Courtney Thompson claimed she had never won a race at any level of cross country or track and field. The St. John Vianney junior certainly picked a fine time to finally get her first win.
At the Monmouth County Championships on Tuesday afternoon, Thompson and Holmdel senior Lennon Cooper emerged from the Holmdel Park backwoods shoulder-to-shoulder. Thompson gained a little separation with about 50 meters to go, charged to the line and held off Cooper for the win in 18:56 on the vaunted state championship course.
The winning time is a monster Holmdel Park personal best for Thompson, who ran 19:10.93 at the Class A Central divisional meet back on Oct. 2. As a sophomore, Thompson could only manage a 19:44 at Holmdel.
Cooper was second in 18:57, while Thompson’s classmate, Tara Connelly, was third in 19:08. Connelly is generally the Lancers’ No. 1 runner, but the roles were reversed on Tuesday.
“She has beaten me since seventh grade, we’ve been neck-and-neck,” Thompson said. “We had a hard week of training, I felt really good and we just pushed each other. I felt really good coming out of the last mile and I really pushed it.”
NJSIAA Meet of Champions contender Red Bank Catholic registered a 6-11-13-20-25 for 75 points to take the team title. Holmdel took second with 94 points, while 2011 MOC winner Rumson-Fair Haven, which did run its full varsity, was third with 99 points.
LIke the girls race, the boys race also came down to an all-out sprint coming out of the backwoods with Freehold Township junior Dylan Tarpey outlasting Middletown North junior Tom O’Neill and RBC senior Rob Napolitano for the win in 16:14.
O’Neill stayed up for second place, tenths of a second ahead of Napolitano as both were credited with running 16:15.
The three runners were together for the entirety of the race with none of them really willing to make a serious move. Tarpey was the first to try and take control just out of the backwoods with the finish in view. At first, he thought he had taken off too early and would get caught by the strong kicks of O’Neill and Napolitano, but he held on late.
“I knew as I came out that if I was going to have a shot, I had to go then,” the 4:12-miler said of his thought process coming out of the backwoods. “I figured if I went by myself (earlier), I would die because I haven’t run much. Everyone else ran Shore Coaches (on Oct. 6). I really haven’t done anything, so I wasn’t that confident that I could hold a fast pace.”
Coming off a huge win at the Manhattan Invitational on Saturday, Christian Brothers Academy rested regulars Jack Boyle and Billy Bragg, but still managed to score just 46 points for the team title. The Colts, which featured all sophomores and juniors, was led by sophomore Josh Kruppa, who ran 16:22 to finish fourth.
Holmdel was second with 69 points, while Colts Neck was a distant third with 164.