2011 Big North Championships
North, Pujols, Ridgewood Boys Shrug Off Wild Weather; Win Big North Crowns
Rain, lightning and thunder wreaked havoc on the scheduling at the Big North Divisions 1,3 and 5 meet Friday, but the wild weather did nothing to slow the area’s top runners at Garret Mountain. Ariana North of Northern Higlands and John Pujols of Hackensack rolled to impressive individual titles, and the Ridgewood boys earned a bit of redemption in beating Hackensack for the Freedom crown. A sudden heavy downpour accompanied by lightning forced officials to cancel all junior varsity and freshman races at the beginning of the meet, and caused the start of the Boys Varsity race to be moved up during a break in the rain. The Girls Varsity race was delayed, but then started with very ominous skies overhead which brought a second downpour during the middle of the race.
Already having a terrific season, North was not going to let anything stop her as she scorched her way to a Garret personal best of 19:01, defeating Ashley Strysko of Holy Angels by nearly 50 seconds. With the skies opening up about a mile into the race, North held about a 30 second lead over Ramapo’s Deanna DiLandro near the 1.5 mile mark, and she opened the gap even further over the second half of the race, charging up the final hill and through some puddles to just miss dipping under the 19 minute mark. North soon saw her Northern Higlands teammates pouring across the finish line, as the Highlanders had 5 out of the top 8 finishers in the National Division to earn their second consecutive league crown, 25-42 over Old Tappan. North’s freshman sister Karina finished together with sophomore Sofia Licata in 4th and 5th respectively, and sophomore Anna Richard and senior Kristen Abitante completed the scoring in 7th and 8th. DiLandro was mysteriously absent from the finish line, apparently having dropped out somewhere in the final mile.
For Pujols, his sensational senior year continued with a huge Garrett personal best, but the day was a bit incomplete as his Comets fell just short of defeating Ridgewood for a second straight league title. Pujols charged out to an early lead and then settled in before running away from a pack of 4 runners over the last half mile. He crossed the line in 16:28, slicing 24 seconds off his previous Garret best, and defeating a strong Nick Salamone of Ridgewood by just over 10 seconds. It would be Ridgewood, however, which overcame some in-race adversity and earned redemption after being stunned by Hackensack last year. The Maroons had held out of 2 of their top 4 in that race, and this time put their full varsity squad on the line but didn’t finish with all 7 starters. Levi Jennings, dealing with a bad ankle for much of the season, re-aggravated the injury and pulled out in the final mile. Salamone rose to the occasion, along with fellow junior Will Ades and senior Travis Spicer, all three of whom finished under 17 minutes and in the top 5 to lead Ridgewood to a 26-37 victory over the Comets. With Salamone and Ades continuing to step up, and Spicer showing consistent improvement in his first Cross-Country season, the Maroons continue to look like a group 4 contender with or without Jennings in top form.
Although the varsity divisions were combined in one overall race, there were multiple winning teams and individuals who battled the stormy conditions. The Old Tappan boys looked very sharp in taking the National division title, as senior Will Maltin led the way with a 3rd place overall, 20 seconds ahead of teammate and National runner-up Alex Weiner. Jacob Fishbein placed sixth and broke up a pack of Demarest runners as the Golden Knights topped the Norsemen 31-42. In the Boys United Division, Don Bosco lined up a junior varsity team which had no problem defeating St. Joseph of Montvale 32-48. Senior twins Mitch and Ryan Keller finished 2nd and 5th behind division winner Michael Whalen of Bergen Catholic to lead the Ironmen.
Back on the girls side, Ridgewood made coach Jacob Brown very happy by executing a laid-back race approach to perfection and taking the Freedom title. The lady Maroons started with all seven runners together in a pack near the very back of the field for the first mile, and then made their way up as they traversed the lake loop and finished with Hanako Shigenobu, Caroline Davidson, Emily Fishbein and Laura Weisberger going 4th through 7th, all within four seconds of each other. Leslie Jones rounded out the scoring and Ridgewood crushed Paramus 31-54. Immaculate Heart Academy used a 2-3-4 finish by Rachel Lotterman, Colleen Buckley and Caroline Morano to defeat rival Holy Angels 23-40 in the United division. The Blue Eagles hope to be a spoiler in the battle between Ridgewood and Northern Highlands in next week’s Bergen Group A race.
Earlier in the week, the Ramsey Boys earned a thrilling victory over rival Indian Hills to win the Patriot division. The Rams had defeated the Braves 27-28 in a dual meet a week prior, and Tuesday’s race played out in almost identical fashion before coming down to a sixth-man tiebreaker. Chris Eltringham and Erik Buser finished 2-3 for Ramsey behind Ben Malone of Pascack Valley, and then a pack of four Indian Hills runners came in before Ramsey’s third. It was the 4,5 and 6 runners that made the difference for the Rams, as Victor Sinfunjo’s 14th place broke the 34-34 tie. The girls Patriot race was another good one, as Tenafly followed race winner Josette Norris to a 46-53 win over Ramsey, who had beaten them the week before by one point in the dual. Corrine Myers of Westwood and Brendan Conway of Ridgefield Park both led their teams to easy victories with first place finishes in the American Division. On Thursday, the Wayne Hills and Clifton boys and girls squads both completed sweeps of the Liberty and Independence divisions.