The Union Catholic cross-country teams absolutely torched the course at historic Warinanco Park on Thursday when the Vikings threw down the most impressive team sweep in the 85-year history of the Union County Championships.
Peyton Hollis led the charge for the UC girls with an epic and electrifying victory when the junior edged Lindsay Hausman of Kent Place in a race for the ages as both runners were timed in 17:49, a whopping 37 seconds under the former course record!!! Hollis hit the mile in 5:40 and two miles in 11:16 on the way to shattering the course record of 18:26, which was set by Victoria Vanriele of Gov. Livingston.
The 17:49 by Hollis on the 3.19-mile layout helped propel Union Catholic to the greatest team performance ever as the Vikings, ranked No. 1 in the state, put five runners in the top nine and ran a blistering course record average of 18:54 on their way to a 24-55 victory over No. 11 ranked Kent Place. No. 16 Westfield was third with 98. It’s the second straight title for UC and its fifth overall.
UC, despite missing two of its usual top five runners, still chopped 34 seconds off the course record of 19:28 that was set by Westfield at the 2013 Union County Conference Championships.
The four other scorers behind Hollis for UC all ran their best times ever on this course. UC senior Kaleigh Gunsiorowski also ran one of the fastest times in course history, placing third in 18:35. Junior Courtney Kaiser, another first-year XC runner, was fourth in 18:46, junior Leilani Gibson finished seventh in 19:36, and senior Victoria Urbaez finished ninth in 19:48.
UC BOYS RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
There certainly was a cloud hanging over the boys race when Union Catholic star Jimmy Wischusen didn’t run due to an injury that may sideline him for the season. We wish Jimmy a speedy recovery!!!
Wischusen absence raised a big question!
Could Union Catholic, No. 2 ranked in the state, overcome such a big loss in its lineup and still win its third straight title in its showdown with No. 4 ranked Westfield?
That question was answered empathically as the Vikings embraced the challenge and rose to the occasion as several runners stepped up to spark the Vikings to a 44-56 victory over Westfield. No. 7 Summit was third with 82.
Junior Alex Saldana led the charge for UC, by placing third with a PR of 15:46, the 7th fastest time in course history. Saldana, who said he nearly stopped running after hurting his ankle near the mile-mark, gutted it out the rest of the way as he ignited a 3-6-8-11-16 finish for UC, who averaged 16:06, the second fastest in course history. UC set the record of 16:03 last year on it way to winning the Meet of Champions title.UC’s scorers behind Saldana were senior Ryan Cichocki, sixth in 15:59, senior Caudell Cajuste, eighth in 16:01, junior Sean Wilson, 11th in 16:16, and sophomore Evan Weber, 16th in 16:28.