By Christopher Hunt
NEW YORK – They were going to have to wait for a little while. It wasn’t the kind of race that anyone was going to eyeball from the finish and proclaim the winner. So everyone waited, knowing that they had fought the good fight until Christian Brothers Academy was crowned winners of the first real cross country battle royal of the season.
CBA (N.J.) edged Fayetteville-Manilus, 120-130, in the boys Eastern States championship race at the Manhattan Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park. CBA took an eight-point lead through three men. Then Fayetteville-Manilus answered by finishing its fourth man eight places ahead of CBA’s fourth to take a four-point led. But FM’s leader, Alex Hatz, who underwent kidney surgery before the season and has only been running for three weeks, finished 54th, racing in his training shoes.
CBA coach Tom Heath said his team took exception to the fact that they were ranked fifth in the Northeast region this week and wanted to use the high profile race to prove to themselves. Haddonfield (N.J.) finished third in the race as a team with 141 points.
“We’re really happy with the way we ran,” Heath said. “This is just the beginning, it all starts next month. No doubt, this gave us a lot of confidence.”
FM coach Bill Aris said the race gave his team a chance to perform in high level competition without their No. 1. Hatz obviously isn’t yet race shape and his contribution to the team will make them a remarkably different squad by the end of the season if he remains healthy.
“Over a month that’s going to improve,” Aris said of Hatz’s performance. I think they realized that they needed to seize the moment. They ran OK. I think we got more work for them to do. I think they’re more disappointed in themselves than we are. “
Haddonfield’s Jonathan “Boo” Vitez won the individual title in 12:25.60 but his impressive performance was quickly overshadowed by West Winsor Plainsboro North Joe Rosa and his twin brother Jim in the Varsity F race. Joe Rosa outkicked his twin brother in the last 1,000 meters to break the 2.5-mile course record at Van Cortlandt Park in 12:03.77, topping Solomon Haile of Sherwood’s record of 12:06.61 set last year.
“Me and Jim like to run together for the first half of the race, so that’s what we did,” Joe Rosa said. “We had a gap by 800 meters and we just kept working together. He would push the pace. I would push the race. Once we got over the back straight, that’s where we really started to break up. He stayed with me the whole time. He was breathing down my beck but I guess I was able to pull away.”
Joe finished five seconds ahead of his brother but 50 seconds ahead of the third place finisher and even that was teammate Jonathan Squeri in 12:53.06 to complete the 1-2-3 finish. Only the Eastern States race would have offered more competition but even in that race it likely would have still looked like two brothers who simply decided to race each other on a Saturday morning.
Not only did not running in the Eastern States race leave some what ifs, but the variations to the course because for construction to the park, raised questions of whether the record should be counted as a new course record since it wasn’t the traditional course, the one Haile set the record on last year. One reporter asked Joe Rosa if he thought his record was legitimate.
“Solomon Haile won Foot Lockers last year so I don’t want to say that he couldn’t have beat me today because he’s a great runner,” Joe said. “But I think that with the way I ran today, I’m happy to have the course record but you never really know. He could have beaten me today.”
West Winsor Plainsboro North had the fastest team average of the day as well, using the Rosa twins performance to clock a 12:58.26 average. North Rockland had the fastest team average of any New York team not named Fayetteville-Manilus, winning the Varsity C race with 59 points and a 13:14.57 team average. Senior Nick Hughes won the race in 12:41.57.
“This is the biggest thing we wanted,” Hughes said. “We wanted to come in and get a win at the Manhattan Invite. It’s never happened before. It’s eluded us for so long. We really just wanted to get a win here. It didn’t matter what race it was in.”
Reach Christopher Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org.