WOODLAND PARK, NJ — Philmon Mehari of Livingston was the winner of the Section 1, Group 4 cross-country championship last weekend with a time of 16:18.

Mehari will compete in the State Group 4 Championships this Saturday, Nov. 16 at Holmdel Park. A good finish there will enable Mehari to qualify for the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.

Mehari was coming off a win at the Essex County Championships and realized the sectional meet could potentially  be the last cross-country race of his career.

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"Or one of his best," said Livingston cross-country coach Dave Czeizinger.

In 2018, the senior captain finished the race strong, earning third place overall. Mehari entered this race as one of the favorites.  

"Mehari vowed things would be different this time, planning to utilize a different race strategy for this competition," Czeizinger said. "He went out fast, leading the top-five pack going into the woods. He waited patiently to make a move until the half-mile marker in the race, where he threw in a surge to see if the others would follow. They hesitated, and he was able to create a small  gap ahead of the other four and passed the mile marker in about 4:55."

The coach, who called the second mile a challenge for most runners to maintain mental and physical focus, said that Mehari "relied on his experience and race plan at this juncture and was able  to remain focused and determined to not slow his pace on the loop around the lake. He instead held and added to his lead."

Mehari ran his race plan successfully and earned the win by crossing the finish line in 16:18, 12 seconds ahead of second place. Mehari once again had achieved MileSplits' Elite Performance First Team Gold level. This also earned him a spot among a field packed with experienced and talented runners in the Group 4 State Championship race this weekend at Holmdel.