The tradition continues.
The Southern Regional High School boys cross country team won the Ocean County Championships for the fourth straight time at Ocean County Park on Thursday.
The Rams scored 51 points.
“We pack up,” said Southern senior David Marino, 13th in 16:36. “We don’t have a superstud like some other teams. We run as a tight group. We don’t lose points by having big gaps with people between us. We keep it tight.”
Four other Rams joined Marino in the top 16. Senior Nick Nocco was seventh in 16:28. Junior Sean Howley was eighth in 16:29. Senior Cody Raynor was ninth in 16:32. Senior Mike Evans was 16th in 16:40.
“We tried to win it,” Marino said. “We planned on winning it. This win is part of our tradition. We have great team spirit. We have a goal. We work hard for it day in and day out. We know what we have to do and a lot of times we succeed at doing it.”
Nocco said coach Scott Baker plays a large part in the Rams’ success.
“He runs with us in the morning and after school,” he said. “It’s nice. He feels the pain we feel. He’s there for us the whole time in everything we do. He makes sure we get everything done.”
Toms River South senior Kyle Kroon won the individual title in 15:37. He took the lead one mile into the 3.1-mile race.
“I felt fine,” he said. “I was running to win and that’s what I did. I’m more into the team thing. We took second, which is awesome. I went into the race knowing I should win. I went in with a lot of confidence. I trained well. I told myself, ‘As long as you push yourself, nothing can go wrong.’ “
Kroon finished second last season.
“I probably should have won it last year,” he said. “This was my last chance for it. It’s nice to win the county race.”
Kroon said he enjoys competing at Ocean County Park where it was 73 degrees.
“I love the course,” he said. “People don’t realize it has soft sand. The terrain is uneven. That can take a lot out of you. It’s my home course. I feel confident on it.”
Jackson Memorial captured the girls team title with 69 points. The Jaguars placed five runners among the top 23.
Senior Alivia Carlton was fifth in 18:36. Freshman Cassandra Collimore was ninth in 18:48. Sophomore Caitlin O’Brien was 15th in 19:20. Senior Ariana Nash was 17th in 19:33. Freshman Kaley Wilson was 23rd in 19:48. Senior Gina Marino placed 33rd in 20:35. Sophomore Cassidy Johnson was 64th in 22:52.
“We put seven healthy girls on the line,” Jackson coach Glenda Calabro said, “and we got to see what it’s like to win a big race. We were all business today. We had an idea we would win if everything went right.”
Pinelands Regional junior Lauren Zodl won the girls individual crown in 18:03. Lacey senior Danielle Leavitt, who won the race the last two years, was second in 18:19. Zodl went ahead for good a little more than two miles into the race.
“We were neck and neck for awhile,” said Zodl, a 5-foot, 75-pounder. “I went for it once I got to the lake. Danielle is such a good runner. I felt pretty good physically. I was excited for this race. This is a great race. There is lots of competition. It’s an honor to win this. I am surprised I was able to pull away.”
Seconds after Zodl’s win, Pinelands coach Jason Capelli told his speedster, “You earned it.”
“I just went for it,” Zodl said. “I decided to go for it. I am overwhelmed with happiness. I did not expect to win it.”
Zodl also enjoys racing at Ocean County Park.
“I like this course,” she said, “but I wish it had a few more woods. The woods are what I like about running cross country.”