In a race of unconventional tactics and an electrifying finish, Charter of Wilmington’s Kieran Tuntivate won his second straight Blue Hen Conference title, but Newark repeated as the league’s cross country champion by bunching five runners among the top nine at its home course Friday afternoon.
Tuntivate blazed past teammate Kevin Murray, erasing a 20-yard deficit in the stretch at White Clay Creek State Park after both Charter leaders set a slow pace throughout the first 2 miles, hoping to bring their teammates with them.
Newark’s Jarod Wilson thwarted that strategy, pushing the Charter duo to hasten their pace. Runners seem to do better with their teammates nearby. By stringing out the pack, Wilson helped Newark’s tight unit outrun the competition.
Christopher Kitson (fifth), Brandon Holveck (sixth), Andrew Milham (seventh) and Daniel Mwaniki (ninth) all beat Charter’s third runner to give Newark a 12-point winning margin. Last year, the Yellowjackets won by one point.
“We knew every spot was going to count in this race, so we wanted to keep the pack together,” Wilson said. “I’m hoping that if I take it out fast, the others will follow suit. Hopefully, if I could take it out fast, they’ll take it with me.”
After a slow start, due to a bruise incurred off the track, Tuntivate is fully realizing the potential he has shown since his freshman year. The junior’s kick has made him a threat on any type of course.
“We were nervous,” said Holveck, who missed Newark’s dual-meet loss to Charter two weeks ago. “We weren’t fearful, but we knew Charter would bring it.”
After losing its top two runners to graduation, Newark ran regularly throughout the summer.
“Our top five came in with a lot of miles. That helped us get ahead of the game. It allowed us to get faster as the season progressed, more than last year,” Milham said. “We have a group of guys who wanted to win. We want to beat each other, but it’s a friendly competition.”
Just five years ago, the Yellowjackets were ninth in the league. But coach Mike Mooney has turned Newark into a consistent contender.
“Charter, these past couple of years, has been a friendly rivalry. Football and basketball are heated rivalries where people hate each other. That’s not cross country,” Milham said. “We love Charter. We respect everything Charter does. We want the best for them, as they do for us.”
Murray, who has become an all-state contender as a sophomore, finished 14th.