Harrison’s harriers: Making strides

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-10-33-25-amWhen Paul Kartanowicz took over the Harrison High School cross country program last year, he knew that there was a lot of work to be done.

After all, the Blue Tide had not fielded a competitive team in quite some time.

But now?
“We’ve improved by leaps and bounds,” Kartanowicz said. “We laid down the good foundation last year. We’re getting it done. Harrison has had such a great soccer legacy, but we’ve improved in other sports, like volleyball, which has been outstanding. Soccer has always been outstanding. We’re on the rise.”

Kartanowicz took his team to the Shore Coaches Invitational meet at Holmdel Park last Saturday to compete with the best cross country teams in the state.

“I think this was good for us,” Kartanowicz said. “Coming off our league meets, which we did well in, I think we’re running on some tired legs. This was a very tough course, but we had some good performances. I think it’s safe to say that our best is yet to come.”

Kartanowicz doesn’t want his runners competing at peak performance in October. There’s another month left in the season.

“The kids are outstanding,” Kartanowicz said. “They have the right attitude about this. They know they’re not going to set the world on fire. They are all working together. They’re all doing it and that inspires me.”

Among the boys, Alexis Vinanzaca was the top Blue Tide finisher, crossing the line in 19:26.

“It feels good that we have a competitive team, that we’re here with the rest,” Vinanzaca said. “I don’t think anyone was expecting miracles here. We are getting better and I think other teams are recognizing that.”

Just being competitive is the first step toward respectability.

“It makes me feel proud,” Vinanzaca said. “We can actually say that Harrison has a team and that we’re definitely coming into our own. Coming into this summer, I think we all had a dream to rise up from being unknown. We all know it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew it would take a lot of hard work. But that hard work is beginning to pay off. We’re getting stronger.”

Hernan Vasquez was the second Harrison harrier in Holmdel, crossing the line in 19:50. Russell Kennedy was next in 20:13 and then Luis Vivaldo in 20:27.

Among the girls, Yeisy Rojas was first in 26:42.

“There’s a lot of pride in this team,” Rojas said. “We’re improving and hopefully one day we’ll be champions. We want to bring banners back to the school like the soccer team does. It takes a lot of mental and physical dedication, as well as the desire to do well. We have to want it. I believe that everyone wants to do better.”

And with the improvement comes the recognition of being competitive.

“We are starting to get known,” Rojas said. “We’re getting PRs (personal records).”

Rojas said that she’s already starting to get positive feedback.

“When we come to meets, people are saying, ‘Yeah, that’s Harrison,’” Rojas said. “People are recognizing us. People are respecting us. We’re getting there.”

Rojas knows that there is strength in numbers and the Harrison harriers are hanging out in droves. It’s not just a handful of runners. It’s a legitimate team, pulling for each other, fighting for each other.

“I feel like it’s an advantage that we have,” Rojas said. “We can say that we’re from Harrison and say it with pride. A lot of people didn’t know that we even had the sport. Just being here is a good thing for everyone.”

Kimberley Merino was next for Harrison among the Blue Tide girls, crossing the finish line in 26:46. Adriann Arca was next in 27:37 and then Raiza Briceno right behind in 27:38.

“We are coming,” Kartanowicz said. “No question.”


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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”