HOLMDEL — Kelly Janokowicz took second place to lead the Hillsborough High School girls cross country team to the NJSIAA Group IV title at Holmdel Park on Saturday.
Hillsborough tallied 64 points, far ahead of second-place North Hunterdon’s 129.
“It’s exciting and this is the one you want to win as a team, so I’m really happy with how we came out today,” Janokowicz said after running a team-best 18:26, just four seconds behind race winner Marisa Ruskan of Bridgewater-Raritan.
“I knew Marisa had a really good kick so I tried to stay as close as I could to her and I think I closed the gap a little bit, but I’m happy with second place.”
Stephanie Mauer came in fifth overall, running a 18:52, and the rest of the Raiders that scored all finished in the top 28. Molly Doyle ran a 19:54 to finish 21st, Mallory Drake came in 26th with a 20:03 and Paige Novak rounded out the Hillsborough running order with a 20:06, good for 28th position.
“It’s really great for Hillsborough to get two of the top five; Stephanie has worked really hard and she’s a great runner for us and I think it’s a big confidence booster for our whole team after this race,” Janokowicz said.
Ruskan won the race with a 18:24, just one week after she won the North 2 Group IV race at Greystone Park in Parsippany.
“I was really excited about this race and winning it today and continuing to have those titles under my belt,” Ruskan said. “I didn’t really feel any pressure, at least not in a bad way. If anything, I felt a little pressure in a good way from the other runners. There were a lot of good runners against me and they pushed me to be my best.”
Voorhees continued its season of dominance, running away with the title in the Group II race. The Vikings had four runners in the top nine, with Clarissa Modde setting the pace for her squad at 18:43. Voorhees finished with a team-score of 34, well ahead of second-place Bernards, which had 103 points.
“It was pretty cool to have four of us in the top 10, we just wanted to run in a pack and stay together and work as a team and have fun out here,” Modde said.
Nisa Cicitta finished third for Voorhees, running a 18:57, Erin Seiffert came in fifth overall at 19:19, Shannon Carney placed ninth with a time of 19:31 and Meaghan Driscoll rounded out the Voorhees scoring with a 15th place finish after her time of 19:56.
Unlike the Skyland Conference’s perennial powers, Mount St. Mary went through a bit of a rebuilding process after winning Non-Public B titles in 2002 and 2003. The Mount Lions returned to the winner’s circle by edging defending champ and fellow Skyland competitor Gill St. Bernard’s.
Sophomore Kerry Dyke led the way with a second-place finish in 18:51, crossing only behind Villa Walsh’s Megan Curham (18:17). After Dyke came Mount St. Mary junior Sarah Regnault (seventh place, 20:39), freshman Abigail McGann (eighth, 20:44), junior Kelly O’Connor (17th, 21:31) and senior Janelle Kranz (18th, 21:34).
That added up to 50 points and a 20:39 average for The Mount. Gill St. Bernard’s tallied 58 points.
“It’s so wonderful. We just won our (state) prep race a couple of days ago, so two banners in a week, that’s something,’’ Dyke said. “And we’re going to Meet of Champs as a team for the first time in a couple of years.’’
Being a slight per-race race favorite was new territory for Dyke and her teammates, but they came through.
“I was definitely nervous,’’ Dyke said. “Our coach tried to keep us calm. If anybody else was nervous they did a real good job of keeping calm.’’
In the Group I race, South Hunterdon’s Kelly Shaffer paced her squad with an 18:51, which was just nine seconds off the pace. As a freshman, Shaffer had obviously never been on a stage quite as large as the state finals, and understandably was overjoyed with a second-place finish.
“This was a big deal for me to be out here in this race, and I was really hoping to beat Colette, but I didn’t and that’s fine,” Shaffer said. “It feels amazing to qualify for The Meet of Champions and I know my team is going to be there cheering for me; they’re already talking about what they’re going to do so it’s great.”
Colette Richter of Mountain Lakes won the event, running 18:42 to pace the field.
Metuchen took home the team title, edging Pitman 86-98, despite not having a single runner in the top 10.
The top three teams and top 10 runners in each race have advanced to Wednesday’s Meet of Champions, which will pit the entire state’s best runners against one another. Hillsborough coach Rich Refi is eager to see how winning the Group IV race will help his team for the Meet of Champions.
“This is a young team so it’s great to come out on top,” Refi said. “We ran real tough, went our aggressive and stayed near the front and it was nice to see. We’ll find out on Wednesday what this race did for our team.”