MORRIS PLAINS It’s hard to believe that Bernards High School’s Stuart Gruters is only a sophomore, but again on Saturday morning he showcased the maturity and control that puts him in a league with elite runners.
Gruters placed second in the boys Varsity B race in 17 minutes 17 seconds at the Stewart Memorial Cross Country Invitational held in Greystone Park on Saturday.
“I felt confident the first lap and then it’s a really fast shoot down that first hill and I was still going on that initial adrenaline boost and then the back stretch, which is all mental, is the most painful part of the course in my opinion,” Gruters said. “You can see everything when you’re turning around so you can see everyone that’s behind you and I was just thinking they were going to catch me.”
Gruters’ strategy was to save some energy for the end of the race so he could pick up his pace and finish strong.
“The hills parts, that’s always where I tend to push harder,” Gruters said. “That’s always the main part where I start to pick up and then there are two really short steep hills and from there it’s the finish and that’s where I try to kill it. Anything I have left in my tank I just empty at that point.”
Greg Leddy of Immaculata placed sixth, clocking in at 17:25 while Richard Gruters (Stuart’s older brother) placed 12th, running the 5k course in 17:39.
Somerville placed fourth as a team with 104 points while Bernards held down the fifth spot with a score of 120.
St. Joseph senior Dylan Tyrell placed third in the Varsity A race with a time of 16:20. It looked like Tyrell would take the second spot, but in the last 100 feet before the finish line Ryan Martins from Watchung Hills turned on his jets and sprinted to put himself ahead coming in two seconds before Tyrell.
“I knew the kid from Millburn was a lot faster so I didn’t want to go after him because I’d die, so I tried to stick with second,” Tyrell said. “For most of the race I had (Martins) behind me but then there at the end he had the wheels and beat me.”
North Hunterdon’s Ray Sellaro and Nick Gristina took the fourth and 10th place spots respectively. Their team placed second overall in the Varsity A with 61 points, six points behind the first place team. St. Joseph occupied fourth.
Bridgewater-Raritan’s Paige Petty stole the top time in the girls Varsity B event running 19:12, 25 seconds better than Denise Grohn of Somerville who came in second.
“I was going to take the beginning out slow, but the pace was pretty fast so I think I went out like a 5:50 pace and then I was able to get a lead by the two mile point and hold it,” Petty said. “I was really just trying to hold my pace toward the end I didn’t pick it up until the very end.”
Somerville took first as a team in the girls Varsity B with 63-points, 18 points better than the second place team. Bernards came in third with 93 points.
In the final varsity event, Westfield placed third with 87 points in the Varsity A race.
“I told the girls that this would be setting the stage for sectionals because we didn’t face Millburn the last time we ran and they’re in our section, so they were the team we were keeping an eye on for today,” Westfield head coach Jen Buccino said. “They came here and did what they needed to do. They ran their best and improved their times from last week and we still have work to do.”
This is the second year that the Stewart Memorial Invitational has been held at Greystone. Every year prior it was ran in Elizabeth’s Warinanco Park.
“It’s still a relatively new course for us since they just switched but we’re getting better on it and we try to race here more frequently to try and get better on it,” Buccino said.
Staff Writer Alyssa Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org