HOLMDEL, NJ -- The New Providence girls cross-country team claimed the Group 1 state title at the NJSIAA Group Championships on Saturday.
The Pioneers team score of 76 was two points better than second-place A.P. Schalick High School's score of 78.
Junior Clare Kelly finished third overall in then 5,000-meter run with a time of 20:14, which was 26 seconds off the winning time of 19:48. Freshman Hannah Ocello of New Providence ran the race in 21:23 to place 16th in Group 1.
"Clare Kelly took the race out hard, getting into the front group and turning the screws in the last mile to winnow down the contenders," said New Providence girls cross-country coach Alex Meyer. "Hannah Ocello raced like a champ, holding off a key Schalick runner in a drag race finish."
The rest of the field for the first-place Pioneers: Juliana LaPara, 21:48 (28); Sophia Pasquariello, 21:56 (31); Lauren House, 22:24 (42); Kaitlyn Cumiskey, 22:38 (49); and Sabrina Boyle, 22:54 (58).
"Julianna LaPara laid it down from the gun, setting a fast pace for her teammates to follow," Meyer said. "Sophia Pasquariello recovered from a hard start to come back and beat out Schalick’s fourth runner for a critical four points. Lauren House had the race of her life, moving into the critical fifth scoring place and beating out her target runner for eight huge points, while Kaitlyn Cumiskey and Bree Boyle both displaced scoring runners from every team in the race to guarantee the win."
Meyer talked about the Group 1 championship being a true team effort.
"The girls knew it would be a close race with A.P. Schalick, the South Sectional champs, but after their win last week at Thompson Park, they had a lot of confidence. Holmdel is a tough course, and every athlete on the team attacked the race from the start," Meyer said. "One of the great things about this year’s girls team is everyone’s willingness to take charge whenever they feel strong, rather than defer to a preordained order, and this race was no different.
"When the team wins by just two points, it can only happen when every athlete pulls their weight. It was maybe the best team effort our girls team have ever had. Speaking for me and Coach (Corey) Arnold, they’ve been a joy to coach."