Alexa Weber and Will Berger left the South Jersey Cross Country Shootout at Rowan University with Styrofoam cowboy hats Saturday afternoon.
The goofy headwear meant the two were the best of the best.
Weber, of Ocean City High School, won the girls stud race, while Berger, of Lower May Regional, won the boys stud race. The Styrofoam hats are awarded to the winners and worn on the medal stand.
“This definitely builds my confidence for later in the season,” Weber said. “It lets me know what’s in store for the bigger meets.”
The Shootout featured many of South Jersey’s top boys and girls teams in a unique format. Participants competed against runners of similar ability. There is one race for the Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7 runners on a team and there is the “studs” race for the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 runners.
Mainland Regional senior Alyssa Aldridge won the girls stud race the past three years, but the two-time defending Meet of Champions winner did not compete Saturday because she was on a college visit to the University of Michigan.
Both Weber and Berger overcame steamy, humid conditions to win Saturday.
Weber finished the 3.1-mile course in 18 minutes, 50.43 seconds. She pulled away from the field after the first mile. Kate Rathman, of Cherokee, finished second in 19:22.59.
“About the mile mark I wanted to create a bigger gap,” Weber said. “From there I just tried to make the gap bigger and bigger. I tried to finish strong.”
Saturday’s win continued Weber’s strong start to the season. She finished second in the senior race at last week’s Cherokee Challenge but ran the second fastest time by a New Jersey girl at that meet.
“I definitely feel stronger than last year,” she said. “I’ve trained a lot harder workouts. Hopefully, they’ll pay off later in the season. This (the Shootout and the Cherokee Challenge) does a lot to boost my confidence.”
Berger won the boys stud race in 16:01.28. John Spinelli, of Mater Dei, finished second in 16:12.50. Gobi Thurairajah, of Egg Harbor Township, finished seventh in 16:42.08.
In the other races, Jordan Pitt, of Vineland, won the boys 4, 5, 6, 7 race in 17:12.09. Three EHT runners — Justin Winkler (third in 17:22.09); Ryan Simpson (fifth in 17:41.18) and Luke Barnes (seventh in 17:46.20) — finished in the top 10.
Nicolette Brady, of Ocean City, won the girls 4,5, 6, 7 race in 20:42.62. Gianna Scarangelli, of EHT, ran 21:11.96 to finish second.
The Egg Harbor Township boys won the team title outscoring second-place Kingsway Regional 37-51. Clearview won the girls team championship.