October 27, 2021

PHS Boys’ Cross Country Takes 2nd at County Meet As Kenny Pushes Through Leg Pain to Lead the Pack

PHOTO FINISH: Princeton High boys’ cross county star Andrew Kenny, right, edges Shaurya Srivastava of WW/P-South at the Mercer County cross country championship meet last Friday at Washington Crossing Park. Kenny finished fifth individually to lead the way for PHS as it placed second in the team standings, one point behind champion WW/P-North. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Andrew Kenny came to the starting line of the boys’ varsity race at the Mercer County cross country championship meet last Friday afternoon with his right calf wrapped in pink tape.

While Princeton High junior star Kenny had tweaked his calf just days before the meet, that didn’t keep him from assuming his frontrunner role for the Tigers.

Kenny clocked a time of 15:54.47 over the 5,000-meter course at Washington Crossing Park to take fifth individually.

“Even though my calf was burning for almost the whole time, I pushed through,” said Kenny. “I still raced amazing, it was a PR.”

Even though the PHS squad pushed hard collectively, it fell just short of winning the team title, losing by one point to WW/P-North, 52-53. Junior Zachary Deng was the next finisher for the Tigers, taking eighth in 16:28.47. Senior Kento Nakaya placed 12th in 16:35.14 with junior Marty Brophy finishing 13th in 16:41.95.

In reflecting on his race, Kenny said the course was suited to him.

“My start and my downhills I am really strong at so I really worked those two downhills,” said Kenny.

“But also the hill wasn’t really too bad of a hill. I just pushed at that so I could relax.”

Kenny has put in some extra work in emerging as the team’s frontrunner.

“It is really just my summer training, I was at about 40 miles a week,” said Kenny.

“I am more of an 800 guy in track and lower in mileage so 40 was a big leap for me. I put in a lot of work over the summer. When preseason came, I kept that up.”

While PHS was disappointed to fall short of the county crown, Kenny is pleased with how the team has progressed this fall.

“We have been doing amazing,” said Kenny. “The back four have been running in the pack, they all work together.”

PHS head coach Jim Smirk tipped his hat to WW/P-North and its coach, Brian Gould.

“He has a group of great kids, they work incredibly hard,” said Smirk.

“We didn’t execute the way we know we are capable of and they took advantage of that.”

In Smirk’s view, Kenny’s injury may have knocked his squad off stride.

“We got a little shook, thinking Andrew is not ready to go,” said Smirk.

“We tried to take a little too much on ourselves and we need to be a little more confident as a team. We are a good, strong team and we need to compete that way.”

With PHS set to compete in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional on November 6, Smirk hopes that his squad will use the experience from last Friday to compete better in that meet.

“There are lessons to learn, we have big championship races coming up,” said Smirk.

“I think time-wise they ran well but I think competitively there is another level for them.”

Kenny, for his part, is primed to run hard in the sectional. “I am super excited, I want to get my payback,” said Kenny. “I want to beat all of the guys that beat me.”