SKILLMAN, NJ – Runners from the Berkeley Heights PAL sports program and Columbia Middle School shined at the Middle School Cross Country Championships on Saturday, October 20 at Montgomery Upper Middle School in Skillman, NJ. Third through eight graders from New Jersey came out to have some fun and put their hard work to a test.

Nine-teen runners out of 39 individuals medaled from the Berkeley Heights PAL and seven team members from Columbia Middle School placed second out of 11 schools in the TEAM Championship event.

The grassy 3000 meter two loop course was flat and fast, perfect for spectators to enjoy from all angles.

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Starting off the day, the PAL had three medalists, in the third through fourth grade RISING STAR GIRLS 3K among the top 10. Rebecca Frank placed second in 13:10.74, Fiona Dougherty placed sixth in 14:38.60, and Maggie Quinn placed seventh in 15:12.73 out of 11 runners.

A strong showing continued in the fifth through sixth grade RISING STAR GIRLS 3K with three medalists in the top 10. The PAL runners swept the first three spots with Danya Spoor taking command from the start and never relinquished the lead. Her strong pace to the finish set a new course record as she finished with a time of 11:27.79. Ellie Robertson (Columbia MS) placed second in 11:45.78 and Gwen Mersereau placed third in 11:55.83 out of 47 runners.

In the third through fourth grade RISING STAR BOYS 3K, the PAL had five medalist in the top 10. Nicholas Frank placed second in 11:33.37, Louis Abbey placed third in 11:44.39, Chris Yue placed sixth in 12:32.37, Joshua Kim paced 9th in 13:26.26 and Jack Melchiorre placed 10th in 14:00.17 out of 19 runners

The fifth through sixth grade RISING STAR boys 3K had three PAL medalists in the top ten. Andre Burkitt placed third in 11:27.23, Owen Silver place fourth in 11:38.45 and Simon Cruz placed seventh in 12:08.67 out of 53 runners.

The 7 - 8 GRADE XC CHAMPIONSHIP GIRLS 3K had two PAL medalists in the top 20 within the 102 contestants. Rookie standout, 7th grader, Samantha Richter of Columbia Middle School was up for the challenge in her very first cross country season and championship. Samantha went out fast with the lead pack and teammate Hannah Ocello right on her heel. As they navigated though the course challenging for top positions, Samantha crossed the finish line in a comfortable 6th placed in a very fast 11:35.75, a 6:13 per mile pace. Hannah came in right behind her in 10th placed in 11:49.21. Both are looking to score big at the Jr. Olympics State XC Championships on November 4th.

The seventh through eighth GRADE XC CHAMPIONSHIP BOYS 3K had three PAL individual medalists in the top 20 among the 137 competitors and top two within eleven school Teams for the Team Championship. Each team is comprised of seven runners. Representing Columbia Middle School were Joe Frank, Patrick McGrath, Tom Hunt, Aidan Linde, Colin Ryan, Mac Chiefa and Christopher Kim.

The runners had Team Spirit as they proudly sported their school shirt. As the gun went off at the start, Columbia worked hard to stay with the leaders to give them the best chance at scoring points. Joe Frank was grinding away with the lead pack with Patrick McGrath, Tom Hunt and Aidan Linde trailing within seconds of each other in the first loop. Working hard to maintain contact were Colin Ryan, Mac Chiefa and Christopher Kim. As they rolled into the second loop of the course, the magic was coming together for Columbia MS team. The boys maintained a hard pace to the finish with Joe Frank placing seventh in 10:41.57, Patrick McGrath in 10:47.91, Tom Hunt in 13th in 10:55.62, Aiden Linde in 24th in 11:09.45, Colin Ryan in 45th in 11:37.72, Mac Chiefa in 78th in 12:18.70 and Chris Kim in 111th in 13:25.63. Columbia MS Team sealed a second place finish overall.

Coach Steve SanAntonio said, “What an awesome display of teamwork, energy, and battle level, I loved the way the team supported each other out there, it’s all about camaraderie when it comes to cross country.” He added, ”My coaching staff did a nice job preparing the team, as lots of personal best came from our runners. We have our eyes set on November XC championships and National in early December and this meet helps us fine tune our preparation. The team is not in top form yet, but, based on what I see, all the pieces are falling right into place for top performance when it counts.”

The BH PAL runners will be back in action on Nov. 4th at the Junior Olympics State Cross Country Championships in Deer Path Park in Flemington, NJ.

Full results:

OCT 20, 2018 NJ MIDDLE SCHOOL XC STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS​ - Montgomery Middle School​


GIRLS 3-4 GRADE (11 Runners) - Top 10 Medal

2.Rebecca Frank        13:10.74  7:04

6.Fiona Dougherty     14:38.60  7:51

7.Maggie Quinn         15:12.73  8:10


GIRLS 5-6 GRADE (47 Runners) - Top 10 Medal

1.Danya Spoor          11:27.79  6:09  (Meet Record)

2.Ellie Robertson     Columbia MS 11:45.78  6:19

3.Gwen Mersereau    11:55.83  6:24


BOYS 3-4 GRADE (19 Runners) - Top 10 Medal

 2.Nicholas Frank       11:33.37  6:12

 3.Louis Abbey          11:44.39  6:18

 6.Christopher Yue    12:32.37  6:44

 9.Joshua Kim            13:26.26  7:13

10.Jack Melchiorre     14:00.17  7:31


BOYS 5-6 GRADE (53 Runners) - Top 10 Medal

 3.Andrew Burkitt    11:27.23  6:09

 4.Owen Silver          11:38.45  6:15

 7.Simon Cruz           12:08.67  6:31



GIRLS 7-8 GRADE (102 Runners) - Top 20 Medal

 6.Samantha Richter (7th Grade)  Columbia MS,      11:35.75  6:13

10.Hannah Ocello (8th Grade)  New Providence MS      11:49.21  6:20 


BOYS 7-8 GRADE (137 Runners) - Top 20 Medal

7.Joseph Frank (8th Grade)        Columbia Ms,   10:41.57  5:44

9.Patrick Mcgrath (7th Grade)   Columbia Ms,   10:47.91  5:47

13.Thomas Hunt  (7th Grade)     Columbia Ms,   10:55.62  5:51




  1     THOMPSON MS       46

  2     COLUMBIA MS      69

      4.Joseph Frank         Columbia Ms,  10:41.57*

      6.Patrick Mcgrath    Columbia Ms 10:47.91*

      9.Thomas Hunt        Columbia Ms 10:55.62*

     18.Aidan Linde         Columbia Ms, 11:09.45*

     32.Colin Ryan           Columbia Ms, 11:37.72*

     54.Michael Chiefa     Columbia Ms, 12:18.70

     72.Christopher Kim   Columbia Ms, 13:25.63


  4     COMMUNITY MS   112

  5     WILLIAM ANNIN MS    118

  7     BROOKSIDE    177


  9     PRINCETON ACADEMY    248


 11     ST. MATTHIAS   353

The BH PAL running program is a USATF certified club that serves hundreds of youth runners throughout the year. For more information contact Coach Steve SanAntonio at