Lyndhurst boys’ cross country fails to repeat at state sectionals

Photo by Jim Hague/ Lyndhurst senior Thiago Fernandes pushes it as he crosses the finish line at the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I championships at Warinanco Park in Elizabeth. Fernandes finished ninth overall and the Golden Bears finished second as a team.


By Jim Hague

The Lyndhurst boys’ cross country team headed to Warninaco Park Saturday morning with the hopes of successfully defending the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state championship the Golden Bears won a year ago.
Unfortunately, they didn’t win.
It wasn’t that the Golden Bears performed poorly. In fact, they ran fairly well as a team. It was just that another team, in this case McNair Academic of Jersey City, ran better.
“We got beat by a better team,” Lyndhurst head coach Michael Picardo said. “I thought we had a chance to win again and our guys ran well. You can’t ask for anything else. It is what it is. Sure, we’re bummed out and disappointed, because our goal was to win again. We just weren’t good enough and just got beat. That’s what it really came down to.”
The Golden Bears lost to McNair by 19 points, 43-69. Palisades Park, which also had hopes of winning the title, finished third, seven points behind Lyndhurst.
McNair had the individual winner in Kevin Ratigan and the runner-up as well in Omar Lopez. That was tough for the Golden Bears to overcome.
Senior Dan Gaspar led the way for the Golden Bears, finishing fifth in 17:51.73.
“I’m really pleased with him,” Picardo said of Gaspar. “He ran a great race.”
Fellow senior Thiago Fernandes finished ninth overall in 18:07.38. It was another solid performance.
Ricky Suarez was 14th overall and Max Estevez was 15th, both crossing the finish line within three seconds of each other.
The next three finishers for the Golden Bears were all freshmen, showing the immense future of the program.
Andre Francisco, 21st overall, followed by Stephen Covello (29th overall) and Kane McDermott (45th overall) are all first-year harriers, a point that Picardo pointed out.
“We ran three freshmen today,” Picardo said. “It’s a sign of things to come. Our kids were able to beat some people out there.”
Picardo said that McNair Academic, which previously finished second three years in a row, including last year to his team, just wanted it a little more this time around.
“Their kids were hungry today and you could see it,” Picardo said. “When you see that kind of determination, it’s tough to beat.”
Picardo made no excuses. Sure, the Golden Bears no longer have three-time defending sectional champ Patrick Rono, since last year’s Observer Male Athlete of the Year has moved on to the University of Arkansas.
“Sometimes, things like this happen,” Picardo said. “Somebody is better than you. But we’re excited where we are. It’s amazing to see where this program has come to, compared to where we were a few years ago.”
Led by Brittany Levario, who finished 14th overall, the Lyndhurst girls’ cross country team finished fourth in the section, so both the boys’ and girls’ teams will head to Holmdel this weekend to compete in the overall Group I championships at Holmdel Park.
Emily Prieto was 17th overall, Lexus Lopez, definitely the most diversified athlete in the school right now, was 18th and Alexandra Karowski was 19th overall, all crossing the line within 30 seconds of each other.
“The girls were fourth, the boys were second,” Picardo said. “And they both get to go to Holmdel. That’s not bad at all. I’m happy we got second with the boys. We knew that if we were going to win, it would take a Herculean effort. It didn’t happen. It is what it is. We got beat.”
And yes, in sports, sometimes you can’t beat the opponent, especially if they’re better.

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