FRANKLINVILLE -- For someone who is in mid-season form, Alyssa Aldridge sure looked dominant Saturday morning.
The Mainland Regional senior, who was supposed to be sidelined for most of the cross country season due to an injury to her heel, showed no effects of said injury as she cruised to the fastest time of the day in 18 minutes, 13 seconds, to win the individual title in the South Jersey Group III sectional meet, one of the highlights in a day of sectional races held at Delsea Regional High School.
The top 10 individual finishers and the top five scoring teams all qualify to run the the state sectional meets next Saturday at Holmdel Park, Monmouth County.
For Aldridge, it was the third straight sectional title as she prepares to defend both her state Group III title and Meet of Champions, both at Holmdel.
Taking advantage of the crisp fall conditions, Aldridge led from start to finish, defeating Jade Tricomy of Toms River South by 17 seconds. Just being on the course was plenty for Aldridge.
“It was a beautiful day and I was super happy to be out there,” Aldridge said. “It was supposed to be my season opener due to my injury, but to even be out here today competing is a blessing.”
Aldridge’s season was delayed due to a stress reaction in her heel bone, which she suffered in late July. She spent the next six weeks, technically, on the shelf as she rehabbed her injury, affecting her distance base, which is essential to cross country runners. However, she found an alternative therapy that helped speed up the recovery timeline.
“I was working really hard in the pool,” Aldridge said. “I went to a couple of great doctors up in Red Bank, Dr. Kahn and Dr. Connor and they told me they were going to fix me up and they did.”
Without half the summer to build her base, Aldridge did not training on hard surfaces until mid-September, when both the dual meet and early major meet season is underway.
“I didn’t get my first run on hard ground until I went on my official visit at the University of Michigan,” Aldridge, who will run for Georgetown next year, said. “A part of me wanted to go out and just compete, but another part of me knew I still had a winter and spring track season ahead of me so I didn’t want to jeopardize my future by rushing things.”
The plan, obviously, paid off for Aldridge as she has been undefeated this season, including Saturday’s victory.
While Aldridge took the individual title, her Mustangs squad had to settle for a fourth place finish, behind champ Ocean City. The Red Raiders were paced by Alexa Weber (3rd), Alexa Palmieri (4th) and Casey McLees (6th) in finishing with 35 points, 12 fewer than runner-up Seneca.
In the marquee race of the day, the Group IV race, Kingsway, behind a second-place finish by Lauren Krott and a third-place showing by Alexis Mullarkey, finished with 42 points, seven ahead of runner-up Shawnee, which had sophomore Isabella Turner win the race in 18:22.
In Group II, Sterling’s Madison Coppolino dominated the field, covering the 5,000-meter course in 18:29, almost a minute ahead of Cinnaminson’s Madison Edwards. However, Group II mainstay Haddonfield once again was dominant, putting five runners (Allison Colflesh, Peyton Weiner, Izzy Miller, Lilly Sirover, and Lindsay Colflesh) in the top eight spots to easily win the sectional title.
In Group I, Schalick’s Marleigh Puglia covered the course in 20:01, besting Haddon Township’s Darby Williamson by 35 seconds to claim individual honors. However, Pitman, which placed its five scoring runners in the top 14, outpointed the Cougars, 40-76, to win the team title.