North cross country lost most of its varsity to graduation last year, but it nevertheless had raced to an undefeated start this year. The Knights found a formidable opponent, however, in crosstown rival High School South. North fell to South, 21-40, in the teams’ only head-to-head matchup of the year on Tuesday, October 16.
In a year of all new faces, though, 10th-year head coach Brian Gould is seeing plenty of success, starting with senior Ed Cunningham. Cunningham finished second in 16:11 in North’s race at the Shore Coaches Invitational on Saturday, October 6.
“Ed is our top guy,” Gould said. “On the whole day he was the third-fastest in New Jersey.”
Gould says that while Cunningham was a good athlete as a freshman, he has improved greatly since then. Cunningham’s performance on the challening Holmdel course at Shore Coaches was his personal best by 34 seconds.
Among the other four seniors and two juniors on North’s varsity squad, the surprise breakout runner this year is Austin Lynn. “Lynn was a middle of the pack JV runner for the last couple of years, but he really stepped up this year to be in the top two or three positions for a couple of races,” Gould said.
Kevin Maa, another senior, is a middle-distance runner who has also surprised Gould with his varsity-level performance. North’s most intriguing athlete is Nihal Narsipur, who did not run at all as a junior but has come back in his senior year to make the squad. As a freshman and sophomore, Gould says, Narsipur “wasn’t even in the middle of the pack.
“He was playing tennis, and although he ran and he was friends with the other guys on the team, he was never dedicated like this before. I give him a hard time now because he was the guy cutting practice all the time and getting called into the coach’s classroom. I never would have dreamt that he would be on top with the varsity squad — he’s still the smallest guy out there, and if you passed him in the halls with 1,600 kids you would never guess he’s a varsity runner,” Gould said.
Another senior playing a leadership role is Arvind Arikatla. “He’s a good leader; he’s aggressive and he’s competitive, and he’s taught some of these other guys how to be like him in that way,” Gould said.
The influence has rubbed off on juniors Sam Praveen and Bryan Howard, who have impressed Gould this year. “Sam has been our second or third guy and Bryan has been our second guy at times too, because we have a very nice competition going for the lead spots after Eddie (Cunningham). The guys jump around spots a lot because they’re competitive and they push each other,” he said.
Gould said the next generation of varsity might be led by freshman Shu Ming, who competed with seniors Jacob Bardfeld and Brian Alba in practice. With the right guidance and competitive attitudes in place, the future appears bright for North cross country.
South: More Twins
For the Pirates, 2012 has also been a year for new blood to seize opportunities.
“A lot of kids on our team are inexperienced, a lot are in a position now to make strides. They will do it by trying to manage their emotions and keep their heads and bodies in proper working order,” says head coach Kurt Wayton.
In late September South beat Princeton, 25-30, in a meet at Mercer County Park. Junior Tom Vinci, who Wayton says will become one of the best runners in the state, finished first in that race and went on to finish 11th at the Shore Coaches Invitational.
“It was his best time ever for a state-level course. He also came in the top five at the Cherokee Challenge, so he’s built momentum so far this season,” Wayton said.
Coming in right behind Vinci at Cherokee was another junior, Karn Setya. Wayton says Setya has really emerged as one of the best cross country runners in the area.
“Consistent, devout, excellent character. He just has plenty of positive attributes along with pure talent,” Wayton says.
Wayton is a firm believer in the ability of his two juniors. When Setya broke 4:30 for the mile in spring track, Wayton gave him hopes of becoming a leader on this year’s cross country squad. Hard work over the summer helped Setya reach that goal.
“By design, we always train our kids. As we go along, we’re always training for the end of the year. Hitting very good long runs in practice, and I think our biggest challenge day-in and day-out is to maximize physically or mentally our capabilities,” Wayton said.
South’s roster includes fifth runner Jeff Chen and sixth runner George Hamilton. Moving between the two and four spots are twin brothers Jake and Dan Riff. The pair has also brought South’s cross country team some added attention, drawing a couple of comparisons to the Rosa twins who starred at North.
But Wayton, who has an identical twin himself, says he just wants the Riffs to become the best individuals and best competitors that they can be. He says too much pressure can be detrimental to each runner.
“The biggest benefit of having twins is the constant mirror of comparison. But that can also be a negative things because they can be so hyper-competitive with each other,” Wayton said.
Wayton says the Rosas were his favorite competitors who were not Pirates. “I may coach for another 40 years and never see another Jim and Joe Rosa,” he said.
#b#West Windsor-Plainsboro Siblings Star in NCAA Action#/b#
Former cross country standouts and High School South alumni Katie and Caroline Kellner are making an impact on Cornell University’s athletic circuit as the sisters helped the Big Red finish first at the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., in late September.
Katie, a senior, finished second at the meet while Caroline, a freshman, came in 28th place. With the win previously unranked Cornell earned a national raking of ninth overall.
On the men’s side High School North alumni Jim and Joe Rosa led Stanford University to a first-place finish at the recent Stanford Invitational. Joe Rosa finished third overall while his brother Jim finished ninth. Stanford beat Adams State, a Division II school, 34-40.
Both sets of WW-P alumni participated in the Wisconsin Invitational on Friday, October 12. Stanford took first place with Jim and Joe Rosa leading the way in 17th and 19th place, respectively. Cornell finished fifth led by a 15th-place finish by Katie Kellner. Caroline Kellner was 172nd.