Jaguars setting sights on Ocean X-C crown


With his team’s dual meet record hovering around .500, Jackson Memorial High School boys cross country coach Steve Theobald still believes his team will be ready when the season’s big meets begin on Oct. 22 with the Ocean County Championships.

“We are still very young, and I haven’t seen what this team can do yet,” said Theobald. “These [next few] weeks will determine what kind of team this is. When they get that experience, we’ll see what kind of effort they put forth.”

Greg Caldwell, a junior, and Brandon Eldershaw, who was regarded as one of the top freshmen in the state last year, lead the way for the Jaguars.

Caldwell was fifth in the New Balance Jersey Shore Cougar Invitational hosted by Colts Neck last month in 16:34 over a 5- kilometer course at Bucks Mill Park, Colts Neck, and was the top finisher for his team in the Shore Coaches Invitational at Holmdel Park in 17:07, good for 87th place overall.

“He is such a determined runner,” said Theobald of Caldwell. “He wants to improve in every race. At times I have to hold him back. He can be in the top 20 or 30 in the state, but we don’t want him to peak too early.”

Also at the Cougar Invitational, Eldershaw was 24th in 17:04 and senior Garrett Derringer was five seconds behind. Derringer ran well in the Shore Coaches Invitational, clocking 17:32 for 168th overall. Eldershaw ran 17:41 for 201st.

“Eldershaw can run forever,” said Theobald. “He’s not really fast, but he maintains a nice steady pace for a long time.”

Theobald believes his team can show well in the Ocean County meet on the flat course at Ocean County Park, Lakewood, as opposed to the hilly course at Holmdel Park, where the Shore Conference Championships will be held on Oct. 29.

The Jaguars are looking to return to the Shore Conference Championships where they were 15th last year and have a goal to finish among the top five teams this season, said Theobald.

“We’re better on a flatter course,” the coach said. “We have a lot of young track athletes as opposed to cross country runners.”

Some of the Jaguars compete for the indoor and outdoor track and field teams at the school, including Derringer, who runs the 400- and 800-meter dashes.

“He’s a great leader who is not shy about getting everyone to run and to have a longer workout,” said the coach, who felt his team came into the school year well prepared from its summer training.

Two of the team’s first three losses were competitive ones in dual meets to teams recently ranked among the top 10 in the state — Toms River North (No. 7) and Southern Regional (No. 10).

“That shows what kind of team we are that we can be in the top 20 in the state,” said Theobald.

Three other runners can step into the remaining two spots in the lineup. Andre Misdary, a junior, clocked a 17:50 in the Shore Coaches Invitational. Sophomores Gino Cortes and Ben Meyer also run well and Theobald said all three have run a little faster than they did in 2008.