Southern Regional’s Braddock Snags Sixth in the State at Cross-Country Meet of Champions

By DAVID BIGGY | Nov 27, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Southern Regional junior Jackson Braddock heads for the finish line in sixth place during the NJSIAA Cross-Country Meet of Champions at Holmdel Park on Nov. 23.

Stafford Township — Heading into the NJSIAA Cross-Country Meet of Champions on Nov. 23, Jackson Braddock knew he had an outside chance to win the state championship. However, the Southern Regional junior doesn’t run at Holmdel Park often, and running its course two straight weeks isn’t an easy task.

“I never had to run this course two weeks in a row, so my legs were feeling it later in the race,” he said afterward. “I went as much as I could, but my legs were moderately more sore than last week.”

After staying near the frontrunners for the first two-thirds of Saturday’s finale, Braddock couldn’t maintain the high pace through the backwoods. He emerged from the woods, with about 500 meters to the finish, alongside Cherry Hill East senior Oliver Adler and simply didn’t have another gear as Adler strode ahead during the final 200.

Braddock finished sixth in the state, clocking a time of 15:50, about a second behind his Group IV-winning time from the previous week and 27 seconds behind winner Liam Murphy of Allentown.

“That’s not too bad. I’ll take it,” Braddock said. “I’m a bit upset I didn’t do better, but at the end of the day those guys ahead of me are studs, so I can’t be too upset. Everybody in front of me is very talented.”

While Murphy took first, Group II third-place finisher Kevin Antczak of Mainland finished as the state runner-up in 15:29, and Christian Brothers Academy’s Shaw Powell, whom Braddock defeated to win the Shore Conference title, grabbed third in 15:41, about a half-second ahead of Cherokee’s Ethan Wechsler, whom Braddock beat to win the Group IV crown. Adler came through the chute at 15:48.

Braddock’s sixth-place finish is the highest for a Southern male runner in the program’s history. Vinnie Zarrillo in 2000 placed 16th overall.

“It’s definitely significant,” Braddock said. “I’m happy to be able to say I took sixth in the state and, obviously, I can go up from here.”

At the outset, Braddock took a tight line to the left side of the course and was near the front of the 179-runner field into the first hill. He kept a solid pace through the first mile, around Holmdel’s famed “bowl” and into the second mile remained close enough to the leaders to have a shot at winning. Unfortunately, he started fading during the third mile.

“I was right where I wanted to be right after the bowl,” he said. “But between there and the last quarter-mile, as we started coming out of the woods, I lost some space and couldn’t get it back. My legs just wouldn’t go anymore.”

Southern coach Scott Baker noted an important fact after the race – all the guys who finished ahead of Braddock are seniors. Ridge sophomore Jackson Barna finished five seconds behind Braddock.

“I’m not at all disappointed,” he said. “For Jackson to be the top underclassman is awesome. He’s gifted, but he also puts in a lot of work. He’s an example to the rest of our guys that if you put in the work you’re going to get stronger and better.”

And to think the Southern junior could barely run at this time last year, after pinching a nerve in his back that sidelined him for months.

“His goal was to be here, and he made some sacrifices and focused on what he could to do keep going,” Baker said. “He kept using the stationary bike, even though he couldn’t run, and kept working. He’s only been running every day since September, so to be here in this meet and finish sixth is huge.”

Of course, Braddock’s already looking ahead toward next year.

“If I can stay healthy, that will be good,” he said. “I just don’t want to get second-place syndrome, try to overwork myself and get hurt again. But if I can get back to the line here next year, I should be OK. The goal now is to lower my time quite a bit and come here looking to win.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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