Thats right, its time for groups!!!
Long term (and by long term I mean one week) readers of the Johnson Poll will recall that at the beginning of my sectional preview, I presented several reasons why I was going to focus solely on the North 2 races. The first of these reasons was that, “I know North 2, I know the teams, I know the individuals.” The second reason was that, “I’m, lazy.” (Johnson, The Johnson Poll)
After comparing my predictions to the actual North 2 sectional results, it’s clear that my laziness far outweighs my knowledge of North 2. It seems that in all my excitement to talk about cross country, I failed to realize that Millburn had been bumped up to group 4. This ended up being a big deal, since the Millburners dominated group 4, winning both the Girls and Boys Team titles. Uhhhhhh…Whoops! Uhhhh… aw jeez. Uhhhhh…. I don’t know what I’m doing.
If I was a high profile sports journalist, this would be a big scandal. Other writers would tear me apart with viscous headlines such as: ‘Big Meet Preview a Big Failure: Johnson Fails to Perform’ or ‘Excitable Johnson Causes Big Mess: Fails to do Proper Research.” But luckily, I’m just a regular guy and regular guys make mistakes all the time. Besides, I did manage to correctly pick the individual winners in all the races I previewed and even managed to correctly pick the runner up in all the girls’ races as well. (This statement hinges on the minor assumption that if Millburn was actually in group 3, I would have correctly picked the winner of the boys race)
Alright, enough messing around, time to talk about groups. Rather than preview all 12 group races, I’m going to focus on local teams (I’m arbitrarily defining local as any school in a town that borders Summit) and discuss their chances of moving on to Meet of Champs. And since I kinda messed up with Millburn last time, I figured I’d start off with them. But don’t worry, just because I made a mistake doesn’t mean I’m gonna be any less brash.
Millburn (Group 4)
Boys: You Can’t Mill Flour without a Good Stone…
After upsetting Westfield at Sectionals, Millburn has plenty of momentum heading towards the group meet. After quickly looking at results from the other sections (I can’t be brash if I think too much), it looks like Millburn has a decent chance of qualifying for MOC’s. With Robert Stone leading the charge, Millburn will be looking at a real low number for their first runner. The pressure will then be on the 2-5 runners to get it done. Usual five man, Chris Stone, finished seventh for the Millers at sectionals. If he can put in a good performance at groups, Millburn might be able to sneak into third. West Windsor Plainsboro South and Cherry Hill East will likely finish as the top 2 teams in Group 4, and then it will be real close between South Brunswick, Millburn, Westfield, and Hillsborough. If the Millers come up short, they still have a shot at wild card bid. (That’s a thing, right?) The Millburn boys are peaking at the right time and if everything falls into place, they have a decent chance of making it.
Girls: Millers Try to Grind Out a Victory
Things are even more interesting for the Millburn girls. There are at least ten teams in group 4 with a chance of advancing to MOC’s, and these teams will be fighting it out for 5 qualifying spots. (The two wildcards will come from group 4) Millburn beat some very good teams at sectionals, and could theoretically finish anywhere between 1st and 7th. Like the boys, the Lady Millers are peaking at the right time and have a pretty good chance of advancing (maybe slightly higher than the boys) to MOCs. If the Lady Millers come up short, look for Senior Corey Weiss to advance as an individual by finishing in the top ten.
Chatham (Group 3)
Boys: Where there’s a Will… There’s a Way
Huge Win for the Chatham Boys over heavily favored (at least according to the Johnson Poll) Morristown. What’s even HUGER is that the win was by only 1 point. 1 Point! That’s ridiculous. It’s so close that something as small as not running the exact tangent could have changed the outcome of the race. Chatham’s second man (9th overall) Dominic Vernazza beat the 10th placed runner by .21 seconds. That’s faster than it takes too blink. (Seriously I looked it up)
Unfortunately for Chatham, I think they’ll finish just outside the top 3. To make MOC’s Chatham would have to beat Morristown again and pick off either Highland Regional or Toms River South. Chatham’s hopes of advancing hinge on the performance of their number 1 runner, Will Myers. Myers has been running well all season and if he can finish ahead of Morristown’s number 1 Sean Lyons, the cougars may find themselves dancing. Look for Myers to advance as an individual after a solid performance at sectionals.
Girls: Cougar Cubs
The Lady Cougars earned the final spot into groups from the North 2 race. Their season will come to an end at Groups, but the future looks bright. All 7 girls return next year and the top 3 finishers were all freshman. This young team will use the group meet to gain some vital experience on the big stage.
New Providence (Group 1)
Boys: The Price is Right?
Led by individual winner Jordan Price, the Pioneers put 4 in the top 10 to win Central Jersey Group 1. Like the Chatham Boys, New Providence is right on the bubble. Perennial power Haddon Township will ease to a group victory leaving Pennsville, Arthur P. Schalick, Walkill Valley, and New Providence to fight it out for the other two spots. In Price, the Pioneers have a huge advantage as he is a contender for the individual title along with Craig Corti of Walkill Valley and Luke Petela of Haddon Township. If Price can finish in the top 3, New Providence has a shot as Schalik and Pennsville lack a dominant number one. Price could be a game changer for New Providence, if Haddon Townships 2nd and 3rd runners help the pioneer cause by finishing ahead of the #1 runners from the aforementioned schools. (Biggest word I’ve used in the Johnson Poll, no doubt about it.) I’m gonna be Brash and say New Providence sneaks in to MOC’s with a third place finish. However, a more rational man would say their likely to finish fourth with Price advancing as an individual.
Girls: Lady Pioneers Wagon Stuck in the Mud, Journey Comes to an End
I hate to use such a negative title but once I thought of it there’s no turning back. At their sectional meet, the Lady Pioneers came in third by one point (ONE POINT!) However Metuchen (the team they lost too) had a much faster average and are led by Rachel Suss, who will be a top finisher at Groups. New Providence doesn’t have that type of fire power up top. Pittman and North Warren are easily the top two teams in the group. In order to advance, New Providence needs to get revenge and beat both Shore and Metuchen. It will be close, but ultimately I think the lady pioneers will just miss out. Sophomore Megan Friscia is also on the bubble, and can advance individually if she puts together a good race.
That’s enough Johnson Poll for today, I’ll write up some Previews for Summit and GL later in the week.