benefit from former
benefit from former
By wayne witkowski
Going into the season, coach Don Blair thought this could be a special year for the Brick Township High School girls’ cross-country team.
"I thought we could be in the running for the county (championship) at the beginning of the season," he said.
And with good reason.
Marissa DeTata was joining the team for her senior season. Her addition would be the missing link allowing this team to become the No. 5-ranked team in the state in a recent poll.
In the Ocean County Championships held in mid-October at Ocean County Park, Brick finished second to Toms River East, the No. 3-ranked team in the state, behind DeTata’s fourth-place 19:00 time. There also was a surprising 19:33 ninth-place finish by sophomore Erin Redden. But Brick finished ahead of nemesis Jackson, which was ranked ahead of the Green Dragons all season.
That second-place finish pushed Brick two spots up in the state rankings, into Jackson’s No. 5 spot.
"Last year, we were not in the top five in the county and this year to take second to Toms River East in a very strong county is very gratifying," said Blair.
And with the biggest meets ahead, including the state sectionals this Saturday and the group meet the following Saturday leading up to the Meet of Champions, Blair is hoping his largely untested team can continue measuring up to the challenge. Those meets will be held at Delsea, where Brick finished fourth earlier this season in the South Jersey Open, with Shawnee and Jackson running 1-2.
DeTata was the third-place runner that day in 19:11.
Those are solid times for someone who played in the girls’ soccer program at Brick her first three years before moving up to cross-country.
"She wanted to see what was in her best interests for a college scholarship," said Blair of DeTata’s switch of sports.
But Blair, coaching in his fifth season, did not feel there was much adjustment for DeTata, who cracked the top eight in the Meet of Champions two-mile run during the outdoor season last spring.
"I remember her as a freshman coming in (to Brick) and how she was at a road race I took my team to in the first week of September," said Blair. "She beat my best girl back then by a minute and a half.
"Her biggest adjustments were getting used to the longer course and a whole different terrain from the flat ovals of track season."
In the Shore Conference championships last Saturday, Brick finished a respectable sixth place at Holmdel Park. DeTata clocked a 20:20 time for 15th place individually.
Rival Jackson was second to Toms River East in the team standings while the next three spots went to Middletown South, Shore and Red Bank, which had Katy and Amanda Trotter finish 1-2 individually.
If Brick continues to perform well, it will rely on DeTata, who set a course record 18:42 in a dual meet at Southern Regional and has been performing consistently well, as well as Redden and sophomore Joanne McCabe, who are interchangeable at the No. 2 and 3 positions. Consistency is McCabe’s strength as she has clocked times in the low 20s throughout the season. Her 20:06 time in the county meet was the third best for the team, good for 19th place. She was third in the sophomore division of the Roxbury Invitational in 20:12 back in September behind Redden, who won in 19:59.
Brick finished third in the junior-senior division at Roxbury, which bodes well for the season ahead.
Blair says Redden "seems to get up for the big meets" as she also clocked a fine 20:22 in the South Jersey Open and was second in the Bog Iron Open Race at Allaire that Brick won as a team.
Five of the remaining nine runners on the team are seniors, including co-captains Sarah Koste and Kelly Arinioco. Koste was cast in the No. 4 spot but has been hindered by knee problems and illness. Kaity McCabe, Joanne’s sister, solidified her No. 5 spot recently with her best time of the season, finishing second in a dual meet against Brick Memorial at Ocean County Park.
Christine Mancini, a junior, waits in the wings if needed and freshman Michelle Harder, second in the county freshmen meet, is expected to figure in more prominently with the varsity in the upcoming weeks.
"If one girl runs poorly in these meets, it will haunt you," said Blair of the heart of the schedule.
Others on the hard-working team include Katie Acquaviva, who was sixth in the county freshman meet, and seniors Jen Pederson, Melanie Pryzbos and Jen Miller.