Boys XC Team Wins Meet of Champions!
There have been several epic races and unforgettable performances throughout New Jersey’s remarkably rich cross-country history.
What the Union Catholic boys did at Saturday’s 49th Meet of Champions at Holmdel Park is right near the very top of the list of the all-time greatest moments in NJ XC lore as the Vikings blew up the historic 3.1-mile layout by throwing down one of the best performances in state history in a race for the ages!
Union Catholic, ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 10 in the nation, dropped an absolute bomb by torching the course with a jaw-dropping 16:01 average, No. 2 all-time in Holmdel Park history, which ignited UC to its first title ever, 67-84 over three-time defending champion Christian Brothers Academy, ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 12 nationally. No. 3 ranked Haddonfield was third in 134.
And UC did this just four days after averaging 16:13 and defeating CBA to win its first Non-Public A State title on Tuesday! What the UC boys did is just mind-blowing!
After the Vikings averaged 16:13, No. 9 in Holmdel Park history, in its 32-43 victory over CBA in the Non-Public A race, there was a lot of talk about whether the quick turnaround would take something out of the legs of UC, CBA, and Haddonfield. Remember, the Non-Public A races and the boys Group 2 race were moved from last Saturday to Tuesday because of bad weather. So all the other teams in the state had a week between the Group meet and the M of C while UC, CBA and Haddonfield only had three days between races.
Well, so much for tired legs!
Union Catholic’s entire top five ran even faster than they did on Tuesday and they all closed fast to put the finishing touches on the second greatest race in meet and course history. UC’s 16:01 average is second only to the 15:52 average that CBA ran at the 2013 M of C.
Harvard-bound Shane Brosnan led the charge for UC by placing third in 15:22, which is tied for No. 11 in course history, and is 23 seconds faster than his winning time at the Non-Public A race.. Then Jimmy Wischusen came flying across the line in fifth place with a time of 15:35, which smashed the sophomore course record of 15:38 set in 2008 by Joe Rosa of West Windsor-Plainsboro North, and is a 13 second PR. Wischusen has had one of the most improbable and remarkable one year improvements you’ll ever see. Wischusen was second in the Union County J.V. race last year, and now he’s running 15:35 at Holmdel! That’s just amazing! Senior Myles Plummer placed 19th in 16:10, a two second PR, junior Caudell Cajuste finished 43rd in 16:27, a three second PR, and then junior Ryan Cichocki put on a exclamation point on the biggest win in school history by placing 53rd in 16:34, a drop of 20 seconds from Tuesday! Freshman Evan Weber amd sophomore Josh Hunsinger were UC’s No. 6 and No. 7 runners.
A deeper look into Cichocki’s race shows just how remarkable his performance was.
Cichocki got a bit bottled up in the first half of the race, and found himself back in about 75th place near the bottom of the bowl. But he dug down deep and made a huge move from the top of the bowl to the tennis courts, and then found another gear as he flew through the back woods, picking off several runners with his huge wheels.
With CBA’s fifth runner crossing the line just ahead of UC’s No. 4, UC needed Cichocki to close fast, and he delivered in a big way to slam the door.
UC coach Mike McCabe was blown away by how fast and smart his team ran.
“This is the greatest team accomplishment we’ve ever had,” said McCabe. “What Sydney (McLaughlin) did by making the Olympics in high school was obviously unreal, but this is equally as hard to get five guys to all run their fastest on the same day, to not get hurt or sick, and make it to the line and do what they did. And the fact we ran the second fastest time ever here is just unbelievable to me. This is something I never thought we could do.”
McCabe praised the way all his guys handled the pressure and delivered their best races when the stakes were highest.
“These guys all race with confidence,” said McCabe. “That’s what sets them apart. Are they fit, yes, are they talented, yes, but how many fifth guys on a team drop 20 seconds like Ryan did after we told him that’s what we needed from him. We knew if Ryan dropped like we knew he could, that we would win. He’s so tough and such a great closer. Everyone on the team ran great, and Ryan slammed the door.”
Union Catholic’s breathtaking victory highlights a magical campaign for the undefeated Vikings, who have wrecked course records all season. In addition to winning its first M of C title, Union Catholic also won the Non-Public A title for the first time ever, repeated as Union County Champions with a Warinanco Park course record average 16:03, and ran a course record average of 15:49 at Oak Ridge Park. And Brosnan took down the Warinanco course record by winning the county title in 15:28.
UC is done yet. Next up for the Vikings is the RunningLane Championships on Dec. 4 in Hunstville, Alabama, where UC will clash with the best teams in the country. The meet serves as the unofficial national team championship since the Nike Nationals were canceled.
On the girls side at the Meet of Champions, Union Catholic capped off its season by placing 13th in the M of C race with 297 points.
The top five runners for the Vikings were junior Kaleigh Gunsiorowski, 21st in 19:01, sophomore Leilani Gibson, 72nd in 20:11, senior Abby Granrath,10th in 20:54, senior Jenna Keith, 115th in 21:10, and junior Maameyaa Nyinah, 121st in 21:17. Junior Victoria Urbaez was UC’s no. 6 runner, placing 159th in 23:01.
It was an amazing season for the UC girls, who won titles in the Watchung Division at the Union County Conference Championships, at the Union County Championships,and finished first at the State Non-Public A Championships last Tuesday. And what a season by Gunsiorowski, who in her first season of cross-country after giving up soccer became one of the best runners in the state.