It was a day of firsts at the Greater Middlesex Conference cross country championships.
Trent Brinkofski became the first Bishop Ahr High School boy to win the county gold medal, breaking away from fellow senior Panth Patel of J.P. Stevens in the final mile to clock 16:08 on Thompson Park’s 3.1-mile course Saturday.
And South Brunswick, which has been so dominant in track and a factor on the trails for many years, finally won the boys team title, dethroning seven-time champion Old Bridge by a decisive margin of 56 points.
A total of 25 teams and 162 boys toed the starting line on a perfect fall morning. Brinkofski and Patel quickly separated themselves from the pack. When Patel surged on a downhill at two miles, “I took the momentum and created a little bit of a gap,” Brinkofski explained, “and after that I kept surging.”
He finished 10 seconds ahead of Patel, who crossed in 16:18. It was a poignant moment because in 2007, as a sixth-grader, he watched older brother Teddy finish second at this meet to Old Bridge’s Travis Mahoney.
“That kind of got me motivated to start running myself,” Trent Brinkofski said. “I’ve been thinking about this race for the past six years, since I saw my brother lose.”
More motivation came last fall when he finished a disappointing fifth.
“Of course the states and the Meet of Champions are important to me, but GMCs are the thing I’m most hungry about,” said Trent, whose older sister Angelica, a former GMC girls champion, was on hand to congratulate him afterward. “I was real excited coming into this race, so I had to focus and I ran confidently.”
After Brinkofski and Patel crossed the line, the race for the team title unfolded. It was South Brunswick all the way as junior Matthew Zamorski (third place, 16:20), junior Nicholas Neville (fifth, 16:22), junior Kyle McCann (eighth, 16:35), senior Shahzaib Safi (10th, 16:36) and senior Ryan Aug (12th, 16:46) compiled 38 points and a 16:31 average.
“We went out real strong and we stayed as a pack,” Neville said. “We were preparing the whole year for this day. We came out and showed that’s how you pack run and that’s how you win a GMC championship.”
It’s a blueprint Old Bridge used many times over the years, but this time the Knights finished second with 94 points. J.P. Stevens (130), Metuchen (170) and St. Joseph-Metuchen (185) rounded out the top five.
For South Brunswick, this was a continuation of the dominant spring track program, which ran the table and garnered the Group IV title.
“With track we’ve been number one for a while,” Zamorski said. “We said, ‘We’ve won with track, why can’t we win with cross country?’ Running is running.'”
Just to reinforce the point, the Vikings made a motivational stop at their school’s gym Friday. There hung banners displaying titles of all kind—all except one.
“We had division title, sectional titles, but we looked to the GMC and it’s empty,” Neville said. “It feels great that we’re the first (cross country) team in school history to put a GMC title on that banner.”
TEAM SCORES: 1. South Brunswick 38; 2. Old Bridge 94; 3. J.P. Stevens 130; 4. Metuchen 170; 5. St. Joseph-Metuchen 185; 6. Bishop Ahr 198; 7. East Brunswick 205; 8. South Plainfield 229; 9. Spotswood 241; 10. Sayreville 244; 11. Piscataway 261; 12. Monroe 351; 13. North Brunswick 365; 14. Woodbridge 371; 15. Dunellen 415; 16. Perth Amboy 447; 17. John F. Kennedy 510; 18. Edison 520; 19. Cardinal McCarrick 537; 20. Colonia 549; 21. Highland Park 578; 22. South River 613; 23. East Brunswick Tech 629; 24. South Amboy 672; 25. Middlesex 793.
TOP INDIVIDUALS: 1. Trent Brinkofski (Bishop Ahr) 16:08; 2. Panth Patel (J.P. Stevens) 16:18; 3. Matthew Zamorski (South Brunswick) 16:20; 4. James Hampsey (Metuchen) 16:22; 5. Nicholas Neville (South Brunswick) 16:22; 6. Brandon D’Souza (St. Joseph-Metuchen) 16:22; 7. Gerard D’Ambrosio (Old Bridge) 16:32; 8. Kyle McCann (South Brunswick) 16:35; 9. Shaun VanBuskirk (Old Bridge) 16:36; 10. Shahzaib Safi (South Brunswick) 16:36; 11. Evan Pron (Monroe) 16:40; 12. Ryan Aug (South Brunswick) 16:46; 13. Jason Rivera (Perth Amboy) 16:50; 14. Core Caplan (Metuchen) 16:51; 15. Alec Trapani (South Brunswick) 16:52; 16. Adam Butrico (South Plainfield) 16:54; 17. Ryan Moran (Sayreville) 16:55; 18. James Poandl (Metuchen) 16:55; 19. Tyler Sanders (South Brunswick) 16:56; 20. Daniel Galarza (J.P. Stevens) 16:56; 21. Brandon Young (East Brunswick) 16:57; 22. Danny Buccino (Dunellen) 16:57; 23. Mina Zakhary (Old Bridge) 17:03; 24. Billy Foster (Bishop Ahr) 17:09; 25. Ryan McCue (South Plainfield) 17:09.