The Big North Freedom division is perhaps the strongest girls cross-country division in New Jersey even with the shift of Indian Hills to the Patriot division this year.
The top three teams in the division going into the league championships on Oct. 4, Ridgewood, Ramapo and Northern Highlands each enjoyed great success at tune-up meets last weekend, with Ridgewood finishing third at the Bowdoin XC classic and Ramapo and Northern Highlands scoring strong victories at races at the Wild Safari Invitational and Garret Invitational meets.
You’ll see those results reflected in updated rankings at the bottom of this story along with a schedule for league divisional championship races starting Thursday, Sept. 29 at Darlington Park for the Big North and on Monday, Oct. 3 for the NJIC.
Ramapo, Lakeland and Indian Hills score wins at Wild Safari
Ramapo coach Mike Nangle has coached some very good runners and some fine teams in his 15 years as the Raiders head coach, but even before the 2022 season, he thought that this year’s girls team had a chance to be something special.
“I knew this team could be the best team we ever had before we even ran on a cross-country course,” said Nangle, whose teams have qualified for the state group championship the last four seasons and finished fifth in the Lou Molino Bergen Meet of Champs last year, it’s highest finish since 2004.
Ramapo returned three of its top six, led by senior sectional champ Brianna Braver, but the additions of three players from the soccer program, two of whom had enjoyed outstanding freshman seasons on the track, has lifted the Raiders to a different level.
The Raiders defeated Lakeland, 43-52, to win the Girls C race at the course, adjacent to the Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson, placing four runners in the top 13, behind race winner Morgan Uhlhorn, who remained undefeated on the season, winning by 80 meters in 18:26.
Junior Amelia Keogh of Ramapo was second, in 18:50, followed by Braver, 3rd at 19:00, with soph Brianna Potaki, in her first year of cross-country, 8th in 20:08. Returnee Carly Griffin was 13th in 20:40 and first year runner Anna Wezner, coming off of a hip fracture last fall in soccer, as 23rd in 21:36.
“Our other sophomore, Micaela Chamberlin, who ran so well in track last year, had to miss the race for a family wedding, so today gave us a hint of what we can do once everyone learns how to race,” Nangel said.
North Jersey runners dominated the C race, with first year cross-country runner Kara Langbaum of Wayne Hills, taking sixth in 19:45, just ahead of Katharine Cottone of Passaic Valley in 7th in 19:56. Reaghan Lamascola of Lakeland was 9th in 20:11 and Lakeland also had three other girls in the top 20.
Indian Hills’ girls continued their rapid improvement with a good second place finish in the Varsity D race, just 17 points behind state power Kent Place. The Braves went 9 (Summer Myrhen, 20:23), 12 (Camryn Finn, 20:29), 13 (Kayla O’Neil 20:29) and 20 (Annelise Barney, 20:57). Ramsey soph Madison Sovak was 18th in 20:36.
The Indian Hills boys won an eighth title in nine tries, by winning the Boys D race, 81-82 over the Newark Charter School of Delaware. Raffi Buchakjian led the Braves in 5th, running 16:52, and Deniz Kalkandelen (7th, 17:00) and Sameer Katwala was 18th in 17:43.
It looked as if the Braves would come up short as Newark Charter’s fifth runner nipped Indian Hills’ fourth, Dan Phillips at the line for 24th, But soph Brady Dransfield finished right behind Phillips and nine seconds ahead of Newark’s sixth to grab the win.
Owen Horevay continued his strong start for Lakeland in the Boys C race, winning by more than 250 meters in 15:21, the day’s third best time. Teammate Nathan Caldwell was 7th in 16:19 as the Lancers were third behind Point Pleasant Boro and Collegiate (NY) with 130 points. Leonia senior Joshua Gelayder was 17th in 17:26.
Hackensack’s Dylan Guarquila was 13th in the Boys A race in 16:19 and Moses Barrera was 25th in 16:41.
Wayne Valley finished a strong 6th in the Boys B race with Matt Califf and Sean Matthews finishing 11th and 12th in identical times of 16:33.
Northern Highlands sweeps both races at Garret Invitational
The Highlanders girls looked like a team that will be able to contend for the title in every race they run this fall with an overpowering performance to win the large school race at the Garret Invitational at Garret Mountain on Saturday. Paced by an upset win by junior Autumn Ritter over state group 4 winner Remy Dubac of Clifton, Northern Highlands placed five runners in the top 10 and easily defeated Morristown 32-90.
The boys held off Clifton and Teaneck, 79-86-105 in their large school victory, with Jackson Vogel’s fifth place finish and solid back-of-the-pack performances by Sebastian Anderson and Timothy Cobb.
“This might be the first time we’ve won both events at an invitational,” said Highlanders coach Joel DeStaso. Northern Highlands swept the Bergen and state sectional group 3 races in 1991 and the NBIL titles in 2005 and 2006. “The boys have all stepped up while we hope Jeff Sohn can recover and return to the way he was last year. Jackson is starting to really produce and Freddy (Liljegren) and Carter (Monaco) are showing improvement every week.”
But it’s the girls that are really opening eyes. Ritter became just the 10th girl in school history to break 20 minutes at Garret, running 19:55, more than a minute faster than her previous best at the site of the North 1 sectionals. Junior Allison Courtney was 5th in 20:25 on her first race ever at the course, with junior Rebecca Maclaren (7th, 20:35), soph Farrah Dello Russo (9th, 21:22) and freshman Sadie Meloro (10th, 21:26) running at or near personal bests on the course. The Highlanders’ five girl combined time of 103:43 is fifth on the school’s all-time team list at the course.
“Autumn has looked like this from day one of practice this year,” said DeStaso. “She did great work during the summer and bought totally into the training. She looks fit and confident.””
Dubac, seventh in the State Meet of Champions last fall, is slowly recovering from a non-COVID related illness suffered early in training, but is expected to be at full strength for county and state competition.
Montville sophomore Alex Pelov won the large school boys race by about 50 meters over Hisham Ettayebi of Clifton, in 16:38, while Ettayebi improved is Garret best to 16:48. Teaneck, in the midst of its best season in decades, put two runners in the top 10, junior Joshua Tejada (4th in 17:08) and senior Michael Delgado (8th 9n 17:39). Juniors Courtney St. Prix Jr. (13th in 17:48) and Lucas Cedano (22nd) give the Highwaymen a solid top quartet and if Teaneck can find a consistent fifth runner to get a little closer to their #4, can make a bid for its first ever state group invite.
The West Milford girls won their first invitational since the 2003 William Paterson Invitational, placing three runners in the top seven, to edge Demarest, 64-72 in the small schools girls race. Freshman Amanda Harvey (22:00), junior Lauren Frey (22:11) and senior Joan Marra (22:22) went 5-6-7 to lead the Passaic county school, which also got strong performances from seniors Keira McGovern and Emily Coppola.
Mahwah’s Zoe Merryman edged Lily Dipple of Demarest by 35 meters in 20:23. Fort Lee’s Diana Valentini was third in 21:47.
The Pascack Valley boys won their third straight invitational in the small school boys race, but it wasn’t easy as the Panthers held off an improving Demarest boys team, 82-87.
Michael Pizzella and Jay Ramirez went 3-5 behind sophomore Max Kahn of Mountain Lakes, who edged Brayden Lowe-Massi of Mahwah by less than 20 meters in 17:08. But Demarest put three runners in front of PV’s third, Patrick Kurtz and a fourth in front of PV’s fourth man.
Maguire, Ridgewood girls shine at Bowdoin Classic
Don Bosco’s Paul Maguire made his 2022 major meet debut Saturday at the Bowdoin XC Classic, run at Bowdoin Park and ran the fastest North Jersey race at the site of the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regionals in six years en route to a third place finish in the Boys I varsity race. Maguire ran 16:29.2 on the challenging course and helped Don Bosco to a seventh place finish.
Ridgewood’s girls put six runners in the top 30 to finish a strong third in the girls I race, won by state favorite Union Catholic.
The Maroons, running an all-underclass lineup and missing putative #1 Cellina Rabolli, were led by first year cross-country runner Ayla Cooke, who finished ninth in 20:49.9. Junior Avery Sheridan was next, 14th in 21:07.0, while freshman Katie Adams (24th, 21:48.7), and sophs Lola Jacqueline (26th, 21:56.1) and Ciara Taylor (30th, 22:03.6) completed the scoring.
Morrow takes small school race at Stewart Memorial meet
Hasbrouck Heights sophomore Aidan Morrow took another step close to equaling and bettering his older brother’s records when he won the B division race at the Stewart Memorial meet at Oak Ridge Park in Clark Saturday.
Morrow set a school record of 16:20.5 at the course, site of the North 2 state sectionals where the Aviators will compete on Oct. 29, breaking the old mark set by his brother last year. Evan Morrow, now a freshman at Rutgers won the North 2 group 1 title at Oak Ridge Park a year ago.
Morrow led Hasbrouck Heights to a sixth place finish in the team standings. Keanu Ray of Weehawken (3rd, 16:38.0) and Younes Abada of Secaucus (10th, 17:03.5) also ran well in the boys B race.
Bogota’s Amandine Fernandez lowered her Old Ridge personal best to 20:11.8 and took fourth in the girls B race, leading the Bucs to a solid fifth place team finish. Isabel Michel (16th, 21:16.0) was the other Bogota front runner. The Weehawken pair of Astrid Taffarello (7th, 20:27.2) and Tiki Dunn (8th, 20:27.3), Lexi Powers of Hasbrouck Heights (9th, 20:29.9) and Haley Nowak of Secaucus (14th, 20:50.5) also finished well.
Teto, Daclan excel for Paramus at Thompson Park class meet
Paramus got a good look Saturday at Thompson Park in Jamesburg, the site of the Central sectional meet next month and Bryce Teto and Mary Daclan took full advantage to run outstanding races.
Teto was fourth in the boys senior race and fifth overall in the meet, running 16:52.06 for the 5,000 meter distance. Daclan was third in the sophomore and 13th overall en route to a time of 20:16.44, her best time on any cross-country course.
NJIC Week 2
Keanu Ray of Weehawken (17:24), Joseph Capuzzo of Waldwick (18:24) and Aidan Morrow of Hasbrouck Heights (17:19) won the three boys races held at Darlington County Park on Sept. 21. Ray beat Glen Rock’s Ben Raser by about 125 meters with Joshua Gelayder of Leonia third in the first race of the day. Capuzzo beat Ridgefield’s Sean Hamilton by about 100 meters with Thomas Martin of Paterson Charter third in the second race. Morrow finished about 125 meters ahead of Patrick Tallman of Park Ridge/Emerson with Heights junior Ayaan Modak third in the final boys race.
The three girls races were run by Cresskill’s Danielle Tilp (20:17), Lexi Power of Hasbrouck Heights (21:32) and Astrid Taffariello of Weehawken (21:00). Tilp defeated Isabella Polizzi of Pompton Lakes by over 3 1/2 minutes with Cresskill’s Taleen Atakhanian third. Powers outran Razil Fernandes of Dwight-Englewood by about 70 meters with Secaucus senior Haley Nowak third and in the final race, Tafariello beat teammate Tiki Dunn by 40 seconds with Lily McNair of Glen Rock third.
Big North Batch meets
The last two batch meets were held at Darlington Park on Sept. 19 and 20. The Independence girls race on the 19th was cut short because of a thunderstorm that began after it had started. Morgan Uhlhorn of Lakeland won the shortened race by 12 seconds over Katharine Cottone of Passaic Valley with Reaghan Lamascola of Lakeland and Kara Langbaum of Wayne Hills close behind. The course was estimated to run at between 3,000 and 3,500 meters instead of the usual 5,000 meters.
Lakeland captured all five dual meets produced by the race easily, with the closest meet a 21-34 win over West Milford, which went 4-1.
Lakeland went 1-2 in the boys race, with Nathan Caldwell beating teammate Owen Horevay by about 15 meters in the race, which was held over the full 5,000 meter distance. But Wayne Valley, which went 3-4 in the race with junior Matt Califf and senior Sean Matthews, put Sal Gencarelli (7th), Milan Mistry (10th) and Ryan Schectman (13th) ahead of Lakeland’s fourth and clinched a five meet sweep, 27-28, over the favored Lancers. Lakeland went 4-1.
Dylan Decambre of Bergen Tech defeated Clifton’s Hisham Ettayebi by about 40 meters in the Liberty division race held on Sept. 20, running 16:08, the fastest time at Darlington so far this season. But the Mustangs also went 3-5-6-7-8-9 in the race and easily swept all four duals, beating Bergen Tech 23-38 in the closest dual result. Clifton soph Lamarr Olive and senior Harrison Schimpf were third and fifth for Clifton, sandwiching Bergen tech fourth place finisher Sebastian Toro.
Clifton also swept the girls meets, with a 22-36 win over Bergen Tech the closest finish as Remy Dubac and Viktoria Green went 1-2 and two other Mustangs finished in the top 8. Nicole Lesiczka of Bergen Tech, Grace Napoli of Passaic Tech and Nicole Hernandez of Passaic rounded out the division’s top 5.
Boys Top 25 Rankings
- Don Bosco
- Northern Highlads
- Indian Hills
- Wayne Valley
- Bergen Tech
- Bergen Catholic
- Pascack Valley
- Hasbrouck Heights
- Glen Rock
- River Dell
- Wayne Hills
- Passaic Tech
- Park Ridge/Emerson
Girls Top 25 Rankings
- Northern Highlands
- Old Tappan
- Indian Hills
- River Dell
- West Milford
- Glen Rock
- Wayne Hills
- Passaic Valley
- Bergen Tech
- Fort Lee
- Holy Angels
- Hasbrouck Heights
Add a Comment