Even with No. 1 runner Derek Gess still sick and unable to race, Haddonfield found a way Saturday to get past two-time defending champion Voorhees and win its 16th state cross country title and 10th since 2000.
The only schools to win more state titles than Haddonfield are Christian Brothers Academy of Lincroft (27 going into today) and Bernards (23). Among South Jersey schools, Haddon Township (10), Paul VI (7), Bishop Eustace (6) and Cherokee (5) have won the next-most.
Sophomore Martin Riddell and junior Greg Eisenhower both placed in the top six, and four other Haddonfield underclassmen finished in the top 30 to thwart Voorhees, which placed four runners in the top 14.
Haddonfield outscored Voorhees 53-69, and although Voorhees had a faster average (16:49 to 16:55), Haddonfield won with a 40-second pack between its first and fifth runners (and 41 seconds between 1 and 6).
Riddell placed third in 16:35 and Eisenhower sixth just seven seconds back. Junior Ethan Spellmeyer was 14th in 16:59, junior Sean Campiglia 20th in 17:06 and junior Griffin Weiner 26th in 17:15. Sixth man Stephen Kasko, a sophomore, ran 17:16 for 28th place overall. Senior Richie Glennon also raced for the Bulldogs.
Gess, a 1:55 half-miler last year and the Colonial Conference XC champ this fall, has been battling illness for two weeks and dropped out of the race at sectionals last weekend at about two miles.
Haddonfield won its first state title in 1978 in Group 2 and repeated two years later. The Bulldogs won four state Group 1 titles between 1985 and 1990 then, after nine years without a title, began the current run of 10 titles in 18 years in 2000 back in Group 2.
This championship was Haddonfield’s first since 2014. The Bulldogs haven’t gone more than three years without winning a state title since 1996 through 1999.
Mainland Regional senior Alyssa Aldridge won her third straight state Group 3 XC title Saturday morning, sprinting past senior Monica Hebner of Northern Highlands along the final straightaway.
Aldridge became the third girl ever and first in nine years to win three straight titles in Group 3. She’s actually also the first to win three straight in any group in nine years.
The two previous three-time winners in Group 3 are Jodie Bilotta, who won three straight for North Hunterdon from 1985 through 1987, and Melanie Thompson of Voorhees, who won three straight from 2006 through 2008.
Aldridge is the first three-time winner to go under 18:30 in all three wins since Meg Waldron of Bernards in Group 1 from 1980 through 1982.
Hebner, fifth in the 5,000 at nationals last spring with a 17:18, had not lost a XC race this fall and ran 18:32 at Shore Coaches, fastest time of the day.
Aldridge, who remains undefeated in an abbreviated fall season, won Saturday in 18:16. She ran 18:13 and 18:07 in her previous two Meet of Champions wins. Hefner ran a Holmdel PR 18:20 for second.
Aldridge and Hebner led a total of eight girls under 19 minutes on the tough 5,000-meter Holmdel course.
Aldridge has run as fast as 17:55 at Holmdel and will be seeking her third straight Meet of Champions title next Saturday on the same legendary Holmdel County Park course.
Here’s a list of all the girls in all groups who’ve won three straight state XC titles:
Hilary Noden [Hopewell Valley], combined groups – 1972, 1973, 1974
Janet Smith [J.P. Stevens], Group 4 – 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983
Meg Waldron [Bernards], Group 1 – 1980, 1981, 1982
Jodi Bilotta [North Hunterdon], Group 3 – 1985, 1986 1987
Christi Constantin [Kittatinny Regional], Group 2 – 1986, 1987, 1988
Moral Chokshi [Bridgewater-Raritan West], Group 4 – 1989, 1990, 1991
Erin Donohue [Haddonfield], Group 1 – 1997, 1998; Group 2 – 1999, 2000
Vanessa Wright [Haddonfield], Group 2 – 2003, 2004, 2005
Melanie Thompson [Voorhees], Group 3 – 2006, 2007, 2008
Alyssa Aldridge [Mainland Regional], Group 3 – 2015, 2016, 2017
Juniors Abby McCully, Briana Hagerty and Grace Stiles all finished in the top 10, and Pitman won its eighth South Jersey Group 1 cross country title in the last 13 years Saturday.
McCully placed third in 20:37, Hagerty fifth in 20:47 and Stiles eighth in 21:08, and Pitman outscored Schalick 40-76. The 36-point victory is the largest margin of victory in SJ-1 since Pitman won 22-65 over Pennsville in 2013.
Seniors Paige McKenna and Sydni McKenna finished 12th and 15th for the Lady Panthers, both under 22 minutes.
The eight sectional team titles equal the fourth-most by any South Jersey girls program. Haddonfield has won 23, Shawnee 15 and Haddon Township 10. Ocean City, Brick Township and Toms River North have also won eight.
Pitman also won Group 1 sectional titles in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015.
Panthers girls coach Matt Elmuccio teaches math at Pitman but may be slightly better known as the guy who ran a 4:11.5 anchor on Westfield’s 1995 distance medley team that won the Penn Relays Championship of America in 10:14.08 and is also the only three-time Meet of Champions outdoor 1,600-meter run champ.
While Pitman was easily winning the team title, Schalick sophomore Marleigh Puglia was easily winning the South Jersey Group 1 individual race.
Puglia became the first sectional XC winner in Schalick history, covering the 5,000-meter course at Delsea in 20:01 and finishing 150 meters ahead of soph Darby Williamson of Haddon Township, who took second in 20:36.
The best previous finish by a Schalick girl at sectionals was second place by Nicole Vit in 2001 and Olivia Gerstenbacher’s in 2015.
Others in the top 10 were sophomore Hailey Carano of Buena [4th in 20:46], Sha ‘Lynn Clarke of Glassboro [6th in 21:01], Woodstown sophomore Olivia Monahon [7th in 21:02], Buena sophomore Alana Sasdelli [9th in 21:15] and Schalick freshman Julia Smith [10th in 21:19].
With the clock at 20:45, Ocean City had five finishers across the line, Seneca had six across the line and every other South Jersey Group 3 school combined had … five runners across the line.
This wasn’t a dual meet between the Ocean City and Seneca girls, but it sure felt like it!
Seneca placed all five of its scorers in the top 14 (and its sixth and seventh in 15th and 23rd) but Ocean City was even better, with its five in the top 12!
Ocean City won its ninth sectional title Saturday, 35-47, over Seneca. Toms River South, third with 68, was the only other team under 130 points.
Ocean City’s winning score is lowest in SJ-3 since the 2002 Moorestown team – which went on to win the Meet of Champions – scored 33. It’s fifth-lowest in meet history.
Senior Alexa Weber, freshman Alexa Palmieri, sophomore Casey McLees, senior Michaela Baker and junior Brook Farr ran 3-4-6-11-13 (with Baker and Farr scoring 10 and 12) for Ocean City,
Weber ran 18:49, Palmieri 19:01, McLees 19:27 and Baker and Farr just over 20 minutes.
Freshman Emma Klouchek led Seneca in fifth [19:15], followed by seniors Sydney Warner and Carley Tool [7th and 8th in 19:34 and 19:51] and then sophomores Morgan Hough and Chelsea Richards and junior Kayla Handt in 14th, 15th and 16, all between 20:30 and 20:42.
Seneca’s 47 points is a low enough score to have won South Jersey Group 3 exactly half the previous seasons — 21 of 42 races.
Since 2003, Ocean City and Seneca have combined to win 10 of the 15 South Jersey Group 3 titles, with Ocean City winning in 2003, 2004, 2013 and 2017 and Seneca winning in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Both will advance to the state Group 3 meet at Holmdel next Saturday.
Mainland senior Alyssa Aldridge, in only her second race of the fall, easily won her third straight individual title, finishing in 18:13. Aldridge joins Monique Purcell of Holy Spirit [1976-78], Mindy Rowand of Sterling [1983-85], Brittany McCann of Delsea [1999-01], Brittany Sedberry of Ocean City [2002-04] and Kingsway’s Chelsea Ley [2007-09] as three-time winners in the South Jersey Group 3 race.
Aldridge hasn’t lost a XC race to a New Jersey girl since the 2014 Meet of Champions, where she finished second, two seconds behind Cape Atlantic rival Devin Grisbaum of Ocean City.
Aldridge is seeking her third straight Meet of Champions title and third straight Foot Locker berth.
When Cherokee senior Justin Kelly was disqualified after winning the South Jersey Group 4 XC title, it turned Kingsway senior Joe Grandizio into the sectional champion.
When Kelly was re-instated, one of the key guys who helped in the process was … Kingsway senior Joe Grandizio.
A truly inspiring story about sportsmanship and fair play came out of the South Jersey Group 4 race Saturday at Delsea!
Kelly and Grandizio finished 1-2 in the Group 4 race, Kelly in 15:46 and Grandizio in 15:50 – the No. 1 and No. 3 times of the day over the fast 5,000-meter course at Delsea.
Grandizio led a remarkable Kingsway pack – the Dragons went 2-3-4-8-9 to win their first sectional title since 2012 and outscored Cherokee 26-64. And Southern Regional was third with 111 points. So there was no question about who won the team title and who was second.
But soon after Kelly crossed the line, the Cherokee coaches learned he had been disqualified for allegedly cutting inside a flag on a remote part of the course at about the 2.3-mile mark, behind the high school near Fries Mill Road.
With or without Kelly, Cherokee would place second and advance to states next week. But a DQ meant Kelly would be disqualified from the “tournament,” which in this case meant states and the Meet of Champions, if Cherokee qualified.
But Kelly and all the runners around him were positive he didn’t run inside that flag and cut the course. This is an experienced senior who’s run numerous times at Delsea. He knows the course. He knows the rules.
Cherokee immediately appealed the DQ to meet referee Carl Rickershauser and in most cases these things aren’t reversed, but when the official who made the initial ruling suddenly became unsure who he saw cut the course there seemed to be hope for Kelly’s reinstatement.
Then it was up to the only witnesses to the alleged infraction to tell Rickershauser what they saw.
Who were the witnesses?
Grandizio and some of the other Kingsway runners!
Nobody runs a classier program than Kingsway coach Christian Lynch, and his kids didn’t hesitate to let Rickershauser know that Kelly had definitely NOT cut inside the flag on the course. Even though it meant Grandizio might lose his sectional title, he and his teammates urged meet officials to reinstate Kelly and restore his well-deserved sectional title.
And nobody was more sure that Kelly should be reinstated than Grandizio!
Eventually, Rickershauser correctly over-ruled the official and then it was up to the Cherokee coaches to find Kelly, who by then was on his cool-down run, and let him know he had his title back.
And everybody was happy. Turner got the title he earned, Kingsway got the team title they earned and everybody at Delsea saw once again that cross country is a sport of tremendous competitiveness but even more so one of unparalleled sportsmanship.
Kingsway, ranked No. 1 in South Jersey and No. 2 in the state, ran a monster race, with three runners under 16 minutes (!!!) and two others at 16:10. It came out to an insane 15:59 average.
Senior Jonathan Connor and junior Kieran Burns placed third and fourth for the Dragons, both in 15:53, and seniors Cade and Cole Hindley finished eighth and ninth in 16:10. Senior 6th man Brian Mangiaracina ran 13th in 16:20, beating the third runner from every other team.
Cherokee, ranked No. 3 in South Jersey, didn’t run badly, with six in the top 23, including three sophomores, and a 16:20 team average.
Sophomores Chris Spisak and Chase Miller placed sixth and 16th for the Chiefs in 16:08 and 16:29, and seniors Brandon Marks and Jonathan Conn ran 16:38 and 16:40 to place 20th and 21st. Another soph, Ethan Wechsler, placed 23rd overall in 16:41 and was Cherokee’s sixth man.
The top three sophomores in the race were all from Cherokee.
Kelly joins Marc Pelerin , Alex Yersak [2005-07], Shawn Wilson  and Jack Shea  as individual sectional champs for Cherokee. The Chiefs now account for seven of the last 17 individual titles.
Kingsway won the race Saturday, but that wasn’t even its most impressive performance of the day!
When you lose your top runner and STILL get all your scorers in the top 10, average sub-16:10 and score just 23 points … you know you’ve got a strong program.
That’s exactly what happened to Haddonfield Saturday in the South Jersey Group 2 sectionals.
Junior Derek Gess, Haddonfield’s No. 1 runner and the third-place finisher at sectionals last year, was forced to drop out of the sectional race at Delsea at about the two-mile point. Gess has been sick and tried to race but was not himself. With his teammates running lights out, and the team title comfortably in the bag, there was no reason for him to continue.
His teammates sure picked him up in a big way!
Even without Gess, Haddonfield won by 55 points, 23-78, over Sterling. The team title is Haddonfield’s 14th in a row and 18th in the last 19 years. The Jon Anderson-led 2003 Cinnaminson team is the only one to beat Haddonfield at sectionals since 1999.
In all, Haddonfield has won 37 sectional titles. Since 1977, the Bulldogs have won 33 sectional championships in 41 years.
Sophomore Martin Riddell, who wasn’t even on Haddonfield’s varsity last year, won the race in 15:49, finishing about 40 meters ahead of junior teammate Greg Eisenhower in second.
The win was the first in any major XC race for Riddell, whose best previous finish was a second-place to Gess in the Colonial Conference All-Star race two weeks ago.
Junior Sean Campeggia, sophomore Stephen Kasko and junior Ethan Spellmeyer finished fourth, ninth and 10th, Campiglia in 16:04, Kasko in 16:27 and Spellmeyer in 16:31. Senior Richie Glennon ran 16:53 for 14th, rounding out Haddonfield’s lineup.
Scoring against every other school combined, Haddonfield — ranked No. 2 behind Kingsway in South Jersey and No. 9 in the state — wins 23-32. Scoring through six runners against the field, Haddonfield wins 36-43! That’s not easy to do!