By George Tatoris
Most of the men’s cross country team wasn’t even born when the College’s New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship streak began, but that didn’t stop the team from adding another year to the now 22-year winning streak on Saturday, Oct. 31. The team garnered 31 points to narrowly beat out Ramapo’s 37 points.
The women continued a streak of their own. They won their third consecutive championship title with 21 points against second-place Rowan’s 64. Both the men’s and the women’s team had all of five of their scoring runners in the top 10.
“It was good how we could grab the victory against a very strong Ramapo team,” senior Tyler Grimm said. “The margin may have been a little close for comfort, but we got the job done.”
For junior Andrew Tedeschi, the win represents a passing of the torch.
“Both my college and high school coaches were athletes at TCNJ during the streak, and it’s a humble feeling knowing I’m a part of that tradition,” Tedeschi said.
Tedeschi was the first Lion across the finish line, placing him third with a time of 25:01.87, just eight seconds behind first place. He had the lead but was outrun by two Ramapo runners at the finish.
Grimm, and fellow seniors Roberto Guiducci and Jon Stouber crossed one after the other, taking fifth, sixth and seventh, consecutively. Grimm finished at 25:10.08, for fifth; Guiducci took sixth with a time of 25:13.92 and Stouber clocked in with a time of 25:14.90 for seventh place.
The last Lion to score was freshman Jekabs Hayes, who finished 10th at 25:36.47. He was followed by freshman Brian Mitchell in 11th at 25:45.25 and junior Brandon Mazzarella in 12th at 25:48.74.
Mitchell and Hayes stuck together most of the race and encouraged each other to keep running, resulting in both beating their personal records by over 20 seconds, with a time under 26 minutes for their first time in the 8k.
Grimm said performances like those of these freshman are an example of the team’s “depth,” meaning if someone underperforms, other teammates are able to pick up the slack, which is good for the team.
“It means that the future cross country team is going to be in good hands after graduating this year’s senior class,” Grimm said.
On the women’s side, senior Marissa Lerit won the women’s 6k.
As the race started, a Ramapo runner took the lead, but when she began to falter a little over a mile into the race, Lerit made her move. She finished with a time of 21:58.12.
Lerit did not run last year due to a fractured toe.
“It is still rather surreal to me that I won NJACs,” she said. “I went from not running at all this year to having one of the best collegiate seasons of my life.”
Lerit said the support of her teammates and the guidance of her coaches were the primary catalyst to her success this race.
In their first college championship, freshman Erin Holzbaur finished second with a time of 22:12.79 and freshman Madeline Tattory placed fourth with a time of 22:14.42.
“Unlike most of the other meets, I knew something was on the line,” Holzbaur said. “It gave us pressure to run our best.”
Senior Carly Martz placed fifth with a time of 22:17.31. Like Lerit, Martz did not run for an extended period — she suffered an injury while studying abroad last semester and didn’t run at the beginning of the season.
Junior Laura Straub was the last scoring runner, finishing ninth with a time of 22:38.16.