Sam Habib likes to think that when he sees a friendly face, it makes it a lot easier for him to navigate a cross country course.
On Saturday at Thompson Park’s Fall Classic, Habib got by with help from his friends in the boys Varsity A race as a pack of Old Bridge High School runners dominated the competition, placing four in the top five — with Habib finishing ahead of all rivals in a time of 16:25.
Habib’s teammates Nick Price, Ryan Colon, and Taylor Casserly finished second, fourth, and fifth respectively.
“When we do our runs we usually talk about how we’re going to race it,” Habib said. “We like to stay together. That’s our thing. We had five people finish under 17 minutes today. I’m really impressed with how we all did.”
With the Greater Middlesex Conference meet coming up here in two weeks, it appears as though Old Bridge is starting to hit stride.
“This is pretty much a pre-championship meet,” Old Bridge coach Rich Gebauer said. “This was a good tune-up for that. After today we hit championship season. They came to race and we just have to keep it going.”
Bishop Ahr junior Rachel Belmont nearly broke a school record in the girls Varsity B race when she finished second in 18:58 behind South Hunterdon freshman Kelly Shaffer.
“She did awesome,” Bishop Ahr coach Yancy Munoz said about Belmont’s performance. “She finished one second off of our school record. She wanted to get pushed and that’s what happened. We’re going to be back here in two weeks. She’s been training hard and she’s psyched.”
Belmont and Shaffer were neck-and-neck for most of the race before Shaffer pulled away in the final half mile.
“It’s honestly so surreal, I had no idea that I would go under 19 minutes today,” Belmont said. “I knew the girl from South Hunterdon would be nice competition. I was so happy to finally have that push that I’ve needed. It’s a great feeling.”
The Metuchen girls took home the team title in the girls Varsity B race as they had five runners place in the top 10. Senior Emma Johnson led the charge as she finished in fourth place with a time of 20:36. Teammates Courtney Marraro (sixth place, 20:48), Anna Lignell (seventh, 20:59), Kristina Lignell (eighth, 21:04) and Kristina Smiling (ninth, 21:07) rounded out the scoring as the Bulldogs posted a tidy 30 points.
In other local highlights, North Brunswick junior Jennifer Salvatore finished fourth in the girls Varsity A race with a time of 19:46.