November 21, 2018

PDS Boys’ Cross Country Saves its Best for Last, Placing 5th in State Prep B Championship Meet

By Bill Alden

After taking its lumps early in the fall, the Princeton Day School boys’ cross country team saved its best for last.

Building on a positive performance at the Mercer County championship meet in mid-October that saw several runners post personal bests, PDS ended the season by placing a solid fifth in the team standings at the state Prep B meet at the Blair Academy on October 24 won by Newark Academy.

“That was a terrific way to end to season; we were looking at that kind of performance and hoping for that all year,” said PDS head coach John Woodside, whose team was led at the meet by sophomore Gunnar Clingman, the seventh place finisher in a time of 17:46 over the 5,000-meter course with junior Kevin Dougherty coming in 14th at 18:41. “There is no question that there were a lot of struggles early on.”

In the first few weeks of the campaign, the Panthers struggled to stay together as a pack with its younger runners working to get up to speed.

“At the beginning of the season we had a four-minute gap from No. 2 to No. 3, that was killing us,” said Woodside.

“We had four seniors who graduated from last year’s team, and that was the whole mill of our pack. We had young kids who were trying to move up, and we had new kids coming out who were trying to figure the sport out, so it took them a while to do it but they came along.”

It was comforting for Woodside to have the battle-tested Dougherty leading the way.

“Kevin has been a rock for three years because even as a freshman he was right up in the front,” said Woodside.

“He has really been right up in the front of the pack for three years. Kevin has done so much for our program. I can’t say enough about how great he has been. He didn’t have one of his better days at the Prep B meet, but he fought as hard as he could because he knew his performance would really matter for the team.”

Clingman has emerged as a frontrunner for PDS. “We were hoping for big things from him and he had a good season; this year it was even better,” said Woodside, noting that Clingman wasn’t able to get in mileage he wanted this summer due to a camp commitment.

“He came back and I was a little concerned. He is very focused and very competitive kid and he wants to be great. He really pushed himself hard. Give Kevin a lot of credit because he helped to pull Gunnar up.”

At the Prep B meet, the Panthers had several other runners step up as junior George Ma took 26th in 19:33, sophomore Tharun Potluri placed 37th in 20:11, senior Amon Devane came in 42nd in 20:29, junior Justin Mortman finished 43rd in 20:48, and sophomore Shivam Singh was 44th in 21:11.

“George was new to cross country this year; he was a sprinter when he was younger,” said Woodside.

“We said ‘why don’t you come out and try cross country?’ and he did. He really turned out to be good at it. Podluri really got good at the end of the year. We had a young team this year. They had to develop and they did.”

Looking ahead, Woodside believes the program has the foundation in place to develop into a force at the prep level.

“I feel like it is getting solid and more solid every year; now we have a platform to jump off of that is higher than it was,” said Woodside.

“When I first started here we had an older team; we had a lot of juniors and seniors. When they moved on and the other kids come in and filled in, it was a little bit of build up. We don’t have a lot of kids at the school. We did have 19 on the team this year, that is starting to get to a pretty good level. I had a full JV team in every race this year.”