Southern Senior Runners Finish Off Careers at NJSIAA Group IV Meet

Nov 15, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy In the final cross-country meet of high school career, Southern’s Taylor Mulch (right) heads for the finish line at Holmdel Park during the NJSIAA Group IV championship meet on Nov. 11.

For the past two cross-country seasons, Taylor Mulch has ground her way through many races, often gritting her teeth as she navigated the 3.1-mile courses in various locations. That’s the kind of competitor she is, after all. Even aching knees couldn’t prevent her from being there for her teammates.

And on Nov. 11, amid near-freezing temperatures, Mulch not only led the Rams through the NJSIAA Group IV championship meet, she culminated her fine career doing what she loves to do, despite the pain.

“I took a couple of Advil about 10 minutes before the race,” she said, laughing. “I figured it might help halfway through the race, but it probably didn’t. The ground is really hard, and every stride downhill, it was like ‘Bam! Bam! Bam!’ on my knees and it hurt. But it’s more fun when your whole team is together, running in a big race like this one, so it was a good way to end the season and my career.”

Mulch completed the grueling, hilly backwoods course at Holmdel Park in 20:12, good for 33rd place overall in what was a super-stacked field of high-level runners. As a team, Southern finished with 385 points in 15th, nowhere near champion North Hunterdon (85) or runner-up Ridge (104). But all was well with the team’s leader of the past couple of seasons.

“In this race, everybody tends to go out really fast, and I didn’t want to kill myself trying to go up the first incline,” she said. “So I started off a little slower, and once I got out of the backwoods, I started working my way up. It was going to be really hard to play high in this race, so I wanted to stay as comfortable as possible and just finish well.”

With Mulch leading the Southern train, junior Gianna Citarella followed with a 71st-place time of 20:51, while sophomore Jaelyn D’Amelio crossed the finish line in 81st at 21:04, sophomore Emily Furlong came in at 97th at 21:31, and sophomore Alexa Mulch ran a 22:29 for 122nd place.

“Last year after most races, I could barely walk,” Taylor Mulch said. “I felt a lot better for most of this season. It’s been hard the past couple of seasons, but I just kept going and tried to do the best I could. This season definitely was better.”

For the Southern boys, the group meet wasn’t quite as fun, especially when senior Evan Adanatzian, who’s been hampered by a hamstring injury for much of the season, started the race but didn’t make it through and the Rams had to trudge through without one of their best runners to help steer things near the front.

“I feel really bad for Evan because I know he could be one of the guys in the race if he’s healthy,” said classmate Connor McBride, who ended up leading the crew with a 61st-place time of 17:07. “It was hard for him to run in this cold. It was hard for all of us. I know, for me, it was tough to breathe. My lungs were burning a bit.”

The pace of the boys’ race was incredibly fast, and senior Paul Keyes said the squad became too separated after the first incline to be effective against a high-powered field of runners.

“Our plan for today was to go out and run our race, but that got screwed up because everybody went out really fast and there was one big cluster going up that first hill,” said Keyes, who placed 88th overall in 17:31. “Once you get caught in that, it’s hard to maneuver ,and there’s not much of a real flow to it then. It was hard to keep track of where we were once we got separated.”

Freshman Jackson Braddock ran a fantastic race, crossing the line in 18:10, good for 117th place, while sophomore Keoni Lieter followed in 125th at 18:21 and sophomore Dean Bates came in 139th at 18:40.

Despite finishing 20th as a team, Keyes said the team had a solid season.

“We won the county championship and finished third in the sectional meet, which was really good for us,” he said. “We did the best we could, and even if today wasn’t the best for us, it was a great season.”

— David Biggy


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