9/21/11 – Lincroft, NJ –Adapted from a story in The Independent – Freehold, NJ – written by Tim Morris, staff writer
With a state-record 16 NJSIAA Meet of Champions titles, Tom Heath’s Christian Brothers Academy cross country team has done everything there is to do in the sport in New Jersey.
Since the advent of national cross country championships, the Colts have broadened their horizon and proven what everyone in the state has known for years: they are among the best teams in the country.
This fall has the potential to be the best ever for CBA’s harriers, and that is indeed saying a lot, especially coming off a 2010 season in which the Colts won their 16th MOC title, set the team average course record at Holmdel Park (16:05.23), won the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Qualifier, and finished fifth at the Nike Cross Nationals held in Portland, Ore.
Despite the loss of perhaps the school’s finest cross country runner, Mike Mazzaccaro and dependable Dan Mykityshyn, CBA starts the season ranked No. 1 in the country by dyestat.com ESPNHS and Marc Bloom’s Super 25.
Heath and the Colts welcome the lofty ranking and all that goes with it.
“There’s nothing like being No. 1,” Heath said.
There’s a good reason CBA is ranked No. 1. They return five of their top seven from that 2010 team that was so special. “They really thought they had a chance to win [the nationals last year],” said Heath. “In hindsight, we just didn’t run well enough.”
The cross country season can be long, and last year’s sophomores are now juniors and better able to handle a season that the Colts plan to extend into December.
George Kelly, who ran a 4:14 1,600 on the track this spring, is one of the four seniors leading the way for the 2011 Colts. Tom Gorman, Conrad Lippert and Scott Zapcic complete the senior class. They are all veterans of big races and form the nucleus of this team.
Juniors Jack Boyle, William Bragg and Aaron Liberatore have all competed in the championship races for the Colts as well, and they know all about competing and performing under pressure.
Joining this seasoned lineup is sophomore Mike McClemens, who has the potential to become one of CBA’s best before his career is over.
In the team’s annual preseason time trials, the Colts’ potential was on full display. In the TT at Holmdel Park, they were half a second per runner behind last year’s courserecord setting team. But on their home course, they tore it up, beating the previous TT school record by 15 seconds a runner. “This is a different team,” said Heath. “It is significantly faster in 800-meter speed.” Heath said that 800-meter lead will translate into helping the Colts, who are always known for their closing speed, to run the first half of races quicker.
In CBA’s first dual meet of the season, Sept. 13, they shut out a Freehold Township team ranked fifth in the state and eighth in the Northeast, placing their first six runners ahead of the Patriots’ first.
The Colts will get their first big test of the season on Saturday, Sept. 24, when they return to Wappingers Falls, N.Y., for the Bowdoin Park Classic. Bowdoin Park will host the Nike Northeast Regional on Nov. 26. Heath wants his runners to get another preview of the course prior to the regional championship.
Their next test is the Oct. 1 Shore Coaches Invitational, which traditionally begins the championship phase of the season with teams from all over the state descending upon Holmdel Park for the first time.
This year’s Manhattan Invitational on Oct. 9 at famed Van Cortland Park in the Bronx, N.Y., could be very special because in addition to the Colts (who won last year), national No. 3 Shaker from Latham, N.Y., and No. 5 Palo Verdes from California are coming there to challenge the Colts. The top ranking will likely be on the line.
The NJSIAA Group Championships are Nov. 12, and the MOC is Nov. 19 at Holmdel Park. Then it’s on to the Northeast Qualifier and, hopefully, to the Nike Cross Nationals on Dec. 3 in Portland for the Colts.