Downed trees, lack of electricity and landlocked vehicles were no match for the tenacity of the Long Valley cross country team, which ran to a top-3 finish in each category of the USATF-NJ Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Flemington Nov. 4.
Long Valley was part of the Lakeland Team, which included towns from Morris County (Roxbury, Randolph, Chester, Mendham, Mt. Olive, Jefferson, Hopatcong, Rockaway) and had 26 runners place in the top-100 athletes in the competition.
Boys and girls ran separately in the following categories:
Sub-Bantam (7-8 years old): 2k (1.24 miles)
Bantam (9-10 years old): 3k (1.86 miles)
Midget (11-12 years old): 3k (1.86 miles)
Youth (13-15 years old): 4k (2.48 miles)
We did not have any runners in the 5k races (the last four races) for the Intermediate or Young Men/Women groups (high school age).
Among them was Long Valley’s Luke Lusskin, who was tops in a field of 50 running the Bantam Boys 3K in the 9-10 age category.
Lusskin ran the race in 11 minutes and 42.4 seconds, beating out the next runner by a full 1.55 seconds. It was the first time a Long Valley runner had captured a state championship.
According to coach Kevin Daly, if the runners did not compete, they would lose their chance to attend the national competition.
So families car-pooled and went without warm liquids on a frosty day, Daly said, trekking down to Readington so the athletes could compete.
What came of it was a true success, with team runners placing among the best in the competition.
The USATF Regional Cross Country Meet will be in Rochester, New York this Sunday, according to Coach Terri St. Jacques. The USATF National Championships are in Albuquerque, NM, on December 8. The Lakeland League Team has opted to take its runners to the AAU National Championships in South Carolina on December 1, instead of NM.