Here is a scary thought: Voorhees High School girls cross country coach Justina Cassavell fields her most experienced team ever this fall.
The powerhouse program returns its top eight runners, including six seniors, most of whom have been varsity mainstays for four years.
“It’s nice having all these older kids,” Cassavell said. “It’s definitely easier because they really know what they’re doing.”
What they’re doing is zeroing in on the big prizes that eluded them last year. The Vikings finished second in Group II and fifth at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
“We had some moments of looking really good, but we didn’t put it together at the end,” Cassavell said. “I know that’s what they want to do.”
To help narrow the focus, Cassavell has altered Voorhees’ standard competition schedule. The only full-throttle invitationals will be the two-mile Cherokee Challenge and Lehigh’s Paul Short run, both in September.
Training-wise, the Vikings’ mileage topped out at a moderate 40 per week.
“We’re trying to low-key everything,” Cassavell said. “I’m kind of keeping the brakes on them.”
Competition for varsity spots should be intense. Seniors Nisa Cicitta, Brigid McGill, Shannon Carney, Kristen Erickson, Lauren Lynn and
Erin Seiffert were part of back-to-back state group winners in 2009 and 2010. Junior Clarissa Modde was the No. 2 runner last year, and junior
Claudia Cassavell was No. 7. Sophomores Meaghan Driscoll and
Erin McLaughlin are keeping pace with the pack.
On paper, defending state champ Rumson Fair-Haven and talent-laden Randolph look like the primary Garden State challengers.
“Someone told me we’re ranked 18th in the country—we’re not that, I’ll tell you right now,” Cassavell said. “But things look good. We have a lot of depth and all 10 put in a good summer.”
Others to watch
Hunterdon Central returns four of its top six after placing seventh at the 2011 Meet of Champions. Senior Kaitlyn Bedard leads the way with seniors Kristin Sorrentino and Kaitlyn Clarke and junior Gina Madorma back as well.
Ridge placed sixth in the Meet of Champions and brings back three contributors in sophomore Liz Newman, junior Sarah Spring and senior Chloe O’Malley.
Gill St. Bernard’s was the surprise winner of Non-Public B last fall and welcomes back four scorers in senior Emily Quinn, juniors Dana Klein and Alexandra Benoit and sophomore Madeline Quinn.
Bridgewater-Raritan is led by one of the top runners in the state in senior Marisa Ruskan, who is coming off a fourth-place Meet of Champions finish with a Holmdel Park time of 18:22.
Bernards will miss two-time state champ Dana Giordano, who is running at Dartmouth, but brings back runners two through four in seniors Katherine Gunson, Laura Quintana and Zoe Wojtech.
North Hunterdon returns its top three in juniors Cailyn Lavigne and Megan Sergison and sophomore Eve Glasergreen.