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Jan 31, 2023

Brookdale Men’s Cross Country Carried by Young Talent

By Tim Morris

Red Bank Regional graduate Teddy Purdon became Brookdale Community College cross country's first two-time Region champion and two-time All-American in 2022. Photo by Tom Smith, Brookdale Athletics

With consecutive trips to the national championships, the Brookdale Community College men’s cross country team is becoming a force in the sport.

Over the last two years, the Jersey Blue harriers have won invitational meets but, more importantly, captured back-to-back National Junior College Athletic Association Region 19 championships. This fall, the team finished 11th at the NJCAA Division III meet. 

“We had a real good season,” said BCC Head Coach Mike Tursi. “The kids really worked hard. There was a big improvement over the course of the season. Winning the Regional was a big goal. We had a good rivalry with Rowan College [South Jersey-Gloucester] this year.”

Brookdale hosted its first Jersey Blues Invitational this year at Thompson Park, and RCSJ-Gloucester spoiled the day for Brookdale, winning the meet by a tiebreaker over the hosts. That did not sit well with the Blues and fueled their effort the rest of the season. Brookdale would pay RCSJ-Gloucester back, beating them at the NJIT Highland and Delaware Invitationals.

However, the big race was the Region 19 championships at White City Creek Start Park in Newark, Delaware. 

With Teddy Purdon finishing first overall, the Blues edged Rowan-Gloucester by three points. Casey Brown was BCC’s No.  2 in seventh place followed in ninth by Josh Seba. Completing the scoring were Joshua Beer and Jayden Morris in 10th and 13th place.

Brookdale overcame a two-point deficit to R-G in the final half-mile of the 8,000-meter race to repeat as champions.

Purdon was joined on the All-Region First Team by teammate Brown.

Tursi was named the Region 19 Coach of the Year.

Brookdale would go on to place 11th at the national championships held in Westfield, Massachusetts on Holyoke Community College’s course.

Purdon would lead the way with his seventh place and All-American recognition. As Brookdale’s No. 1 runner throughout both seasons, Purdon, a Red Bank Regional grad, was behind much of the Blues’ success. 

“He was the backbone of the team,” said Tursi, who coached cross country and track at Mater Die Prep before moving to Brookdale. “Every team needs that key piece. He sets the tone.” 

In his two seasons with Brookdale, the RBR grad firmly established himself as the best runner the program has ever had. The Buc graduate was the only two-time Region 19 champion and two-time All-American in BCC history. He finished seventh both years at the national championships and earned Division III National Runner of the Week honors in both 2021 and 2022. Another honor bestowed on the decorated harrier twice was NJCAA Division III Male Athlete of the Year East Region.

Tursi credited Purdon’s relentless approach to both practice and racing for making him an All-American athlete. Purdon seems to have taken a page from the late Steve Prefontaine’s book who famously said, “To give anything less than your best” is unacceptable. Purdon need not worry about that.

“It’s his work ethic,” Tursi explained as to what has made Purdon such an outstanding runner. “He has one speed and that is all out, in practice and meets. He’s really consistent, and the others see the work he puts in, and it’s a big influence on them.”

Brown, a freshman from Point Pleasant Boro and sophomore Seba (Mater Dei), went back and forth all year as Brookdale’s second and third runners. Running close to each other in races played a big part. Seba played his own role in what the Jersey Blues have done the last two seasons. He was Tursi’s first recruit. Beers, a sophomore from Shore Regional, was the team’s most improved runner. He was the Brookdale’s seventh runner in 2021 and this year was a solid No. 4 who sometimes was the team’s third finisher. Sophomores Purdon, Seba and Beers were the team co-captains. Morris, a Monmouth Regional grad, was another of the incoming freshmen who made an impact on the team.

Completing the squad were freshmen Joshua Cabral (Middletown North), Aeshawn Carney (Long Branch) and Matt Newman (Rumson-Fair Haven).

With five freshmen who gained valuable experience in championship meets and a number of high school seniors who have expressed interest in Brookdale cross country, the Blues appear to be here to stay.