They had won a national record 315 consecutive dual meets. They had collected a state best 17 New Jersey Meet of Champions titles. They’d been a Northeast power for years and three times previously had made the Nike Cross Nationals Finals, placing as high as sixth – guided by veteran mentor Tom Heath and sharp assistant Chris Bennett.
But in 2011, the Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft, N.J.) boys cross country team reached the top of the mountain. For sustained excellence all fall long, and for their record-low score in taking their first NXN title in December, the Colts earned the 2011 POWERADE FAB 50 national championship. The team was recently presented with their awards at a ceremony at the school’s gymnasium – packed with wildly screaming students, as well as school staff, administrators, families, and local media.
Coming into 2011, CBA had lost their top man from the previous fall – Mike Mazzaccaro – to graduation. But the returning varsity mainstays, bolstered by some seriously improving newcomers, knew they could be even better. “Going back to right after NXN last year, we sat down and we realized we had enough guys that we could come back and really do something special,” said senior George Kelly.
They were the Preseason #1 in the FAB 50 rankings to start and never lost focus, with a perfect season that included victories at the prestigious Eastern States in Manhattan and the Shore Coaches Invite, Group and Meet of Champions titles, and an NXN Northeast triumph that set the stage for Portland.
Although Kelly was the team’s number one man for almost every meet – including a runner-up finish in 15:37 at the Meet of Champs – one of the strengths of the Colts is that several were capable of stepping up for No. 2. For many of the races, it was super soph Mike McClemens, but at NXN Northeast and Finals it was junior Jack Boyle, and at the Shore Coaches Invite, senior Tim Gorman was actually the team leader. Senior Conrad Lippert, junior Billy Bragg, and junior Aaron Libertore also played key roles all season long.
In Portland, with Kelly, Boyle and Gorman finishing within five seconds of each other, they held off the charge by Southlake Carroll to top the podium for the first time. The margin of victory was just four points, so no one knew who won until the announcement of Carroll’s runner-up finish, which led to a celebration on the stage rendered even more memorable by Kelly’s bounding up and down like a pogo stick. There was truly joy in Lincroft.
Kelly, Gorman, and Lippert depart, but returnees like Boyle, McClemens, and Bragg are more than capable of leading CBA to national prominence again next fall – a fact not lost on the Colts’ grizzled mentor.
“Our long range goal is to make sure they (POWERADE FAB 50 award presenters) come back next year,” Coach Heath said to Colt Crazies in the gym, “because we want to be the first (boys) team to win this title two years in a row.”