You can’t have a closer three-team finish. Barring a three-way tie.
Northern Burlington emerged as the 2017 Burlington County League Scholastic League Liberty Division champions for the first time since 2013 in a wild three-way finish with Moorestown and Burlington Township on the flat, fast 5,000-meter course at New Egypt High School in Ocean County.
Northern scored 53 points, and Moorestown and Burlington Township both scored 54, and Rancocas Valley wasn’t that far back with 70 points in fourth place.
Northern somehow won in a 32-person race without anybody in the top six. But the Greyhounds placed their five scorers from 7th through 14th in a crazy 17-second pack.
That’s right — 17 seconds separated Northern’s five scorers! That’s insane!
Junior Mike Morreale led Northern in seventh in 16:55, with freshman Daniel Boria (9th in 16:59), sophomore Kyle Stanley (11th in 17:03), senior Parker Napierala (12th in 17:10) and junior Matt Halvorsen (14th in 17:12) all close behind.
Incredibly, Moorestown and Burlington Township each put two runners ahead of Northern’s first runner, but with its tremendous pack running NBC still found a way to win.
Rancocas Valley senior Jacob Tyndale was the overall winner, crossing in 16:07, with Burlington Township soph Dakota Oyuela second in 16:20, the highest finish by a Burlington Township runner since Tim Reardon was second in 2010.
Juniors Jack West and Jack Farmer of Moorestown ran third and fourth in 16:28 and 16:38, with Burlington Township junior Sean Burnett fifth in 16:39 and R.V.’s Ian Moore sixth in 16:41 before the Northern floodgates opened.
The team title was the fourth for Northern, which also won in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Northern’s winning score of 53 points — not surprisingly in such a close three-team race — was the highest in 17 years, since Rancocas Valley won with 54 points in 2000. Just as unsurprisingly, Burlington Township’s 54 points marked the lowest third-place score in meet history.
The previous smallest margin of victory was three points, with Moorestown edging Northern 31-34 in 2008 and Moorestown defeating Rancocas Valley 43-46 in 2015.
The closest previous three-way race I could find going back to the early 1980s was 12 points separating first and third. That was in 2000, with R.V. at 54, Northern at 62 and Holy Cross 66.
Moorestown’s other scorers were senior Jesse Wun (8th, 16:58), freshman Connor Fischel (18th in 17:24) and sophomore Victor Demartini (21st in 17:35).
For Burlington Township, senior Koodsha Manjaro ran 13th in 17:11, followed by junior Steven Mendez (15th in 17:15) and senior Tyler Repici (19th in 17:28).
Rounding out the top 10 was Pennsauken senior Phillip Nguyen, who ran 17:01.
After two runners, the score was Burlington Township 7, Moorestown 7, Northern 16. After three runners, it was Moorestown 15, Burlington Township 20, Northern 27. After four runners, it was Moorestown 33, Burlington Township 35, Northern 39.
But Napierala and especially Halvorsen helped clinch the team title for Northern by defeating their corresponding runners on Moorestown and Township by a combined nine spots for Napierala and 12 spots for Halvorsen.
Moorestown officially gets credit for second place on a sixth-runner tiebreaker, with the Quakers’ sixth runner, sophomore Louis Purul, finishing in 18:24, two seconds ahead of Township’s No. 6 runner.