October 10, 2018

Paced by Senior Moran, Sophomore Standouts, PHS Girls’ Cross Country Showing Promise

FRONT OF THE PACK: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Siena Moran displays her form in action last year. Last Saturday, senior Moran finished seventh individually in the Girls’ Varsity B race at the Shore Coaches Invitational at Holmdel Park to help PHS place fifth of 19 schools in the team standings in the race. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Having becoming a member of the Princeton High girls’ cross country team last fall after transferring from the American School of London, Siena Moran embraced the culture of her new program.

Improving by leaps and bounds, Moran became a star, taking sixth at the Mercer County Championship meet and placing 10th at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional.

PHS head coach Jim Smirk sensed that Moran was just scratching the surface, and that some offseason work would make her a force this fall.

“It is the first real time she has ever been challenged to do summer training,” said Smirk. “What we are seeing is her first full cycle of running and she is taking advantage of that. It is great to see that she is able to do that.”

Last Saturday, that training paid dividends as Moran finished seventh individually in the Girls’ Varsity B race at the Shore Coaches Invitational at Holmdel Park to help PHS place fifth of 19 schools in the team standings in the race.

“Siena ran lights out; she was in a pretty solid spot at the two-mile mark and wasn’t necessarily in the race yet,” said Smirk of Moran, who clocked a time of 19:41 over the 5,000-meter course.

“We gave her a real challenge to see if she could be the best racer in her respective race in the last mile downhill there, and she ran brilliantly. She really ate up a lot of people who were ahead of her; she had a really nice race.”

In Smirk’s view, Moran is primed for some brilliant racing ahead. “Siena is a different runner today than she was a year ago, no question, although I don’t know that she is complete yet,” added Smirk.

“She is learning how to manage the middle mile a little more effectively and being engaged in the right groups. There is still work to be done there … and she is aware of that and we are excited for it.”

Smirk is excited about the progress being shown by sophomore Charlotte Gilmore, who took 14th in 20:28 last Saturday.

“I think the big thing for Charlotte is seeing her grow into a veteran,” said Smirk.

“Last year, when we got to those bigger meets, it was a little bit of her eyes were wide open and ‘whoa there are a lot of people here.’ This year she is really starting to settle and saying,
‘I have some skills here that are valuable to us as a team, I have some abilities that are valuable for us as a team and if I use those we will be a better team for it.’ She is becoming the quiet day in, day out, do good work runner, getting good race results and getting better. That is going to open up a world of opportunity for her.”

Some of Gilmore’s classmates have the opportunity to become special as fellow sophomores Yana Medvedeva took 46th in 21:52 at the Shore Coaches meet with Sophia Dacruz coming in 51st in 21:56 and Emma Lips finishing 71st with a time of 22:40.

“This group is starting to find an identity,” said Smirk. “I think sometimes we put a little too much on our shoulders, and that’s just because they were freshmen last year and didn’t have the role of being varsity runners. They are learning how to be that. Let’s see what we can do when we get to the end of year. There is no question that we have done great work, so the next question is can we trust in our work and have it be expressed when we race.”

With county meet taking place on October 19 at Washington Crossing State Park, PHS will get a chance to answer that question.

“It comes down to ‘can we solidify our gap?’ We are a little spread out,” said Smirk.

“We are just getting Erica Oake (57th at the Shore Coaches meet in 22:06) back from an ankle injury. Once she is able to go from just building some base and getting some races under her belt to actually going to be the competitor that we know she is capable of being, that will help solidify our core a little bit.”