2019- 2020 Distance Blog


Natalie Shapiro (Natalie wrote this as the closing for the Shore Track Coaches Cross Country banquet)

Poet, Rudyard Kipling famously wrote,
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,  yours is the Earth and everything that’s in It”
He clearly never ran the bowl at Holmdel.
I am sure that everyone in this room can attest to the fact that cross country is not made in 60 seconds of distance run- not even a full run - not even a series of them. Cross country is born in the seasons that come before It.
In cross country, there are no secrets and there are no shortcuts. There is just hard work.
People like to speculate about how champions are made. I’ve heard champions are made over the summer, champions are made up the steepest hill of the course, champions are made on the snowy rainy days when the rest of the world is inside.
While these things may be helpful, I tend to think the opposite. You know that second lane after finish line at holmdel, the one where everyone goes to pass out or throw up? That’s where champions are made.
Great cross country runners are not a series of victories but rather a series of struggles. It’s is the trial of miles, and miles of trials that make a champion. 
I’ve grown to know all of you and It has been such an honor to compete alongside such concentrated talent as we have in the shore conference. For some of us, this was our last high school cross country season and for others, this is just the start. Wherever you fall, I wish you the best. And remember it’s easy to love something when all is going well but champions are made through the struggle.


2018 - 2019 Distance Blog

We are going to post a monthy blog, about training/racing/team, written by a different coach or senior, each month, throughout the year. 
This blog will cover the writer’s thoughts and observations as they compete and train throughout the year.

Being a Captain - Ashley Higginson (Ashley wrote this in the spring of her senior year)

After four years, my time as a high school runner is drawing to a close. So often, the best runner on a team can forget the importance of creating love and unity within a program. As team captain, I have found that being a true leader often means thinking of others before my own needs. There are specific characteristics, I have come to realize over time, which are essential to a supportive and positive team captain.

Before I gained the ability to successfully lead my team, I needed to define and look within myself. More then anything, a leader needs to be a positive role model, on and especially off the track. I strive to  make the right choices in social situations and in the classroom, as these parts of my life greatly affect my character. Throughout high school, I have never given into peer pressures such as alcohol or drugs and I have always maintained a healthy sleeping and eating pattern. Many of these pressures can often be difficult in high school, but my passion is running and I refuse to sideline my goals for  anything. Through my experience and actions, certain morals transcend into my younger teammates, as they too make the right choices and maintain their bodies in a healthy manner. Being a leader means 
having integrity and consistency. Even on rough days, I search within myself to utilize practice as my release, my true bliss. A smile and a dedicated attitude speaks volumes and helps a program to  reach the next level. My passion for training and my work ethic for success are mimicked by the rest of the team, as we strive to succeed together as a unit. For example, I run in the mornings before school  as well as at practice. Though I have never mentioned that other girls should indeed attempt this same training, four other teammates have begun to run double sessions as well. These girls have made the  choice  to run on their own and I often run in the morning with some of the girls. Yet, they all willingly chose to become more dedicated to the sport, simply through watching my actions and the results.  Actions  really do speak louder the words. Setting a genuine example, in practice and in the real world, is the first step in creating a great team atmosphere. Once you have looked within yourself and found that running is a passion you cannot live without, you can reach out to your teammates.

Before every race, my team has a pasta party. Not just any pasta party, but an extravaganza! There is always baked ziti and garlic bread, followed by a dance party. As we sing every line of, “Sooner or  Later,” by the Grassroots, something beautiful is formed. Unlike the pain experienced in the last 20 x 400 meter grueling workout, or the competition for the 7th spot on our girls cross country team before our trip to Oregon, there is nothing but smiles and timeless memories. I do not have teammates, I have sisters. Planning a fun trip to Red Bank for a scavenger hunt or a laser-tag war, inventing the newest  slogan for our team t-shirt, or hosting a fondue party take moments to plan, yet the effect is exponential. Our unity can be seen by our blinding tie dye warm-up tights and intriguing home made t-shirts. Our desire to win is in the silence of those final strides and the human knot that occurs right before the gun. Our confidence is in the beautifully decorated bows that adorn our pony tails. By the team captain taking initiative and creating tradition and organizing events, a bond is formed. It is this unspoken bond we have, that makes us unbreakable. It is the jokes and laughter that emerge from our tent that send chills up any opponent’s back. In time, I have realized being a leader means being a friend. It is the individual forty five minute run in which you discuss a horrible break-up or bad test grade. It is watching your teammates grow into future leaders. Becoming a leader cannot be forced within a person; it must be there from the start. It is when one has a deep desire to improve their team, rather then obligated to  do so, that wonderful bonds are formed.
I cannot believe I will be saying good bye to the Colts Neck Cougars and moving on to a new college program. In time, I have realized that being a leader has not meant being the best and taking control. It is hoping for a better future. Next year, I expect my teammates to break new records and beat some of my own personal best times. I want the program to soar and recall a time when I led the marvelous women my teammates are becoming. In twenty years I will be proud of my individual accomplishments, but they will not compare to reminiscing about my team’s endeavors with sisters who are still my best friends. Being a leader truly means being yourself and loving your team. Thank you for teaching me so much in these last four years girls, I owe you more then you know.

Notorious November - Eva Gibson

The month of November is a rather important month for high school runners, as most athletes' seasons are coming to a close. Seniors begin to run their last race at each course, varsity teams are racing hard trying to place as high as possible at the championship races, and select teams are preparing for regionals.

The month began with the Central Jersey Group 3 meet held at Thompson Park, with both varsity teams competing for a chance to win the sectional title. It had rained the night leading up to the race, making the course significantly muddy in addition to the strong winds being dealt with that morning; however, both the boys' and girls' teams raced with success. The girls' team won their 8th sectional title, a new school record, with a comfortable lead. The girls managed to place four out of seven runners in the top ten led by Delia Russo (1st), Natalie Shapiro (2nd), Catie Anderson (5th) and Eva Gibson (10th), with all 4 girls racing under 21 minutes. The boys' team, led by Kyle Roeder (10th) and Matt Bogdan (11th), also saw a strong race, finishing in second place with only 21 points less than first!

In the following week, the Colts Neck cross country team returned to Holmdel Park to compete at the Group 3 state meet. Despite the cold, windy, and muddy conditions that the runners were faced with, both the boys and girls were able to push themselves when needed most. The girls managed to win their third straight title, with five out of seven girls falling in the top 25! On the boys' side, Kyle Roeder led the boys to a 7th place finish, just missing a wild card slot to race at the Meet of Champions. Kyle is ranked as the fourth returner to group three in 2019, setting him, along with his teammates, up for a good season next year!

On November 14th, three of the girls commited to run cross country and track and field in college! Catie Anderson and Eva Gibson will go to American University and Delia Russo will go to University of Pennsylvania! Congratulations!

The girls returned to Holmdel Park for the Meet of Champions, their final race at the infamous course. Although the girls raced with varying levels of success, they were still able to pull off a good race and a podium finish for the third straight year. Delia Russo led the team with a 7th place finish, completing the course with a time of 18:49! She was followed by Natalie Shapiro, Catie Anderson, Kavita Shah, Colleen Megerle, and Lucy Gardner, as well as Eva Gibson, who unfortunately had to drop out of the race due to injury.

This time traveling all the way to Bowdoin Park, both the boys' and girls' teams returned for the last race of the season, Nike Cross Regionals, held at Bowdoin Park. Through a strong race, the girls were able to end their season with a 6th place finish, as the third NJ team. Delia Russo had a great end to the season with a 9th place finish and 6th individual, missing nationals by just one spot!

Despite the cold and muddy conditions, the boys also raced with determination and finished their season strong, led by Kyle Roeder and Jack Hayes. Despite facing numerous setbacks, with many athletes racing in poor conditions, having injuries, and dealing with illnesses, November proved to be successful for both the boys' and girls' teams. Every athlete who raced saw the benefits of hard work and both teams managed to pull off several significant victories and strong races. Now they prepare to run on a different surface, indoor track.


The Month of October - Catie Anderson

    October is an important month. The cross country season is in full swing. The transition from summer to school is over. There is now consistency in everything from our schedules to our mileage. This month is the time to focus on the sharpness of training. This month is the time to build up for what is right around the corner, championship season.

    For seniors, this month was especially stressful and busy. While training for upcoming meets and doing loads of schoolwork, you must put in time for your college process. College is seen through a whole new perspective when you are seeking to be a student athlete. While visiting campus, you must ask yourself, “Is this the place where I can progress within my studies and my running?” Some of us had the opportunity to get on campuses for overnight stays. This gave a glimpse into the lives of the students. We got the chance to walk around with a host, stay in their dorm, and practice with the team. It was very interesting to shortly experience the overall dynamics of these different teams.

    The month began with our first race back at Holmdel Park on October 9th for Shore Conference B North Champs. We know this course like the back of our hands. This park was our resort on those scorching hot summer days for hill repeats, tempo loops, or miles around the bowl. When it is time to run here, we are prepared. On the day of the race, it was very humid and muggy out, but we still came out successful. Our varsity girls team won their 12th Division title in 19 years of being in the Shore Conference. The varsity boys placed second. The junior varsity boys and girls both had strong races. It was also great exposure for the freshmen running the 2 mile loop for the first time.

    A week later, we were back at Holmdel for Monmouth County Champions. Our varsity placed second for the girls and fourth for the boys. We had two of our girls in the top five. The junior varsity boys were able to place fourth. Also, the freshman boys and girls showed incredible strength with the boys placing second and the girls placing third.

    Our last race of October was back at Ocean County Park for Shore Conference Champions. Rather than using our strength, like we would on hills, we used our speed on this course because of how flat it is. The temperature was low fifties with slight wind gusts. The varsity girls placed second with a team average of 19:02 and the varsity boys were eighth with a team average of 16:46. The junior varsity girls were ninth place and the boys junior varsity a team was 4th place. I thought it was a great race to end the month with!

    Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love the idea of drinking hot chocolate while watching a great horror movie or coming up with creative costume ideas. When you add cross country into the mix, it makes the month even more enjoyable. It allows us to come together as a team and enjoy the festivities.

    That is what cross country is about, coming together as a whole. When we are running on that course, every individual counts. That is why it is important to not only run for yourself, but for the teammates that share the same energy to reach certain goals. It is amazing to see the contribution of hard work from everyone build up into something much more powerful.

    Until next month… GO COUGARS😺!! :))



The Sweet Smell of September - Delia Russo

As a senior, along with the start of September comes a bittersweet feeling. This is our last high school cross country season. These are the last times we will toe the line with our high school teammates and friends next to us. These are the last times we will huddle up before a race and scream “Cougars!” at the end of our team chant. This is the last time we will get to practice in our costumes on Halloween. The last times we get to prove ourselves racing the 5k distance.

The quick transition students must make from the relaxing months of summer filled with trips to the beach and vacations, over to the stressful months of school filled with endless homework and late nights spent studying can be quite overwhelming. Add cross country into the mix and the fatigue throughout the entire team will be evident within the first week of school. You have to start getting up much earlier which not only throws your body off but also makes practice that much harder to get through during the seemingly long month of September. But with loads of determination and hopes of a strong championship season in the back of our minds, we managed to come out alive.

September was a great month for our entire team. The freshmen were able to get their feet wet and experience the excitement of high school both on the XC course and in the classroom; the seniors were there to help them along the way.

Our first race was a class meet on the 14th at Ocean County Park. It wasn’t unbearably hot, the temperature being in the low 70s, however, it was humid, the grass was thick, and there were a few mud puddles that may or may not have eaten up a couple of spikes throughout the eight races. Each class ran well for it being our first race of the season.

The next week the team split up. The JV girls went to the Osprey Invite at Stockton, the varsity girls made the two hour trip up to New York for the Bowdoin Park XC Classic, and the boys, as well as the rest of the girls, headed to the Thompson Park class meet. The JV girls, running Varsity, placed ninth with decent weather conditions and on a flat course. The varsity girls placed third running against some good northeast teams we will see again when we come back to the famously hilly course in late November. Hopefully, then we will be able to show off our hard training and possibly qualify for NXN in Oregon. At the Thompson Park class meet the boys and girls racing all had great days, especially for still adjusting to race pace in the heat.

The last race of September was none other than the Six Flags Wild Safari Invitational. Despite the rather muddy conditions throughout the wooded part of the course, everyone did great. The varsity girls came in first, JV girls and varsity boys in second, the JV boys in 5th, the freshmen boys in fourth, and the freshmen girls in seventh. Six Flags is one of the most fun meets of the season. The atmosphere is always exciting as we get to race against teams we won’t see until MOC, as well as teams from New York and Pennsylvania. The course wasn’t the same as years in the past, so we didn’t get to see as many animals as usual, however this year we were lucky enough to see a sloth hanging around before our races!

Even though sloths are pretty cool, my favorite part of September is definitely seeing the hard work put in during the summer finally starting to pay off. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “Running is the greatest metaphor for life because you get out of it what you put into it”. I have never heard something truer.

Although summer training may seem like a tiny dot on the timeline of a high school cross country season, it is so much more. It is your foundation for the rest of the season. You build up your endurance over the summer with higher mileage, then once school starts you gradually begin to cut down on mileage and increase your sharpness. September is the beginning of what you have been working towards all summer. The miserable long runs in the scorching heat, the cumulative HOURS of core, the distance runs that seemed to last forever were all for something much greater that many non-runners may not understand.

I believe the endless work you put in during the summer is for so much more than just wanting to place high in the state meet or win the sectional title. I believe we run to prove the tiny devil on our shoulders wrong. I believe we run to push ourselves to our breaking points, and then when we reach that point, we push ourselves even further. Sure, to outsiders running may seem like a mere physical activity, but in truth, it is a constant raging battle between body and mind. Many look forward to racing in September and seeing their times from last year significantly drop, but my favorite part about getting back into cross country racing is seeing how my metal strength has grown. That, I believe, is the greatest test of how hard you worked during the summer.

For our team specifically, September has thrown many obstacles our way. Whether it be a wave of sickness and minor injuries, or a stress fracture of our top varsity girl, we have been continuing to work hard, on the trails and in the pool, and have no doubt in our minds that we will continue our streak of Group III State titles as well as be a strong contender for a high podium finish at MOC.

Now, let’s “fall” forward into a strong second half of this already exciting 2018 cross country season.

July/August - Jim Schlentz 

When I think of July and August, it reminds me that it is a new beginning.  A new year of hopes and dreams.  A new year of training and competing,
believing in the possibilities that a new year can bring.  It is a time where we don’t have school but we do have to get up early or push back dinner
so we can get our run in.  It’s a time of battling the heat, extreme sweating, constant thirst, with the simple question, why am I doing this to myself? 
We are driven by all the dreams that a new year can bring.  Always beginning with the word If.  If I train as hard as possible, can I run ____?  If I stay
healthy can I___?  We run, knowing that it can all end in sickness or injury, but still we believe in all that is possible.

Let’s look at some words for a second.

Conviction – a fixed or strong belief

Belief – The mental act, condition or habit of placing trust or confidence in a person or thing, faith

Faith – A confident belief in the truth, value or trustworthiness of a person, idea or thing

Heart – Inner strength or character; fortitude

Fortitude – Strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage

Courage – The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger with self-possession, confidence and resolution

Resolution – Firm determination

Determination – The quality of being resolute or firm in purpose


Are these just words or are they something to live by?  Maybe they are tenets for success!


I love July and August because it is the start of the journey.  The journey of 2018 – 2019.  Where will it lead us to?   Will it lead us to what we dream of? 
Nobody knows the answer.  What we do know is that it starts with the conviction and belief that all the hard work we are doing and plan to do will pay off. 
Combine that with heart, fortitude, the courage to face our doubts and be resolute and determined in the worst of days, and finally having the faith that it
will end with something real special.  When you do have the inevitable moments of weakness, focus on the sacrifices you’ve made to get all those training
runs completed, the time at XCU Camp, the hundreds of miles run in the summer and then lean on your teammates, your brothers and sisters in this journey,
and find your way back to the words defined above.

Remember what is written on our results page:

It is a world of the individual against himself,
it is his aspirations challenging the capacity of his body. 
There is no enemy but the straining of every muscle. 
It is not a sport, it is a life of work and precision and sometimes
it is rewarded by a cheer or a press clipping. 
But when the press clipping turns yellow,
there will still be the memory of that time,
perhaps only a moment,
when the crowd faded to nothing and the only sound was breathing
and the only feeling was the ache of endurance and pushing,
pushing until the body soared with the mind,
and no one else knew what it was to strive.

July and the first half of August can be lonely months with so many miles run alone.  You have only your convictions and your dreams.  Then, finally, you are
joined by your team in daily practices.  That brings us to September, the next stop on the journey.  And a special journey it is, life!  😊