Lancers await challenges as defending Non-Public A champs



The St. John Vianney High girls’ basketball team, armed with a full slate of returning players, will embark on the new season with high expectations.

All of the Lancers who carried St. John Vianney to the NJSIAA Non-Public A title last season will be back in action. So a year after surging to the Tournament of Champions with zero seniors on the varsity roster, the Lancers are stocked with experienced, talented players. It does not come as a surprise, then, that St. John Vianney is ranked by as the No. 1 team in New Jersey.

Still, a merciless schedule awaits the Lancers. As in past seasons, the Lancers have penciled in as many powerhouses as they could fit in the regular-season calendar, strengthening a schedule that already includes games against the Shore Conference’s fiercely competitive A Central Division. The Lancers are well aware that the path to defending their state championship will be a rough one.

“It’s exciting in one aspect to have the attention and everybody looking at us, but we have to understand that we are going to get everybody’s best when we step out on the court. We are going to go through a full season of getting everybody’s best,” head coach Dawn Karpell said.

With that understanding, the Lancers believe they are up to the task. The Lancers will go to battle with a star-studded senior class that includes point guard Kelly Campbell, who is entering her fourth year as a starter. The DePaul University commit averaged 14.7 points last season.

Campbell will be joined in the backcourt by fellow seniors Kellie Crouch, Tina Lebron and Vanessa Pinho. Senior forwards Gigi Caponegro, Zoe Pero and Megan Furch, along with junior Kim Evans, will be part of a formidable frontcourt. The 6-foot- 3 Evans was second on the team in scoring a year ago.

The Lancers will benefit from a strong junior class that consists of Evans, Courtney Dobrzynski, Julia Ramos, Riley Kehoe and Abby Anderko. Freshman Sarah Karpell and sophomores Madison Doring and Sarah Furch will also contribute to a deep roster for the 2015-16 season.

“I’m excited that we not only have a lot of seniors, but juniors. We have a lot of experience back — many girls who have been through our program for two and three years,” Karpell said.

The number of veterans allows the ninth-year head coach to push the Lancers further than she did last season, focusing on more than just the fundamentals. “I can get on them for the little things,” Karpell said. “We know that we are going to be heavy favorites on most nights. We want to make sure that we take advantage of mismatches.”

St. John Vianney will be thrown right into the fire. The quest for another state crown begins on the road Dec. 19 in a showcase against Matawan Regional High School. The opener will be followed by a divisional game at home vs. Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School Dec. 21. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

The Lancers will then travel to Orlando, Florida, to face elite teams from around the country at the KSA Holiday Basketball Tournament after Christmas.

From the gym at St. John Vianney to Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the Lancers do not expect any breathing room to start the new season. Their January schedule includes Christ the King High School, Eastside High School (Paterson), Gill St. Bernard’s School and Manasquan High School — one of the team’s strongest A Central opponents. The first matchup of the season between St. John Vianney and Manasquan will come Jan. 8.

“We’re going to get challenged early on. With such a veteran group, we set things up to challenge ourselves,” Karpell said. “We’re going to play some of the top-tier teams in the state when we get back from Orlando.”

The Lancers drew up their daunting schedule in order to be 100 percent ready for the postseason. After all, St. John Vianney has a big goal in mind: back-to-back state championships.

Changes being considered by NJSIAA for non-public schools


High school football in New Jersey may change dramatically in 2016 as a result of the NJSIAA’s vote to create a separate conference for non-public high schools.

NJSIAA members voted, 215-128, Dec. 7, with two members abstaining, to make the change. However, there is a possibility that the decision could be overturned by state Education Commissioner David C. Hespe.

In addition, the NJSIAA voted, 216- 212, to create two non-public districts and one non-public region for wrestling.

“If the commissioner believes this is not in the best interests of the schools, he can rule against it,” Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School Athletic Director Joe Montano said.

While such a decision is not likely before Jan. 1, Montano noted that there is a precedent.

In 2009, a rule that would have public and non-public schools competing in separate divisions at the district and region tournaments was rejected by Lucille Davy, the education commissioner at the time.

For his part, Montano, who is also the secretary for the Shore Conference, said he was disappointed by the NJSIAA vote. He added that the votes were sparked by a push from several dominant Big North Conference schools that have long done well in both sports. “At RBC, we take great pride in being a member of the Shore Conference, and we work hard to follow all of the rules,” Montano said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of issues with the rules throughout the state for public and non-public schools.”

Should Hespe accept the vote, Montano said RBC would first consult with the diocese and then possibly other schools to determine a course of action, if any.

“What’s next?” he asked. “Another sport? Total separation? How far can this go? I don’t know what this means for the NJSIAA. That is a private governing body, and schools are voluntary members. Any school can leave if it wishes. St. Benedict’s left to play as an independent and play schools from out-of-state. I respect what they did.”

When asked if RBC could leave the NJSIAA, Montano said, “First, we’ll wait for the commissioner to make a decision. Then we’ll look at what our options are and make a decision.”

The RBC athletic director added that until a decision is final, it will be difficult for schools to finalize overall athletic schedules as football dates will have a ripple effect for field usage and transportation.

“This is not just about football and wrestling; it affects every sport,” he said. “Still, no matter what happens, the teachers, staff and coaches here at Red Bank Catholic are going to make sure it’s a great situation for our kids.”


Due to popular demand, the Mansfield University baseball program will host an expanded nine sessions of its Christmas Baseball Clinics this year, including a Mini Camp option for those seeking a more intensified experience.

A long-time stocking stuffer tradition, the seven sessions are broken down into age groups of 5-6, 7-8, 9-11, 12-14 and 15-18, and they are offered Dec. 27 and 28 and Jan. 2.

Costs for the clinics range from $30 to $80 per player. Registration is available by calling Harry Hillson at 570-404-2632. Call for team rates.

You may also register on the Mansfield baseball webpage at and click on the baseball page and then on the Camp and Clinic page.

Top Notch Training Academy is holding a Winter Team Training Series. Contact to schedule a time and date for team training this winter at 866-315-5313 or

Top Notch Sports also offers goalkeeper training at its new training center at 111 Route 35 in Aberdeen. Training is offered on a year-round basis.

Training employs Brazilian methods that are renowned worldwide. Learn the correct goalkeeping techniques used by the professional goalkeepers. Classes will be held from beginner to collegiate player level.

Trenton will be the motorsports entertainments epicenter with the nation’s most competitive monster trucks as they invade the Sun National Bank Center Feb. 12-13, 2016. See these incredible 10,000-pound, car-crushing giants compete in Racing and Wheelie Contests, and then rock the house with amazing Freestyle Action during the Monster X Tour.

Tickets and Pit Party Passes are available online at, by phone at 1-800-298-4200 or in person at the Sun National Bank Center box office. Group discounts are available by calling 609-656-3234. Ticket prices will increase $2 day of show.

Spectra by Comcast Spectacor, which provides venue management, food services and hospitality and ticketing and fan engagement to Mercer County’s Sun National Bank Center, announced a partnership with River Horse Brewing Co. to sell their local craft beer at the Sun National Bank Center.

The newly branded pub area, which is located near section 109 on the Sun National Bank Center concourse, debuted Dec. 8 at the Premier Boxing Champions event and featured River Horse’s IPA, Special Ale and Tripel Horse craft beers.

State football champions

 Top: Shore Regional High School’s Doug Goldsmith powers through the Palmyra High School defense during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I final Dec. 5 at Kean University in Union. The Blue Devils successfully defended their title, scoring a 56-28 triumph. Above: Shore Regional’s Jack Britton (27) follows his blockers as he runs upfield. Top: Shore Regional High School’s Doug Goldsmith powers through the Palmyra High School defense during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I final Dec. 5 at Kean University in Union. The Blue Devils successfully defended their title, scoring a 56-28 triumph. Above: Shore Regional’s Jack Britton (27) follows his blockers as he runs upfield.
 Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s Matt Vecchiarelli, middle, picks up yardage through the heart of the Red Bank Regional High School defense during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III championship game played at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway Dec. 5. The Bulldogs spoiled the Buccaneers’ bid for an undefeated season, scoring a 21-0 victory. It was Rumson-Fair Haven’s third straight sectional title.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s Matt Vecchiarelli, middle, picks up yardage through the heart of the Red Bank Regional High School defense during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III championship game played at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway Dec. 5. The Bulldogs spoiled the Buccaneers’ bid for an undefeated season, scoring a 21-0 victory. It was Rumson-Fair Haven’s third straight sectional title. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR

Bulldogs, Blue Devils wrap up state football titles


Both the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School and Shore Regional High School football teams won their respective state sectional championships in a convincing manner Dec. 5.

Top-seeded Shore Regional rolled up 520 yards on the ground as it downed thirdseeded Palmyra (10-2), 56-28, at Kean University to win its second straight NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I championship.

Shore Regional ended the year with a perfect 12-0 mark — its first unbeaten season since 1981, when the Blue Devils went 11-0.

In the Central Jersey Group III finals, Rumson-Fair Haven used a similarly punishing ground attack at High Point Solutions Stadium to down previously undefeated Red Bank Regional High School (11-1), the third seed, 21-0, in a game that was not that close.

It was the third straight sectional title — each time Rumson-Fair Haven played a previously undefeated team — for the Bulldogs, who won Central Jersey, Group II in 2014 (Delaware Valley Regional High School) and 2013 (Weequahic High School).

Doug Goldsmith carried the ball 39 times for 255 yards and scored five touchdowns, while backfield mate Jack Britton ran for 220 yards and scored a touchdown of his own for Shore Regional. Palmyra gamely hung in thanks to a few Shore Regional turnovers and the arm of quarterback Max Smyth, who threw for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns.

Shore Regional took a 28-14 lead into halftime and took control of the game thanks to an interception by Devin McLaughlin on Palmyra’s first drive of the second half. The Blue Devils went on to score three straight touchdowns to put the game away.

The Panthers scored two late touchdowns, and their 28 points were the most the Blue Devils allowed this season.

“We knew Palmyra could score points,” Shore Regional coach Mark Costantino said. “We wanted to put the game out of reach so they couldn’t make quick strikes. I challenged the seniors at halftime. This was their last game. I wanted them to make it count.”

Rumson-Fair Haven, meanwhile, also used its running game to pound out first down after first down. On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs defense allowed the potent Buccaneers offense just 114 total yards. Linebacker Mike Ruane and safety Mike Murdock, both juniors, had 17 tackles between them.

“Our defense was outstanding and that set the tone,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Bryan Batchler said. “Our running game was strong and our special teams were solid. When all of that happens you usually win.”

Batchler’s top-seeded team scored a pair of first-half touchdowns. Bryan Hess, who ran for 75 yards on the day, scored on runs of 41 and 2 yards to give Rumson-Fair Haven a lead it would not relinquish.

The Bulldogs got the ball to open the third quarter, but the Buccaneers forced them to punt. Rumson-Fair Haven, in turn, held, and Red Bank Regional fumbled as it tried to punt. Noah Stodenmire recovered the ball inside the Buccaneers’ 20-yard line. Just three plays later, Batchler’s team added another seven points as quarterback Michael O’Connor scored on a highlightreel 17-yard run.

Red Bank Regional later drove deep into Rumson-Fair Haven territory in the fourth quarter. The Bulldog defense held, and the Buccaneers came away empty.

“I expected us to play well,” Batchler said. “Red Bank had a great year, but I think we’re more battle-tested. We had 11 kids back from last year, and they know what it’s like to play on a big stage in front of 8,000 people. I think that was a major advantage for us.”

The loss ended a magnificent turnaround season for Red Bank Regional. The Buccaneers won the

Shore Conference’s Class B North crown, downing Red Bank Catholic High School and Ocean Township High School along the way.

After besting South Plainfield High School, 30-0, in the first round of the playoffs, Red Bank Regional faced Ocean Township again in the semifinals. The Buccaneers came away with a thrilling 21-14 win.

“It’s a tough way to end the year,” coach Nick Giglio said. “Our goal was to get better and better with each game. The guys really focused and put everything they had into the program. They beat some very good teams, too. I’m proud of what they were able to accomplish.”

Lancers fall in Non-Public finals

DePaul Catholic High School spoiled St. John Vianney High School’s bid for a perfect season, defeating the Lancers, 40-17, in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III finals.

The championship game was played Dec. 5 at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium.

The Spartans, seeded seventh, broke open a tight game, scoring 20 unanswered points.

Anthony Brown’s 6-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter lifted topseeded St. John Vianney to within a field goal of the Spartans, 20-17. However, De- Paul responded with a 61-yard scoring drive capped by Kareem Walker’s 7-yard run to push the lead to, 27-17.

Nasir Hooker scored on runs of 34 and 2 yards in the fourth quarter to put the game away for the Spartans (6-6). Brown passed for 244 yards and a touchdown — 21 yards to Marc Ellington — in the loss.

Chris Chukwuneke was the best defensive player on the field. The Lancers’ standout had 15 total tackles, 12 of which were solo stops.

The Lancers, champions of the Shore Conference A Central Division, finished the year at 11-1.

It was a big year for Lancers football as St. John Vianney signaled a changing of the guard in Shore football among the Non- Public schools. The Lancers thrashed defending state champion Red Bank Catholic High School, 49-6, in the state semifinals.

Politz raised bar high for future Lancers gymnasts

Staff Writer

Kristen Politz knew she only had one chance to leave her mark in high school gymnastics.

St. John Vianney High School fielded a varsity team for the first time this fall, affording Politz, a senior, an opportunity to prove she is one of the best in the state. The Lancers’ standout turned out to be the best.

Politz captured the all-around championship at the NJSIAA individual state championship meet Nov. 14 at Montgomery High School. Politz’s score of 38.525 edged her teammate, Ari Agrapides (38.500), for the most prestigious title in the sport. She also won the floor exercise state title scoring 9.8 with her routine.

“It was a one-time chance. I had to put it all out there,” Politz said. “[The all-around title] was a goal of mine, and I’m happy to achieve it.

“I knew I had to be clean and consistent.”

She placed in the top five in all four events. In addition to the floor exercise victory, she tied for second on the vault (9.725), placed fourth on the beam (9.525) and tied for fifth on the uneven bars (9.525). Politz noted that it was her solid effort on the bars, which was her first event of the competition, that got her started on the right foot. From there, she was on a roll.

Politz credited putting more energy into her floor exercise routine with helping her win that state championship in the event.

The state all-around crown completed an extraordinary season for Politz, who was undefeated in the championship meets. She was the all-around champion at the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Central Jersey, Section I championships en route to the state finals. Her mark of 38.725 at the sectional was the highest score of the year.

Politz gained further momentum at the state team championships Nov. 12, when she had the highest all-around score to lead St. John Vianney to second place behind Red Bank Catholic High School (112.925- 112.650), which won its second straight NJSIAA crown. Politz pointed out it was important because she was able to get used to the equipment at Montgomery.

Those meets gave Politz confidence heading to Montgomery, but it also put the pressure on her as the favorite. She said the way she handles pressure is to pretend she’s at practice. To prepare for the season, Politz, who lives in Marlboro and competes for Rebound Gymnastics, got herself up to date on the rules and requirements for high school gymnastics — compared to club gymnastics.

“I changed my routine a lot,” she said.

As impressive as Politz’s season was, St. John Vianney’s was just as stunning. The Lancers finished second at the NJSIAA Team Championships, also at Montgomery, in their debut season. Their season-high score of 113.225 (at the state sectional) was extraordinary. It’s higher than most established successful programs have ever scored.

For Politz, who is headed to Penn State University, being a part of her school team was added incentive to excel.

“[The team] definitely helps to have people motivate you,” she said. “You are competing for your team.”

Politz was the team captain, and she took the leadership role seriously, doing everything she could to encourage and help her teammates.

The result was a surprise second-place finish at the state finals.

That result, along with Politz and Agrapides finishing first and second in the all-around competition, put the Lancers on the map.

“The one-two [punch in the all-around] was great for the program,” Politz said.

Politz set the bar very high for a program that is just starting off.

Area football teams face off for state championships


Three area football teams will be playing in their respective state sectional championship games Dec. 5.

Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School will take on undefeated Red Bank Regional High School for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III crown, while undefeated Shore Regional High School will meet Palmyra High School for the Central Jersey, Group I title.

Shore Regional (11-0) is coming off a 20-13 success against Rumson-Fair Haven in the annual Thanksgiving Day encounter between the two teams. After a scoreless first half, the Blue Devils finally got on the board thanks to a 2-yard touchdown run by Matt Pennell in the third quarter. Paul Christopher’s 25-yard interception return upped the lead to 13-0 early in the fourth.

Rumson-Fair Haven (9-2) cut the lead in half as quarterback Michael O’Connor teamed up with Elijah McAllister for a 24- yard scoring pass. Shore Regional then got the insurance it needed when Jack Britton scored on a 48-yard run. O’Connor hooked up with Tyler Pierson for a 12-yard touchdown on the game’s final play.

Shore Regional’s Doug Goldsmith led all runners with 117 yards on 21 carries, while Britton added 100 yards in eight tries. O’Connor led the Bulldogs with 108 yards on 23 attempts. He also completed 10 of 16 passes for 122 yards. “Our defense was very good in the first half; we held them to 20 yards,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Bryan Batchler said. “Shore made some good adjustments in the second half. I certainly expected that we would play better, but Shore deserves the credit. They stopped our run, and we hurt ourselves with penalties.”

The two teams squared off for the first time on Thanksgiving last season, and Shore Regional came away with a 13-0 win. Both teams then went on to win their respective championships. Shore Regional bested South Hunterdon Regional High School, 42-12, to win Central Jersey Group I, and the Bulldogs downed Delaware Valley Regional High School, 21-0, to take the Central Jersey Group II crown.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve lost six straight Thanksgiving Day games,” Batchler said. “Each time we went on to the sectional final, and we won three of them. So we’re hoping that continues.”

Shore Regional jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead against Florence Township Memorial High School in the state semifinals. The Blue Devils dominated throughout and won, 42-0. Pennell threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third. Britton and Mark Russo both scored on 30-plus yard runs, and Lukas Jackey closed out the scoring with a 2-yard run.

The Blue Devils will meet third-seeded Palmyra (10-1) in the final at 4 p.m. at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium in Union. The Panthers got past Keyport High School, 35- 34, in the semifinals and are coming off a 49-6 victory over Burlington City High School on Thanksgiving.

Rumson-Fair Haven defeated fifthseeded Matawan Regional High School, 24-13, in the Central Jersey, Group III semifinals Nov. 20. O’Connor threw for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Mike Ruane ran 2 yards for another touchdown. The Bulldogs carried a 14-0 lead into halftime and never really were in any trouble. Thomas Chapin chipped in with a 24-yard field goal.

The Bulldogs will square off against third-seeded Red Bank Regional (11-0) at 7 p.m. at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers University. Coach Nick Giglio’s Buccaneers downed Long Branch High School (3-7), 35-12, on Thanksgiving to win the Shore Conference B North Division title. The victory upped Red Bank Regional’s edge in the all-time series to 61-29-3.

The Green Wave took a 6-0 lead into halftime and appeared on the verge of shocking their hosts. That changed quickly as Red Bank Regional scored 21 successive points to open the third quarter and take control of the game.

Buccaneers quarterback Jack Navitsky, who completed 5 of 8 passes for 126 yards, tossed scoring passes to Sadiq Palmer and Michael DeCristofaro. Palmer also scored on a short run, and Alim Godsey rushed for two touchdowns as Red Bank Regional dominated the second half.

Palmer was coming off an outstanding performance in the Buccaneers’ 21-14 Central Jersey Group III semifinal win over Ocean Township High School Nov. 20. The senior scored all three touchdowns for Red Bank Regional — one a 33-yard pass and two on runs. Red Bank Regional also downed Ocean during the regular season and upset Red Bank Catholic High School.

“Our goal has been to keep everything in perspective and try and get better with each game,” said Giglio, whose team went 5-5 a year ago. “We’ve won some big games. Our guys are hungry, and that’s helped keep them focused.”

“They’re a very strong team,” Batchler said of Red Bank Regional. “We’re both good defensively. A lot will depend on which team can control the line of scrimmage. We need to be able to run the ball. Another key for us is to play well early and shake off the cobwebs from the Shore game.”

Monmouth’s Robinson named National Player of the Week

It’s been a historic season for the Monmouth University men’s basketball team, and December is just beginning.

During the month of November, Monmouth stunned national power UCLA on the Bruins’ legendary home floor, Pauley Pavilion.

The Hawks followed that up at the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Florida, by scoring their first victory over a top-25 team when they beat the University of Notre Dame in the quarterfinals Nov. 27.

Monmouth went on to place third in the tournament, defeating the University of Southern California, 83-73, in the third-place consolation game Nov. 29. It was their second win against a Pac-12 team (after UCLA) this year.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Justin Robinson (Lake Katrine, New York) scored 27 points and set a tourney scoring record with his 77 total points in the three games. Robinson’s scoring output topped the previous record of 73 points set by former NBA first-round pick Michael Beasley in 2007 while playing for Kansas State University.

In addition to being the tournament MVP, Robinson was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Player of the Week and the Lou Jenson National Player of the Week by Micah Seaborn earned MAAC Rookie of the Week honors. The pair were integral in Monmouth’s third-place finish at the AdvoCare Invitational.

Robinson hit the game-winning free throws in Monmouth’s 72-71 win over No. 17 Notre Dame in the tournament quarterfinals.

Against USC, Robinson finished with 27 points, seven rebounds, three steals and three assists. He shot 9-of-15 from the floor and knocked home five 3-pointers for the second consecutive game.

Seaborn netted a career-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, making four threes for the first time in his young career.

Deon Jones added his fifth career double double with 14 points and 10 caroms, shooting 4-of-11 and 6-of-7 from the foul line.

Monmouth, now 4-2 on the season, will open MAAC play on the road Dec. 4, visiting Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, and then Niagara University Dec. 6.

The Hawks’ first home game of the season is Dec. 13 against Wagner College and will be televised on ESPN3. The tipoff is at 2 p.m.

Monmouth will not return home to West Long Branch until 2016 when the Hawks host Canisius and Quinnipiac University on Jan. 4 and 9.


The Board of Directors of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey elected Mark Ford as its president at a reorganization meeting held Nov. 16 at the association’s offices in Manalapan.

Ford, one of the leading trainers in Meadowlands history, owns and operates the Mark Ford Training Center. He fills the position occupied for more than a dozen years by Thomas Luchento.

“We made tremendous gains while Tom was president,” Ford said in a prepared statement. “And we will redouble our efforts to expand racing opportunities in New Jersey, pushing ahead with plans for an expanded gaming referendum in 2016. We thank Tom Luchento for his leadership and know he will continue to contribute as a member of the Board of Directors.”

In the election of other officers, Mark Mullen was named first vice president, Robert Boni second vice president, Chris Ryder third vice president, Alfred Ochsner Jr. treasurer and Anthony Romano secretary.

New Jersey’s two harness tracks — the Meadowlands and Freehold Raceway — have been awarded a combined 200 racing dates for 2016.

The dates were approved at the New Jersey Racing Commission meeting Nov. 18 in Trenton.

Mark Ford, attending his first commission meeting as president of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey (SBOANJ), advised the commission that the SBOANJ was reluctantly accepting the Meadowlands dates as an experiment for 2016.

“We are concerned about losing dates in January and February and replacing them with September and October dates,” Ford said.

The Meadowlands requested 90 dates, Fridays and Saturdays only (plus Sunday, May 8), from Jan. 2 through Aug. 6 and from Sept. 9 through Dec. 31 (dark on Dec. 24]. Post time is 7 p.m.

Freehold received 110 dates, racing Jan. 1 through May 21 plus Aug. 26 and 27, and Sept. 2 through Dec. 10. Racing days will be Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays plus three holidays on Mondays — Jan. 18, Feb. 15 and Sept. 5. Dark days are Sept. 1 and Nov. 24. Post time is 12:30 p.m.

Colts rise to occasion again to claim Meet of Champions title

Staff Writer

 Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s Sarah Nelson (2592) was the Bulldogs’ top harrier at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions at Holmdel Park Nov. 21. The Bulldogs, who captured the Group II cross-country state championship this fall, finished 15th at the MOC.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s Sarah Nelson (2592) was the Bulldogs’ top harrier at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions at Holmdel Park Nov. 21. The Bulldogs, who captured the Group II cross-country state championship this fall, finished 15th at the MOC. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Tom Heath wanted to see how his Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) cross-country team would react after its two-point loss to Don Bosco Preparatory High School at the NJSIAA Non-Public A state championship.

The Colts acted just as Heath wanted, using the loss as motivation for the Meet of Champions (MOC) Nov. 21 back at Holmdel Park.

The Colts produced their best race of the season when it mattered most.

Led by Blaise Ferro, who finished second overall but first in team scoring, the Colts edged Don Bosco, 87-92, to extend their MOC record to 21 victories including a record-tying sixth straight.

The Colts won the championship as they have so many in the past by being the strongest team over the last mile of the 5K race.

It was a three-team race between the Colts, Don Bosco and Group IV state champion Old Bridge High School when the runners were exiting the bowl and heading to the final mile and the back woods. It’s where the Colts gained the most ground.

Heath noted the final mile was the difference.

CBA won the MOC on the strength of its fourth and fifth runners, Paul Knepple (16:33) and Brian Hill (16:34). They were 22nd and 24th, while Don Bosco’s fourth and fifth runners finished 32nd and 34th.

“You need all five guys to run well,” Heath said. “That’s hard to do. Sometimes you need more than five.”

In CBA’s case, the sixth and seventh runners, Nick Trigani (16:35) and Drake Anzano (16:37), did their jobs. They didn’t figure in the scoring, but they finished ahead of Don Bosco’s fourth and fifth runners.

Up front, senior Ferro gave the Colts the single-digit scorer they needed. His Holmdel Park personal best 15:36 was second overall to Highland Regional High School’s Joshua Clark (15:33).

Brian Dengler (16:25) and Noah Yuro (16:30) ran their best Holmdel Park times of the season in finishing 19th and 21st as CBA’s second and third finishers.

Only 12 seconds separated the Colts’ second runner from their seventh. That’s the kind of depth that has separated the Colts from the pack.

Yuro did not even run at the group championships and gave CBA a big lift as their third runner.

“He had been looking pretty good,” Heath said of Yuro. “[The decision to run him] worked.”

St. John Vianney High School junior Nora Honrath came up with a huge personal best, finishing seventh at the MOC in 18:34. She finished second among Shore Conference runners, trailing only Ciara Roche of Freehold Township High School, who was sixth (18:30).

Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, which captured the Group II championship for the third time in the last five years, was 15th at the MOC with 349 points.

Sarah Nelson (20:25), Emily Hellman (20:32), Becca Ley (20:53), Morgan Steinhacker (21:16) and Julia Tambaro (21:21) were the Bulldogs’ scorers, finishing 44th, 54th, 73rd, 87th and 91st.

Red Bank Catholic High School had the best finish of the area teams, finishing ninth (216) Julia Cangialosi (20:18), Gabrile Ferrigine (20:22), Caitlin O’Hare (20:23), Megan Cronk (20:29) and Emily Dunn (20:32) went 37th, 39th, 41st, 48th and 51st. Only 14 seconds separated the five Caseys scorers.

CBA to Nike Cross Nationals

The next stop for CBA is the Dec. 5 Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon. The Colts are headed back to the national championships they last won in 2011.

CBA qualified for the Nike meet at the Nov. 28 Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, New York. Led by overall winner Ferro (15:45.90), the Colts were second to Downington High School West, 97-140, to nail down one of the two automatic qualifying positions.

Don Bosco and Old Bridge were fourth and fifth, each with a score of 195.

In addition to their 2011 national championship, the Colts were the 2013 runners-up.

The Nike Cross Nationals will be raced over the Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland.