By Cheryl Conway
Girls on the Mt. Olive High School Cross Country Varsity Team were recognized last month at the district school board meeting for their amazing season and being crowned State Champs.
The MOHS Girls Cross Country Team won the State Championship event on Nov. 16, in Holmdel-only the second time in school history to achieve such greatness. The Marauders were state champions back in 1989.
This season, the girls’ squad also achieved Conference Champions the third year in row; placed second in the County Championship; repeated State Sectional Champs for 14 years in a row; and placed eighth at the Meet of Champions against 20 teams.
Dedication by the runners and a strong coaching staff were recognized as reasons for the team’s success. The coaches could not be more proud.
After the North 1, Group Three State Meet on Nov. 16 at Holmdel State Park, when his team was named State Champion, head coach Mike Behre, who coaches both the boys and girls MOHS cross country teams, was elated.
“I probably cried for two days,” says Behre, when his girls won, from “sheer joy from what they accomplished. Being with them over the last two years has been special and watching them grow into such a force. When they were freshmen they could barely run from the high school to Tinc Rd. School.”
To win the state championship, the girls had to qualify and then compete against 20 teams. They won by 18 points, says Behre. Last year, the Marauders came in fifth place.
“We are pretty good,” says Behre.
The girl’s cross country season ran from mid August until Nov. 30, when the last meet- the Nike Cross Country Regionals was held in New York. Ten girls made up the MOHS girl’s varsity team this year, of which four were seniors; five were juniors; and one sophomore. At each meet, participants run a 5K or 3.1 miles.
Out of its regular conference meets- MOHS participates in the North Jersey Athletic Conference American Division- the Marauders won seven of its dual meets in a row, says Behre. It has been the repeat Conference Champions for the third year in a row, winning 21 dual meets consecutively.
One of its goals this year was to cinch the County Championship title. MOHS competed in the county meet on Oct. 29 against 21 teams and came in second losing first place against Randolph.
In the North 1 Group 3 State Sectional this year, MOHS won by 10 points, an accomplishment from last year when they had one by only three points, says Behre. MOHS girls cross country has won its state sectional for the past 14 years since 1978.
Behre credit’s his team’s success to their dedication and maturity over the years
“The girls matured to a certain point,” says Behre. “They ran as a pact mentally. They set the tone in the summer; they had a bad taste in their mouth after coming in fifth for the group meet last year. The girls did more in preseason that they’ve done before. They had run more than 400 miles before the Randolph meet,” which was the first meet in September. They “would run almost everyday over the summer,’ averaging about 40 miles every week.
All four seniors are looking into running at the next level for a D1 program, he says.
“I would love to continue my running career in college and have been looking into it, as have my senior teammates,” says Sara Christian of Flanders, one of the four team captains.
Christian, who started running cross country her freshman year, says being on the team has been one of her best experiences of high school.
“My experience on the cross country team is one I would not trade because it was the best experience I could have asked for out of high school,” says Christian. “The aspect of cross country I enjoy the most is the team. We have great chemistry and motivate each other to work hard every day in practice. Everyone is dedicated, and the fun personalities of every team member make practices enjoyable.”
Christian says “the success of the team this season would not have been possible without the dedication of every girl and the dedication of our outstanding coaches, Mr. Behre and Mr. Romano. We couldn’t have asked for a better coaching staff. They were extremely motivating and helped to make practice enjoyable every day.”
Her advice for future runners of MOHS Girls Cross Country is “do not take any day for granted. Running cross country was my favorite part of high school, but the effort you put in directly impacts the result of the season. Dedication to improvement is necessary for success in cross country, so make sure to put your full effort into every practice, and listen to your coaches, who ultimately know best how to help you succeed.”
Behre is confident that next year’s team can be successful too.
“We are going to try to reload,” says Behre. “We have pretty good eighth graders coming up. Even the girls that we are losing, with the girls behind us, we’re still going to be competitive.”