By Wayne Witkowski
Allentown High School’s girls’ cross-country team is keeping pace with another solid season behind junior Devon Hoernlein heading into the New Balance Shore Coaches Cross-Country Invitational Oct. 1 at Holmdel Park.
“We were fourth last year in [NJSIAA] Central Jersey, Group III, and we’ve gotten even stronger,” Rick Smith, who coaches the girls’ and boys’ cross-country teams at Allentown, said. “I expect the girls to be real competitive when the state section meet comes up in October. We just have to stay healthy.”
Sami Tendler is the lone leading runner who graduated off last year’s team.
Smith said the numbers are not as high with 11 girls out for the team.
“It’s less than what we usually have, but you only need five [to compete],” Smith said.
The Redbirds come into the week with a 4-1 dual-meet record, losing only to Princeton High School by a close score during a meet that included Hopewell Valley Central High School and Lawrence High School earlier in September. Hoernlein was in second place that day. On Sept. 20, the girls swept Trenton Central High School and Steinert High School in a tri-meet.
The Redbirds’ girls’ and boys’ teams were moved from the Central Valley Conference Freedom Division to the Valley Division, where Smith said he feels the girls have a good shot at winning their first division title in recent memory. The key meet there is Oct. 18, when the Redbirds take on the three other teams in the division — host West Windsor Plainsboro High School North, Hamilton High School West and Nottingham High School.
Hoernlein finished second in the junior division of the Thompson Park Class Meet Sept. 17 in 19:38.35 at the 5-kilometer distance. Nine runners medalled that day, as senior Sara Gutter finished ninth in 21:00.72 and senior Jesse Bragger was 16th in 21:59.39.
Elyse Mallet, another senior, also has run well.
Two promising freshmen also ran well in the 2.5-mile long race at Thompson Park that day. Jamie Crowe was eighth in 16:54.84, and Isabella Walker finished 10th in 17:10.64.
Valerie Kiel, a sophomore who switched from soccer to cross-country this fall, has measured up as one of the top five runners consistently. She was 11th in the 5K sophomore race at Thompson Park in 22:43.53.
“She’ll help us a lot,” Smith said.
Hoernlein finished fourth in the junior race at the Cherokee Challenge Sept. 10, covering the 3,200-meter distance in 12:13.60. She had qualified for the NJSIAA outdoor track and field Meet of Champions in that event June 8, finishing 24th in 11:21.91 after she placed sixth in the Group III championships in 11:07.64.
Last November, Hoernlein led an Allentown finish of fifth, sixth and seventh in the cross-country state sectionals with a time of 20:10.74 at Holmdel Park, followed by Gutter in 20:21.07 and Bragger in 20:28.12.
The boys are off to a 3-2 start in dual meets behind captains Nate Byrnes and Steven Anthony, who are seniors, and Matt Gregor, who is a junior. Their lone losses in dual meets were to Princeton and Hopewell Valley.
Gregor, timed in 17:31, and Byrnes, who ran 17:44, each finished 14th in his respective grade meets at the Thompson Park Class Meet. Tom Bethea, a junior, was 26th in 18:26. Matt Kaminstein, a senior, also consistently has finished among the top five.
West Windsor-Plainsboro North is a decisive favorite in the Valley Division, where Allentown competes this fall.
Sophomores Colin Harvey and Sean Kirgan and freshmen Garrett Baldwin, Mike Heinz and Shane Tendler also should help. Tendler has dropped 20 seconds off his time, Smith said. Two other freshmen whose older sisters are on the girls team also have run well: Jake Bragger, whose time has dropped to around 20 minutes, and Russell Gutter, who has been timed at 21:30.
Allentown (6-1) has a telltale stretch when it plays two teams over its next three games who enter the week with unbeaten records. The Redbirds hosted Robbinsville High School (6-0-1) Sept. 28 and then play at Hightstown High School (4-4) Sept. 30 before taking on Princeton (4-0-1) at home Oct. 5.
Mary Bellotti comes into the week with a team-leading 12 goals, including one in a 2-1 victory over Lawrence, four goals in a 5-1 triumph over Hopewell Valley Sept. 21 and two in a 5-1 victory over Steinert Sept. 20. Sydney Pado scored the other goal against Lawrence, as the Redbirds led, 2-0, at halftime. Colbie Kennedy scored the other goal against Hopewell Valley, and MacKenzie Hultberg put in two goals against Steinert and Kristen Noon fired in the other.
Joe Mannino rushed for 105 yards and scored two touchdowns on back-to-back plays, as Allentown beat winless Northern Burlington County Regional High School, 20-3, Sept. 23.
Northern Burlington kicked a field goal early in the game but never threatened against a defense led by Ricky Mottram at linebacker and Ryan Huth in the trenches.
“I thought our defense played well,” Allentown coach Jay Graber said after his team evened its record to 2-2.
“We had a lot of penalties and made a lot of mistakes, but I thought we got it done.”
Mottram scored first for Allentown on a 5-yard run in the second quarter, and Mannino then broke through the line for his two touchdown runs of 22 yards and 54 yards.
Next up is a game Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. at Hopewell Valley (1-2), which comes off a 24-20 victory over Notre Dame High School.
“They’ll come in with confidence off that win,” Graber said. “We had to try to continue to play good defense. If so, we’ll be tough and able to compete against anybody.”
Graber said there were no significant injuries off the Northern Burlington game.
Allentown (1-3) twice battled back to tie the game and again closed to within one goal before Hamilton West fired in a penalty kick in the final minute to wrap up a 5-3 victory Sept. 22.
Zach Kolkot scored two of the goals — the first one tying it at 1-1 and the second pulling Allentown to 4-3. Dennis Hahn scored the other goal for Allentown that tied the score at 2-2.
The Redbirds hosted Nottingham Sept. 27 and travel to West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South on Sept. 29.
Vanessa Rodriguez had the hat trick in a 6-0 victory over Hamilton West Sept. 22. Emma Pascarella had two assists and she, Carly Roche and Sydney Regina put in the other goals. Allentown led, 4-0, at halftime.
The Redbirds (2-2) have a key stretch this week, which began at Nottingham Sept. 27. They are at home against West Windsor-Plainsboro South Sept. 29 and at Lawrence Oct. 4.