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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Dec 02, 2020

Colts Neck’s Lilly Shapiro Repeats as County Cross Country Champion

By Les Pierce

Lilly Shapiro, two-time Monmouth County champion

Last year at the Monmouth County Cross Country Championships, Lilly Shapiro battled stride for stride with Mater Dei Prep’s Hayley Amisano for nearly the entire course. The Cougar runner ultimately pulled away in the final straightaway to capture the championship by a mere three seconds.

In the 2020 rendition, the result was identical, as the crown was again claimed by Shapiro. However, her path to victory was significantly different.

The Colts Neck junior promptly assumed command of the pace and drew away from the pack early to cruise over the Bucks Mill Park course virtually uncontested. She trotted across the finish line to stop the timer at 18:21.89. The closest competitor, Cate DeSousa of Red Bank Catholic, came in 35 seconds later. The win marks the third consecutive year that a Colts Neck runner has captured the county title. Delia Russo achieved that feat in 2018.

This was Shapiro’s third major victory of the season. On Oct. 10, Colts Neck hosted the Cougar Invitational Team Challenge which attracted eight of the top teams statewide. Shapiro outran the field of 61 runners and clocked in at 18:07.26. Haddonfield Memorial’s Sarah Naticchia finished second, posting a time of 18:18.35.

Eleven days later, the Cougars traveled to Holmdel Park to compete in the Colt Invite, hosted by Christian Brothers Academy. Shapiro took gold there as well with a time of 18:42.19. Once again, Naticchia settled for second place in 18:57.10.

“Lilly has worked tremendously hard since the day we were told that school was closed in March,” stated Head Coach Jim Schlentz. “She has dedicated herself to be the best, and it is paying off. She has taken her fitness level to a new level and is now one of the best three or four runners in all of New Jersey.”

The Cougars completed an undefeated season, posting a 7-0 record while capturing the B-North Division championship.

“The team trained the whole spring on their own, despite not having a competitive season,” said Schlentz. “They continued into the summer as the captain, Kavita Shah, met them twice a week for workouts. The other days, they devoted themselves to running distance on their own. They are ranked No. 7 in all of New Jersey. They have earned everything they have achieved through hard work and dedication. We, the coaches, are so proud of them!”