Season Highlights: Cross Country

Led by seniors Nick Lukas, Vinny Puchik, Erin Smythe, and Heather Sweeney, the Verona Boys and Girls Cross Country Teams have had successful seasons this fall.

The first competitive varsity meet this season was the Stewart Invitational at Warinanco Park where the team became familiar with course. This proved beneficial because the State Championship meet was also held here. Both Lukas and Sweeney embraced the new terrain and came in second place. This propelled the team forward and started the season off right.

The next race was the Maroon Invitational at Garrett Mountain. Despite the course’s difficult big hill that spans at least half a mile, Verona had runners who came out on top: Lukas coming in second, Sweeney fourth, and Puchik ninth.

Another exciting meet for Verona was The Brett Taylor Invitational at Darlington Park. This course is fast paced and everyone was expected to do well. Both Verona teams accomplished great things, however, Lukas swept the meet and pulled out a personal record and first place.

The County Championship meet at Brookdale Park in Montclair was the next challenge for Verona. Similar to Darlington, Brookdale Park is a fast-paced course. At this meet, everyone exceeded the expectations that were set. Not only did Sweeney get a personal best and come in eleventh place, but four other runners, including Matt Carroll, John Conboy, Melanie Egan, and Vinny Puchik, were able to set personal records at this race.

Soon after the County Championship meet came the State Championship meet. This big race was held in the freezing temperatures at the beginning of November. Everyone was running as fast as they could to be able to put their jackets on and it paid off. Egan came in eighth place, Puchik came in seventh, Lukas came in fourth, and the “Sween Machine” was able to outrun her opponents and come in first place. The top five teams were asked to move on to Group Championships at Holmdel the following weekend. Both Verona’s boys and girls teams were able to do this, with the girls coming in second and the boys coming in fifth.

“It was great to do so well at Sectionals because it was a team effort,” said Captain Heather Sweeney, “You can have someone get first place, but you need the rest of the team to be successful.”

The last race for most of the team was Groups Championships at Holmdel. Everyone tried their hardest and had a good last race, but Lukas did exceptionally well, coming in fourth place at what he describes as his favorite park and moving on to the Meet of Champions, something he has done since his sophomore year.

Reflecting on the season, Sweeney said “the team bonded because everyone is going through the same exact thing. We run the same courses and we all work together to get through every race.”