MONTGOMERY: Sarathy gains elusive win

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By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Ajay Sarathy has enjoyed plenty of success on the cross country course during his high school career.
The Montgomery High senior was one of the top runners in the state a year ago and has carried that success into this season. But through all of his success, one thing has eluded Sarathy — a first place finish at a big meet.
Last Saturday at Holmdel Park, Sarathy got that elusive win as he finished first in the Varsity B race at the Shore Coaches Invitational.
“I was pretty excited,” said Sarathy, who finished in 16:22 to win the race. “This was my first cross country race where I finished first. I am a pretty good pack runner and I won some races indoor on the track. But this was the first time in cross country.
“I was coming down the final straightaway and I just really wanted that victory and that gave me some extra oomph to out-kick the next guy. My time wasn’t that fast. I have run faster. This race I went out slow the first mile and I was patient and waited until the right time to make my move.”
The Shore Coaches Invitational is always one of the first big events of the season. Sarathy’s performance was one of many good ones for runners from Packet-area schools last Saturday.
The Cougars finished third as a team in the Varsity B race as Dillon Spector was 18th and Harry Gould was 22nd. Vedang Lad of WW-P North was 15th in the Varsity B race.
In the Varsity Boys A race, WW-P South’s Justin Lopez finished 13th and Alex Petri was 14th, helping the Pirates to a third-place finish as a team. Alex Roth of Princeton finished second in the Varsity Boys C race and Will Hare finished fourth to help the Little Tigers to a third-place finish as a team. Cy Watsky finished 18th in the race.
Princeton Day School freshman Kevin Dougherty finished 35th in the Varsity G race, while Kevin Sun finished 39th for the Panthers, who were 11th as a team.
Sarah McGowan of Montgomery finished 19th in the Varsity A Girls race. The Cougars finished 11th as a team. Julia Mao of WW-P South finished 21st in the Varsity A Girls race. The Pirates finished second as a team as they bunched their top five all within 13 places. Serena Chang finished 26th and Liz Petrov was 30th.
In the Varsity B Girls race, Veda Donithreddy of WW-P North finished 33rd to help the Knights to a 12th-place finish.
Chloe Taylor of Princeton finished seventh in the Varsity C Girls race, while Anne Walker was ninth and Izzy Trenholm was 10th, helping the Little Tigers to a second-place finish. Annefleur Hartmanshenn was 15th.
For Montgomery’s Sarathy, the Shore Coaches meet gave him a chance to see just where he stands with some of the other elite runners in the state. Last year he finished 14th at the Meet of Champions and was the fifth fastest underclassman in the race.
“This meet is a good indicator of where we are right now,” Montgomery boys coach Tim Bartholomew said. “We can see what other teams are doing on the same course. Pretty much everyone runs Shore Coaches, so we can see where we stand at the moment and what we have to do to get out of sectionals. We can also see about teams in our county and conference and where they are right now.”
Bartholomew knows that right now his team has a top runner in Sarathy and a solid group behind him that is improving each week.
“(Sarathy) has run that exact time three times this season,” Bartholomew said if the 16:22 clocking. “It’s a time because this is one of the harder courses. He ran the same time at Thompson Park, which is an easier course. So this is a good indication that when we go back to Thompson Park for sectionals he will do well.
“He is a talented runner and time is the first time he has won a race other than a dual meet and things like that. He had never won a big meet or invitational championship, so this is something to hang his hat on.”
Sarathy hopes the win at Shore Coaches is a building block to success later in the season. He has big goals for his senior year.
“My plan is to go all the way to regionals and hopefully qualify for nationals, so I want to peak at right time with sectionals and states,” Sarathy said. “I followed that plan last year and made my big jump at sectionals. So if will keep it conservative until the big meets I think I can do well.
“It’s been a pretty good season so far. I was hoping to do a little better at the first couple meets. I have been running high mileage. Coming into October I cut down a little so I will be fresher later in the season.”
The Cougars had a strong showing as a team as well. They are hoping to contend when they run in the Skyland Conference and Somerset County meets later this month and know to do that they need to bring their fourth and fifth runners a little closer to the top.
“For us, our 1-2-3 is good and need to get four and five closer to 1-2-3 so we can be in a lot of these meets,” Bartholomew said. “Our county and conference are so talented. Voorhees had three guys under 17 in the Shore race and we’ll be going after then in conference. North Hunterdon is extremely talented. All of those schools are really tough.
“Harry has made a big improvement and is running out of his shoes. Each week he gets better and better and closer to running with Dillon and Robert (Tidona). On Saturday, Robert didn’t run as well as he had earlier. He has broken 17 a couple times and is usually our No. 2. Harry has really stepped up this last meet.”
Tidona was 28th at the Shore meet and Austin Fan rounded out the top five for the Cougars with a 39th-place finish. If everyone can get bunched a little closer to the top, the Cougars’ goals are within reach.
“The team has been doing great,” Sarathy said. “This is probably one of our best teams. Our biggest goal is to make it out of sectionals and maybe into the MOC. We have some kids making big jumps this year. We want to win county the county meet, that is a goal.
“Robert and Dillon, every day they stick with me on runs and that helps get us through the grind for training.”
Montgomery will run in the Somerset County meet on Oct. 13 and the Skyland Conference meet a week later. The sectionals are scheduled for Nov. 5.
“I feel lime our section every year is one of the toughest to get out of,” Bartholomew said. “Last year they added Princeton and they are very good. It is a challenging goal every year to get out of the section. I hope this year is the year. We’ve been close a couple times in recent years.” 