700 runners compete in middle school meet

November 3, 2023

The Beacon Middle School cross country teams demonstrated the true meaning of pack running Nov. 1, as both squads took the broom out of the closet and swept the overall team titles at the DAAD Invitational Championships.

With more than 700 runners registered, it is one of the largest middle school meets in the region. The Beacon boys’ team placed its five scorers in the top 14, with two eighth-graders and three seventh-graders, to tally 42 points for the win. Dickinson, last year’s team champion, placed all five scorers in the top 20 to score 47 points for second place. Mariner, led by overall champion eighth-grader Asher Woods, finished a distant third with 91 team points. The Beacon/Dickinson results were so close that if it was scored as a head-to-head dual meet, Dickinson would’ve won 27-28. The difference in a big meet was that Beacon had a top-five gap of only 36 seconds compared to a 54-second top five for Dickinson, meaning too many other teams pushed back the Dickinson fifth runner, which paved the way for the Beacon victory.

Eighth-grader Nicholas Petito led the Beacon team as he has all season, finishing third in 12:27 for the 2.14-mile course. Seventh-grader Jude Peacock ran his best race all season to finish fifth in 12:43, while eighth-grader Ethan Thompson was seventh in 12:46. Seventh-grader Brandt Kuklish finished 13th in 13:03, and seventh-grader Devin Silva rounded out the scoring in 14th place in 13:03. Rounding out the top seven were sixth-grader Brady Sherman, finishing 27th in 13:27 and sixth-grader Elijah Cain, 68th in 14:28.

“Our runners came out to prove something to themselves today,” said coach Michele Beyer-Gillen. “We had ramped up the training this season, increasing their distance runs early in the season and doing more difficult interval training at the end. The kids worked hard and pushed each other, and their improvement was evident today. We are so proud of the runners and what they have become this season, and we are thankful we get to share in their achievements. We have such awesome kids.”

Following Woods across the line for Mariner were teammates Jude Bastian in 16th place in 13:04, Dylan Harp 19th in 13:07, Ben Hill 23rd in 13:23 and Caleb Olmsted 32nd in 13:31.

Sussex Academy finished sixth overall with 223 points, led by eighth-grader Ben Moody in 18th place in 13:07. Following Moody were sixth-grader Kai Mundok 25th in 13:23, seventh-grader Joseph Bukartek 29th in 13:29, sixth-grader Nolan Furlong 38th in 13:38 and Jonathan Levy 113th in 15:48.

The Beacon girls were equally impressive, scoring 52 points with a top-five gap of only 28 seconds. The Vikings were led by eighth-grader Erin Noonan with a fourth-place finish in 13:58.  Eighth-grade teammate Shiloh O’Grady was a step behind in fifth in 13:59, with eighth-grader Claudia Stazzone sixth in 14:00.  All three finishers have been running cross country since early elementary school with the Seashore Striders and have been to several big meets in their young careers. Eighth-grader Lindsay Hassell finished 17th in 14:22, while sixth-grader Emily Hilton took 20th in 14:26. No. 6 runner Mackenzie Kupa finished 71st in 16:32, and Elena Pereda finished 86th in 17:08.

Newark Charter finished second with 61 points, led by the second and third finishers in the race. Interesting stat, as with the boys, in a dual-meet format, the Newark Charter team would have beaten Beacon 26-29, but a 28-second top five vs a 1:10 top five made the difference.

Sussex Academy finished fourth with 143 points. The Seahawks were led by eighth-grader Taegen Forester in ninth in 14:06. She was followed by seventh-grader Jordan Blades at 19th in 14:24, seventh-grader Patricia Lara-Nieto 30th in 15:03, sixth-grader Garrity Cox 31st in 15:04 and eighth-grader Reilly Mobilia 54th in 15:58.

The Mariner girls were fifth overall with 205 points, led by eighth-grader Allison Ortiz-Rivera at 11th in 14:08. She was followed by seventh-grader Bree Terhune 12th in 14:10, eighth-grader Bella Sapienza 50th in 15:47, sixth-grader Fiona Fisher 52nd in 15:49 and seventh-grader Elena Kuckarik 80th in 16:50.

Cross country numbers at the high school level as well as the middle school level are up when looking at meet totals from 2021 and 2022, so the sport is alive and well. 

Finish chute - Not long ago at a national championship, finish-line disaster struck as too many runners came at once and the chute was not wide enough. A few runners went down, backing up in the chute that extended into the active course and forcing runners to stop before they reached the real finish line. An experienced race director knows to be ready for that with a big field. They train finish-line staff on how to move people and run a rope method if needed. I’m not going to lie; when I saw 150 kids coming quickly in the final quarter-mile at the DAAD Invitational, I thought of that situation, but the Lake kids of coach Eric Payne did not let it happen and did a great job. The Mispillion Art League 5K in Milford will be held Saturday morning, followed by the Henlopen Conference Cross Country Championships at Killens Pond State Park. The Seashore Striders will host the East Regional Cross Country Championships at Sandhill Fields Sunday, Nov. 5, beginning at 10 a.m., with a course walk at 9 a.m. Over and out!


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