Old Bridge High School had a consistent, respectable boys’ cross-country team in 2018.
The Knights did not win any of the big four championships, but they finished in the top 10 in all four.
Coach Jack Campbell’s team placed third in the two championship meets that took place at Thompson Park in Jamesburg, the Greater Middlesex Conference championship on Oct. 20 and the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional meet on Nov. 3.
It finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the two title meets that were held at Holmdel Park, the NJSIAA Group 4 championship race on Nov. 10 and the NJSIAA Meet of Champions race on Nov. 17. Both the state group meet and the Meet of Champions consisted of 20 teams.
“We ran tough,” said Old Bridge senior Steven Cool.
“It was a pretty good showing for us,” said Old Bridge junior Michael Keefe.
“We’ve been working all season for these races,” added Old Bridge junior Dominick Gafanha. “It’s good that we got some results out of it.”
The Knights recorded a string of solid finishes because they had a balanced lineup of seven varsity runners.
In their best postseason showing, the GMC meet, the Knights’ top five runners finished in the top 25. Timothy Purcell (fourth, 16:35), Michael Keefe (fifth, 16:43) and Charles Harvey (eighth, 16:46) placed in the top 10.
In Old Bridge’s second best postseason race, the state sectional meet, Campbell’s top four runners crossed in the top 25. Purcell (10th, 16:53), Steven Tan (14th, 17:01) and Harvey (19th, 17:05) finished in the top 20.
Even in the more difficult meets against better competition, the state group championship and the Meet of Champions, most of Old Bridge’s runners placed in the top 100. Between those two title meets, nine of Old Bridge’s 10 finishes that counted came in the top 100.
Purcell, Keefe, Harvey and Tan made up Old Bridge’s top four. Brian Huang gave the Knights a strong fifth runner, finishing 25th in the GMC meet and 82nd in the state group meet. He also broke 18:00 in all four championship races.
Campbell had five runners who could break 18:00 consistently and post high finishes. That balance explains Old Bridge’s consistency in the most competitive races.
The Knights were only lacking one thing: an elite runner or two who could post top finishes and elevate Old Bridge to title contender status. Regardless of that hole, the Knights were satisfied with their Meet of Champions performance.
They felt they ran their race, did the best they could and earned a strong finish.
“We handled it pretty well,” Harvey said. “We all did a good job of going out fast, maintaining that and then picking it up. You work with each other to push each other.”
“We’re pretty good at finding each other around the mile marker,” Keefe said. “That’s where we really try to get together and push from there.”
Old Bridge’s postseason finishes were not just satisfying, but encouraging. Five of Campbell’s top seven runners will be back in 2019. Keefe, Harvey, Huang and Gafanha, Old Bridge’s sixth runner, were juniors this past fall. Tan was only a sophomore.
The seniors, Purcell and Cool, laid a strong foundation for their younger teammates to build on.
“If you keep working hard, you’re going to see results,” Purcell said.
“We’re looking pretty good for next year,” Keefe said.