Allentown High School sophomore Devon Hoernlein awoke the morning of Nov. 7 to a sick stomach and pains, but she was determined not to let that stop her from running in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III cross-country meet at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.
“At first I thought maybe it was nerves, but it wasn’t going away and I was feeling really sick,” Hoernlein said. “But this was a big meet.”
She didn’t let it slow her down, as she ran the course in 20:10.74 for fifth place. She was glad she ran because right behind her in sixth and seventh place were junior teammates Sara Gutter, who finished in 20:21.07, and Jesse Bragger, who was timed in 20:28.12 — both personal bests this season.
Add to that a time of 23:49.87 for 57th place by Sami Tendler, who is the only senior on the team, and junior Hadley Borkowski’s 25:44.64 mark for 71st, and Allentown finished fourth in the team standings. The top five teams advanced to the Group III championship at Holmdel Park Nov. 14.
“Devon was ill and probably a minute slower than expected, but I’m proud of her for what she went through. She really performed,” coach Brian Harshman said.
As for Gutter and Bragger finishing right behind and advancing the Redbirds into the group meet for the second year in a row, Harshman said, “We expected they would have a shot, but that they would have to run very well and they did. They went out very well, competitive from the start.”
Hoernlein said she was excited about the achievement for a team that lost two freshmen to injuries who were potential lineup runners.
“I’m proud of my team,” Hoernlein said. “The girls worked hard all season and put in good times in this meet.”
For Hoernlein, it’s an opportunity she missed a year ago as a freshman when she was injured. She then rehabbed during the indoor season and picked it up in a strong outdoor season.
“I like going out to a good start with the front of the pack and then picking up the pace and picking off girls and then kicking hard at the end,” she said.
The boys did not qualify like they did last year when both squads advanced to the group meet in the same season for the first time.
Nat Byrnes was 23rd in 17:37.68, followed by Matt Gregor in 31st (17:52.21), Tom Bethea in 34th (18:02.61) and freshman Charlie Carey in 37th (18:03.23). Hunter Mulryne, the lone senior, was 46th in 18:21.56.
Allentown finished sixth in the team standings, just 16 points behind the fifth and final qualifying team, Toms River High School East, for the group meet. “The boys were very disappointed, and I was as well,” Harshman said. “We had a good meet and needed to have a great meet. We competed very, very well with a very young team that has only one senior and a freshman group coming up from this season that is outstanding. We’re set up very well for the future.”
Along with Carey, Harshman feels he also can look next season to freshman Colin Harvey and Sean Kirgan, who were on the edge of making varsity, according to the coach. They’ll add depth to the team along with any other emerging prospects in summer workouts and pre-season training.
Junior quarterback Jordan Winston scored three touchdowns — giving him 17 for the season — and was one of three 100- yard rushers in the game for Allentown (5- 4), which beat Trenton Central High School, 43-27, Nov. 7.
Winston rushed for 179 yards on 28 carries, while Ricky Mottram had 13 carries for 111 yards and two short touchdown runs and Joe Mannino carried 24 times for 112 yards. Allentown had 402 rushing yards as a team.
Allentown trailed, 21-6, early and eventually took a 29-27 lead following a touchdown run by Winston and a safety. That began a string of 23 unanswered points and assured the Redbirds of no worse than a .500 season as they head into the playoffs.
Allentown, seeded No. 5, begins its quest for a second straight trip to the Central Jersey, Group III finals when it travels Nov. 14 to No. 4-seed Freehold Borough High School, which comes off a 38-7 loss to uneaten, top-ranked Middletown High School South that snapped a four-game win streak.
“It’ll be a tough challenge,” Allentown coach Jay Graber said of the playoff game. “They have a very good running back and a good quarterback who spreads it out.”
Although it does not have home field, Allentown has one advantage making its fourth straight trip to the NJSIAA playoffs — a return trip for many on the team.
“We have a lot of experience going into the playoffs, but this is a new challenge, a one-game season, but the players have settled in well [lately].”
Allentown reports no injuries that will sideline any players for the game.
Allentown suffered its first loss of the season, 2-1, to Moorestown High School in the Central Jersey, Group III championship game.
In a showdown of the top two seeded teams, Kayla Peterson connected for a goal off a pass from Mary Bellott to trim a two-goal lead for Moorestown (14-4-1), which scored its two goals in a two-minute span. All scoring came in the first half.
Allentown (16-1-3) won the Colonial Valley Conference Freedom Division championship and Mercer County Tournament title.
“Despite the loss, I really could not be any more proud of these girls,” said Allentown coach Dana Thompson.
Andrew Bardiwil scored off a pass from Mohammed Kotby after West Windsor- Plainsboro High School North went up, 3-0, in the Central Jersey, Group III tournament. The Redbirds lost, 3-1, ending their season at 4-11-1.
After the game, coach Andrew Plunkett lamented his team’s slow start but said the young team had been playing its best soccer of late. Bardiwil is the only senior in the regular starting lineup.