Ron Deckert said his Delsea Regional High School boys’ cross country team is tired.
He could have fooled everyone at the South Jersey Open Saturday.
Despite a ragged training regimen geared for peaking later in the season, Deckert’s Crusaders put on an impressive performance on their home course, taking the Division 2 title at the first big major meet of the season. Delsea finished with 55 points, holding off Northern Burlington, which finished with 71 points.
What made the performance even more impressive was the Crusaders five-man average on the 5,000-meter course was 16 minutes, 50.3 seconds. It was the second-fastest five-man average of the day, trailing only Haddonfield, which averaged 16:36.
“Wow, we had a lot of PRs today,” Deckert said with a bit of surprise in his voice following the race. “They keep telling me they’re tired, but they keep on grinding and today it showed they are starting to get it.”
Despite dual meet losses this season the Tri-County conference foes Highland and Kingsway, the Crusaders are more focused on meets like the one on Saturday.
“I tell the kids not to put too much into dual meets,” Deckert said. “The idea is to grind through September and early October so then you can start getting ready for the bigger meets later in the season.”
The Crusaders were led by senior Nick Costello, who lowered his time on the home course by seven seconds, winning the race in 15:33. It was also the fastest time of the day out of all three races.
“It felt fast out there today,” Costello, who finally beat rival Matt Nelson of Barnegat in the race, said. “Once I got the lead I just kept rolling.”
In other races Saturday, the home course advantage was not as friendly to the Crusaders’ girls’ team as they finished second to Seneca, which took the top four spots in the Division 2 race. Delsea was paced by Celine Mazzi and Danielle Hanninger, who finished sixth and seventh, respectively. For Mazzi, the race was particularly frustrating as fatigue took over during the last mile, taking her out of contention to win the race.
“I felt good for the first two miles,” Mazzi, who needed help after crossing the finish line, said. “Then my legs started to freeze up and I couldn’t stay with the leaders.”
In the girls’ Division 3 race, Millville had an impressive showing, finishing fifth in the competitive field. Leading the way for the Thunderbolts was Victoria Thayler, who finished fifth and Kaitlyn Derman, who came in ninth place.