By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Kurt Wayton felt like Tim Bason still had another big race left in him.
Turns out the West Windsor-Plainsboro High South cross country coach was right.
Bason, a senior who had finished ninth at the Meet of Champions and third at the state group IV meet, felt like he could have run better each day. Last Saturday at the Nike Northeast Regional meet in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., Bason turned in his best effort of the season. Running against the best in the Northeast, Bason finished second in 15:51, just six seconds off the lead, to earn a spot in the Nike National Championship meet that will be held this Saturday in Portland, Ore.
“In a year like this we’re able to concentrate more on the individual,” said Wayton, who did not have his whole team qualify for the Meet of Champions or the regional meet. “For two solid weeks we were able to focus in on training for Tim. At the Meet of Champs he had a bad day. At Groups he had a bad day.
“In those races most kids are ready to go at the right time and you just have to go out, psych yourself up and just run your best. If I was a betting man I would think both those runs got to him. The last two races he was not at his best. This time he let his ability and toughness shine through.”
In a championship season that goes from the Mercer County Championships through sectionals, the Group meet, MOC and regionals, staying sharp isn’t easy. Bason was able to turn it around after to tough weeks.
“You want to make sure not you’re not over-raced and you are physically healthy and as fit as possible. You have to be patient, which we as a program are better at now than we have been in the past.”
Bason is the second straight Pirate boy to qualify for the national meet, following Nikhil Pulimood who qualified last year. South senior Christina Rancan nearly qualified out of the girls race. She finished 10th and just missed out on the final wild card spot.
“Her story is unbelievable,” Wayton said. “She didn’t run a step all summer. She cross-trained her butt off. She doesn’t know when to quit. It’s miserable when it is sunny and hot and your friends are running and you are on stationary bike or pool working out on your own. I am as proud of her as any kid I have coached.”
Both Bason and Rancan saved their best for the end of the season, which isn’t easy.
“People think it is a simple sport but there are so many nuances that play into it,” Wayton said. “Emotionally, every time you race you send out a bucket and want to get to the end of the season with water still in the well. We want them to be physically at their best when it counts. All those invitationals are nice, but once they are over they’re done. It is how well did you do when it matters at the end that you remember most.
“Tim has a chance to be an All American in his last race and make his legacy along with some of the other great runners we have had.”
The Princeton boys finished 25th as a team in the regional meet. Alex Roth finished 33rd in 16:44 to lead the way for the Little Tigers.
The Princeton girls were 15th as a team. Lou Mailhe finished 51st overall, while Chloe Taylor was 54th and Izzy Trenholm was 90th.
At the Foot Locker Northeast Regional at Van Cortland Park in New York, Montgomery junior Ajay Sarathy was 58th individually in the seeded boys race, finishing in 16:39.
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor