Jaguar girls ready to run in Group IV cross country final


The Jackson Memorial High School boys cross country team and the Jackson Liberty High School girls and boys cross country teams are packing their gear away, although most of the student-athletes on those squads will be back at practice on Nov. 28 as they prepare for the indoor track and field season.

But the Jackson Memorial High School girls cross country team, which came into the 2011 season with high expectations, will compete on Nov. 12 in the Group IV state championship meet at Holmdel Park in Holmdel.

The Jaguars earned their trip to the Group IV finals by placing fourth in the team standings at the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional meet on Nov. 5 at Thompson Park in Jamesburg, Middlesex County.

Led by highly regarded senior Ashley Carle, coach Glenda Calabro’s Jaguars placed fourth in the team standings at the Central Jersey Group IV meet. The top five teams at the sectional competition advanced to the group championships. Carle led three Jaguars who finished among the top 15 runners with a ninth-place time of 19:46 over the 5K Thompson Park course. Sophomore Alivia Carlton finished 12th in 20:02 and sophomore Ariana Nash was 15th in 20:07.

Three other Jaguars were bunched among five finishers, junior Tiffany Eberhart in 42nd place in 21:12, junior Danielle Britton in 44th place at 21:22, and junior Ashley Collimore in 46th place in 21:26. Senior Briana Weiss rounded out the Jackson Memorial runners in 67th place with a time of 22:02.

The Jaguars will face a daunting challenge on Nov. 12 as they seek to finish among the top three teams in the Group IV race and earn a bid to the season-ending state Meet of Champions on Nov. 19.

Individually, Carle will make a bid to place among the top eight runners in the Group IV field and earn an invitation to the Meet of Champions.

“When you get to that point, it’s the best out there and it’s really hard to finish among the top three teams,” said Jackson Memorial boys coach Steve Theobald, who heads up the Jersey Shore Track Coaches Association .

Carle has built a solid résumé this season. She ran 14th in the Shore Conference Championships on Oct. 29 in 18:46 on the flatter Ocean County Park course in Lakewood as JacksonMemorial placed fourth in the team standings.

Helping the Jaguars in that meet were Carlton, who was 21st in 19:09; Collimore, who was 42nd in 19:45; Britton, who was 63rd in 20:01, and Eberhart, who was 100th in 20:58.

Carle ran third in the Ocean County Championships on Oct. 20 at Ocean County Park in 18:49 and Carlton was eighth in 19:33 as JacksonMemorial finished third in the team standings. Freshman Ariana Nash was 14th in 19:55 and Britton was 17th in 20:01.

In the county meet, Jackson Liberty was fifth as juniorAlexandra Kavoleff was 21st in 20:13 and sophomore Melisa Robertson ran 20:18 for 24th place.

In the Central Jersey Group III state sectional meet, Jackson Liberty finished 10th in the team standings and did not earn a bid to the Group III state finals. Freshman Morgan Albrecht clocked a time of 21:22 for 28th place at Thompson Park to lead the Lions at the state sectionals. Robertson ran 21:32 in 31st place, followed by freshman Kasey Suszko in 44th place at 22:02.

Jackson Liberty was 17th in the team standings at the Shore Conference Championships with Robertson the Lions’ top runner in 20:22 for 82nd place and Albrecht in 88th place in 20:34.

As for the boys, it was a strange season for Jackson Memorial, which came in with high expectations but was beset by a rash of what Theobald called “wacky injuries.” One runner was injured playing kickball in gym class and senior Brandon Eldershaw, who came in regarded as the team’s top runner, stepped on a rock in the summer and the injury lingered through the fall and affected his performance.

Trevor Johnson, a sophomore, missed the season with a stress fracture, and another runner was hurt while “high-fiving” a friend at a football game, according to the coach.

Sophomore Tom O’Brien suffered a broken collarbone early in the season, but ran better as the season unfolded and was the team’s top finisher in the state sectionals in 30th place in 17:07.

“At Thompson Park, that’s a phenomenal time for a sophomore,” Theobald said.

At the state sectionals, Eldershaw was 38th in 17:22. O’Brien and Eldershaw were followed by seniors Gino Cortes in 71st place in 18:06 and Dimitri Scott in 75th place in 18:11.

Junior Brendan Mautone was 84th in 18:35, and senior Ben Meyer was 93rd in 19:02. Meyer was out for much of the season because of illness.

“We got hit by the injury bug,” Theobald said. “We had a senior-heavy team that expected to do well, and now they will be preparing for the indoor and outdoor seasons [in distance running events], with Eldershaw one of the top 1,600-meter runners in the county, O’Brien one of the top runners in the county at 3,200 meters, and Cortes should be one of the top 800 runners.

“In the county meet we finished seventh, but we should have been third on paper. Only once all year we ran all seven guys [state sectionals],” Theobald said. “We ran five guys in the county meet. We were always missing someone, but for injuries and time missed [by runners], we actually had a good year.”

At the Shore Conference Championships at Ocean County Park, Eldershaw ran 16:21 for 26th, followed by O’Brien in 45th place in 16:51 and Cortes in 46th place in 16:52. As a team, Jackson Memorial was 13th.

In the Ocean County meet, Eldershaw was eighth in 16:22 and O’Brien placed 17th in 18:48.

In the county meet, senior Phil Curtis was Jackson Liberty’s top finisher, running 17:09 for 32nd place, followed by junior Nick Eckett in 17:17 for 39th place.

Jackson Liberty did not run in the Shore Conference Championships, but in the Central Jersey Group III meet Curtis clocked a time of 17:52 for 28th place and Eckett ran 17:55 in 29th. Freshman Mike Russo was the Lions’ next finisher in 58th place in 18:37. After that came sophomore Jack Olear (19:33) and senior Justin Linton (19:36) in 78th and 79th place, respectively.