FRANKLINVILLE -- In cross country, every runner on a team is important.
The Delsea boys’ cross country team learned that Saturday morning.
The Crusaders placed their top four runnings among the top 12 finishers, however it was sophomore Alex Roman’s 34th-place finish the difference as they held off Mainland, 65-68, to repeat as South Jersey Group III champs at the boys’ sectional cross country championships on their home course.
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.
While the final outcome was dramatic, it was something Crusaders’ coach Ron Deckert predicted during the week.
“I told them (the team) if our top four guys could finish in the top 10,” Deckert said.”I think we had four in the top 12, it was going to come down to our fifth guy. We had to ask a lot out of him (Roman). He’s just a sophomore, so this is all a new experience for him.
The meet when to plan for Delsea as Connor Kane had to settle for second place as he fought valiantly over the final quarter mile, but lost out on individual honors to Highland’s Ben Woodward, as Woodward crossed the line in 15 minutes, 52 seconds, one second ahead of Kane.
“He had more of a kick in him at the end,” Kane said.
After Kane, had George Tenenberg finish seventh, William Mayhew 10th and Dylan Senatore 12th, leaving the Crusaders just one more finisher to close out the scoring. However, Mainland’s fifth runner crossed the line in 20th place, so the Crusaders needed someone to come up big.
With a tight pack of runners crossing the line, Roman came across in 34th, just enough to give the points to give Delsea its second straight title. For Roman, it was no big deal.
“I just wanted to go out there and win,” Roman said. “Coach said he believed in me and I knew what I had to do.”
“We needed him to go out and run a PR,” Deckert said. “And I think that’s what he did.”
With the sectional title in their pockets, Delsea is now setting its sights on the elusive state title. Like all coaches, Deckert already has visions what needs to be done.
“I think next week we’ll be even better,” Deckert said. “They did it right today. If we can have our three guys (Teneberg, Mayhew, Senatore) stay together and Alex runs like he did today, we might be able to do something weird up there.”
In the always competitive Group IV race, Kingsway, the area’s top team, was dominant as the Dragons placed five runners (Joe Grandizio, 2nd; Jonathan Connor, 3rd; Kieran Burns, 4th; Cade Hindley, 8th and Cole Hindley, 9th) in the top nine to top Cherokee, which was led by individual winner Justin Kelly. Kelly finished with the fastest time of the day, covering the course in 15:46.
In Group II, Haddonfield once again showed its dominance, earning its 35th sectional title with 23 points, topping Sterling and Cinnaminson, which tied for second with 78. Martin Riddell covered the course in 15:49, defeating teammate Greg Eisenhower by nine seconds.
In Group I, Haddon Heights laid claim to the sectional crown, using its overall depth to place five runners, led by Kevin Sankey’s second place finish, before Haddon Township’s fifth, giving the Garnets the edge. Pitman’s Sebastien Reed won individual honors, finishing 10 seconds ahead of Sankey.