Stevens girls XC squad preps for postseason races

Team to participate in GMC Championships this Saturday


Heading into the season, the J.P. Stevens High School girls cross country team was a work in progress. Coaches and runners alike had little idea how the team would perform. Six meets into the season, the work in progress has developed into a legitimate contender.

Stevens heads into this week 5-1 on the season with the hope of making some noise at the Greater Middlesex Conference Championship on Oct. 31 in Thompson Park.

“The season has turned out pretty well,” Stevens head coach David Allen said. “We really didn’t know what we had at the beginning, but we’ve been running well.”

The team has been led by top runner Casey Bauman. Bauman is fresh off two of her best performances of the season, a 20:45 finish at the Old Bridge Classic and a 19:59 finish at Piscataway in a dual meet with the Chiefs and Woodbridge.

“Casey has gotten better every season,” Allen said. “She’s the lone captain to 30 girls, which says something about her leadership skills. She’s just a great kid. You couldn’t ask for a better kid in the world.”

This season’s No. 2 runner has been junior Maryan Haque. Haque has finished consistently just 15-20 seconds behind Bauman. She turned in a time of 20:15 at Piscataway and a 20:56 at the Old Bridge Classic at Thompson Park.

“She’s an extremely hard worker,” Allen said. “She goes into every meet wanting to get better. If she races well, she immediately puts it behind her because she’s already thinking of ways to get faster. She helps push Casey and she pulls the girls along behind her.”

Having two runners consistently finish under 21:00 has made all the difference this season.

“We’ve had years with 21:00,” Allen said. “We’re fortunate to have a pair of strong runners at the top.”

No. 3 Anum Azher is pushing the limit of 21:00 and is coming off a recent finish of 20:47 at Piscataway. Azher was consistently finishing in the 23-minute range on the junior varsity team a year ago.

“She’s broken 21:00 minutes a few times and she’s continued to improve all season,” Allen said. “She’s been a pleasant surprise for us.”

First-year runner Stephanie Wong has also been a nice addition to the varsity lineup. Wong turned in a 20:37 at Piscataway and a 21:25 at the Old Bridge Classic.

“Stephanie has been our No. 4 runner all season,” Allen said. “She was a sprinter on the track team and has made a nice transition to distance running.”

Freshmen Catherine Wu and Connie Yu are the team’s No. 5 and No. 6 runners, respectively.

“The younger girls follow the lead of Casey and Maryan,” Allen said. “They’ve stepped right in and run some really nice races.”

Sophomore Sarah Chang completes the team’s top seven. Despite a hip injury and a case of shin splints, Chang has battled through to help make Stevens one of the top teams in the county.

“Sarah wants to help the team any way she can,” Allen said. “She does whatever is asked of her, and she does it fast.”

After the GMC Championship week, the team will compete in the North 2 Group IV championship and look to crack the top five and advance to the states.