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

Dec 14, 2021

Local XC Runners Battle It Out at the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II Championships

By Tim Morris

Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s boys cross country team earned the win at the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championships this fall.

Cross country is both an individual and team sport. While all the attention is paid to those runners at the front, it’s the harriers who follow in file behind them that decide team championships. Every place counts, and that was never more apparent than at the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championships where Rumson-Fair Haven’s boys eked out a one-point win over Point Pleasant Boro, 59-60.

The championship was decided by both team’s fifth runner with RFH’s Kevin Medrow (18:18) outrunning Point Boro’s Nicholas Pistolakis (18:22) by one place to secure the sectional championship at Jamesburg’s Thompson Park.

Through the first four runners, the teams were tied at 39 points. When Medrow finished 20th and Pistolakis 21st, the Bulldogs had their first state sectional title since 1999.

Tim McLoone, who coaches the Bulldogs with Henry Mercer, expected a tight race between Rumson and Point Boro and said that he had his harriers marking that team’s runners, who were wearing gold.

With the Boro’s Blaik Slavinski giving the Panthers an edge up top by winning the individual state sectional title in 16:55, the Bulldogs were going to have to rely on their depth and packing their runners close together. Just 41 seconds separated Rumson’s five scorers.

“It was five against four,” McLoone pointed out after Slavinski was first to the line. 

Junior Michael Schroeder, who is having a breakout season, led Rumson in sixth place (17:37).

Behind him, sophomore Tucker Erbeck (17:51), junior Thomas Shore (17:55) and senior Patrick Simpson (17:56) went 10-11-12 helping Rumson catch up to Point Boro, whose first four runners went 1-7-14-17. That left the team championship to be decided by the fifth runner.

Medrow, a sophomore, keeping his eye on runners in gold, chased down Boro’s fifth runner in the final 200 meters of the race to seal the CJ II crown.

The championship was even sweeter for the Rumson boys because it had been since 1999 that they last won a state sectional. Overshadowed by the RFH girls who have been a state power for more than 20 years, the 2021 Bulldogs were determined to make their mark this fall.

“This is a group that took [cross country] really seriously and put in the work,” said McLoone. “The boys are on an upswing. All of them are getting better.”

With some promising freshmen and four of their top five runners from the sectional back next fall, it certainly looks like Rumson is building something.

Holmdel made it a three-team race in CJ II, but lacking the depth of Rumson and Point Boro, finished third with 70 points. The Hornets placed three runners in the top 10. Louis Mejorada (17:17), Alec Mihalenko (17:50) and Haroon Shakih (17:51) went 4-8-9 for the Hornets.

In Group III, Colts Neck couldn’t rebound from West Windsor-Plainsboro North’s 1-2-4 finish and settled for second place. The Cougars ultimately fell 42-60. Ryan Johnson led Colts Neck in third place (16:16), followed closely by teammate Christian Mariner in sixth (16:33). Joe Allegro (17:31, Jacob McNamara (17:31) and Leo Kurtz (17:36) went 16-17-18 for Colts Neck.

Connor Kinch’s eighth place (16:47) led Middletown North to fourth place (120). Aaron Guench was 13th (17:22).

Middletown South’s Chris Shay led local runners in Group IV, taking 10th (16:20).