Undefeated boys cross country team eyeing county, state titles

A roster featuring several upperclassmen runners has propelled the boys cross country team to an undefeated first half of the season in dual meets. The team looks to compete for the sectional, county, and state titles.

An undefeated record has motivated the boys to work toward some higher end-of-season goals. The team last won the county title in 1992, but this year it will have the opportunity to take the Mercer County crown and a state title in the coming month.

“We hope to finish off the season undefeated,” said Co-Captain Alex Roth ’17. “We also want to win the counties and hopefully, in several weeks, win the state title for Group Four.”

The team moved a step closer to its end-of-season goals on October 18. With five competitors finishing in the top ten, the team won the Colonial Division of the Colonial Valley Conference. Roth, Pinheiro, and William Hare ’18 finished first, second, and third respectively. Six of the team’s upperclassmen finished in the top 20 of this race. As of October 20, the team is ranked third in the state of New Jersey by NJ Milesplit.

“[The upperclassmen] have always been great workers and competitors,” said Head Coach James Smirk, who coaches both the boys and girls after previously being only the girls’ head coach for the past ten seasons. “Their leadership boils down to how deeply they care about each other. They make sure that everyone contributes and gets involved.”

In addition to the veteran runners, the underclassmen have had opportunities to compete alongside their mentors. Pinheiro, Eli Wasserman ’19, and Jackson Mccarthy ’19 have all contributed so far this season on the varsity squad.

“We have a very flexible varsity roster,” Roth said. “It is very good that we have a lot of veteran runners who are very experienced and also some younger runners who are able to take chances and get their opportunities in those bigger varsity races.”

This season also marks the first year the boys and girls are combined into one program. Additionally, new coaches Dr. Robert Nelson and Markl Bloom have been brought in to further the development of the team with Smirk.

“We are seeing a robust coaching staff with a lot of experience,” Smirk said. “There are lots of different ways in which each coach has contributed.”

With their eyes on the prize of a state championship coming up in November, the Tigers will rely on the philosophy of team depth throughout the whole roster that made the title a goal in the first place.

“Our team-based goal has always been to see if we can draw out of each other the best version of ourselves,” Smirk said. “In  some of the biggest meets of the season, we are always looking to be the best that we can be. When we are doing this, we are a team that can take shots at winning championships.”

“We are not just a group of individuals running on the course,” Roth said.  “When we do well, our success is shared by everyone. We identify as a team, together.”

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