Pat Hally won his second straight state title Saturday afternoon, but his day was incomplete until word was passed 20 minutes later that his Salesianum team had won the team title.
Unlike any of the Sals’ 39 championships over the past 45 years, this title wasn’t expected. Missing its third runner, Kyle Halloran, and running three who were junior varsity a week ago, Salesianum expected a spirited challenge from Newark, whom the Sals beat by one point.
Halley became the sixth Salesianum runner to win the Division I race twice, joining Olympian Vic Zwolak, Bill Nagle, Tim Talley, Tom Higley Jr. and Eric Eckstrand.
He was backed by two sons of state champions who ran career bests. Thomas Higley III finished eighth, and Merrick Blow, whose mother Shelley Smith was the first girls state champion at Caesar Rodney in 1981, finished 11th.
Newark, seeking its first state championship since 1971, placed five runners in the top 15. In most years, Jarod Wilson (fourth), Christopher Kitson (seventh), Andrew Milham (10th), Brandon Holveck (14th) and Daniel Mwaniki (15th) would have won.
In a tight meet, the fourth and fifth runners can be most important. Mwaniki caught the Sals’ Tim Bouchard on the stretch in a duel of fifths, while Salesianum’s Jacob Ward nipped Holveck, the Yellowjackets’ fourth man.
“I knew it was going to be so tight, with Newark and Charter strong,” Hally said. “I couldn’t go down the last year without being state team champion. That means more to me than individual any day.”
Fresh from a defining victory last week in the New Castle County meet, Hally exploded after the first mile at Killens Pond.
“When we hit a hill a mile in, I just had to let him go,” said Charter junior Kieran Tuntivate, who finished second, followed by sophomore teammate Kevin Murray.
Hally, who ran the course 13 times in the last three weeks, had it mapped like his backyard. “You have to find the place where it’s packed down sand or grassy. If you run on the loose sand you’ll lose five seconds,” he said.
Austin MacElrevey of Cape Henlopen (fifth) was the day’s fastest downstate boy. Sam Phillips (sixth) led fourth-place Caesar Rodney. Darian Sorouri finished ninth for third-place Charter.