MHS teams both look solid

By: Rich Fisher
   Sometimes it’s nice to look back on the "bad old days" just to enjoy how far things have come.
   Monroe High cross country coach Frank Bonich did just that on Wednesday afternoon.
   "My first year here, the boys and girls teams were both 0-10 and we had a total of about 10 runners," the fifth-year coach said. "Right now, with the two teams combined, we’re close to 40 kids. I’m excited about both the boys and girls’ teams this year."
   Aside from the big numbers, the girls team, which did not even exist a few years ago, is coming off a 9-0 season in which it won the Greater Middlesex Conference White Division title. The boys come off an 8-2 season in which top runner Scott Roman was nagged by a leg injury.
   The best news is, both squads have pretty much everyone returning and hopes are pretty high.
   Actually, the girls have everyone back, so hopes are about as high as they can be.
   "I enjoy being the underdog, but with everybody coming back I guess some of those teams will be coming after us, we won’t be the surprise team anymore," Bonich said of the girls. "But we have everybody back, and we have a couple of kids that just showed a lot of improvement, who were average last year and are really going to help us this year.
   "So we have those kids, pushing the next group, and that group pushing the top kids. It’s a chain reaction all the way to the top. We’ve been having good practices, kids were working hard throughout the summer."
   Despite being considered the White Division favorite, Bonich said his girls are not getting big headed about it.
   "They’re pretty low key, it’s a quiet confidence, which is good," he said. "We’re not going to be walking around like we’re cocky, but our expectations are high."
   And with good reason.
   Leading the returnees are senior Ely Segarra, who placed eighth in last year’s GMC meet and 13th in the Central Jersey Group III race with a personal best of 21:13 at Holmdel Park. She and senior Ali Push are the co-captains and are looking "like a one-two punch" according to Bonich.
   Also back are junior Kelly Grinzo and sophomore Damaris Segarra, who were solid as 2-3 runners last year. D. Segarra was 17th at the GMC’s in 21:20 and 19th in the CJ III, while Grinzo was 29th in CJ III.
   Other returnees are senior Stephanie Harris, juniors Marie Nemeth, Jackie Barclay, Rachel DeBaun and Nicole Chasen and sophomore Allyson Caras. Newcomers are freshmen Ashley Koch, Erika Korsak, Dina Mangarella, Ilena Olvarria and Devon Williamson.
   "We’ve gone from no team to 16 girls," Bonich said. "I think having success helps, I guess that really didn’t hurt this year. But another thing that helped is we started a middle school program (at Applegarth) for the first time last year. With our increased success, along with the middle school, I can’t see things going anywhere but up as far as numbers."
   The boys are looking equally solid this season, as Roman returns to lead the way. The senior finished 20th in the GMC’s as a sophomore but slumped to 44th last year due to his leg problems. But he and senior Ken Stanley are back as co-captains. Stanley ran a solid 18:43 in last year’s GMC meet and improved throughout the year.
   Junior Adam Modzelewski returns after establishing himself as a strong No. 2 man last year, and sophomore Ryan Brown should be right behind.
   "They should both run in the 17’s this year, I think," Bonich said.
   Junior Nick Garabaldi is also back after contributing to last year’s success. Sophomores Kyle Zablocki and Nate Smith round out the top seven, and senior Mike Velese may contribute after coming out for the first time. Velese comes over from the soccer team.
   Also on the squad are juniors Bill Kelly and Brian Sommers, sophomores Eddie Junquet and Matt Saieva, and freshmen Joe Rupoli, James Domino, Chris Garibaldi, Dan Lemelman and Ben Wendel.
   "Things look real good with the boys," Bonich said. "We’re looking to improve on last year’s record and to capture our first White Division title in a long time. We may have never won one, I’m not sure. And I’d like to make some noise in the GMC meet and the state sectionals."
   It gets started today (Friday) at New Brunswick, and the home opener is a tri-meet with Carteret and J.P. Stevens on Tuesday.
   "Stevens boys’ had a good season last year and should be strong this year," Bonich said. "It will be a good test for us."