews of Manalapan was fourth in 16:02. Andrews was a 2016 Olympian in the 1500.

Don Bosco Prep won its second title ever and first since 1992 with a 69-150 victory over CBA.


Junior Tyler Udland of Millburn ran 15:39 to beat super soph. Joe Rosa of WW North by 7 seconds. Rosa's runner-up time of 15:46 was a soph. course record at the time, and it ignited WW North to a course record average of 16:14.4 and the team title, 41-59 over defending champion Don Bosco Prep 

Udland was 8th as a senior in 15:50 in a race that saw Joe Rosa run a then course record 14:56. Udland qualified for FL nationals twice. He was 34th in 2008 in 16:18, and placed 16th in 2009 in 15:42.3.

In the girls race, Thompson won her second straight title in 17:47, tied for No. 6 in course history at the time, to lead Voorhees to its second straight title,138-139 over Ridge.


Joe Rosa of West Windsor North, after running a 15:04 to smash the Holmdel CR set by Craig Forys (15:15.2 in 2006) at the Shore Coaches Invit., did the once unthinkable. He ran sub 15 at Holmdel at the M of C, winning in 14:56!!! That was the course record until Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep ran 14:53 at the 2011 Shore Coaches meet.

Rosa, who finished 19 seconds ahead of runner and twin brother Jim (15:15),  led a then record 11 runners under 16 minutes at the M of C.

Despite the 1-2 finish by the Rosa twins, WW North couldn't win its second straight title as Don Bosco edged CBA, 78-86, for its third title. WW North was third with 118.

During the season, Rosa also set a then Van Cortlandt Park record for 2.5 miles with a 12:03.8, rolled to victory at the Nike NE Regional, and then took third at the Nike Nationals.

One of the biggest questions that will always linger is how fast would Rosa could have run in his senior year if he wasn't sidelined for the season after foot surgery. Could he have broken 14:50 at Holmdel and been a national champ? Those questions will forever remain unanswered, but will always make for a great debate. 

In the girls race, Chelsea Ley of Kingsway, after finishing third in 2007 and second in '08, finally won it all in '09 when she ran 17:44, No. 4 in course history. Megan Venables of Highland was second in 18:01. Hillsborough, under coach Rich Refi, won a wild one, 78-79 over Randolph!!! 


With his twin Joe out for the season (foot surgery), Jim Rosa of West Windsor North matched his 2009 runner-up time by winning in 15:15, equaling his Holmdel #2 all-time time. Rosa won by four seconds over Mike Mazzaccaro of CBA as a record five runners broke 15:40.

Jim and Joe are the only siblings to win NJ XC Meet of Champions titles.

During the season, Rosa also ran a then CR 15:35 at Bowdoin when he outdueled runner-up Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep to win the Nike NE title. Rosa is the only NJ runner to have ever defeated Cheserek in XC (he was 2-1 against him.).

In the boys team race, CBA won the first of six in a row with a 68-98 victory over Haddonfield. 

The girls race saw Megan Venables of Highland 5th as a sophomore and second as a junior, run 17:46 to finish first. The week before, Venables smashed the Holmdel Park course record as a senior in 2010 when she blasted a 17:27 to win the state Group 3 title. The Hillsborough girls made it two in a row with a 95-11 victory over Voorhees.


After a pack of six went by the first mile in 5:10, Piscataway's Tim Ball went by Cherokee junior Shawn Wilson just after coming out of the Bowl and opened a 20-yard gap at two miles. Ball, who ran 5:03 in that pivotal second mile, was never seriously challenged in the final 1.1 on his way to victory in 15:31, tied for No. 10 in course history at the time.

Ball, a senior, led a record 12 runners under 16 minutes on a perfect day for running. George Kelly of CBA was second in 15:37 to lead his team to a then course record average of 16:04.4 as CBA won its second straight title and extended its state record to 17 M of C titles. CBA went on to win the National Championship a couple weeks later. 

Ball, 16th at the FL XC Nationals as a senior, is now a senior starring at Notre Dame. He finished 26th at the ACC Championships and 13th at the Great Lakes Regional Championships.

In the girls race, Holly Bischof of Bishop Eustace, a year after placing second as a junior to Megan Venables, finished first in 18:12, and Rumson defeated Hillsborough for the team title, 126-142 


The boys race was an all-time classic as CBA held out its top five runners and still won its third straight title, 110-133 over runner-up Holmdel, and the Voorhees averaged 19:01.6, No. 2 in course history, to capture its fourth title, 74-133 over Hillsborough. 

In the boys race, after a 5:16 first mile, Middletown North junior Tom O'Neill was in a pack of five runners approaching the two-mile mark and had a slight lead on Toms River South junior Kyle Kroon. Then O'Neill, who went by two miles in 10:30, ripped a off a 5:01 final 1.1 to win in 15:31. Kyle Kroon of Toms River South was second in by 15:47, and Dylan Tarpey of Freehold Twp. was third in 15:50 as the Shore Conference went 1-2-3-.

The 5:01 matched the fastest final 1.1 ever run at Holmdel. Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep did it in  2011 when he ran the course record 14:53, and Joe Rosa of West Windsor-Plainsboro North also ran 5:01 in 2009 when he ran 14:56, the course record until Cheserek's 14:53.

O'Neill is still the only runner to break 16 minutes at Holmdel four times in one season. He did it as senior in 2013, highlighted by his second straight Group 3 title in 15:26, tied for No. 8 in Holmdel history.

The girls individual winner was senior Sarah Disanza of High Point. Disanza, 11th as a junior in 2001, threw down a 17:47, tied for No. 6 in Holmdel Park history at the time.


Mike McClemens of CBA, locked in a a great battle with Monmouth County rivals Tom O'Neill of Middletown North, the defending champion, and future Columbia University teammate Dylan Tarpey of Freehold Township, not only answered their strongest moves, but he countered them with the biggest move of the race when he hammered past O'Neill before the tennis courts and pulled away from Tarpey on the way into the back woods.

Once he was in front there was no catching McClemens as he exploded onto the final straightaway as the huge crowd roared. When he came across the line, McClemens froze the numbers on the clock at 15:26, tied with O'Neill for No. 8 on Holmdel's all-time list.

Tarpey, third in 2012,, was second in 15:32. O'Neill, who caught a cramp as he came up the bowl, placed 10th in 15:47. The Shore Conference produced five of the top 10 finishers!!!

The race lived up to the hype as 18 runners broke 16 minutes and 10 guys ran under 15:50, both meet records.

Led by McClemens, CBA ran a course record average 15:52.2, and won its fourth straight title, 51-104 over Don Bosco, which raised its total to 19 titles overall. CBA's McClemens, Blaise Ferro (15:45), and Tom Rooney (15:51) became the second trio of teammates to break 16 in the same race at Holmdel. Haddonfield did it in 2001.

The girls race was equally as thrilling as Randolph, second by one point to Hillsborough in 2009, 106-113. This race will forever be remembered for what junior Margaret "One Shoe Hero'' Thompson did. Thompson ran most of the race without a shoe and still finished 13th in 19:11 to help Randolph secure the title.

Indivivudally, Briana Gess of Haddonfield became the third freshman to win an M of C title when she ran 17:45, No. 5 in Holmdel Park history at the time. Josette Norris of Tenafly finished second in 18:12.  


Luke Petela of Haddon Township,  who placed 2nd in the Group 1 race, nine seconds behind Craig Corti of Wallkill Valley, reversed that loss by dropping nine seconds off his Holmdel Park PR and running 15:40 to finish first. He followed that up by placing second in 15:33.4 at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional Championships at Van Cortlandt Park. At the Foot Locker Nationals, Petela placed 34th.

CBA defeated South Brunswick, 82-113, for its fifth straight victory and 20th overall .

In the girls race, RBC defeated Hillsborough, 88-95, to win its first title since 1996, and its ninth overall, which is tied with North Hunterdon for the most ever. And senior Devon Grisbaum of Ocean City, a week after placing third in Group 3, ran 18:20 to finish first.


CBA, in the final M of C race under legendary coach Tom Heath, sent him out top with an 87-92 victory over archrival Don Bosco Prep. Heath, who retired after the season, finished his career with a a state record 21 Meet of Champions titles.

Josh Clark of Highland won the race in 15:33, three seconds ahead of Blaise Ferro of CBA, who finishes his career as the only runner in state history to score on four M of C winning teams.

In the girls race, sophomore Alyssa Aldridge of Mainland, second as a freshman in 2014, ran 18:07 to win by 17 seconds over junior Olympia Martin of Ridgewood. Junior Briana Gess of Haddonfield, the 2013 winner, was third. Ridge, a after so many close calls in the past, won its first title, 72-103 over Hillsborough.


Princeton pulled off one of the most stunning victories in the boys race with a 104-106 victory over Colts Neck with favored CBA third with 109, and Elliott Gindi of Ocean Township used his big kick to win in 15:45, six seconds ahead of Jordan Brannan of Colts Neck.

In the girls race, junior Alyssa Aldridge of Mainland won her second straight title in 17:55, 40 seconds ahead of runner-up Briana Gess of Haddonfield, the 2013 champion. Ridge won its second straight title, 71-114.


Monica Hebner of Northern Highlands, after finishing second the week prior in a close one with Alyssa Aldridge of Mainland at the Group 3 race, made some race adjustments, which paid off as she ran 18:13 to knock off two-time defending champion Aldridge, second in 18:18.

In the girls team race, No. 1 ranked North Hunterdon won its first title since 1986 and its seventh overall, 100-126 over Kingsway. The scoring started off when sophomore Chloe Gonzalez finished fifth in 18:30. Emily Nugent was 16th at 19:08, Ellie DiMarcello 28th at 19:27, Samantha Kehler 51st at 19:58, Brenna Talamo 72nd 20:17, Angela Kearsley 87th 20:30, and Alexandra Carlson 96th 20:43.

In the boys race, CBA, under second-year coach Sean McCafferty, defeated Kingsway, 80-96, and Devin Hart of Point Pleasant Boro won the first of his two titles in 15:35, nine seconds ahead of Chris Romero of Voorhees.



Devin Hart of Point Pleasant Boro won an instant classic vs. Jack Stanley of Mendham and No. 1 Christian Brothers Academy also repeated a champion with a 68-86 victory over Haddonfield for it's state record 23rd title for CBA.

In an epic duel that will go down as one of the closest and greatest races in state history, Hart held off a hard-charging Stanley by the slimmest of margins in a breathtaking finish that sent the huge crowd into a frenzy as both runners stopped the clock at 15:36.

It was the second straight title for Hart, a senior at Point Pleasant Boro, as he became just the seventh boy in state history to repeat as champion. The last boy to repeat was Craig Forys of Colts Neck (2005-06).

On the girls side, North Hunterdon and Abby Loveys of Randolph steamrolled their way to titles.

North Hunterdon, ranked No. 1 in New Jersey since winning the M of C title last year, captured its second straight title, 93-125 over runner-up and NJ #2 Ridgewood. Holmdel finished third with 136 points, it's highest finish ever.

The M of C title is the eighth for North Hunterdon, the second most in state history behind Red Bank Catholic's nine, and it gives the Skyland Conference nine M of C girls titles in the past 12 years.

Meanwhile, Loveys left no doubt that she's the top runner in New Jersey with a dominant performance as she kept her undefeated rolling along. Loveys blasted out to a big early lead on her way to victory in 17:54.


Liam Murphy of Allentown turned frustration into jubilation with a huge bounce back victory and Christian Brothers Academy added to its rich tradition of excellence and sheer domination.

After a 5:11 first mile and 5:03 second mile, Murphy, fueled by an agonizingly close loss in the Group 3 race last week, used a powerful surge near the tennis courts to get a gap on a very game Kevin Antczak of Mainland, and then Murphy, who overcame a slip and fall at the start, let it rip on the downhills in the back woods on his way to victory in 15:23! Antczak, who nearly ran without his race bib on, saw his strategy of holding back last week pay off with a runner-up finish in 15:29.

Unfortunately, the eagerly anticipated rematch between Murphy and Jack Jennings, whose big kick gave him the dramatic comeback win over Murphy in Group 3 in 15:19 (No. 6 in course history at the time) to Murphy's 15:21 (No. 8 in course history at the time), fizzled out. Jennings was sick all week with a raging fever that made it virtually impossible for him to contend with Murphy. Despite his sub-par health, Jennings ran a gusty race to place 14th in 16:12 to help NJ#2 Mendham place second to CBA.

Murphy's 15:23, No. 5 in meet history and the fastest winning time in nine years, puts him alongside some some very fast company as he became just the third runner to ever go under 15:30 twice on the hallowed grounds of Holmdel Park, the M of C course since 1976. 

The other two are NJ legends Joe and Jim Rosa from West Windsor-Plainsboro North. Joe went a then course record 14:56 to win the 2009 M of C and ran 15:04 at the 2009 Shore Coaches. Jim ran 15:15 to place second to Joe at the 2009 M of C and ran 15:15 again to win the 2010 M of C title.

CBA, on the 40th anniversary of its first M of C title ever in 1979, was simply too strong for any team to contend with as the NJ#1/US#6 Colts, with its huge pack of XC alums gathered as always to root on their alma mater, rolled to a 62-119 over Mendham.

It's the third straight title for CBA, its ninth in the past 10 years, and it raised its state record to an astounding 24 M of C titles overall. That's one more than the rest of the state combined. That's right, the Meet of Champions scoreboard after this race was CBA 24, the rest of New Jersey 23!!! That's just mind-boggling!!!

With senior Shaw Powell leading the charge with a third-place finish in a Holmdel PR of 15:41, which moves him into No. 5 all-time in school history at Holmdel, CBA went 1-9-11-20-21 in the team scoring, had a 1-5 split of 54 seconds, and averaged 16:15, the same average as last week when the Colts notched its state record 30th Non-Public A title. The 16:15 is No. 9 in course history.

Following Powell for CBA were junior Ben Santos, 15th in a Holmdel PR of 16:13, junior Chris DeSousa, 17th in 16:14, sophomore Jack Moran, 35th in 16:33, and senior Troy Hill, 37th in 16:35.

Photo by MaroonNews for NJ MileSplit

In the girls race, North Hunterdon tied Red Bank Catholic for the most M of C titles with nine, and North also joined RBC as the only girls programs to win at least three straight M of C titles twice. RBC won the first five titles beginning in 1972, North won from 1983 through '87, and RBC won three in a row in 1994, '95 and '96.

North Hunterdon defeated Bergen County powerhouse Ridgewood 65-78, while Middletown South, with their incredibly young lineup featuring freshman Reese Fahys (fifth, 18:41), was third with 134. Group 2 runner-up Haddonfield had 172 points to place fourth, that program's best finish at the M of C. 

History was everywhere for North Hunterdon. In addition to all the team accomplishments, senior Chloe Gonzalez won the individual title in 17:56 and became the first North Hunterdon girl in 32 years to claim an M of C title. Jodie Bilotta won her third straight title in 1987. 


Meet canceled because of COVID


Marco Langon of Bridgewater-Raritan continued his torrid season by dropping a 15:06, which places him third all-time at Holmdel, to win a great battle with Jackson Barna of Ridge, second in 15:13, No. 4 all-time at Holmdel. Langon and Barna were together at the mile (5:07 and two-mile (10:02) before Langon's huge surge around the tennis course and into the woods gave him a 5-second gap.

This marked the first time in course history (Holmdel's current layout has been used since 1979) that two runners ran under 15:15 in the same race.

The only two runners who have runner faster at Holmdel than Langon and Barna are two icons of the sport in the state, course record holder Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep and Joe Rosa of West Windsor-Plainsboro North. Rosa ran 14:56 at the Meet of Champions as a junior in 2009, and Cheserek broke the record when he ran 14:53 at the 2011 Shore Coaches Invitational.

This race was so fast that it produced four of the top 20 times ever run at Holmdel, a new sophomore course record, a record seven runners under 15:40, a record-tying 10 runners under 15:50, and five more guys went sub16!!! The 16 runners that ran under 16 minutes is the second most in meet history. The record is 18 from the 2013 M of C race. 

Angelina Perez of Lakeland ran away with the girls race as she threw down the greatest performance in meet history by winning in 17:09, a meet record and just off her NJ CR of 17:07 that she ran the week before at the State Group Championships. 

Perez, who hit the mile mark in 5:41 and two miles in 11:12, smashed the meet record of 17:35 set in 1983 by Janet Smith of J.P., Stevens. Perez now owns the two fastest NJ times ever run in Holmdel Park history. Only Katleyn Tuohy of North Rockland, N.Y., who ran 16:21 at the 2018 Shore Coaches Invitational, has run faster at Holmdel than Perez.

In the boys team race, Union Catholic, just four days after its Non-Public A victory (the Non-Public A races and the boys Group 2 race were moved from last Saturday to Tuesday because of bad weather, threw down the second best performance in meet history by averaging 16:01, No. 2 in course history, and defeating defending champion CBA, 67-84.

Shane Brosnan led the charge for UC by placing third in 15:22, 23 seconds faster than his winning time in Non-Public A. Jimmy Wischusen was fifth for UC in a sophomore course record 15:35.

After Brosnan and Wischusen crossed for UC, senior Myles Plummer placed 19th for in 16:10, a two second PR, junior Caudell Cajuste finished 43rd in 16:27, a three second PR, and then junior Ryan Cichocki put on a exclamation point on the biggest win in school history by placing 53rd in 16:34, a drop of 20 seconds.

In the girls team race, Cherokee, which entered the race ranked No. 3 in the state, threw down several huge Holmdel PR's to outscore runner-up No. 4 ranked Ridgewood, 117-126, for its first ever title. This is the third straight time that Ridgewood has finished second. No. 1 Colts Neck was third with 147. No. 5 North Hunterdon finished fourth with 149, and No. 2 Haddonfield, running without the injured Sabrina Miller, was fifth 179.

Cherokee, which finished sixth in 2010 and eighth in 2004 in its only other appearances at the M of C, is the first South Jersey girls team to win since Shawnee won a second straight title in 2003.

Despite defeating then No. 1 ranked Ridgewood by two points to win its first Group 4 title ever last week, Cherokee came into this race as an underdog because it was third in the team merge last week, well behind both Haddonfield and Colts Neck.

But Cherokee stunned the field by dropping its average from 20:01 last week all the way down to a South Jersey course record 19:23.

A huge key for the Chiefs was that its fifth runner finished ahead of Ridgewood's No. 4 runner to seal the deal. 

Cherokee's top five finished 8-22-24-26-37 in the scoring, and Ridgewood's scoring five finished 9-16-21-39-41.

Senior Nicole Clifford led the charge for Cherokee by placing 11th in 18:43, No. 2 in school history. Junior Kelsey Niglio placed 35th in 19:22, sophomore Kerry O'Day was 38th in 19:24, sophomore Olivia Parkinson placed 44th in 19:30, and freshman Megan Niglio 60th in 19:58.


Micah Lawson of Rahway made history by pulling off a stunning comeback victory, and Christian Brothers Academy returned to glory and by adding to its rich history in the boys race by extending its state record to 25 titles on when the Meet of Champions celebrated its 50th year on probably the warmest day in meet history at Holmdel Park.

Lawson, who showed a lot of resiliency by overcoming multiple setbacks during the season, was sitting in 11th place at the mile mark after hitting it in 5:15. He could have easily panicked, but instead he stayed patient, dug down deep, and pushed himself harder than he ever has before in the back woods to rally for the breathtaking win, stopping the clock at 15:38. Lawson joined the late Cliff Sheehan of Westfield (1980) as the only runners (boy or girl) from Union County to win the coveted crown.

Lawson kept himself within striking distance as he moved through the bowl, and cranked it up after he came out of the bowl and moved up to fifth place after a 5:10 second mile.

Lawson was still well behind the leader, Patrick Ditmars of Cherokee, who made a huge move in the bowl and kept pushing the pace as he opened a five second lead at the two-mile mark. It looked like Ditmars might steal the race, but then Collin Boler of Delbarton, who was leading a big chase pack, overtook Ditmars and made a big push going toward the woods.

That's when Lawson, who was five seconds behind and in sixth place when he turned into the woods, went to work and poured it on, blasting past all five runners ahead of him, including Boler on the short rise just before coming out onto the final straightaway. Once he got the lead, Lawson wasn't going to give it up as he kept the pedal to the medal and slammed the door on his remarkable come from behind victory as he put the finishing touches on a blazing 5:08 over the final 1.1.

The boys team race went as expected as CBA, ranked No. 1 in the state all season and No. 3 in the nation coming into this race, accomplished one of its biggest goals of the season by getting back on top after finishing second to Union Catholic in 2021.

The Colts, who averaged 16:07.2, avenged its loss last year with a 44-98 victory over runner-up Union Catholic. UC, ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 21 nationally, averaged 16:31.8 and ran without injured star Jimmy Wischusen. Group 4 champion Cherokee was third with 106, Westfield was fourth with 121, Ridge placed fifth with 179, and Group 2 champ Haddonfield finished sixth with 183.

With the victory, CBA has won four of the last five titles and the Colts extended their state record to 25 M of C titles. That's one more than the rest of the state combined. That's right, the M of C all-time scoreboard now reads, CBA 25, the rest of NJ 24. There was no boys team scoring in 1972, the first year the meet was held.

CBA's top five were senior Nick Sullivan, fifth in 15:44, sophomore Joe Barrett, seventh in 15:45, junior Jack Falkowski, 15th in 16:16, junior Conor Clifford, 20th in 16:24, and senior Lucas Ward, 23rd in 16:27.

In the girls, race, no one gave Union Catholic much of a chance to win. There just didn't seem like there was any way that UC could still win after its No. 1 runner was knocked out of the lineup with an injury. That seemed like it was just too much to overcome against the best teams in the state.

But that's not the way No. 2 ranked Vikings were thinking.

Instead, UC was fueled by its sudden underdog role and was determined to prove everyone wrong. And that's exactly what happened as the Vikings scored one of the more improbable victories in meet history by pulling out a thrilling 79-88 upset victory over heavily favored and No. 1 ranked Haddonfield.

This is the first M of C girls title for Union Catholic, and the first girls championship ever for a team from Union County.

When Union Catholic star junior Peyton Hollis had to drop out of the Non-Public A race with a season-ending leg injury, the odds were stacked against UC and the scales were tipped in Haddonfield's favor heading into this highly anticipated showdown. 

All the times, the average, and the team merges from the Group Championships favored Haddonfield.

At the Group meet, Haddonfield averaged 19:36 and had a 1-5 spread of 19 seconds on its way to the Group 2 title. Union Catholic averaged 20:09, and had a spread of 1:45 when it won the Non-Public A Championship. Haddonfield finished on top in the team merge, 93.5-246 over UC.

But one thing that can't be measured or calculated is resiliency, intestinal fortitude, heart, grit, and motivation. All of those things mixed together ignited Union Catholic to its heart-pounding nine-point victory.

Union Catholic received great races from the 1-2 punch of senior Kaleigh Gunsiorowski and junior Courtney Kaiser, a career best race and clutch performance from surging junior Leilani Gibson, and very strong runs from talented freshmen Emmy O'Hearn, and Ella Solorzano. Gunsiorowski, who picked off five runners over the final 1,200 to place fourth in 18:57, and Kaiser, 14th in 19:25, both finished ahead of Haddonfield's No. 1 runner. Gibson, a huge key to the victory, dropped a massive Holmdel PR bomba of 19:45 to place 24th, one spot ahead of Haddonfield's No. 3 runner. O'Hearn finished 52nd in 20:18, also one place in front of Haddonfield's No. 4 runner, and Solarzano was 78th in 20:36, just two places behind Haddonfield's No. 5.

Union Catholic's went 4-9-12-22-32 in the team scoring and averaged 19:48. Haddonfield, which wasn't able to keep its usual tight pack connected like it did at the Sectionals and Group Championships, went 10-11-13-23-31 and averaged 19:56. Haddonfield's 1-5 split was 1:05. With its victory coupled with the Union Catholic boys winning its first M of C title in 2021, UC became just the third school to ever win both a boys and girls M of C title. Bernards and North Hunterdon are the other two. Bernards swept the boys and girls titles in 1982, and the boys also won in 1981 and 1985. North Hunterdon swept the titles in 1983, and has captured a state-record tying nine girls titles.

Individually, Freehold Township junior Emma Zawatski simply owned the race. Zawatski, 12th in 2021, used a hard charge into the bowl to break away from the field an ran unchallenged the rest of the way en route to victory in 18:38. She's the first runner from Freehold Township (boys or girls) to win an XC M of C title.

Zawatski, who likes to charge out tand take the race by the throat and dare the rest of the field to try to catch her, followed that formula to perfection. 

After a 6:15 first mile, Zawatski, who was leading by a few yards, broke away from the field as she pounded her way down the path that leads to the bowl.

Zawatski, who put the race away by hammering through the bowl on her way to a race-changing 5:58 second mile, took a quick look back as she climbed out of the bowl and didn't see anyone as her lead increased to 17 seconds over Lindsay Hausman of Kent Place Hausman and Olivia Murray NJ of Pingry.

Zawatski maintained that lead all the way to the woods on her way to victory in 18:38.The Duke-bound Hausman, sixth in, 2021. closed fast to finish second in 18:47. Murray ran a big Holmdel PR of 18:50 to place third, and Gunsiorowski was fourth in 18:57


Who will join this list of NJ's Legends of The Fall?? Time will tell when the best runners in the state lineup at Holmdel on Saturday, Nov. 11. 

2023 NJSIAA Meet of Champions Meet Page