Barnegat and Pinelands Regional Cross-Country Teams Building Behind Their Leaders

Oct 03, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Barnegat senior Gareth Aguilar heads for the finish line at the Little Egg Harbor Recreation Complex to lead the Bengals' boys cross-country team to a victory over Pinelands on Sept. 25.

As a senior, Gareth Aguilar knows he’s not running this cross-country season with only the purpose of improving himself. He’s one of the leaders now, and his larger role within the grand scheme of things is to challenge the younger runners behind him to get better so the Barnegat High School boys program can take the next step higher.

“I feel we’re more than ready to take that step,” said Aguilar after finishing first overall with a time of 19:04, leading the Bengals to a 19-39 victory over Pinelands and a 15-50 win over Lakewood on Sept. 25. “As a team, we’re really solid right now, and we’re improving all the time. We have some juniors and sophomores coming up and challenging me, and that’s good because it means they’re ready to grow beyond this season.”

Justin Schlattmann, who took fourth overall in 19:22 and led the Pinelands Wildcats to a 15-50 win over Lakewood to improve to 2-2 this season, is in the same boat – as he remains focused on ending his cross-country career with a bang, he, too, is doing what he can to help set things up for the future.

“Being a leader comes down to three things – hard work, integrity and respect,” he said. “All those work together to make an effective leader, and I just keep looking for the best in us and encouraging my teammates to keep improving. And we’re definitely improving from last year. We’ve had good days and bad days, but everybody’s improving, and that’s what we need.”

Of course, as some leaders get set to move on, a new crop of leaders needs to be groomed so they can take the reins for next season. For Barnegat, that’s where junior Logan Germano comes in. On Sept. 25, he finished just five seconds behind Aguilar in 19:09, a second ahead of sophomore Peter Dizon, who’s been on the rise throughout the first month of the season.

“I already feel like I’m playing a bigger leadership role,” Germano said. “We’re already building for next year, and I hope to lead that effort. But right now, we have to stay serious and focused about this season so we can get better next month. And my main goal for this season is to get back to the low 18s, where I was when I had a standout freshman season.”

No doubt, the leaders improving their times during the coming weeks – as the Ocean County, Shore Conference and NJSIAA championship meets come into view – should mean most of the rest of the squad will follow suit. The person with a trained eye already could see elements of that in the works on Sept. 25.

Behind Aguilar, Dizon and Germano, Bengals freshman Paul D’Aloia finished sixth overall with a time of 19:51, while senior Kevin Becker took seventh in 20:21, junior Gino DiGiovanni grabbed eighth in 20:22 and freshman Peter Craig was 10th in 20:29. The next two behind Schlattmann were Matt Villanueva, who was fifth overall, in 19:31, and Jacob Santillanes in ninth overall at 20:25. Patrick Princiotti and Nolan Rollison were the Wildcats’ fourth and fifth runners, finishing in 20:36 and 20:59, respectively.

As for the girls, both Pinelands and Barnegat are on the lighter side in terms of numbers, but their leaders are of the younger variety and fierce competitors. However, Barnegat freshman Lillian Sarno might be as fierce as any of the guys in the program.

“I like winning. I’m very competitive,” Sarno said after she took the top spot overall in 21:37, as Barnegat defeated Lakewood but lost to Pinelands. “I like running with the guys because it’s competitive, and it helps me keep a good pace as I try to beat as many of them as I can.”

Such ferocity has benefited Sarno thus far. She’s been near the top of most of her races through September.

“Making the change from middle school to high school has been tough,” Sarno said. “The workouts are harder and much different, but I’m adjusting to it. I’ve been good at running since I was 3, so I just keep going.”

Not far behind Sarno was Pinelands junior Jolie Zaccaria, who’s been the lead Wildcat for two seasons now. She finished second to Sarno, in 22:53.

“I had no specific goals for this season. I just wanted to improve my times,” said Zaccaria as she led Pinelands to a pair of victories on Sept. 25. “We’re all positive, and everybody supports each other. Some of the girls have improved their time by minutes, so that’s good.”

Behind Zaccaria, Barnegat freshman Bianca Savoy was third overall with a time of 23:24, followed by Pinelands’ Jewel Szwed in fourth at 25:14, Samaria El Badri in fifth at 26:03, Morgan Ross in sixth (27:15) and Nadya Sturies in seventh (27:39). With the wins, Pinelands improved to 3-1.

A few days later, on Sept. 29, both Barnegat and Pinelands competed in the annual South Jersey Track Coaches Association meet at Delsea High School.

In the Division 2 boys’ meet, Dizon finished 26th overall in 17:45.38, while Aguilar took 34th overall in 18:19.29 and Germano was 40th overall in 18:26.83. Villanueva was the only Pinelands representative among the top 50, crossing the line in 36th overall at 18:22.80.

In the girls’ race, Sarno finished third overall in 20:09.71, about 17 seconds behind winner Alyssa Turner of Mainland and four seconds behind Bridget Lyons of Paul VI. Zaccaria again led the way for Pinelands, finishing 17th overall in 22:33.09, while Szwed crossed the line in 36th at 24:47.90.

— David Biggy

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