Highland freshman Grace Wassell ran 18:54 to win the South Jersey Group 3 individual title by nearly 100 meters Saturday at Delsea, and Ocean City won its third straight title and 11th overall.
Wassell became only the third Highland girl ever to break 19 minutes on the Delsea course, along with Megan Venables, who did it several times, including a 17:22 in 2010, and Arianna McKinney, who ran 18:10 in 2004.
Wassell is only the second girl from Highland to win a sectional XC title. Venables won the 2010 title on her way to the Meet of Champions title.
After placing second in both the Tri-County and Olympic Conference races, this is Wassell’s first major title. As recently as two weeks ago she hadn’t broken 19:45 on any 5,000-meter course.
We’re assuming Wassell is the daughter of Jay Wassell, who won the 1994 and 1995 South Jersey Group 4 titles for Highland and went on to place 2nd and 3rd at states those two years? If not, it’s quite a coincidence!
Ocean City placed three in the top 10 and finished with a 46-81 win over Mainland, with Seneca third with 88 points.
Junior Alexa Palmieri and senior Casey McLees went 1-2 for Ocean City, Palmieri in 19:22 and McLees in 19:43, and senior Rebecca Millar was 7th in 20:12.
The Red Raiders then packed juniors Erin Hanlon and Isabella Padula and senior Emma sandy in 16th, 18th and 19th in a six-second span from 20:54 to 21:00 to lock up the team title. Senior Reghan Handley wasn’t far back in 33rd in 21:49.
Ocean City won its first four title from 1986 through 1989 and won again in 1993. They won two more in 2003 and 2004 and again in 2013 before starting their current winning streak in 2017.
Only Haddonfield (19) and Shawnee (15) have won more South Jersey sectional titles than Ocean City.
The top 10 also included Seneca junior Emma Klouchek (4th in 19:50), Toms River South freshman Lily Oliver (5th in 19:54), Timber Creek freshman Juliana Grasso (6th in 19:57), Mainland sophomore Savannah Hodgens (8th in 20:17), Timber Creek sophomore Vanessa Marinero (9th in 20:21) and Toms River South senior Jade Tricomy (10th in 20:30).