Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 40
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
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PHS Boys’ Cross Country Displays Depth, Wins Varsity C Title at Shore Coaches Meet

Bill Alden

Competing in the high-powered Shore Coaches Invitational meet last Saturday without one of its frontrunners, the Princeton High boys’ cross country team seemingly had little chance to win the Varsity C title.

Even though senior star Kevin Ivanov got delayed due to the SATs and arrived at Holmdel too late for the varsity race, the rest of the PHS team didn’t miss a beat, showing its superb depth in edging Indian Hills 86-97 for the title.

While PHS head coach John Woodside knew that Ivanov’s absence was a setback, he wasn’t surprised to see his squad overcome that challenge.

“It was a big day; it was a big win,” said Woodside, whose team was paced by sophomore Conor Donahue, the seventh-place finisher, clocking a time of 17:10 over the 5k course, with junior Will Flemer next at 15th, sophomore Sage Healy taking 18th, senior Matt Hoffman finishing 25th, and junior Ian McIsaac placing 28th.

“The team was as good as it has been all year; the trademark is the pack. Last year, we had one or two guys way out there. This year, it is a very tight pack and it is not always the same guys that are up there.”

PHS boasts quality throughout its pack. “When you look at our team compared to other Group 3 teams, some teams are better at No. 1 and some are better at No. 1 and 2,” said Woodside.

“But nobody is better at No. 3 and we are way better at Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7. Our strength comes from the back of the pack.”

A key source of strength for the Little Tigers has been the consistency of Flemer and senior captain Matt Hoffman, a versatile athlete who also stars in basketball and baseball.

“Will Flemer is always there for us; he is always in the top three, “ said Woodside.

“He has been a rock for us. Matt Hoffman has really stepped into a leadership role. He is a good athlete and he understands how to win and compete. He has been important to the development of our team. Will and Matt are the important core guys and the others are filling in around them.”

The other guys have been developing nicely. “Kevin emerging at No. 1 has been a pleasant surprise; he has generally been our top finisher,” said Woodside, noting that Ivanov was the runner-up in the JV B race on Saturday, leading the Little Tigers to a second place finish in the team standings for that event.

“Conor is new to cross country; he ran track last spring. He is just figuring things out; he is just starting to come into his own. He can be a star; the race on Saturday was his best race of the season and his life. Ian is a strong runner; we are looking for him to step up. Sage is the quiet guy in the group; he is starting to emerge.”

With the Little Tigers having also won the Group III race at the Passaic County Coaches Invitational on September 24, Woodside believes his squad could emerge as a contender for a state title.

“Our focus is the states; I think we have definitively proved that we are one of the top teams in the sectional,” asserted Woodside.

“This is the first time since I have been coach here that we have won invitational races at the varsity level. If the guys step up and keep improving, I am not afraid to say that winning a state group title is our goal. We know that there are four or five really good teams out there and we have to train hard over the next six weeks.”

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