Berkeley Heights PAL Runners Take Middle School Cross Country Championships Titles

(From Left to right) 2016 1500 meter Olympian Robbie Andrews congratulates Andrew Burkitt winner of the 3rd - 4th grade RISING STAR BOYS 3K. Tom Hunt winner of the 5th - 6th grade RISING STAR boys 3K Credits: Lisa Burkitt / Steve SanAntonio

SKILLMAN, NJ - The Berkeley Heights PAL WolfPack's took several titles at the Middle School Cross Country Championships. Twenty-two out of forty-three WolfPack's medaled on Saturday October 28th at Montgomery Upper Middle School in Skillman, NJ.

The day was perfect, cool and sunny. The 3000 meter two loop course was grassy, flat and fast. It was a great view for all spectators.

The WolfPack’s elementary and middle schoolers came out to shine. Starting off the day, the WolfPack's had three medalists, in the 3rd - 4th grade RISING STAR GIRLS 3K among the top 10 finishers. In the winner's circle were 5th place Sofia Romero of Berkeley Heights in 14:14.86, 6th place Isla Naik 14:18.58, and 8th place Spring Son 15:09.77 out of 13 contestants.

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A strong showing by the WolfPack’s continued in the 5th - 6th grade RISING STAR GIRLS 3K with five medalists. Mia Maselli of Mountainside took an early lead, but the strong pace going into the second loop took its toll. Peyton Lewis of Ethel Hoppock Middle School took over the lead going into the second loop with WolfPack veteran Gwen Mersereau of Watchung chasing. Mersereau who has been a runner-up in previous Junior Olympics state USATF track and cross country events used her experience as she went into overdrive in the last half mile and netted second place with an impressive time of 12:32.57. Mersereau teammate’s arrived shortly after with Sara Djibatche in 3rd place in 12:57.33, 4th place Ellie Robertson 13:00.11, 5th place Mia Maselli 13:10.71 and 8th place Makenzie Ameli 13:18.36. Honorable mention just outside the medals were 15th place Gillian Abbey 14:24.18 and 19th place Summer Son 15:02.16 among the 27 entrant. 

In the 3rd - 4th grade RISING STAR BOYS 3K, the WolfPack’s put on a parade, eight medaling in the top 10. Running phenom Andrew Burkitt of New Providence launched a blistering pace from the gun. He went unchallenged with a 33 second gap between himself and the other runners to take first place in a fast time of 11:35.84. Andrew's teammates closed fast with 2nd place by Nicholas Frank 12:08.25, 3rd place Louis Abbey 12:15.91, 5th place Carson Tan 13:25.47, 6th place Cameron SanAntonio 14:10.33, 7th place Jack Melchiorre 14:41.37, 9th place Tyler Weissman 15:41.13, and 10th place Tristan Ameli 15:47.85 among 15 contestants.

The 5th - 6th grade RISING STAR boys 3K had three WolfPack medalists in the top ten. The highly talented group of forty-two runners shot out like a cannon from the starting line. Rookie sensation Tommy Hunt of Columbia Middle School, ran like a man on fire, taking the lead and never looking back. His fierce pace was too much for the others as he went unmatched and led wire to wire with ease, taking first place by 24 seconds in a time of 10:52.14, a pace of 5:50 per mile. Tommy’s teammate soon after rolled in with 3rd place Nicholas Yarad 11:26.54 and 5th place William Frank 11:49.00. Honorable mention just outside the medals were 17th place Michael Chiefa 13:05.34, 20th place Aidan Ameli 13:34.18, 22nd place Cole Simon 13:45.03, 25th John Schmitz 14:07.22, 26th place Jack Kane 14:07.98, 31st place Oliver Chait 14:21.78, and 39th place CJ Reinl 16:31.93.

The highly touted 6 - 8 GRADE NJ MS XC CHAMPIONSHIP GIRLS 3K had one WolfPack medalist in the top 20 with 129 contestants. This division was heavily talented which included USATF state and regional champions as well as national class runners, Rookie standout, 7th grader, Hannah Ocello of New Providence Middle School was up for the challenge in her very first championship. She went out with the favored runners, Caroline Mehlhorn  8th grade of Montgomery Middle School and Camryn Wennersten 8th grade of Ridgewood Middle School. Mehlhorn and Wennersten dueled it out over the two loop course with Ocello in hot pursuit. It wasn’t until the last 100 meter homestretch that Mehlhorn took charge and surpassed Wennersten for an blazing finish of 10:34.37, a 5:40 per mile pace. Ocello placed 11th in an impressive time 11:41.90, a 6:16 per mile pace. Ocello’s future looks bright, as she is new to the sport and can make her mark in this event next year with her eye on the title. Ocello is now looking to score next weekend at the Jr. Olympics XC Championships in the girls 11-12 age division. Honorable mention just outside the medals were 31st place Lily Sieczka 12:31.52, 34th place Alexis Matthews 12:34.76, 43rd place Emma San Antonio  12:47.09, 66th place Bella Toth  13:25.01, 67th place Brooke Mersereau 13:26.73, 73rd place Sydney Shanahan 13:39.44 and 99th place Hannah Golub 14:27.92.

The 6 - 8 GRADE NJ MS XC CHAMPIONSHIP BOYS 3K had two WolfPack medalists in the top 20 with 157 competitors in the line-up which included USATF State champions looking for a Middle Schools Title.

Out of the starter’s gate, 8th grader Jeffrey Chen of Community Middle School took it out hard and fast with 8th grader Jackson Barna of William Annin Middle School right behind him. Chen led most of the way with WolfPack 8th grader Chris Marinko of Columbia Middle School and 7th grader Aidan Linde of Columbia Middle School pursuing the pack. The leaders were pushing a 5:22 per mile pace stringing out the followers. Marinko and Linde maintained a fast tempo as both were in personal best territory. Going into the last quarter mile, Barna took command finishing with a time of 10:01.88, five second ahead of Chen who finish 2nd in a time 10:06.46. Marinko ran a great race, finishing in 11th place, in a fantastic time of 10:31.26, a 5:38 per mile pace. Aidan Linde, whose main sport is lacrosse, and only participates in running events in the fall season was outstanding, placing 18th, in a time of 10:48.03, a 5:47 per mile pace. Honorable mention just outside the medals were 31st place Joseph Frank 11:07.87, 92nd place Kyle Savino 12:12.12, 94th place Matthew Genua 12:14.51, 120th place Jake Barbieri 12:57.49, 143rd place Christopher Kim 14:09.76. 

Coach Steve SanAntonio said, “What an awesome display of energy, compete and battle level, I am pleased with what I saw out there”. ”My coaching staff did a nice job preparing the team as lots of personal best came from our runners”. “We have our eyes set for the National in early December, and this championship event is part of the journey”. Coach SanAntonio said, “The team is not in peak shape yet, we still have another 5 weeks to go and all looks like is falling into place for top performance when it counts”.

The WolfPacks will be back in action on Nov. 5th at the Junior Olympics State Cross Country Championships in Deer Path Park, in Flemington, New Jersey.

Official Results Link:

The WofPack Track Club sponsored by the BH PAL is a USATF certified club that serves hundreds of youth runners throughout the year. For more information you can contact the club at or contact Coach Steve SanAntonio at

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