Impressive start by Colts team that has national ambitions

first_imgBy TIM MORRIS Staff Writer The passion and zeal in his voice gave it away. Tom Heath is very excited about what his 2015 Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) cross-country team can achieve this year. That’s saying a lot coming from the most successful coach in New Jersey history who has won a record 20 NJSIAA Meet of Champions (MOC) titles as well as a Nike Cross Nationals championship (2011).All the ingredients are there, however, for the Colts to be very special this fall. Some national polls rank them No. 1 in the country.“Everything is going along pretty well,” Heath said. “Last year was a little tough.”Although CBA extended its record MOC titles to 20, the Colts were not at their best as they usually are in November. They needed a tiebreaker (sixth man) just to win the Non-Public A state title. They won the MOC crown with a high score for them (82) and went on to place 11th at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon.It’s still very early in the season, Heath noted, but his Colts have already made a pretty strong impression.Opening up at the Roxbury Invitational, CBA was first with a dual-meet score of 19 points and broke the Horseshoe Lake Park team course record, averaging 16:07.07. The Colts’ Drake Anzano was the overall winner, clocking 15:49.27 and out-kicking St. Benedict’s Preparatory School’ Ronald Kigen (15:50.43).“It was a great race,” Heath said. “Things went really, really well. We broke the course record without [Blaise Ferro (CBA’s top harrier)].“The difference [between last year and this year] is the team this year is definitely more committed. They race well. They up their game when they have to.”From Roxbury, the Colts went to the Bowdoin XC Classic in Wappingers Falls, New York, where the Nike Cross Nationals Regional Qualifier will be held in November, and won there rather impressively — again missing Ferro — with a 37-point team score and the fastest team average of the day (16:39.97).CBA always has a wealth of talent and with five returnees from last year’s MOC winners, the Colts figured to be national contenders this fall.Ferro is already one of the most accomplished runners in Colts history with three MOC track titles to his credit (two indoors and one outdoors) and last year’s Non-Public A cross-country championship. He would like nothing better than to win the MOC title in cross-country to give him the distance triple crown. Of course, the team comes first, and that could impact the MOC race.The senior has it all — endurance, speed and strength — to be a threat to win every race he competes in.Nick Trigani, Brian Dengler and Jon Dooling are all proven cross-country runners. As seniors, they are familiar with running in big races. They form the core group behind Ferro. How well they run together will determine if the Colts are national contenders.Two newcomers to the mix are senior Paul Knepple and sophomore Brian Hill. Knepple is coming off a spring track season where he ran 9:28 for 3,200 meters. Hill’s early season form has been a pleasant surprise. At the Roxbury Invitational, they finished fourth and fifth.The wild card for the Colts is Anzano. The junior didn’t factor in the cross-country season last year but after winning the outdoor MOC championship at 1,600 meters, it fueled speculation about what he could do for the cross-country team. If winning his 2015 debut at Roxbury is any indication of what he can do, CBA will not only have its depth, but also the best one-two punch in the state.Anzano backed up his Roxbury win with a second-place finish at the Bowdoin Classic (16:24.79).Juniors Noah Yuro and Riley Gardner are competing for top-seven slots.With this much talent, Heath doesn’t shy away from pointing out that in 2015, everything is about the nationals.Looking ahead, Heath remarked that he will have to pace his team, keep everyone rested and not over race them. Looking back on last year, Heath noted the raced a little too hard in some races.The Colts pursue a second national title and a 21st MOC crown.The next big race for the Colts will be the Manhattan Invitational at historic Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York, Oct. 10.The Monmouth County and Shore Conference meets are Oct. 20 and 29, respectively.The NJSIAA Group Championships are Nov. 14 at Holmdel Park, and the MOC is Nov. 21 at Holmdel.CBA’s path to the Nike Nationals begins Nov. 28 back at Bowdoin Park with the Northeast Regional, where the top two teams automatically qualify for the Nike Cross Nationals Dec. 5.last_img

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