When high school cross country runners take to the course, it’s about what’s in front of them and reaching the finish line.
There needs to be an individual mindset to accomplish ultimate goals.
But what happens when each individual on a team has the same goal and the same mindset?
The result is what the West Morris Central girls cross country team is doing in the 2013 season – going undefeated (6-0) in regular season dual meets and being crowned New Jersey American Conference (NJAC) Division Champions.
“This group has great leadership,” said Coach Jay Herrigel, now in his 10th season leading the squad. “It’s a really bonded group. They’re always supporting each other.”
The team of 19 girls – from freshman to seniors – isn’t just winning, however, they’re taking control of meets and leaving no room for the competition.
At this season’s Villa Walsh Invitational, the team not only won the event, but placed runners in first, second, and third, Herrigel said.
Just this past weekend, the team competed in the Adidas Championship Race, where just 15 teams from the state were invited. Central came in sixth overall, and is currently ranked 11th in New Jersey.
It’s been some 20 years since the girls cross country team has since such success, said Herrigel, also a West Morris Central alum and former cross country runner himself.
This is his first season overseeing an undefeated team, and expects he’ll see more success in the remaining competitions.
Central has been fueled by senior Brennan Sharkey, who has placed first in each race this season. Sharkey kicked off the year at Freedom Park in Randolph and notched her place in state history, recording the second fastest time by a female in the track’s history.
Alongside her, though, is a strong group that has runners of all ages and experience. Sarah Madden and Mollie Miller are both freshman; Sierra Castaneda, Mikayla Cochrane, Corinne Esposito, Erin Hughes, Dorathea Lare, Julia Morelli, and Kenza Oualim are the sophomores; Tanna Holzworth and Kate Twiley are the juniors; and the senior leaders are Sharkey, Taylor Brown, Kylene Cochrane, Nicole Mazzei, Siobhan McCarthy, Samantha Miller, and Maria Tsamutalis.
Heading down the home stretch of the season, the girls are now focused on the conference championships, scheduled for Oct. 22. The following weekend is the Morris County Championships, and the state tournament kicks off Nov. 9.
But the layoff between now and conference championships doesn’t bother Herrigel.
“I’m not worried with this group,” he said. “They’re focused and are constantly training. I just want them to stay healthy.”
If the regular season is any indication, tournament time is going to be a breeze for this group of girls.