On September 26 and October 10, the boys cross country team finished third at both the Bowdoin Park Invitational and Cross Country Fall Classic, setting PHS records for average finish time of the top five runners. A week later it won the Colonial Valley Conference Division Title, ending West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South’s domination of the CVC title by virtue of one point. The winning point came from Jonathan Petrozzini ’17 who beat a WW-PS runner at the finish line. The win marks the team’s first win over WW-PS in ten years and its first CVC title in 22 years. Standout performances also came from Alex Roth ’17, Cy Watsky ’17, Will Hare ’18, and Alex Ackerman ’18, who all ran new personal records to secure the win.
The team finished with a record of 10–1 in dual meets, and surpassed its initial ranking of 20th in the state by NJ.com, being ranked 16th after its performance at the Shore Coaches Invitational meet. As sectional and state finals approach on November 7 and November 14, respectively, the team looks to begin lowering its mileage in order to continue improving times. At the Mercer County Championships it will face Robbinsville High School, the only team it lost to during their regular season.
“We have a lot of potential,” said Head Coach Mark Shelley. “This is the best boys cross country team [Princeton High School] has had since I’ve been here … We know we’re going to be very strong.”
The team hopes to keep up the progress it made early in the season, with PHS records for average finish time being broken at every invitational meet so far. By lowering the mileage of runners before an important meet, Shelley can ensure that his runners are at their peak performance during the postseason.
“Our main focus is on sections and finals. We’re gradually looking to taper and lower our milage … and close the gap between our top seven,” said Cy Watsky ’17. “Actually, it’s more like our top 12 since [our times] are all so close.”
With a close pack of runners finishing in the points positions consistently, the team can experiment with race strategies. Creating packs that runners stick with during races helps race dynamics as runners push each other to do their best.
“We’re trying to incorporate using the team more rather than racing as individuals,” said Jonathan Petrozzini ’17. “During the race we stay in a pack and then once we get to a certain point we choose when to make an aggressive move.”
A typical practice starts with Shelley’s outlining the plan for the week; the postseason is rarely mentioned. As such, the coaches have tailored practices for each day, keeping in mind the upcoming meets.
Shelley said, “We map out what we think is an appropriate but challenging set of workouts … and take one meet at a time.”