CHATHAM, NJ - The Chatham boys cross-country team put together a surprise party on Tuesday when it won the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Large School Championship.

Cougar sophomore Ryan Beegle put himself among the most pleasantly surprised by the results when he saw that he topped his best time over the 5K course at Greystone by 22 seconds.

"I did not expect to do what I ended up doing," he said. "I definitely exceeded my own expectations. It was really the adrenaline of the championship itself that did it for me. We've been working together as a team and the captains have been pushing us. Coach has been pushing us for sure. We were ready to surprise people at this race."

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Beegle clocked 16:16 to place third among all runners in the 14-team field, boosting Chatham over Delbarton and to its first NJAC cross-country title since 2014.

Ryan Beegle is the Chatham Wealth Management Athlete of the Week.

"At the beginning of the year, I knew he was going to be in the top five on our team but I didn't know he was going to be No. 1," Chatham coach Patrick Barry said. "He's just improving constantly. He's such a smooth runner. I think there's lots of room for improvement.

"He doesn't waste energy with sloppiness in his form. He drives really well with his legs. He's still growing and learning what it's like to be a top runner. He'll set loftier goals, which means going after the two runners that beat him. It will drive him to be better."

The 15-year-old doesn't believe that his NJAC showing will put added pressure on him to continue as the No. 1 runner. He knows he had help in the NJAC race from his friends on the team, Sam Ellis (6th in 6:19) and Alex Krack (8th in 6:26).

"It's really a tossup, any of our three guys can win," Beegle said. "They were with me the whole race, pushing me. We all make each other better. I don't feel any pressure. We're all tight on this team. Everybody was just so happy for each other. We had no clue we were going to do that. We ran for each other and not for ourselves."

Beegle gave a hint that 2020 might be a good year for him when he celebrated the new year with a first-place finish in the 800 (2:09.26) at the Cliff Back Invitational held on Jan. 2, 2020. In the state indoor sectional tournament last winter, Beegle placed eighth in the 1600 in a personal-best time of 4:40.74.

In 2019, Beegle had excelled in a number of freshman races, winning the 3200 at the Roxbury Invitational, taking first at the Manhattan Invitational 4K race, and placing second in the New Balance Shore Coaches Invitational in the 3200. He also took first in the 3200 at the Morris County Frosh/Soph race.

Beegle started running at the age of 9 in the Chatham Recreation track & field program. When he ran cross-country last fall, he decided to give up playing basketball and baseball and concentrate on running.

"I did cross-country and I fell in love with the team and the guys and really started to enjoy the sport," he said. "My freshman year was great. We all did well.

"It was tough (missing the spring track season) because we thought we had another chance to win the sectionals. Winning the conference meet was one of our top goals. It's all working out as long as we keep going the way we are now." 

Editor's note: The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Chatham Wealth Management in recognition of the commitment a Chatham athlete has made to their sport, their school and their community.  For over twenty years, Chatham Wealth Management has been committed to putting our clients first by crafting customized investment solutions.  Call us at 973-635-4275 or email us at info@chathamwealth.com to discuss how we can help meet your financial goals.  To learn more about our products and team, visit us at www.chathamwealth.com