Kevin Antczak didn’t start this cross-country season as one of the state’s top runners.
He did finish it that way.
The Mainland Regional High School junior won the Atlantic County, Cape-Atlantic League and South Jersey Group III championships and finished eighth at the Meet of Champions.
Antczak is The Press Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
“One of my goals was to win (a South Jersey championship),” Antczak said, “but I wasn’t planning on top 10 at MOC or anything like that.”
Antczak had a solid sophomore season in 2017 but nothing that foreshadowed his achievements as a junior. Last season, he finished fourth at the CAL championships and sixth at the S.J. Group III meet.
Antczak devoted himself to his training. Mainland coach Dan Heyman described Antczak as a student of the sport.
One of the biggest changes Antczak made was getting more sleep. He made sure to get nine or 10 hours every night. The night before he won the South Jersey title, Antczak went to bed at 8:30 p.m. and got 11 hours’ sleep.
“I just kept taking my training more seriously,” he said. “I kept making sacrifices. I just really like the sport and wanted to be the best I could at it. I like the culture of it and pushing yourself beyond limits.”
His efforts worked. Antczak’s winning time at this fall’s South Jersey meet (15:58.28) was nearly 24 seconds faster than his 2017 effort. His MOC time of 16:01 was 81 seconds faster than his 2017 MOC finish.
“I’m surprised he made such an improvement,” Heyman said. “Once you get to a certain level, you can only take off so many more seconds. He’s really arrived on the elite scene.”
A Northfield resident, Antczak comes from a running family. His father, Steve, competes in road races. His brother, Kyle, a Mainland senior, is also a first-team Press All-Star.
“My dad has always run,” Antczak said. “He’d go to races, and we’d run at them, too.”
Big things will be expected of Antczak next fall. He was the third fastest underclassman at the MOC. He will be mentioned among the state’s top runners when the 2019 cross-country season begins.
“It just motivates me,” Antczak said, “to keep getting better.”
And maybe even get more sleep.
Team, Coach of the Year
Ocean City is known for producing outstanding distance runners. The Red Raiders boys cross-country team added to the school’s running legacy this fall.
Ocean City is The Press Boys Cross Country Team of the Year. Red Raiders coach Matt Purdue is The Press Coach of the Year.
The Red Raiders won the Cape-Atlantic League and South Jersey Group III championships. Ocean City was ranked fifth in the final Press Elite 11. Haddonfield was No. 1.
Ocean City ran as a pack. The Red Raiders had five of the top 12 finishers at the CAL meet and five of the top seven finishers at the S.J. Group III championships. It was Ocean City’s first sectional title since 2010.
“We had a strong team effort that led to a tight pack and big races,” Purdue said, “and the runners were working to always push each other to be their best.”