Southern Regional Sweeps Team Titles at Ocean County Cross-Country Championships

By DAVID BIGGY | Oct 25, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Southern’s Alexa Mulch (right) zips by a pair of runners near the finish to complete the Rams’ team victory at the Ocean County Cross-Country Championships at Ocean County Park in Lakewood on Oct. 19.

Alexa Mulch had a hard time talking about the race she’d just run, but she had no problem clutching the medal she earned for being part of the winning team.

“I didn’t really think much,” said the sophomore, who could hardly stop her post-race laughter after realizing what her 17th-place finish in 20:28 meant to the Southern Regional girls cross-country team during the Ocean County Championships on Oct. 19. “I just ran my hardest and tried to pass as many girls as possible.”

She certainly did that, chugging past a pair of Toms River South runners during the final 100 meters – and that was after passing a Toms River North and a Lacey runner during the previous quarter-mile. Alexa wasn’t the first Mulch across the finish line, but she may as well have been because her top-18 spot cemented the Rams’ run back to the top after placing fourth last year.

“I thought we wouldn’t place as high because of where I finished,” said Taylor Mulch, the only senior among the Rams’ top seven, who finished seventh overall with a time of 19:38. “Everybody else behind me did awesome. They all ran a great race. But I’m a little surprised we were able to win. We finished second behind North in the A South meet, so I think we’re all surprised.”

While Toms River South sophomore sensation Jade Tricomy simply outclassed the field en route to a second straight individual title, Taylor Mulch held the second position through the first half of the race, but slowly began to fade back around the 2-mile mark. At that point, she simply wanted to stay close enough to the group of runners in front of her.

“We had two tough workouts this week and did hills on Tuesday, so (coach Jason) Capelli was expecting us to run a bit tired,” Mulch said. “I just tried to stay with the two North girls in front of me. Last week, I passed them on the downhill near the end of the course. Today, I tried to do the same thing, but for the second half of the race I couldn’t move my legs too well.”

It didn’t matter much because junior teammate Gianna Citarella, who had stayed back a bit through the first couple of miles, quickened her pace during the last mile and eventually passed the Jackson Memorial runner who had been in front of her. Citarella motored through the final quarter-mile and finished eighth overall in 19:47.

“I was excited to see that I was that close to Taylor and that I managed to get so far up in front,” Citarella said. “And then I saw our next two come through, and I was really ecstatic when I saw Alexa coming. A lot of people were skeptical, thinking North might have beat us, but I liked our chances at that point.”

Sophomore Jaelyn D’Amelio pulled in soon after Citarella, taking 10th overall in 19:59, and classmate Emily Furling came through the chute in 14th overall at 20:16, leaving Alexa Mulch the opportunity to secure the team title.

Soon after the girls captured their championship, the Southern boys sought to snag their eighth straight county title. Fortunately – unlike last week’s division-championship meet, when he had to pull out halfway through it – senior Evan Adanatzian felt good enough to complete the race. And good thing he did, as he finished right behind classmates Connor McBride and Paul Keyes to help the Rams get by Jackson Memorial.

“I haven’t run much this season, so I was just sitting back and waiting for the 2-mile mark to see where I was,” said Adanatzian, who for the previous month had been battling a hamstring injury. “I wanted to stay in sight of Paul and Connor, and I felt good. I wanted us to win, so I knew I had to stay up there. And because our back-three guys are a solid group, I figured we were in good shape as long as I stayed in the race.”

Keyes led the Rams through much of the 3.1-mile race at Ocean County Park in Lakewood, running in third at the halfway mark. He faded a bit during the last mile, but two of the four runners behind him were McBride and Adanatzian.

“If Evan wasn’t there, it would have been a really stressful race for the rest of us,” Keyes said. “Having him there was great for our mindset. I struggled a bit later in the race, but we knew if Connor, Evan and I were near the top, around top-five or top-six, we’d be in good shape. We run as a unit, and those guys in the back ran a great race.”

After Central’s Justin Earley, Jackson Liberty’s Dan Duffy and McBride went by Keyes, Adanatzian followed suit, pulling in right behind Keyes during the last quarter-mile.

“I usually stay back for the first 2 miles, and then that last mile I start cooking it,” McBride said. “Going around the lake the second time, I just kicked. I was surprised to be at the front for us, but Paul and Evan coming in right behind me was the difference.”

McBride crossed the line in fifth overall at 16:01, followed by Keyes in sixth at 16:14 and Adanatzian in seventh with a time of 16:16. With most of Jackson Memorial’s top-five running close by each other farther down in the field, it was important for Southern’s fourth and fifth guys – freshman Jackson Braddock and sophomore Keoni Lieter – to find a way to stay in front or remain close to the Jaguars’ fifth man.

Braddock did his part by coming through the chute in 14th with a time of 16:36. Lieter then dropped the hammer, outracing Memorial’s Chris Kossman to the finish line and finishing 25th overall in 17:04.

As for the other local squads, Pinelands sophomore Jolie Zaccaria placed 47th overall with a time of 22:18, while Barnegat freshman Aerianna Godwin placed 57th overall in 22:46 during the girls’ race. For the boys, Barnegat junior Gareth Aguilar took 36th overall with a time of 17:23, while Pinelands junior Justin Schlatmann finished 50th in 17:43.

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