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

Nov 29, 2020

Middletown South Girls Cross Country Repeat as County Champions

By Les Pierce

The Middletown South squad approaches the finish line as a group in a dual meet against Marlboro. From left: Lauren Hutson, Lexi Dean, Skylar O’Keefe, Gwen Afanasewicz, Lucy Afanasewicz, Samantha Grein, Emma Buthorn, Rosemary Shay and Sophia Tardio

Last year, the Middletown High School South girls’ cross country squad easily captured the Monmouth County championship, besting rival Colts Neck by 25 points. Such was not the case in 2020 as the Eagles emerged victorious via a rare tiebreaker scenario. The meet was held on Nov. 5 at Buck Mill Park in Colts Neck.

Cross country is scored by accumulating the placement values of only the first five finishers of each team. On this day, the conventional scoring resulted in a 72-point deadlock of South and the Red Bank Catholic Caseys. This required the addition of the sixth finisher of both teams to break the tie, and South’s team depth delivered the win.

Rosemary “Rosie” Shay led the victors, finishing sixth, followed by teammates Lucy Afanasewicz (ninth) and Gwen Afanasewicz (16th). South’s fourth runner, Lexi Dean, finished 19th to pick up seven points on her Casey counterpart. Lauren Hutson came across the line in 22nd place to close the gap by six points and knot the tally at 72.

The win was ultimately solidified by freshman runner Skylar O’Keefe. O’Keefe placed 32nd, just 13 seconds ahead of RBC’s Alex Haugh.

Middletown South also enjoyed a perfect dual meet season.  The team went 6-0 to post its seventh consecutive, undefeated dual meet season as A-North Division champions. The Eagles won meets with a pack of nine or 10 runners finishing as a group ahead of their opponent’s top finisher.

Head Coach Bill Clifton is in his 19th year at the helm and is assisted by his wife, Kathleen.

“It has been quite a different season and atmosphere this year for our practices and meets,” he said. “Kathleen and I told the girls that if they could be adaptable, resilient and grateful this season then the year would be a success. They are a marvelous group that has found a silver lining during difficult times.”