Jersey Boys' Preview
Last year New Jersey had the best boys' team and the best boys' runner in the nation, but the 2012 cross country season will be hard to preview.
The primary issue is projecting the kind of season to expect from Edward Cheserek of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark. Last year he simply gobbled up course records en route to a title at the Foot Locker Nationals.
But his coaches have already said that his racing schedule in the fall will be very limited as he focuses on his studies — primarily SAT prep. But with SATs scheduled for early October, could we see him by mid October? Will he run for St. Benedict's at all this season? Or will we just have to wait until Foot Locker Regionals on Nov. 24 at Van Cortlandt Park. Only time shall tell.
The remaining question is whether Christian Brothers Academy can repeat as the Nike Cross Nationals champion. The pre-season national rankings are a who's who of high school boys cross country. Southlake Carroll (Texas), North Central (Wash.), CBA (N.J.) and York (Ill.) are the top four teams and each is capabale of winning the crown. CBA's 91-95 win over Southlake Carroll in NXN was the school's first national title. With a strong core back and it usual great depth, expect the team from Lincroft to remain in the conversation all season long.
There are three important dates at Holmdel Park that will tell a lot about the New Jersey scene this fall: the Shore Coaches Invitational on Oct. 6; the New Jersey Group Championships on Nov. 10; and the New Jersey Meet of Champions on Nov. 17. And on to the picks:
New Jersey Boys' Pre-Season Top Five
1. Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft)Sure, the Colts lost top runner George Kelly to graduation, but the stable remains strong as CBA brings back at least four runners from a national championship team. Locally there is no question that they are the best squad and that they have the most experience, yet repeating will be difficult. Not only has no boys' team ever repeated as champion, but not a single boys' team has even won a second title. This could be a historic year for CBA.
2. West Windsor- Plainsboro South (Princeton Junction)Last year the Pirates were picked to be contenders for a state title and a NXN brrth, but neither came to fruition. WWP South placed second at the Group 4 Championships, losing to Westfield and were could only muster an eighth-place finish at NXN Regionals. That could all change this year. Jake and Dan Riff lead a team that lose just its Nos. 3 and 7 and TullyRunners.com has the Pirates a pre-season No. 30 in the national polls and ranked third in the NXN Northeast Region.
3. Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey)With the school's choice of nickname, it's no wonder that the Ironmen have strong teams year after year. Sure they are losing almost the entire top seven from a year ago but good programs pump out good teams again and again. This year should be no different. Kyle Levermore is back to lead what should be a young squad — one that placed second to CBA in the Non-Public A race at States last fall.
4. Pope John XXIII (Sparta)The Lions bring back their top three runners from a team that was third behind CBA and Bosco at the Group Championships. Chris Hatler and Peter Spinks — who led the team a year ago — are posied to do the same this fall. With Scott Meehan backing them up and some good young talent behind them look for Pope John to fight Don Bosco for that No. 2 spot all season long.
5. Haddonfield Memorial (Haddonfield)Fourth at the Group 2 Championships last year, the Bulldogs should have a chance to win it this year. Why? They bring back most of the top talent. Greg Halla, Alex Gigliotti and Patrick Shea — a formidable front three — will have experience on their side, yet with teams like Holmdel, Wallkill Valley and Morris Hills all in Group 2, Haddonfield will have serious work to do.
Boys' Top 10 Returners To The Meet of Champions• Edward Cheserek, St. Benedict's **
• Ben Malone, Pascack Valley
• Shawn Wilson, Cherokee
• Mathew Nelson, Barnegat
• Mike McClemens, CBA
• Dylan Tarpey, Freehold Township
• Billy Bragg, CBA
• Chris Hatler, Pope John XXIII
• Jack Boyle, CBA
• Jake Riff, West Windsor Plainsboro South
• Kevin Summonte, Freehold Township
** Did not race at MOC
Other Potential Stars• Chris Marco, Toms River South
• Rob Napolitani, Red Bank Catholic
• Travis Ellis, Morris Hills
• Marcus Hatchett, Piscataway
• Jacob Clarke, Pleasantville
• Tom Rooney, CBA
• Aaron Liberatore, CBA
• Josiah Hanko, Trinity Christian
• Liam Mullet, Pingry
• Dan Riff, West Windsor Plainsboro South