Randolph is the All Daily Record Girls Cross Country Team of the Year

Randolph is the All Daily Record Girls Cross Country Team of the Year

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Randolph is the All Daily Record Girls Cross Country Team of the Year

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When he was putting together plans for the 2013 cross country season, veteran Randolph head coach Len Pietrewicz knew he had the makings of something truly special.

“Potentially, we had the best team in the state,” Pietrewicz said.

Those expectations were elevated when the Rams went out and blistered the home course at the Randolph Invitational to start the season.

“After the Randolph Invitational, I didn’t think anyone could beat us,” Pietrewicz said. “That’s how good we were.”

That was September.

Things dramatically changed later that month, when the Rams had to endure two major injuries. Senior Liz Wellman fell during the Passaic County Coaches Invitational at Garret Mountain and suffered a concussion.

“I never had a runner have a concussion in 37 years in three sports,” Pietrewicz said. “Never.”

Junior Carole Harsch severely sprained an ankle. Twice.

“We had to deal with adversity,” Pietrewicz said. “We didn’t know when Wellman was coming back. We didn’t know about Harsch. You never see someone sprain the same ankle twice. They were question marks. Sure, we knew they would be back. But how good would they be after missing time? It was a crucial thing.”

So as October arrived, the Rams were in a state of flux.

“We knew what we had,” Pietrewicz said. “We just didn’t know when we would have it.”

Throughout the month of October, Pietrewicz had to wait to let both Wellman and Harsch heal.

In the meantime, junior Liz Lansing, running cross country for the first time, emerged as an elite runner, one of the best in the state.

“We knew she could run cross country,” Pietrewicz said. “She ran well as an eighth grader. Our point was to not have her run too fast too soon. But she was the key to our development all year. She was the lead runner and did what she had to do.”

Fellow junior Margaret Thomson was a consistent force.

“She kept coming and coming all year,” Pietrewicz said. “We just had to convince her that she could be that good, that she belonged there. She had so much self doubt. (Assistant coach) Kevin (Higgins) worked with her on that. I think the belief she had in herself had a lot to do with her impact.”

With Lansing and Thomson leading the way and bridging the gap, the Rams were fortunate to get both Wellman and Harsch back in time for the championship run.

Sure enough, the Rams won the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference larger schools title and the Morris County title. They won the NJSIAA North 1 Group IV sectional championship, finished second overall in Group IV, but then pulled off what was anticipated back in August, winning the overall Meet of Champions team crown as the No. 1 team in the state.

“That’s the No. 1 achievement in 37 years,” Pietrewicz said. “We came so close in 2009. So this was a great season.”

And for their efforts, Randolph has been selected as the All Daily Record Girls Cross Country Team of the Year for 2013.

“It’s amazing how it all worked out,” Pietrewicz said. “It’s a crazy thing, even the last meet. We were disappointed by the group meet (finishing second), but we went in wounded. But in the end, we won it.”

Pietrewicz gave credit to Higgins for his assistance.

“His input was invaluable,” Pietrewicz said.

But after nearly four decades, Pietrewicz finally had his crowning moment.

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