Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 42
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
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SETTING THE PACE: Princeton High boys’ cross country star Sean Pradhan heads to the finishing line in a recent meet. Senior co-captain Pradhan has consistently been the top finisher this fall for the Little Tigers. PHS is slated to compete in the Mercer County Championship meet on October 30 with the sectional meet taking place on November 7.

PHS Boys’ Cross Country Making Strides; Primed for County and State Competitions

Bill Alden

John Woodside likens progress in cross country to the formation of a glacier.

“You can improve but it takes time; you are not going to go from 20 minutes (for a 5k) to 17 overnight or even in one season,” said Woodside, the Princeton High boys’ cross country head coach.

Woodside believes that his team this fall is heading to the top of its glacier.

“This is best team I have ever had time-wise,” said Woodside who is in his ninth season guiding the Little Tiger boys’ program.

“They are very competitive. We have been in the top three in the county a couple of times since I have been here but we have never been better than top five in the sectional. I am hoping we can beat that this year.”

PHS’s top performer this fall has been senior Sean Pradhan. “Sean has been our rock out front; he is so much of a leader in the way he expects a lot from himself,” said Woodside.

“He is consistent and even-tempered. He is respected for his work ethic, personality, and ability.”

Junior Aaron Thomas has added ability to the Little Tigers as well. “Aaron has been close to Sean this season,” said Woodside.

“He has been sick this week but has been just about as good as Sean. It is great to have a one-two punch like that. Those two guys have set the tone and have made us go.”

Thomas’ classmate, Zaid Smart, has also set a positive tone for PHS with his dramatic improvement.

“Zaid Smart has been the biggest surprise; he was a guy who I thought was going to be on JV,” said Woodside, whose team took fourth in its division last saturday at the Old Bridge Classic.

“He made it to varsity and has now solidified himself as our No. 3 runner. I think in the past, he was doing it for fun and was not truly committed. This season, he found himself running well and his work ethic got better. He had some good races and he got excited.”

Woodside is excited about the depth of his squad. “We have a good pack,” said Woodside.

“Damien Nagle is our senior captain along with Sean. Kevin Petrovic, Tim Vasseur, and Matt Hoffman have been solid. Jeremy is a wild card. He can’t help us on Saturdays [due to other commitments] but he has run well when he has competed.”

PHS has some other runners who could help the squad down the road.

“Julius Gertz has come back; he was with us as a freshman,” said Woodside.

“He is from Germany. He has been training with us; he is waiting out the transfer rule. Will Dobbs-Allsopp had some ankle problems early in season but ran great at Old Bridge. He was our third place guy.”

Woodside acknowledges that his team is going to have some problems cracking the top three at the upcoming Mercer County Championship meet.

“In the past, the guys have always looked at the counties as the most important meet,” said Woodside, reflecting on the meet which is slated for October 30 at Washington Crossing Park.

“We can’t beat WW/P-N or WW/P-S so we are running for third. HoVal has been killing us and Hightstown is very good.”

In Woodside’s view, the Little Tigers have a very good chance to make some noise in the state competition that will take place next month, starting with the sectionals on November 7 at Thompson Park followed by the state group meet a week later at Holmdel.

“The meet we are really focusing on is the sectional meet,” asserted Woodside.

“Last year we put all of our emotional energy into the county meet and we were flat for the sectionals. We can finish higher in the sectional than in the county. We don’t have WW/P-S. The ultimate goal is to finish in the top 10 in the Group III meet the next week. Teams that finish fifth in the sectional usually take 15th or so in the group meet so finishing third is the goal.”

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