ELIZABETH – Heading into the 78th Union County Championships, both the Union Catholic girls and Westfield boys cross country teams were favored to walk away as champions, and neither team disappointed.
Amari Onque-Shabazz and Asia Johnson came in second and third, respectively, as defending champion Union Catholic edged Westfield 36-70. Onque-Shabazz finished in 19:01, which was a personal best.
“It felt really good. Cross country has been hard the past two years, but to come out here and finally do good just really got my confidence up,” Onque-Shabazz said.
Johnson finished in 19:28, which was 10 seconds faster than what she ran last week at the Union County Conference meet, and the Vikings also placed in fifth, 11th, 17th, 33rd and 41st and averaged 19:51.20.
“It feels great, two years in a row,” Johnson said of winning the title. “It’s keeping the legend going.”
Jerika Lufrano, Tressa Novack, Megan McCabe, Caroline Sullivan and Emma Palacio all placed for Union Catholic.
Westfield, which had three runners place in the top 10, regained the title after falling to Summit last year after winning five straight championships. The Blue Devils averaged 17:01.20 and defeated Union Catholic 48-89.
Jacob Triarsi and Matthew Meusel finished in sixth and seventh place to pace Westfield. Triarsi finished in 16:46 and Meusel in 16:55. Alexander Hall (10th), Ryan Siegel (12th), Alex Campbell (15th), Aditya Singh (16th) and Nicholas Antonelli (25th) all placed for the Blue Devils.
“Just run together and finish together — we’ve been training hard all season; we knew we could win. We were confident in our ability, and we wanted to keep that pack mentality and win the race,” Campbell said. “We’re pretty proud. I’ve been on the team four years, and I’ve been looking forward to this every year. We didn’t get it last year, so it felt really good to really come through this year and win the race.”
Individually, Jillian Turner and Jordan Price of New Providence won their respective races. Turner finished in 18:50 to win the girls title, while Price took first in 16:15 for the boys title.
“I definitely wanted to run hard, I wanted to win, so my coaches told me to try and stick with the pack the first mile then make a move and go ahead, so that’s what I tried to do,” Turner said. “It’s good, definitely good. I got third last year, so going into this race I wanted to try and win it my senior year.”
The Pioneers finished in third in the girls race with a score of 70 and an average time of 20:13, while the boys team placed fifth with an average of 17:43.
“We were going for first — we knew it was kind of a long shot — but we’re happy with third,” Turner said. “We’re a small school, we did really well for counties, so we’re all happy with how we ran.”
Boys Top 10
1. Jordan Price (New Providence) 16:15; 2. Chris Heckelman (Summit) 16:18; 3. Jonathan Mobisa (Union) 16:39; 4. Brendan McCabe (Union Catholic) 16:41; 5. Jacob Triarsi (Westfield) 16:46; 6. Matthew Meusel (Westfield) 16:55; 7. Lukas Stein (Scotch Plains-Fanwood) 16:55; 8. Corey McGhie (Rahway) 16:57; 9. Mark Pasquariello (New Providence) 16:58; 10. Alexander Hall (Westfield) 17:01.
1. Westfield 48; 2. Union Catholic 89; 3. Summit 92; 4. Oratory Prep 153; 5. New Providence 159; 6. Scotch Plains-Fanwood 181; 7. Cranford 184; 8. Governor Livingston 205; 9. Rahway 226; 10. Union 233; 11. Elizabeth 272; 12. Roselle Catholic 301; 13. Koinonia Academy 381; 14. Dayton 424; 15. A.L. Johnson 438; 16. Linden 440.
Girls Top 10
1. Jillian Turner (New Providence) 18:50; 2. Amari Onque-Shabazz (Union Catholic) 19:01; 3. Asia Johnson (Union Catholic) 19:28; 4. Lauren Diaz (Summit) 19:45; 5. Jerika Lufrano (Union Catholic) 19:49; 6. Maddy Bord (Scotch Plains-Fanwood) 19:56; 7. Megan Friscia (New Providence) 19:58; 8. Allison Curley (Summit) 19:59; 9. Kaitlyn McTernan (Union) 20:04; 10. Kelsey Turner (New Providence) 20:13.
1. Union Catholic 36; 2. Westfield 70; 3. New Providence 70; 4. Summit 74; 5. Governor Livingston 126; 6. Cranford 128; 7. Scotch Plains-Fanwood 191; 8. Oak Knoll 257; 9. Dayton 272; 10. Benedictine Academy 316.
Staff Writer Lauren Knego: firstname.lastname@example.org