The Egg Harbor Township High School girls cross country team hopes to end the day as the best in Atlantic County for the second consecutive year.
The first major meet of the cross country season kicks off today with the Atlantic County Championships at Hammonton Lake Park at 3:30 p.m.
The Eagles won the title last year, ending Holy Spirit’s three-year winning streak.
“We have decent depth and we’re senior-heavy this year,” coach Michael Caiazza said in a phone interview Wednesday night. “Hopefully they’re hungry enough and they’re ready to go and they can shine and do something for themselves. It would certainly be nice (to take the title again).”
Abby Shafer led the team last year with her third-place finish and is the individual favorite this year.
The senior finished behind Hammonton graduate Christin Bettis and Holy Spirit’s Bridget Flynn, who transferred to Ocean City and will compete in the Cape May County Championships today.
Teammates Eryn Reed and Morgan Shick also finished in the top 15 for Egg Harbor Township. Senior Megan Devlin was unable to compete in the meet last year due to a foot injury but will add to the team’s strong core this year.
Teams such as Buena Regional will be the Eagles’ biggest competition. The Chiefs went 10-0 and are the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference champions. The Eagles ended the regular season 8-1, with their only loss to Ocean City, the American Conference winner.
“We do have a good shot at it, but there’s good competition there, too,” Caiazza said. “Buena will be really tough to beat, if they’re on and they have a good day and we have a bad one, it could be theirs.”
Individually, Buena twin sisters Lisa and Gina Testa, along with Absegami’s Katie Juniewicz, are also
in the mix for the girls title.
On the boys side, the race for first will be very close. Pleasantville twin brothers Jacob and Isaac Clark finished first and second respectively, just a quarter of a second apart, in the 2011 championship.
Louis Corgliano, Hammonton’s breakout runner, finished nine seconds behind the Clark brothers for third in his first year running cross country.
Pleasantville took the team title as the Egg Harbor Township finished second.
Cape May County
The Ocean City High School boys and girls teams will be the favorites yet again this year at Cape May County Park at 3:30 p.m.
Both Red Raider teams finished undefeated and clinched the CAL American Conference.
The boys will look to extend their long run as county champions and take the title for the 12th consecutive year.
Last year, Kevin Scott set the course record in 15 minutes, 49 seconds to win the boys crown.
“It would mean a lot (to win again) because it’s my senior year and just winning it would make the season a whole lot better for me,” Scott said in a phone interview Wednesday night. “I’m feeling good and the team is feeling good.”
The senior leads an experienced team. It took the top four spots last season in the county meet and three of those talented runners are back.
“We are confident that we’re going to go in and do what we need to do,” Scott said. “We’re using this as training for the other big meets. It should be a lot of fun.”
Middle Township finished second last year, with Ryan Herlihy taking the fifth spot.
Herlihy has had an impressive sophomore season and has helped the Panthers reach their most successful year (9-1) in program history.
The Ocean City girls have a dynamic duo in Flynn and MaryKate Breslford.
Breslford has won the individual title the past two years.
Flynn, a transfer from Holy Spirit, took second at the Atlantic County Championships to the meet-record setting Bettis.
The two run very close together and either one could win.
Other girls to keep your eyes on include Wildwood Catholic’s Emily Johnson and Middle Township’s Alex Walsh.
The Southern Regional boys team (7-0) will seek its third consecutive Ocean County title at Ocean County Park in Lakewood today at 4 p.m.
Three runners from the top 25 last year, David Marino, Sean Howley and Steve Mershon, return.
Barnegat’s Matt Nelson won the individual title in 2011 and is the favorite again. The senior claimed his first cross country title at the meet in a 15:35.
Lacey Townships’s Danielle Leavitt won the girls individual title in her debut at the 2011 meet in 18:05.
Southern’s Jillian Smith took fourth and Danielle Smolyn took fifth for the Rams.
The girls team beat long-standing champion Toms River North 44-64 last year and will look to repeat.
Millville goes for its sixth girls county title at Cumberland County College on Friday at 3 p.m.
Victoria Thaler took the 2011 individual title in 21:05 to lead the Thunderbolts. Twin sisters Valerie and Kaitlyn Derman and newcomer Mackenzie Springsteadah add to the team’s depth. Last year, Valerie and Kaitlyn Derman finished in third and fourth, respectively.
The Vineland boys took the team title last year and their No. 1 runner, Leaquan James, is a favorite in the meet.
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