2011 Passaic County Coaches Invitational
By: Matthew Murphy
Cheserek Crushes Garret, and Rewrites History Books
With all the talented runners that the state of New Jersey has witnessed over the past few years, and all of the course records that have gone down with them, this one may have been the most convincing and impressive. Kenyan-born Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict’s Prep made his season debut on Saturday at the Passaic Coaches Invitational and put on a show for the fans at Garret Mountain, demolishing the 5k course record with a remarkably fast time of 14:53. With a sizzling early pace and a flawless charge up the final hill, Cheserek left no doubt that he is the greatest runner to ever traverse the rugged layout of Garret.
On a cloudy and extremely muggy late September Saturday morning, the discussion of the meet centered around Cheserek and whether or not he would be able to take down the course record of 15:15, which had stood since 2003 when the great Mohamed Khadroui of Paterson Kennedy had made his mark on his hometown course. Khadroui went on to win two Meet of Champions titles in Cross-Country, and had a fantastic college career as he became an All-American at Iona. After buckets of rain were dumped on North Jersey on Friday, it was questioned whether muddy and sloppy course conditions could derail Cheserek’s effort. However, the course held up fairly well, and aside from a few large puddles around the lower lake loop, nothing was going to stand in the phenom’s way. Cheserek, arguably the best high school runner in the nation this year, wasted little time going after his goal. He fought his way through a crowd to take the lead as runners bottlenecked into the woods, then began hammering the mostly downhill first mile, reaching the mile mark in an absurd 4:25 (per Lambert, unofficial). While he eased up on the second mile around the lake, Cheserek attacked the uphill last mile, in pursuit of history as he rounded the final wide turn and ignited the incredulous crowd. Crossing the finish line well under 15 minutes, jaws began dropping as fans, coaches and competitors alike were stunned by what they had just seen. The revered record had not only fallen, but had been crushed. After beating runner up Dan DeBlock of West Milford by an astonishing minute and 47 seconds, Cheserek disappeared quickly into the woods for a cool-down, as if he had just finished a routine race.
Cheserek had the fastest time of the day by one minute and 33 seconds, as Mountain Lake’s Stephen Lewandowski won an anticipated showdown in the group 1 boys race over fellow group contender Domenic D’Agostino of Wallington. The two locked horns over the first half of the race, running for step for step until Lewandowski began slowly pulling away over the final mile. Though all other results seemed to pale in comparison, Lewandowski finished in a solid 16:26, 10 seconds ahead of D’Agostino. Mountain Lakes also took home the team title, besting Park Ridge-Emerson 44-76. Another tight battle was fought in the first race of the day, as Sam Knipper of Randolph held off Nick Fogarty of Livingston in an exciting boys group 4 race. Knipper took control on the long uphill climb to the finish, and clocked a time of 16:35 to Fogarty’s 16:37. Knipper’s twin brother Jon had a very nice race in finishing 4th, but Randolph settled for 3rd as a team behind a slight upset winner in Memorial (West NY) out of Hudson County, and number 9 ranked North Hunterdon which ran without its 4th runner. Princeton defeated Wayne Hills 65-83 in the group 3 race, while James Corti led his Walkill Valley team to a 35-58 win over Newton in group 2.
On the girls side, the action was highlighted by yet another electric duel between High Point’s Sarah DiSanza and Sparta’s Claudia DiSomma in the group 3 race. For the third time this season, Disanza bested Disomma as the two came up the hill side by side and Disanza took over in the final strides, beating her rival 18:48 to 18:50. High Point also came up with the team title, in a fairly close score of 51-66 over Princeton. Sam Jones had a nice bounce back effort in the girls group 4 race, winning in a fast time of 18:52 and leading her Randolph team to a comfortable victory over Morris Knolls, 31-53. Kittatinny’s Carly Pierson earned the group 2 crown, but her team was topped by a pack-running Morris Hills squad, 44-59. Mountain Lakes continued its reign over Garret Mountain, following race winner Colette Richter to a very close team win over Kinnelon, 48-50.