Braddock Leads Cross-Country Field as Southern Boys and Girls Capture County Titles

By David Biggy | Oct 23, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Southern's Jackson Braddock heads for the finish line in first place during the Ocean County Cross-Country Championships on Oct. 17.

Stafford Township — Going into last year’s Ocean County Cross-Country Championships, Southern Regional runner Jackson Braddock wasn’t 100 percent healthy. In fact, he probably wasn’t even 75 percent, and even though he trudged through the varsity race, it was evident the best option might have been not to even run it.

“I was sick and hurt, and I just didn’t feel good,” said Braddock, who led the Rams to the top spot in the standings with 53 points on Oct. 17, easily cruising past second-place Jackson Memorial for the team title. “Last year, I was trying to rush back into the lineup and I wasn’t ready, so I got hurt again. I learned from that mistake. Today, I’m healthy and everything felt right.”

Not only did he feel right, the junior looked awesome as he ran away from the field during the second mile and ended up crossing the line in 15 minutes, 40 seconds for the individual county crown.

“I just wanted to get out there and go for the win,” he said. “I wanted to take it out a little easy for the first mile, but the plan was that if anybody stayed with me, to drop them on the second mile. I didn’t want the race to be close. I wanted to make sure I scored the points for the team.”

Through the first mile, Point Pleasant Beach’s Rob Hannon and Brick Memorial’s Rob Mullin were close enough to Braddock that he had to put his plan into effect. As he approached the midway point of the 3.1-mile race at Ocean County Park in Lakewood, Braddock had a 40-yard lead on Mullin and cruised from there. By the time he reached the second stretch along the pond, he was out in front by some 70 yards.

“That was the cushion I wanted going into the last mile,” he said. “Then I just stepped on the gas. I definitely pushed the pace toward the back of the second mile. I really wanted to do well for the team today, and it’s awesome we won because that was the goal, to get back to the top this year.”

Mullin ended up second and Hannon was third, with Southern teammate Tim Sincavage not far behind Hannon in fourth, finishing in 16:13. Nick Guzewicz finished third for the Rams and 11th overall in 16:39, while senior Nick Lemley came through the chute in 17th overall at 16:49 and senior Jayant Jani completed Southern’s title run by finishing 20th overall in 16:58.

Next up for the Rams is the Shore Conference Championships, and Braddock expects to start clocking peak times against the best in the conference.

“I don’t think I’ve hit my best for the season,” he said. “I’m hoping to break 15 minutes in the conference meet. I want to be there with the top guys because that will give me a taste of what’s coming later with the state meets.”

Prior to the boys’ race, the Southern girls looked every bit ready for the upcoming conference and state meets, easily capturing their third straight county title with 50 points.

“We wanted to stay together and stick to the plan,” said senior Jaelyn D’Amelio, who was the second Ram across the line, in 19:41. “We know who we can keep up with and who we can’t, so we stayed toward the back of the front group, and around the 2-mile mark we started opening it up on everybody behind us.”

With sophomore Rachel Short leading the way, she and three of her teammates – D’Amelio, freshman Mia Mastrogiovanni and senior Emily Furlong – stayed close together during the first 2 miles, even as Point Pleasant Borough’s Molly Kate Sabia and Sarah Kimak ran away from the field early and cruised to the top two spots.

With Toms River South’s Lily Oliver and Toms River North’s Meagan Mahon pulling them along, Southern’s core four remained tight with Point Borough’s Kiera Munyan but stayed ahead of a group that included two girls each from Brick and Brick Memorial.

“We run like a pack, and we just go after the runners we can get and everything works out,” said Short, who crossed the line in 19:37. “I knew where Jaelyn, Mia and Emily were because I could hear the coaches in the background talking to them, so I had a general idea we were sticking to the plan. We’re better when we’re running together.”

Into the last quarter-mile, Southern’s four-girl train followed Munyan to the finish line. Short took sixth, with D’Amelio in seventh, Mastrogiovanni in eighth at 19:44 and Furlong in ninth at 19:50. Meanwhile, freshman Isabella Wyckoff sealed the team title by passing Manchester’s Anna Umlauf soon after the 2-mile mark and zipped by Toms River East’s Shannon Stakelbeck during the final 100 meters to take 20th in 20:26.

While her points were calculated into the total, sophomore Olivia Horton placed 25th in 20:51, just ahead of Point Borough’s fourth runner, and sophomore Allison Martinez took 30th in 21:11, two spots ahead of Point’s fifth runner.

“Winning this meet was one of our goals, so we can check that off the list,” D’Amelio said. “We’re really aiming to make the Meet of Champions, but we’re taking things one step at a time. But we’ve been looking really strong in practice, so we’re confident we can go far.”

As for the other local squads, Pinelands junior Mart Villanueva placed 10th in 16:38 during the boys’ race, while Pinelands senior Jolie Zaccaria finished in 23rd overall during the girls’ race, crossing the line in 20:48, two seconds ahead of Barnegat’s top finisher, sophomore Bianca Savoy.

— David Biggy

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