Matt Murphy's North 1 Sectional Recap

2011 North 1 State Sectional Meet


Old Tappan Pulls off Shocker, North Gets Even Better


 With all of the North Jersey section 1 teams having to relocate to Thompson Park in Jamesburg after last weekend’s snow storm left Garret Mountain unavailable, there was a bit of unpredictability in the air as the runners competed on the unfamiliar, yet flatter 3.1 mile layout. After a tough group 4 race in which Ridgewood held on to beat Hackensack, and incredible group 2 race which left Ramsey in a heartbreaking 3rd place, the real surprise of the day came in the day’s final race, as Old Tappan stunned the group 3 field in a true Bergen versus Passaic battle. The only stunning thing about Ariana North’s performance in the girls group 3 race was just how fast she ran, as she continued her exceptional season finishing faster than her Darlington Park personal best on a clearly slower course. North led her team to a thrilling victory, while Ridgewood was upset by Randolph in group 4, and Glen Rock fell short of Morris Hills in group 2.

                With the sun beginning to lower after a day of exhilarating races, the group 3 boys field took the line and set the stage for a showdown between several top Bergen and Passaic programs including Indian Hills, Old Tappan, Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley. Indian Hills and Old Tappan had finished 5th and 6th respectively at the Bergen Meet of Champs, while Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley were this year’s respective Passaic champion and runner-up. Following the blistering pace of race winner Ben Malone, the four North Jersey schools waged a tight contest with an outcome that wasn’t clear until the results were announced. Indian Hills was slightly favored due to its tight pack, but ran further back than expected which allowed Old Tappan to take advantage. The Golden Knights followed 3rd place finisher Will Maltin, and got key races from senior Alex Weiner in 11th, sophomore Ian Clarke in 15th and senior Jacob Fishbein in 21st. After a mediocre performance the week prior, Old Tappan put it all together and overcame two runners in the top 10 for Wayne Hills, defeating the Patriots 83-96. Wayne Valley earned third place after edging Indian Hills on a 6th runner tiebreaker. When the team scores were announced, Old Tappan went nuts in celebration as soon as Wayne Hills was awarded second, knowing that the title was theirs.

                And kudos to the officials for getting it right in an incident in the chute during this race. Demarest 5th runner Kazuki Okamura crossed the line with the tag missing from his uniform bib. These tags are used to match runners up to the times recorded by the timing system. Instead of penalizing Okamura for his missing tag, officials kept track of him after the race then called over the Demarest coach, who provided Okamura’s information. Demarest wound up finishing 5th, and could have been in jeopardy of not advancing had the officials decided to delete Okamura from the results.

                Meanwhile, just when it seemed as if Ariana North couldn’t get any better, she did exactly that, capturing arguably the biggest victory of her stellar career in very impressive fashion. The junior star won the North 1 Group 3 girls race, powering away from talented runners like Claudia Disomma of Sparta and Sarah Disanza of High Point. North had already opened up a gap on the field at the mile mark, and she only went faster from there, en route to finishing in 18:20, a second faster than she had run in the snow at Darlington the week before. North’s time was easily the fastest time of the day as she made herself look like a top 10 State Meet of Champions threat. Perhaps more satisfying though was the Northern Highlands team victory, as the Highlanders came out on top of a tight group of teams, defeating Mount Olive 92-96, with High Point and Wayne Hills close behind with 102 and 108 points respectively. Northern Highlands got top 20 performances from Sophomore Sofia Licata and North’s freshman sister Karina. Deanna DiLandro of Ramapo finished 4th, and Josette Norris of Tenafly was 5th in a race where the top 6 finishers were underclassmen, both advancing to the State Group 3 meet.

                Earlier in the day, the group 1 and 4 session featured both a close individual race, and a closer than expected team race. In group 1, favored Stephen Lewandowski of Mountain Lakes and Domenic D’Agostino of Wallington pulled away from the field and waged a terrific two man battle. D’Agostino, who finished second to Lewandowski at the Passaic Coaches meet, hung with his rival even longer this time, as the pair ran side by side until just after the hill in the woods. Lewandowski came out of the woods with a slight lead but powered home to a winning time of 15:50 while D’Agostino crossed second in a fine 15:57, the fastest time of the day by a Bergen County runner. Mountain Lakes won the team race with 36 points, while Park Ridge-Emerson was 3rd and Bogota 5th, advancing to the group 1 meet. Group 4 featured a matchup of Bergen County powerhouses Ridgewood and Hackensack that turned out to be a bit of a thriller. Ridgewood had finished 62 points of Hackensack the week prior at the Bergen Meet of Champs, but the Comets came to run on Saturday and put together their best effort of the season. Early on, the race remained quite bunched up through the mile mark, with Hackensack’s John Pujols and Ridgewood’s Travis Spicer and Levi Jennings running near the front of the pack. Pujols and Spicer began to separate themselves over the second half of the course, as the Hackensack senior ran to the title in 16:05 in the biggest win of his career. Spicer, a first year cross-country runner, finished a tremendous second place in 16:15 and his Ridgewood teammates Nick Salamone and Jennings followed him up in 5th and 7th respesctively. Hackensack’s pack ran very well as Juan Pimental and Carlos Coronado finished side by side in 9th and 10th while Chris Mascetti was 16th. Storm Dublirer was 15th for Ridgewood, and although Will Ades faded late in the race, he still hung on to finish 24th, which was enough to seal the 51-60 victory.

                The group 2 contest was arguably the most competitive race of the day, and may have been the most exciting anywhere in the state as the top 3 teams finished within seven points of one another. Morris Hills squeaked out another close win for its second consecutive title, 53-56 over Walkill Valley, which was led by race winner James Corti. Ramsey finished with 60 points and was pleased with its effort thanks in large part to a bounce back race from 5th man Victor Sinfunjo, but had to settle for 3rd place, just seven points away from its first victory since 1990. The Morris Hills repeat was keyed by strong performances from its 3rd and 4th runners, Robert Biro and Matthew Wientraub, who finished 12th and 13th. Early in the race, it looked as if Morris Hills could run away with victory, as they held 5 out of the top 7 positions at the mile mark. Walkill Valley and Ramsey held back a bit in the completely flat first mile, and slowly began to move up as the Morris Hills pack began to break up. Corti took command of the race going into the woods, and on his way out held a sizable lead over Dylan Capwell of Hopatcong. The Ramsey duo of Chris Eltringham and Erik Buser unleashed strong kicks in the final 400 and closed in on Capwell, with Eltringham passing him in the final 100 and Buser falling just short at the line. Nick Patterson and Travis Ellis led the way for Morris Hills in 5th and 6th and Walkill Valley had two more top 10 finishers in Ryan Chiesa and Craig Corti. Ridgefield Park continued their strong season, finishing a solid 4th place with 134 points, 9th points ahead of 5th place Newton.

                While Northern Highlands was the only winning girls team from Bergen or Passaic county, two other Bergen squads came away with silver medals, though one was likely disappointed while the other was proud. In group 4, Randolph produced a surprising 1-2-3 finish behind Sam Jones, as Carole Hirsch and Liz Wellman helped the Rams to a mild 37-52 upset over Ridgewood. The Lady Maroons came into the race ranked 6th in the state while Randolph was 8th, and featured a tight pack that typically has no set order. While Emily Fishbein, Hanako Shigenobu and Caroline Davidson finished 6th, 8th and 9th and Ridgewood’s 1-5 spread was only 42 seconds, it wasn’t enough to overcome the excellent frontrunning by Randolph, who secured the win when Margaret Thomson finished 11th and Jennifer Zackowski was 20th. On the other hand, Glen Rock grabbed 2nd in the girls group 2 race, finishing just 14 points back of heavily favored Morris Hills. Kate Scandale paced the Panthers with a 5th place finish, and the trio of Kate Vandervalk, Lila Milgrom and Safarina Milgrom ran as a pack, crossing in 11th, 12th and 13th. Ramsey also had a strong race, edging Kittatinny by 5 points to earn 3rd place. Mountain Lakes topped Kinnelon 49-53 in a thrilling group 1 race, and North Warren, Bogota and Hasbrouck Heights also advanced.






Photo by: Jill McGuire for