By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
The world returned to its axis in Lincroft on Nov. 18.
The Christian Brothers Academy boys’ cross country team got back to where it feels it belongs – No. 1 in New Jersey.
SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THE 2018 NJSIAA MEET OF CHAMPIONS, HERE.
After having a string of seven consecutive NJSIAA Meet of Champions titles halted by Princeton in 2016, the Colts galloped back to the head of the pack this year after defeating Kingsway by 16 points. It was CBA’s 22nd MOC title. The next closest team is Paul VI with four, which should be an indication of how the Colts were affected by their second-place finish last year.
“They took it to heart,” second-year coach Sean McCafferty said. “Only two members of the team actually ran last year; Brian Hill and Ryan Miele. But the other guys were part of the team and experienced that feeling. I think the quick turn-around last year and winning the Northeast Regional kind of helped them get over it a little bit, but it still stung, I know it did.”
The Colts could not duplicate that performance, as they finished second in this year’s regionals at Wappingers Falls, N.Y., on Nov. 25. But that was still enough to advance to the Nationals Dec. 2 in Portland, Ore.
“We didn’t run particularly well (at the regionals),” McCafferty said. “I think the race just went out fast and some of our guys didn’t really get to where they needed to be early on. They were playing catch-up. We can’t do that well.
“We need to get out hard and get after it a little bit; some of the guys at least. (Luke) Reid and (Tim) McInerney can get out slowly and move up, some other guys really struggle to do that. So it just didn’t work out for us on Saturday.”
Only in a program as dominant as CBA’s can things not work out and result in a second-place regional finish.
And that’s why the Colts were on a mission to bring the MOC trophy back to the school.
In a Q&A with the team’s runners posted on the school’s website, letsgocolts.com, Hill said, “Meet of Champs is always an important building block during championship season and missing that title last year definitely had a negative impact on our 2016 championship season. It’s important to take care of your home state first before progressing on to regionals, and doing that has given us more confidence.”
Hill led the way at Holmdel Park with a seventh-place finish in 15:58. He was followed by Reid (26th, 16:23), McInerney (32nd, 16:28), Miele (36th, 16:34) and John Sheridan (41st, 16:37).
“John Sheridan ran a really, really good race that day and kind of pulled us together in there,” McCafferty said. “Every guy on the team is extremely important. Brian Hill up front ran really well, Reid, McInerney and Miele in the middle ran well.
“But Sheridan kind of stepped up and filled in for some other guys. We had some other guys not run well and he stepped in and filled that role very nicely. He had run poorly before, so he kind of turned things around and ran really well; so that was good.”
As for the regionals, CBA was the only New Jersey team to advance to the nationals. Hill paced the Colts with an eighth-place finish (16:23), followed by Reid (13th, 16:39), McInerney (21st, 16:45), Miele (44th, 17:02) and Troy Hill (51st, 17:06).
“These races are what we train for,” Miele told letsgocolts.com. “These are the races that we think about when we go for our morning long runs. These are the races that we are training for during the grueling hot summer practices. We work so hard 365 days every year to prepare for these races.”
They have spent this week preparing for the biggest one of the year after finishing seventh in the 2016 Nationals. McCafferty feels the potential is there to surpass that, provided everyone does their job.
“If we run like we did Saturday (at regionals); afraid and a little confused, we won’t do great,” the coach said. “But if we run like we’re capable, we have the potential to be on the podium in the top five. But they have to run well. They have to run, not exceptionally well, but they have to run well. So, they can do it. It’s just a matter of putting it together on that day. “