Smolinka, Magath prevail at Old Bridge classic

HHS harriers ready for bigger races

by Rudy Brandl, Sports Editor
   Not bad for a training run.
   Hillsborough High’s cross country teams entered Saturday’s Old Bridge Classic looking to warm up for the upcoming series of big championship meets. They left with two individual champions and one team title.
   Junior Ashley Smolinka won to lead the HHS girls to the Varsity Girls A Division crown. Senior Jordan Magath prevailed to pace the Raider boys to a solid third-place team finish.
   Smolinka and her teammates put together another impressive race, placing five girls in the top 15 to knock off Hunterdon Central (46-65) and enter this week’s Somerset County Championships with confidence and a head of steam. Smolinka clocked 18:41 to beat West Windsor Plainsboro North’s Emily Scott by 20 seconds.
   ”Coach (Rich) Refi told us all to try to control the first mile and see what we can do after that — let’s see how fast we can go after that,” Smolinka said.
   They went fast.
   Smolinka cruised home in first place and three of her teammates followed in under 20 minutes. The pack of sophomore Julianna Miller (19:51), junior Nicole Rittman (19:54) and senior Meredith Mayes (19:58) occupied places 9-11 to give the Raiders four of the first six runners vs. Central. The HHS girls received a huge boost from sophomore Amber Gorman, who cut over a minute off her previous best time to finish 15th in 20:15.
   ”It’s all so exciting,” Smolinka said. “We’ve had our top four running and Amber did really great in this meet. Everyone’s getting into it.”
   Junior Caitlyn Kozlowski (28th, 21:24) and freshman Alexandra Cady (35th, 21:47) also ran for the HHS girls.
   Smolinka, who will battle defending county champ Jillian Prentice of Montgomery for the title this week, ran a smart race to win individual honors.
   ”I was trying to stay in the front and stay with the rest of the girls in the first mile,” Smolinka said. “I started to pull away after 1½ miles. It felt good. Last year at Thompson Park was not that good. The training is really paying off. We’re all doing the morning practices.”
   Magath used a similar recipe to win his race. He showed great discipline to stay behind the leaders in the first mile but took off on the downhill to leave the rest of the field in the dust. Magath beat a pack of Piscataway and Old Bridge runners and finished in a time of 16:18.
   ”I had a strategy to stay with the pack for the first mile and a half and as soon as I got to the downhill at the road crossing, go for it,” Magath said. “I wasn’t really running for a time. I was running to win.”
   Magath ran 15:59 in last year’s sectional race at Thompson Park and expects to go faster in a few weeks when he and his teammates return to the Jamesburg course. He was happy with Saturday’s victory and looking forward to challenging Gill St. Bernards standout Doug Smith for the Somerset County individual title this week.
   ”It was hard because I wanted to be ahead, but there was a pretty strong head wind so I followed my coach’s instructions,” Magath said. “Just to see that I can run in the low 16s is a great feeling.”
   The HHS boys finished third in the team standings with 137 points, behind champion Old Bridge (50) and runner-up Hunterdon Central (112). Juniors Dan Jacobs (24th, 17:08), Kevin Thorp (19th, 17:12) and Colin McMahon (35th, 17:28) kept a fairly tight pack. Freshman A.J. Kaletski (52nd, 17:58) and sophomores Thomas Mellor (18:16) and Mike Warn (18:24) rounded out the Raider seven.
   ”This is a big motivation booster for the team,” Magath said. “To finish third out of 20 teams was really big.”