With Young Runners Gaining Valuable Experience, PHS Girls’ Cross Country Takes 14th at Group Meet
By Bill Alden
For the Princeton High girls’ cross country team, competing at the Group 4 state championship meet last Saturday was a valuable learning experience for the young squad.
“We had a little bit of an uneven day for us; I would have like to have seen us be a little bit more aggressive early on,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk, whose lineup for the race at Holmdel Park included three freshmen and one sophomore.
“We were a little bit surprised with the intensity of the competition. These kids have run the Shore Coaches meet and there is a lot of kids there and then they got here and it is, whoa, everyone here is fast. We found that some of our younger runners were maybe on the wrong side of the first mile.”
The Little Tigers ended up 14th of 19 schools in the team standings with senior Chloe Taylor leading the way for PHS, taking 43rd individually, covering the 5,000-meter course in a time of 20:18.00. She was followed by junior Siena Moran, who took 52nd in 20:30.00, and senior Lauren Cleary, the 84th-place finisher at 21:07.00.
“I think we saw an absolutely brilliant performance by Lauren Cleary, one of our captains,” said Smirk,
“She really struggled to get to the postseason healthy. She had a personal record on the course; she picked up a ton of spots in the last mile.”
The team’s other senior co-captain Taylor struggled a bit in the early stages on Saturday but persevered.
“It got away from us early and Chloe showed exactly why she has been such a big part of our team for so long,” said Smirk.
“She stayed in there and kept finding a way and giving us better opportunities. She wanted to be down in the 19:40s. She is capable of that but the race didn’t really allow her those opportunities. It went out incredibly fast in the first 800 meters which is not her strength and put her in a little bit of a bad spot early. It wasn’t the speed race she was looking for but she represented herself incredibly well as she has done all season.”
Following Taylor’s example, the team’s younger runners raced hard to the end as freshman Charlotte Gilmore took 103rd in 21:36.00 and classmate Chloe Ayers placed 111th with a time 21:55.00.
“They did really good work to put themselves in a better position,” said Smirk. “We certainly showed a lot of fight, there is no quit in what we did.”