Lions dominate in NJAC Championship

By Danielle Silvia

Staff Writer

While many were celebrating the College’s Homecoming and Halloween this weekend, the men and women of the College’s Cross Country teams were hard at work at the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) at Stockton University in southern New Jersey.

The men’s team successfully defended their title for a 23rd consecutive year with a score of 33 points. The women’s team finished second in its race behind Stockton University, but sophomore Natalie Cooper toppled the competition with a time of 21:35.

Cooper finishes first in the NJAC Championships. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)
Cooper finishes first in the NJAC Championships. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)

Cooper is one of the team’s strongest runners and, in this particular race, really turned on her power in the second half. This was her first individual conference championship win.

“Natalie is running on an elite level right now,” head coach Justin Lindsey said. “She is highly focused and continues to evolve into a national class competitor. The coaching staff has been pleasantly surprised by her steady progress all season.”

Other Lady Lions that stood out at this meet were sophomores Emma Bean and Madeline Tattory. Bean came in second placed for the College with a time of 23:16 and placed eighth overall. Tattory was not far behind Bean and placed ninth overall with a time of 23:23.

Coming in fourth place for the Lions was sophomore Allison Fournier, who ran with a time of 23:28 and finished in 10th place in the overall race. Additionally, Abigail Faith, another sophomore, came in 17th place overall and fifth for the Lions. Faith finished with a time of 24:17.

Two Stockton University runners, Cassandra Hrusko and Alicia Belko, were behind Cooper and finished with their first NJAC Cross Country Championships title. Hrusko and Belko finished off the Lions with a score of 29 against the College’s 45.

The College men finished strong and was able to keep its NJAC title at the Saturday, Oct. 29, meet at Stockton. For the men, this is their 23rd consecutive NJAC championship.

The College’s men’s team won the event with a score of 33 points in the 8,000-meter race. In second place was Rowan University with a score of 45 points.

“The men’s streak is amazing, but it’s not our focus,” Lindsey said. “The goal this season is to get the team to the NCAA championships. It’s been at least eight years since we sent a men’s team to the NCAA Championships, so that is what we have been preparing for. Winning the conference title was a stepping block toward that goal.”

Standouts include seniors Andrew Tedeschi and Brandon Mazzarella. Tedeschi finished in second place with a time of 25:09 while Mazzarella shined at the end of the race, crossing the finish line at 25:21 in fourth place.

Additionally, sophomore Dale Johnson finished with a score of 25:40 in seventh place and also made the first team all-conference. Sophomore Quinn Wasko finished in ninth place overall with a time of 25:43. Finally, Matt Saponara placed in 11th for the College with a time of 25:55, in the top five for the men.

The winner of the race, with a time of 25:04, was Jeremy Hernandez of Ramapo College. As a whole, the College defeated the 23rd ranked team in the U.S.

While the men’s team continued their streak, the women’s team failed to add a fourth year to their own NJAC streak.

“I’m not disappointed the women lost the streak. Streaks do not last forever,” Lindsey said. “Like the men’s team, our focus for the women is to make it to Nationals as a team. Losing the title does not determine if we earn a spot at the NCAA Championships, placing well as a team at the NCAA Regional meet does. The women understand this and the loss is added motivation for us.”

On Saturday, Nov. 12, the Lions will continue onto the Atlantic Region Championships hosted by Rowan University.