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Bednar tops state Holmdel record as Holmdel Invite fills gap without NJSIAA M of C logo 11/26/2020 Andrew Borders,
a group of people flying kites in a field: Holmdel Park hosted the 2019 Shore Coaches Invitational Saturday. © Andrew Borders/Andrew Borders | For NJ Advance Media/ Holmdel Park hosted the 2019 Shore Coaches Invitational Saturday.


It was not the NJSIAA Meet of Champions, nor was it an NJSIAA-sponsored event, nor were the teams even competing under the banners of their high schools. But, in 2020, add the Holmdel Invitational to the list of adjustments, changes and work-arounds to make things as normal as possible.

Charlotte Bednar, who runs at Lawrenceville, and Vidhur Polam, who runs at South Brunswick, won the individual titles, while runners from Haddonfield and Christian Brothers Academy won the team titles at Wednesday afternoon’s meet, which included most of the best runners and teams in the state on the same course that hosts the M of C each year.

For the runners from CBA, competing as Brothers Track Club, it doesn’t count as their fourth straight M of C title, but seeing runners from the school atop the leaderboard at a Holmdel meet sure does seem familiar.

“It just feels great. We worked real hard regardless of the circumstances, and I think we made the best of the situation,” CBA/Brothers runner Ben Santos said. “We did a tough workout here about two weeks ago and I think that really helped us focus and concentrate for the race, and it turned out pretty well.”

Brothers Track Club finished ahead of runners from Ridge, competing as Ridge Runners Track Club, 48-64, on the boys side. The Hunterdon Lions, with runners from North Hunterdon, were third with 100 points in the 10-team field.

Brothers Track Club put four runners in the top 16, with Chris DeSousa leading the way in fourth in 15:55.

“I couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” DeSousa said. “Definitely different than a normal year, (but it’s what) you’ve got to do.”

Polam, a senior coming off posting the best time across the four sections at the NJSIAA Central Jersey meet two weekends ago at Thompson Park in Monroe, clocked 15:32 to beat Matt Bogdan, who runs at Colts Neck, by eight seconds in 15:40. Jackson Barna, who runs at Ridge, was third in 15:48, and DeSousa was the only other runner to break 16 minutes.

“This past week, I got injured pretty badly on both of my legs, my left shin and then my right toes, so I was nervous,” Polam said. “I trusted my training and I just went at it. I was decisive, and it was my day today.”

Allentown’s Liam Murphy won the 2019 M of C in 15:21 for the eighth-best Holmdel time by a high schooler according to MileSplit, and Mendham’s Jack Jennings ran 15:19 a week earlier at the NJSIAA state group meets for the sixth-best time. Aside from Murphy’s time, Polam’s would have been the best to win an M of C since CBA’s Mike McClemens won in 15:26 in 2013.

Competing at Lawrenceville, an NJISAA school, Bednar would not have been in a traditional M of C, but she proved she was right there among the best runners the NJSIAA had when she posted the third-best time at the Shore Coaches Invitational a year ago. Bednar ran 18:00 that day and lowered that to 17:21, which, according to MileSplit, is the best time at Holmdel Park for any New Jersey high school runner. Only New Yorker Katelyn Tuohy, who clocked 16:21 at the 2018 Shore Coaches meet, has posted a better time, according to MileSplit.

Bednar won the meet by 15 seconds over fellow junior Angelina Perez, who runs at Lakeland and was running with the Lancer Strong team for the meet. Rookie Christina Allen, who was the lone freshman in the top 25 and runs at River Dell, was third in 17:50 as the only other runner to break 18 minutes.

Despite Bednar not being able to compete in meets with Lawrenceville, with the Big Red not having fall competition, Bednar has had quite the season individually. According to MileSplit, she broke the state outdoor track record for 3,000 meters when she ran 9:20.98 on Oct. 31 at a Garden State Track Club showcase meet at Thomas Edison Park in Edison. The previous record of 9:33.7 had stood for 39 years. A week earlier, according to MileSplit, she broke her own state 5,000-meter record, running 16:21.27 at Icahn Stadium in New York.

“This my first time actually running on something other than a track or pavement this whole year, not even for a workout. I didn’t know how I would do, just because all my meets have been on a track,” Bednar said. “It’s definitely really cool just to get to see how I stack up against the (runners from) New Jersey state meet.”

Haddonfield’s runners, coming off an NJSIAA South Jersey, Group 2 title, won the team title as Haddonfield Running Club, 52-65 over Ridgewood’s runners, competing as Ridgewood XC Club. Westfield, competing as Westfield TC, was third with 103 points.

Haddonfield Running Club put three runners in the top 15, with Sarah Naticchia leading the way in seventh in 18:50. The school has never won the girls team title at the NJSIAA M of C, making that meet’s cancelation a tough blow for a group that included three seniors at the top of its section-winning seven and four of the seven in all.

The Haddonfield Running Club runners cheered and had some tears of joy when the results were announced near the finish line.

“You see what it means to them. It’s amazing. This has been like nothing else, this year, this season,” Jason Russo, who coaches Haddonfield’s school team, said. “To get a chance to compete against the best in New Jersey and for them to race the best that they could race today, what an incredible opportunity. We’re so thankful, so blessed to have it.”


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