Three of South Jersey’s top runners met Saturday morning at the Tri-County Conference Championships, and Highland junior Grace Wassell out-raced Kingsway junior Aubrey Pierontoni an Clearview junior Abby Waddington with all three going sub-19 minutes.
What a race!
Wassell ran 18:14 over 5,000 meters at Cumberland Regional in Upper Deerfield Township, finishing about 90 meters ahead of Pierontoni, who ran 18:34. Waddington was third in 18:44.
Kingsway placed its five scorers in the top 17 (and six in 19) and came out on top in a wild three-way team battle with 54 points. Highland was second with 56 and Clearview third with 58.
Wassell became Highland’s first conference individual champion since Megan Venables won the 2010 race on the same course in 18:01.
Her time is fastest at Cumberland since Kingsway’s Rachel Vick ran 18:02 in 2016 and it’s her fastest time ever over any 5K course. She ran 18:54 as a freshman at South Jersey Group 3 sectionals at Delsea in November of 2019. It’s also the fastest time on any course this fall by any South Jersey girl. Sofia Day of Mainland ran 18:15 at Stockton University in Galloway Township last month.
Pierontoni’s time is an all-course 5,000 personal best also. She ran 18:37 in a meet last fall at Ocean County Park in Lakewood. Waddington, the Gloucester County champ, has now run sub-19 at DREAM Park and Cumberland this fall.
Kingsway’s two-point margin of victory is the smallest in the 35-year history of the meet. The previous closest meet was in 2013, when Kingsway edged Delsea by three points, 40-43.
The four points separating the top three teams is also the smallest in meet history. The previous smallest gap between 1st and 3rd was six in 2000, when Delsea won with 67, Kingsway scored 71 and Gloucester was 3rd with 73.
Joining Pierontoni for the Lady Dragons were juniors Shelby Dyer and Nicole Lipieta, who placed 9th and 10th, both in 20:15, and seniors Allison Helkowski and Erin Tracey, who ran 16th and 17th in 21:08 and 21:12. Sixth runner sophomore Kendall Cramer also broke into the top 20, running 21:40 for 19th.
Here’s what the rest of the top 10 looked like: Highland seniors Princess Nwoga and Vanessa Marinero took 4th and 5th in 19:15 and 19:50, Clearview junior Abby Kotran ran 20:01 for 6th, Wildwood freshman Macie McCracken placed 7th in 20:02 and Clearview soph Margaret Wisniewski was 8th in 20:14.