By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Will Hare went to the NJSIAA Meet of Champions with the idea of trying to win the race.
The Princeton High senior, who had won the state Group IV meet a week earlier, turned in his best time yet on the course at Holmdel Park, finishing fourth in the state’s championship meet on Saturday.
“I was hoping to do a little better place-wise and time-wise,” said Hare, who finished in 15:55, which was 20 seconds behind the race winner, Devin Hart of Point Pleasant Boro. “It was a product of going for the win and being beaten than someone who is better than me. I could probably have done a better time and place if I had gone about it differently. But I have no regrets about how the race turned out.”
Hare’s fourth-place showing helped the Little Tigers finish fourth as a team. Princeton ended with 118 points, one year after it had won the Meet of Champions.
This year’s Meet of Champions winner, Christian Brothers Academy, recorded 80 points, while Kingsway was the runner-up with 96 points and Hopewell Valley placed third with 111.
Acasio Pinheiro was the second Princeton finisher, coming in 14th overall in 16:16. Alex Ackerman placed 58th, Jackson McCarthy came in 59th and Tucker Zullo finished 65th for Princeton.
“We wanted to win,” said Hare, who was part of the Princeton team that won the MOC title last year. “We would have liked to have been able to repeat. But it is so hard to be able to go back to back. Even being one of the top six back to back is hard to do. Of the teams that were on the podium last year, only us and CBA were on it again this year.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t repeat. But I told the guys in order to win races as an underdog, you have to get some breaks. Some breaks that went our way last year didn’t this year.”
Hare finished 10th individually in 16:12 at last year’s MOC. Hart was the only non-senior to finish ahead of him at last year’s meet so he entered this year’s race hoping to finish first.
“I went in with the goal to win and sometimes that allows you to win and sometimes you come in fourth, which is what happened,” said Hare, who finished three seconds behind Hart a year ago. “If I had raced for second or third the result might have been different. But my goal was to win and that was what I was looking to do. I would not do it any other way.
“I went out with the top guys because I thought I belonged up there. It just wasn’t my day. I think I overshot the first mile a little bit. “I wasn’t as good as Devin was this time. But I will have a couple of months until I hope to see him again at the Meet of Champs indoors. He is the class of our state right now and hopefully I’ll get to race against him again.”
Hare and his Princeton teammates will run in the Nike Northeast Regional meet this Saturday at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. Hare placed 14th at the regional meet last year.
“Hopefully we get a couple breaks and maybe change it up a little from Saturday,” Hare said. “We were fourth but we were only 20 points from second, which is a matter of a couple of guys running a couple of seconds faster. We could have finished second. If we finish second this weekend and get a bid to the Nike Nationals we’ll be happy. At this point in the season you are where you are physically. Hopefully we can work on some of the things that help us mentally in the race.”
The Little Tigers have been on an impressive run over the last two years on the cross-country course. And for Hare and the rest of the team, their final race together in New Jersey was a good one.
“(The MOC) was more about having one last race with my teammates and being able to put up a fight against some of the best teams in New Jersey and have one last moment with everybody at Holmdel,” Hare said. “So it was a good last race with our team.”
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor