HOLMDEL – The Blaise is back.
Slowed earlier this fall by aching shins and running just his second cross country race of the fall season, Christian Brothers Academy senior Blaise Ferro blazed a quick trail to the top of the podium at the NJSIAA Non-Public A Championships Saturday at Holmdel Park.
With a decisive win on Holmdel’s classic five-kilometer (3.1-mile) course, Ferro was clocked in 15 minutes, 49 seconds, and that time stood up as third best of the day over the long program that brought together nearly 900 of the state’s best young distancemen.
All this was pretty heady stuff for Ferro, considering how limited his racing has been this fall.
“I didn’t break it open until that last hill coming out of the woods, maybe 250 or 300 meters to go,” said Ferro, one of the nation’s top returning middle distancemen.
“I could tell that he (eventual runner-up David Rosas of Don Bosco Prep), by his form he wasn’t going to be handle it. So I brought it in hard.”
Only Matt Grossman of Millburn (15:32) and Aaron Groff of Cherry Hill East (15:37), the 1-2 finishers in the Group IV race, were speedier for the day and Ferro, who has narrowed his college choices to Northern Arizona or Iona College, will get his chance to take them on next Saturday at the Meet of Champions.
But one thing Ferro couldn’t do was put his 27-time State Champion CBA team on top again..
Don Bosco Prep surged ahead by snaring the 2-3-4 spots back of Ferro and won the team crown by a slim 33-35 margin. CBA’s fifth runner crossed the line four places in front of Bosco’s fifth man, but the Ramsey team still won it with its better scoring up front — and thus ended CBA’s five-year Non-Public A winning streak.
Then again, the CBA-Bosco battle was even tighter last year, when the Lincroft team and Bosco were locked in identical scores after their fifth men had finished. CBA eventually won it with its sixth man ahead of Bosco’s sixth.
Bosco’s five-man team total time of 1:22:30 also held up as the day’s best, with Group IV champion Old Bridge second best at 1:22:41 and CBA ranked third at 1:22:41.
Shore Conference champion J.P. Flavin of Toms River North clocked 16:18 running eighth in Group IV with the Shore’s second quickest time. “I never felt that great,” he said. “My legs never felt fresh. I know I’ll do better next week.”
Colts Neck was the only other Shore boys team to make it automatically to the Meet of Champions (top two teams in each of the six groups advanced, along with wild-card qualifiers).
Indian Hills was a runaway team winner in Group III with Colts Neck a distant second at 114, trailed by Middletown North (third at 142) and Middletown South (fourth at 193) with Ocean Township (265) ninth.
Jordan Brannan (second in 16:25) led Colts Neck, while Ocean’s Elliot Gindi (16:46), the Monmouth County champion ran sixth (16:46) after struggling with a chest virus all week.
“The plan for our team was to run each mile faster than the one before,” said Brannan. “So, by the last one, I was really cranking. At the mile, I must have been 20th place, but I moved up to second by two miles. But the leader (Joshiua Ckark of Highland Regional) just blew me away at the end.”
Further back in Group III team scoring, were Toms River South 17th and Toms River East 20th. and in Group IV Southern Regional ran 13th and Jackson Memorial 14th.
Other team champions: Metuchen over Walkill Valley in Group I, 112-113, the day’s closest race, with Shore Regional 14th; Voorhees (46) in Group II, with Holmdel seventh, Point Pleasant Boro eighth, Manasquan ninth, Manchester 13th and Rumson-Fair Haven 14th; and Newark Academy (70) in Non-Public B, with Mater Dei Prep fifth; St. Rose sixth and Ranney School 16th.