Members of the Buena Regional High School girls’ cross country team had plenty of reasons to smile on Thursday.
Fresh off a win at last week’s Atlantic County meet, the Chiefs’ girls responded with another strong performance, taking third place in the Cape-Atlantic League Championships at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
Freshman Kristin Siegle led the charge for Buena, taking eighth place with a time of 18 minutes, 59.02 seconds, as the Chiefs finished with 116 team points — 20 behind second place Egg Harbor Township. Ocean City cruised to the team title with 35 points.
“I was actually feeling really bad before this race, then when I got out there I felt really good, really loose and just went for it,” Siegle said. “I wasn’t really feeling this race after we won (Atlantic) County’s, we gave it our all that race, but looking back, I actually think I performed better at this race.”
Junior Gina Testa was next for the Chiefs, crossing the finish line 12th in 19:12.86. Gina’s twin sister, Lisa, took 17th (19:31), giving Buena three runners in the top-20.
Needless to say, the Chiefs have plenty of young talent moving forward.
It is a major reason Buena has had so much fun this season.
“Last week at County’s, we took first there and it was phenomenal,” Gina Testa said. “But this week, it felt great. I definitely think we came out and showed it wasn’t a fluke and that we have what it takes. We’re just trying to prove ourselves this year.”
Buena is also focused on carrying the momentum gained in 2012 through the winter and spring, and into the 2013 cross country campaign.
“I’m so excited for next year,” Gina said. “With all of these races this year, I’m just happy to see how much we’ve improved. Hopefully, we can do even better next year, get more publicity for Buena and get our names out there.”
The Buena girls weren’t the only ones making their mark.
Millville’s Victoria Thaler led all area finishers, placing sixth in 18:49.66 through a steady drizzle that was absent during the boys’ race just moments earlier.
“I like when it starts raining because it creates a different environment,” said Thaler, who helped lead the Thunderbolts to a fifth-place team finish. “When it’s always sunny, that’s like an everyday race. So when it starts raining or drizzling, when the conditions chance, I kind of like it better.”
Millville’s Kaitlyn Dermen took 15th place (19:25.84) while McKenzie Springsteadah was 21st (19:47.13) for the Bolts on Thursday.
Outside of her individual performance, Thaler was enthused by how her team finished.
“We’re a family, so whatever happens, we all go into it together and get the end result together,” Thaler said. “Overall, as a team, we all came in close to one another, so I’d say we did pretty good.”
The CAL meet, as a whole, was less successful for the boys.
Vineland’s Leaquan James Jr. was strong, however, finishing seventh in 16:00.04.
Last year, the senior was pushed by a pair of teammates at CALs. This time around, James was left to fend for himself.
“Throughout this whole season, it’s been hard not having anyone up there with me,” said James, who led the Fighting Clan to a seventh-place team finish. “But coming into this race I thought to myself, ‘All right, I shouldn’t have to depend on anyone else, I should depend on myself and my heart, and do what I have to do.'”