Jimmy Gorman and Tom Hogarty grew up as friends who live two minutes apart. The gap between them on the cross country trails is even closer — nine seconds, to be exact, at last fall’s Greater Middlesex Conference Championship.
Together the seniors are poised to lead the St. Joseph-Metuchen High School boys to their first GMC title since 1998.
“It’s similar to Mo Farah and Galen Rupp,” Hogarty said, referring to the training partners who won the gold and silver medals in the 10,000 meters at the London Olympics. “I’ve known Jimmy since I was 8 years old. We run every day together. We’ve had this really strong friendship and we help each other out.”
This is a watershed season for the Falcons. Longtime coach Gary Trojanowski retired in June after 35 successful years, handing off the program to assistants Andy O’Reilly and Tommy Friscia. St. Joseph placed second in last fall’s GMC meet and brings back four of its top five. Gorman, who placed fourth at Thompson Park in a time of 16:47, and Hogarty (fifth, 16:56) are the county’s top two returnees.
“We’re very motivated,” Gorman said. “We feel the sky’s the limit for what we can do.”
Gorman grew up in Metuchen and Hogarty just over the border in Edison. Gorman started running first. Hogarty played soccer as a freshman before converting. They have trained together from then on. This summer the pair built up to 70-mile weeks.
“It’s great to have someone pushing you along,” Gorman said.
Their styles differ. Gorman is more of the endurance guy, posting a spring track time of 9:35 for 3200 meters at a Holmdel Park personal best of 16:59. Hogarty brings the speed, as indicated by times of 4:22 in the 1600 and 1:58 in the 800.
Last fall they helped St. Joseph give Old Bridge a run for its money at the GMC meet, falling just 16 points shy of the perennial power. Brandon DeSouza, now a junior, placed 15th to help the cause. Current senior Michael Morse took 22nd. Classmate Sean Rankin also was a varsity regular in 2011.
“After we finished the county meet last year we were like, ‘Hey, we’re losing one senior but we’re returning six guys,’ ” Hogarty recalled “We’ve got a shot to win this next year.”
But beating Old Bridge is easier on paper than in reality. The Knights always seem to win the middle-of-the-pack battle. Among the newcomers looking to add crucial depth for St. Joseph are juniors Michael Kravanja, Charlie Butrico and Jack Malague.
“We need to have at least six solid,” Gorman said. “Old Bridge always has a strong team across the board. It’s not about beating their number one guy; it’s about beating their fourth and fifth guys.”
Up front, the race to the tape could come down to a couple of old neighbors. But Gorman and Hogarty would trade the gold medal for an end to the program’s 14-year county drought.
“It’s not about winning individual titles – it’s about winning the team title at this point,” Gorman said. “Watching the Olympics with Galen Rupp and Mo Farah, you can draw that parallel. If you were going to lose to anybody, you would lose to your training partner.”