By: Kate Porcello
With the return of normal competitions after a year that was dictated by COVID-19 restrictions, the James Caldwell High School Cross Country team was able to compete in a total of eleven competitions this season. They braved the heat, rain, cold, and a few muddy courses to complete a successful season filled with many personal records (PRs) and course PRs, among other achievements. The team began the year with an Invitational Meet at Roxbury Park on September 11th. The course was new to every JCHS runner and both the girls and boys went up against 30 other schools in a difficult race. Throughout the next few weeks, the Varsity, JV, and freshman runners competed in four SEC Conference Races at Branchbrook Park (a course that is well known by all veteran runners), the Magee Memorial Classic Meet at Oak Ridge, and the New Balance Shore Coaches Invitational at Holmdel Park. On October 12th the team found themselves, once again, at Branchbrook Park, competing in the SEC Cross Country Championship Meet. The Varsity Boys finished the regular season 10-0 after placing 1st out of 9 teams in the Boys Liberty Division. Because of their record this season, the boys will be moving up into the American Division next season. The Girls Varsity team finished 3rd out of 10 teams in the American Division, after Montclair High School and Millburn High School.
The JV and freshman runners finished out their season at the next competition, the Essex County Championships, at Brookdale Park. Marcos Perez (Fr.) placed 8th out of 69 boys in the 3200 meter race, ending the season off strong. The Girls Varsity team came in 4th out of 15 with the help of several PRs. Finishing the race at 19:57.30, Hannah Morgan (Jr.) placed 6th out of 111 girls, helping the team secure their spot, as well as Julia Canonaco (Jr.) who placed 16th and
Grace Szostak (So.) who placed 17th. A course and overall PR was made by Jenna Goldbach (Sr.) with a 21:55.60. The Boys Varsity team placed 9th out of 22 teams, again securing their spot with multiple PRs, one of which was made by Ben Lattimer (Fr.) at 18:03.40.
The Varsity team continued on to the NJSIAA State Sectional Meet, where the boys finished out their season placing 10th out of 14 teams in the Boys North 2 Group 2. Jack Goldback (So.) finished out the season with a personal best time of 17:19.59, placing 15th out of 103 runners. Ansh Razdan (Jr.), Brendan Healey (Jr.), Aidan Dickson (Sr.), and Spencer Day (Sr.) also finished with PRs, leading to a cumulative improvement of 7:45 since their first race in Clark this season. The Varsity Girls were able to place 5th out of 12 teams, qualifying them for the Groups Meet, after which Hannah Morgan commented,“This is a brutal sport and these girls worked really hard to get us to Groups. I am really sad to see the season end and say goodbye to the seniors, but I know we all shared and cherished the rewarding feeling after every single workout and race.” Finally, the varsity girls ended their season at the NJSIAA Group Championship at Holmdel Park, a notoriously difficult course, placing 9th out of 19 teams in the Group 2 Race. Hannah Morgan led the team finishing 32nd out of 134 girls with a course PR of 21:17.00 .
At the close of the season, head coach John Timan stated, “Both teams were very successful with a good mix of young runners and veterans. I was very proud of the leadership from our senior runners and how they helped develop a culture of hard work within the team. From our first summer workouts until our training for the state sectionals, our runners were extremely committed to improving as evident by the PRs they achieved. . For the boys to win the Liberty division with a perfect 10-0 record and the girls to finish 5th in North 2 Group 2 and 9th in NJ Group 2, everyone involved had to commit to the process and devote a lot of time to training.” His thoughts were echoed by assistant coach Jim Curran. When asked to give his thoughts on the team, he stated, “Being my first year as assistant coach, I was continually impressed by the work ethic the student-athletes displayed on a daily basis. Their grit, determination, perseverance, and goal-oriented mindset allowed so many of them to achieve their goals, surprising both themselves and us coaches with their continued successes.” He then continued, “As a former coach of mine once told me, ‘In the end it’s all a matter of heart.’ This team has the heart of champions, and it truly showed this season! I couldn’t be more proud of this team and am looking forward to putting in good, quality training for our 2022 season!”