November 8, 2017

PHS Girls’ Cross Country Takes 4th in Sectional As Transfer Moran Continues to Make Strides

MORE TO COME: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Siena Moran displays her form in a race earlier this fall. Last Saturday, junior Moran placed 10th individually at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional to help PHS finish fourth in the team standings and advance to the state Group 4 meet on November 11 at Holmdel. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Joining the Princeton High girls’ cross country team this fall after having competed for the American School of London program, Siena Moran had trouble keeping up with her new teammates at first.

“It was definitely more intense here,” said junior Moran. “When I came for the first two weeks of practice, it literally destroyed me. I was so not used to that level of training.”

Adapting to the increased training load, junior Moran has emerged as a star for PHS. Last Saturday, she placed 10th at the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional, posting a time of 19:53.00 over the 5,000-meter course at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.

Moran’s stellar performance helped PHS place fourth in the team standings and advance to the state Group 4 meet on November 11 at Holmdel.

“At the beginning of the season, I thought 21:30 was the fastest I was going to get,” said Moran.

“I think I ran that the first time we were here and and I was thinking I am at my peak right now but it want down even from that.”

Moran finished just behind senior star Chloe Taylor, who took ninth in 19:50.50.

“She is usually way, way ahead of me so I was surprised that was the first time I have actually seen her during a race,” said Moran.

“Chloe is usually out of sight for everyone; we train together but she is usually a minute ahead of everyone else.”

Noting that she been influenced by Taylor, Moran has enjoyed becoming a part of the PHS squad.

“It has definitely made me a lot better,” said Moran. “It is really different, having a huge team. My team before was like 20 people. They are all super nice and it has been nice getting to know them.”

PHS head coach Jim Smirk was proud of the way his girls’ team kept things together as it dealt with some injury woes.

“We were joking that maybe our slogan should be ‘held together by duct tape and bubble gum,’” said Smirk.

“We had to ride that wave a little bit. I think the credit for our mindset and our ability to not panic in the face of that goes to Chloe Taylor. She has raced that way all season. I am incredibly proud of her as our captain and as a senior. She has put together an absolutely amazing season for us so far and we are looking forward to more.”

Smirk is looking to seeing more from Moran. “When she came out, she said I have run a little track and it was OK, we will take our time,” said Smirk, who got a 15th-place finish at the sectional from freshman Charlotte Gilmore.

“All of a sudden, we are watching her race and run and saying there is so much more here. Chloe took her under her wing and said let’s teach you how to train. It was the same with Charlotte Gilmore; that little crew there has done really well.”

The team’s crew of scorers at the sectional meet also included senior Lauren Cleary, who took 35th, and sophomore Elizabeth Hare in 43rd place.

“We need to make a nod to Lauren Cleary, she is a captain for us as well this year,” said Smirk.

“She had a big 30+ second-PR here today. Hare really struggled this season; it took a long time for her to get her feet underneath her and start to run better. She put together a great training week with Chloe Ayers, another one of our freshmen, and it showed.”

Looking ahead to the Group meet, Smirk is hoping his team can produce another good showing.

“We have got to stay in our growth mindset; we are really young,” said Smirk.

“For us, it is about getting out there and having that experience, racing well in that experience even though it is new, and really understanding that the training that we did from preseason forward was all geared towards having positive results late in the season. That is a good lesson for our younger runners to learn, to be patient and have it pay off when it counts.”

Even though Moran is heading into uncharted territory at the Group meet, she is looking for another positive result. “We are hoping to build on this. We will see what happens,” said Moran.