By Jim Hintelmann
HOLMDEL – For Christian Brothers Academy, winning the NJSIAA Meet of Champions title Saturday at Holmdel Park, was like another day at the office.
For Rumson-Fair Haven Regional, however, its stunning win in the girls MOC was a historical one for the Lady Bulldogs since it was the first ever for the team.
Rumson took the title with a 126-142 advantage over runner-up and two-time defending champion Hillsborough to wrap up an unforgettable season.
“This is the greatest,” said Rumson co-coach Tim McLoone. “Second or third would have been a great accomplishment for our program but there is nothing like winning it and everybody can feel good about it.”
Entering the season Rumson, which finished eighth in the MOC last year, had the potential for a good team, but it became great when three newcomers joined the team.
Two of them, junior Rachel Christ who led Rumson with a ninth place finish overall Saturday, and senior Shannon McCarthy (34th) both decided to try cross country this year. Christ ran track in the Spring while McCarthy competed in field hockey last Fall.
The third newcomer was freshman Hannah Anderson, who developed into a key runner on the team and was the fourth finisher for Rumson Saturday, Isabella Maita was the fifth Rumson runner.
Christ, the Monmouth County champion, ran a personal best 18:37 to set the pace, but it was a great effort from Michaella Irvine that made the difference according to McLoone.
“Irvine improved by 33 seconds today,” said McLoone. “That was the game changer. She ended up being our third runner today.”
“The girls did the same thing every time they race. They take control early and make the other team catch them. That’s a tough way to run, but it worked for them.”
Christ had no special strategy in the race, in which she improved her fastest previous time by 10 seconds.
“There were faster runners than me in the race,” Christ pointed out. “I wasn’t
going to put any pressure on myself.”
Over the summer, McCarthy had some doubts about whether she would go out for cross country.
“I loved playing field hockey,” McCarthy admitted. “It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I ran track and decided to see how I would do in cross country. As it turned out, I made the right decision.”
“It was an unbelievable year,” said co-coach Henry Mercer. “We thought that we would be good this season, but had no idea it would end this way, A lot of factors came together.
“Nobody got hurt,” he explained, “and some new people joined the team.”
For CBA, the only question was whether it would break the Holmdel Park course record of 16:05.23 that it set last year.
Despite missing one of its top runners (Tim Gorman) it just made it with a team time of 16:04.6 as it finished with a 45-111 margin over second place Don Bosco Prep.
George Kelly led CBA with a second place finish with a personal best time of 15:37, behind the individual winner, Tim Ball of Piscataway (15:31). He outlasted Ben Malone of Pascack Valley (15:40) for the runner-up spot.
“My previous personal best was 16:02 last year,” said Kelly. “My strategy was to go out easy and keep pushing, I ended up following Malone and we had quite a battle before I pulled away at the end. The weather today was perfect.”
Next for CBA is the Northeast Regionals Saturday at Van Courtland Park in New York and then it will travel to Portland (Ore.) for the Nationals Dec. 3.