CLARK, NJ - This past week saw the boys and girls cross-country team running at Oak Ridge Park with a major prize on the line. Both teams were there to compete in the Union County Conference championships.

The boys cross-country team competes in the valley division while the girls team is in the mountain division. Despite running at times into a very strong headwind, many boys and girl Bulldogs set personal bests on the Oakridge course.

In the Union County Valley Championship race, Linden High School boys placed number one (senior Hunter Cromwell 17:01 )and two (senior Nelly Thebaud 17:08). Jonathan Dayton placed the next 4 runners before the third Linden Tiger runner.  Dayton had all of its top 7 runners in before the fifth runner of Linden.  This secured the team's Valley Division Conference Championship.

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“The great thing about a cross-country team is that everyone gets to training and also gets to run.  The kids get to see how their efforts have paid off,” said Coach Campbelll.

Junior captain Daniel Galao-Birkmann finished third overall to earn first team All Valley  Conference honors. Galao-Birkmann has had an excellent junior campaign.  In two Invitationals he has medaled.

At the Stewart Invitational at Greystone (site of the North 2 Group 1 sectional Nov. 9) he finished ninth at 17:27. A week later at the vaulted Holmdel course at the New Balance Coaches Invitational he finished twenty third. Galao-Birkmann ran the sixth fastest time that day ever by a Bulldog runner at 17:57.

Also earning first team honors was freshman sensation Colin Riley, junior Harrison Turner, sophomore Ian McLeer and junior Luke Hernandez. Freshman Jaydan Martinez and Junior Jordy Frei rounded out the top 7 for Dayton.

It is the first time in Coach Campbell's tenure that two freshman had earned top 7 honors. It is also the first since 1980 that Dayton has repeated as conference champions.  Dayton won the conference titles three consecutive years, from 1978-1980.

The girls team is in a  much more challenging conference. There were excellent efforts for the Bulldogs to earn a fourth-place finish. Junior Abbey Hochreiner  and Senior Catriona Corbett placed fifth and sixth respectively in a very competitive race.

The Lady Bulldogs top seven had multiple girls that ran their personal bests. Junior Emily Kessel was the third to finish.  She was followed by freshman Ayana Alles, sophomore Adriana Nguyen, Jenna Lashuk, freshman Claudia Reines, and senior Captain Lily Dvorchik.

The girls team will be a favorite to win the North 2 Group 1 Championship.

"Our goal is to use this meet and the county meet to prepare to compete for the big title," coach Martinez said. “We need to stay healthy and focused and things should take care of themselves."

The girls have not won a sectional title since 1992.

Hochreiner and Corbett pose a dynamic duo. Hochreiner medaled at the Stewart Invitational placing ninth.   Corbett finished nineteenth at Stewart and eighteenth at Holmdel. (Hochreiner missed the Shore due to taking the SATs.

Other runners also set personal best.  Senior Samantha Potito ran her best race of the last two seasons.  Senior Isabella Matute ran her best 5k time ever. 

Freshman Leah Lashley ran the best race of her short cross country career.

“Juniors Frankie Sarracino (an Eagle Scout) and Zachary Vilensky are what is great about the sport of cross country,” said Campbell.  "Both boys stated their careers finishing 5ks in over 30 minutes.  Sarracino ran 21:35 add Vilensky ran 23:39 Thursday.

Other boys that ran a personal record at Oak Ridge were:  senior Roy Traina, juniors Ryan Sickinger, Harrision Turner, sophmores Chris Ortiz, Ian Kaesshaefer,freshmen Sebastian Bazizi, Conrad Chen, Connor Codina, Gatzlen Derival, Cory Fishman, Allan Jean-Baptiste, Jonathan Mlawski, David Rocha, Alexander Sun and Jackson Turnbull

The Bulldogs will next run at the Union County Cross Country Championship at the historic Warinanco course on Oct. 29.