South Jersey’s top two milers, Haddonfield’s Derek Gess and Highland’s Ben Woodward, ran huge PRs at states Friday, both lowering their PRs below 4:16 in separate races at Central Regional in Bayville.
Gess lowered his PR from 4:18.87 – which he ran indoors at states at the Bennett Center – to 4:15.52, fastest this year in South Jersey. His previous outdoor PR was 4:20.51 at states last year at Northern Burlington.
He placed third in the state Group 2 race, behind Devin Hart of Point Pleasant Borough, who ran 4:12.23, and Fahd Nasser of McNair Academic, who ran 4:14.76.
Incredibly, Gess is the sixth Haddonfield runner in the last 10 years to run sub-4:16. That’s mind-boggling for any school, especially a small public school in the suburbs. And it speaks volumes about Nick Baker and all the coaches in that Haddonfield program.
Here’s that list:
• 4:09.30 … Colin Baker (Haddonfield), 2009
• 4:14.14 … Ben Potts (Haddonfield), 2009
• 4:14.25 … Matt Nussbaum (Haddonfield), 2010
• 4:15.10 … Greg Pelose (Haddonfield), 2015
• 4:15.52 … Derek Gess (Haddonfield), 2018
• 4:15.92 … Jonathan Vitez (Haddonfield), 2009
Woodard lowered his PR a whopping seven seconds, from 4:22.41 to 4:15.62, in a ridiculously fast race that saw five runners under 4:16 and all five PR’ing by at least five seconds.
That’s insane, and it’s why we love this sport so much!
Damien Dilcher won the race in 4:11.28, and Woodard was fifth in 4:15. The race produced five of the top-15 times in the state this year, including Dilcher at No. 2 behind Tim McInerney of CBA, who ran 4:10.75 at the Monmouth County meet last month in Holmdel.
Including Kingsway soph Stone Caraccio of Kingsway and Connor Melko of Bishop Eustace, there are now four South Jersey milers under 4:17 this year. Caraccio ran fourth in the Group 4 race Friday in 4:17.77, and Melko was third in the Parochial A race earlier this week in 4:18.76.
Cinnaminson sophomore Austin Gabay [4:17.79], Camden Catholic junior Matt Coffey [4:18.33], Kingsway senior Jonathan Connor [4:19.77] and Cherokee senior Justin Kelly [4:19.93] give South Jersey a total of eight under 4:20.