SOMERSET HILLS, NJ - When the cross-country season starts, Senior Richard Gruters and Sophomore Stuart Gruters will lead the Bernards Boys team. The older Gruters will serve as the boys team captain. Both brothers have a record of accomplishment as individual runners, but team goals motivate them as the fall season approaches.
The 2014-15 school year kicked off in September when Richard registered a sub-sixteen minute performance in cross-country meet in Ocean County Park. The year concluded in June when Stuart competed in the freshman 3200 meter run in the Nike Outdoor Nationals at North Carolina A & T University, with Richard serving as his coach. In between, the brothers participated in one big meet after another.
Richard and Stuart contributed crucial individual performances when the team won sectional championships in cross-country and spring track and field. As part of the BHS 3200 meter relay team, they competed in the New Balance Indoor Nationals, where they finished third, the NJSIAA indoor relay championships, where they finished second in the state, and the Penn Relays.
Like typical distance runners, their satisfaction with their performances has a short shelf life. Like typical BHS distance runners, they are team-oriented.
When interviewed by TAP, Richard Gruters said that out of all the big races over the past year, his favorite was the third place finish at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York. “It was a good team race. It was the culmination of all that we had worked for.”
Coming into the March 9, race, the team was seeded twenty-fifty in a field of twenty-six teams from ten states. The invitation to the national race was the culmination of two years of work. “We were just happy to be there and get the experience,” he said, “we were hoping to improve our time in preparation for the spring.”
The team, made up of Will Howes, Stuart Gruters, Richard Gruters and Quintin Petty made it clear in the first leg of the race that they were not going to settle for twenty-fifth. The boys from BHS ran a season best 8:01.72, which put them on the podium in third place. The time also clinched them a spot in the prestigious Penn Relays.
When the snow finally melted, both Stuart and Richard put up strong individual performances in outdoor track. In the regular season, BHS won a division championship. During the championship season, BHS hosted the North II, Group 2 sectional championships on May 22 and 23, 2015. On their home track, the Gruters brothers scored 24 of the team’s 70 overall points in individual events (the 1600 meter run and the 3200 meter run), and contributed to another 7 points in two relay races, as BHS won a sectional championship.
On the second day of competition, Richard made it to the finish line in the 3200-meter run, clearly hurting from a year of intense competition. After he crossed the finish line, he dropped to the ground in pain, finishing fifth in the section. And who was there to help him up? Brother Stuart, who had won the race only seconds ahead of Richard.
Richard returned the favor by coaching Stuart in when he went to nationals.
The cross-country team is now training for the fall season. They will go to the Cape Cod Running Camp as a team in August and begin the season in September. They will start the season without four of the seven varsity runners from last year’s team.
“I am interested to see where we stand,” said Gruters. He was a little reluctant to share specific goals for himself, but he wasn’t shy about the team. “We are going to come back with a vengeance. I would like to see us return to the Meet of Champions.”