Memorable efforts at Ocean County Park

Memorable efforts at Ocean County Park

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Memorable efforts at Ocean County Park

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LAKEWOOD

The mostly flat 3.1-mile cross country layout at Ocean County Park does not have the history or prestige of the legendary state championship course at Holmdel Park, but OCP has still had its fair share of standout efforts through the years.

At Thursday’s Shore Conference Championships, Ocean County Park got a few more memorable moments to call its own thanks to two monster individual runs and the continuation of one boys team’s season for the ages.

Senior Tom O’Neill became the first Middletown North runner to win a Shore Conference title since at least 1980 with a time of 15:03.86, Lacey junior Danielle Leavitt defended her Shore Conference title in 17:53.07 and Christian Brothers Academy, ranked a consensus No. 1 in the country, obliterated the OCP course record it set last year by 18 seconds to highlight the action on Thursday.

In the boys race, a deeply talented pack of 10 runners led by O’Neill and CBA senior Jack Boyle held steady through two miles. With one mile to go, O’Neill took off, not wanting to let it come down to the final stretch and an all-out kick to the line.

O’Neill, in control at the start of that third mile, then held off the charging Boyle at the line for the win. O’Neill’s winning time is No. 2 all-time at OCP.

“I started to push the last mile because I didn’t want to start going the last 600 (meters) because a lot of those guys have a good kick,” O’Neill said. “I’m better with pushing from a longer distance. I just felt pretty excited to beat them and I felt pretty good.”

O’Neill’s win came on a day when CBA, the reigning Nike Cross Nationals winner, dropped the hammer with its full varsity squad running. Led by Boyle’s second-place finish in 15:04.45, the Colts finished 2-4-6-7-8 for just 27 points with a 1-5 spread of less than seven seconds. All of that wound up being an OCP team-average record of 15:08.67.

The 15:08.67 is believed to be the second-fastest team average run anywhere in history. Only Oregon’s South Eugene High School is believed to have gone faster back in 1978.

The course record is CBA’s fourth of the season, as it had previously broken records at the Bowdoin Park Classic, the Great American Cross Country Festival and the Manhattan Invitational. Manhattan was run at the celebrated 2.5-mile course at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

The battle for second was won handily by Holmdel, which finished with 96 points. Class A North public division champion Freehold Township, whose only dual meet loss this fall was to CBA, was third with 126 points.

On the girls side, Leavitt had admittedly spent several weeks trying to figure what type of race strategy worked for her. This month, a tough loss at the Shore Coaches Invitational was followed by a win at Ocean County, in which she led wire-to-wire. Thursday’s Shore Conference race was by far her best effort of the fall as she won in 17:53.07.

Thursday’s run was Leavitt’s second sub-18:00 run at OCP after she used a 17:37 to win Shore Conference a year ago. The 17:37 is No. 7 all-time on the course.

“The day after my race (Ocean County), I made a plan with my coach and I kept that plan in mind when I was training this week so when I came back here, I was better prepared and I had a better understanding of how I wanted to run the race,” Leavitt said. “No matter how much I wanted to go or how much I wanted to stay, I needed to follow the plan.”

Leavitt stayed with the lead pack through just under two miles before taking off and pushing the pace to the line for a 7-second win over Monmouth County champion Courtney Thompson. Thompson’s teammate, Tara Connelly, was third in 18:09.

Coming off an impressive team at Monmouth County, a young Red Bank Catholic squad continued to impress, going 8-13-16-30-31 for a comfortable win with 98 points. Eryn Mills led the way with an eighth-place finish in 18:21.04.

Toms River North was second with 111 points and Middletown South third with 150.

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