By Miguel Gonzalez
The men’s and women’s cross country teams outran the competition at this year’s New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship in Galloway, New Jersey, on Saturday, Oct. 28.
The women’s team, led by junior Natalie Cooper, captured the NJAC Championship, while the men’s cross country team placed second for the first time in 23 years.
The women’s cross country team won its first NJAC title since 2015. The Lions dominated their conference competition in the 6,000-meter race and six Lions appeared in the top 10.
“Going into the race our team was focusing on taking back the NJAC title and getting as many girls high up in the race as possible,” Cooper said.
Cooper captured her second career NJAC individual title with a time of 21:44. Fellow junior Erin Holzbaur trailed Cooper by only a minute as she secured third place, clocking in at 22:55.
Cooper said she was able to improve from last year’s performance despite enduring injuries.
“During the race I stuck with Stockton’s top girl for the majority of the race and toward the end I felt good so I made a move,” Cooper said. “I dealt with some injuries at the beginning of this season, so considering where I am after coming back from that I would say I am improving from last year.”
Junior Madeleine Tattory followed up with a fourth place finish and clocked in at 22:57. Sophomore Gabby DeVito soon crossed the finish line and got fifth place with a time of 23:01. After, junior Abigail Faith snatched seventh place and recorded a time of 23:21.
Junior Olivia Shenkman got 18th place with a time of 24:36. Not long after, sophomore Hannah Fay secured the last scoring position at 20th place with a time of 24:52.
The men ran well against the eventual champions, Rowan University, in the 8,000-meter race. Junior Quinn Wasko led the men’s squad and finished in third place with a time of 25:31. Freshman Robert Abrams came in fifth, clocking in at 25:40.
Just six seconds later, junior Matt Saponara crossed the finish line in sixth place with a time of 25:46. Junior Luke Prothero then secured 12th place with a time of 26:11. Junior Daniel Brennan was not far behind as he claimed 14th place with a time of 26:19. Five seconds later, sophomore Richard Gruters snatched 15th place and recorded a time of 26:24.
Sophomore Andrew Dyer finished the race in 18th place with a time of 26:29. Senior Dale Johnson placed behind Dyer at 19th place with a time of 26:38. Despite the Lions securing 11 out of the top 30 places and scoring 36 team points, Rowan University edged out the Lions by just four points. Rowan was led by its senior captain, Kevin Veltre, who claimed the individual title.
The men’s and women’s cross country teams will now prepare for the upcoming NCAA Atlantic Region Championships on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Houghton College.
“Our goal for regionals is to place highly as a team and qualify for nationals,” Cooper said.