By Christopher Hunt
WAPPINGERS FALLS – It’s hard enough not to dance when you win but how do you not dance when 50 kids are chanting for you to? “Shake your booty,” Don Bosco called. “Shake your booty.”
So Don Bosco chanted and West Winsor Plainsboro North commenced the booty shaking. They had the right idea. It was time to party. Both teams qualified for the national championships next weekend in Portland, Ore., after WWP North (Knight XC Club) squeezed pass Don Bosco (Bergen XC Club), 71-74, at the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regionals Saturday at Bowdoin Park.
North’s Joe Rosa ran away when the race straight away, winning in 15:56.6. Just 12 points separated the top three teams. North Allegamy (Wexford Flats RC) finished third with 83 points.
“We came in really confident,” Rosa said. “A lot of the guys said they weren’t even nervous. We’ve just had a really good season and it helped that we’ve raced her a few times.”
Joe’s twin brother, Jim Rosa, finished 11th overall in 16:29.7. Tyler Corkedale finished 16th for WWPN in 16:36.3 with Jon Squeri 31st 16:59.6 and Ryan Sleeper 44th in 17:07.2.
“This has been the goal all season,” Joe Rosa said. “I’m really glad I’m on going by myself. Honestly, I was thinking that if I had to go by myself that I might not go so I’m really happy that we made it as a team.”
Leighton Spencer finished second for Don Bosco in 16:07.6. He gave a solid effort to chase Rosa but couldn’t close the gap.
“I thought I ran well,” Spencer said. “I made a bunch of surges. I tried to make some moves to catch him but he was really just too far ahead.”
The official word about who won didn’t come until about three hours after the start of the race when it was announced at the awards ceremony at the conclusion of the race. But it seemed WWP North and Don Bosco had a pretty good idea they had qualified for Nike Cross Nationals Dec. 6. It especially looked that way since Don Bosco was cheering and chanting nearly the entire awards ceremony, which excited the rest of the audience huddled on a hill at a pavilion at the bottom of the park.
“We don’t like to put any pressure on ourselves,” Spencer said about the team’s disposition. “We like to have fun.”
A group of shirtless Don Bosco supporters dashed around the course with letters painted on their chests. One boy even dressed up like comic book character The Flash.
Lincoln-Sudbury of Massachusetts, ranked No. 15 in the country, didn’t challenge Don Bosco or WWP North to any dance contests, but they did win the girls championship with 53 points, while representing Mercury TC. Newton Centre Athletics (No. 7-ranked Newton South, Mass.) finished second with 66.
“It’s incredible to come here and win a second year in a row,” said Ellie Hylton who finished sixth for Lincoln-Sudbury, running as Mercury TC, in 19:16.3. Teammate Corey Stock finished ninth in 19:22.8, Andrea Keklak 11th in 19:32 and Claire Arthur 18th in 19:55.8.
But Jennifer Gossels made the difference in 19th place in 19:57.0. Lincoln-Sudbury trailed Newton South by 16 after four runners.
The two teams simply transported their rivalry from Massachusetts to New York and the defending champs came in as the underdog.
“That was definitely motivation,” Hylton said.
Newton’s Kelsey Karys won the race in 18:45.7, taking control of the race midway through.
“I was trying to hold back in the beginning because I usually go out too fast,” she said.
But just when the lead pack broke away and she settled in, she got a sign that said it was time to switch gears.
“I think someone spit on me,” she said laughing. “I just saw this big wad of spit coming at me so I had to get out of there.”
Karys said the accidental spitting landed on her singlet before she could escape once she surged to the front she stayed free of projectiles until she crossed the finishing tape, which was held by former Tully star and Olympian Lopez Lomong. Once Karys broke away she knew she’d have to keep accelerating but never felt comfortable with her lead and even glanced over her shoulder a few times.
“Now I owe my coach a slice of pizza,” she said. “I bet him that I wouldn’t look over back.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.