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2021 Brookdale cross country team finishes ninth in nation

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The Brookdale Community College men’s cross country team finished the 2021 season ninth in the nation.

Standout freshman Theodore Purdon finished seventh in the nation at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III championship meet held at the Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga.

“I could not have asked for a better season. Everyone stayed committed and (it was) a nice group of competitive runners,” Coach Michael Tursi said. “The highlight of the season and the icing on the cake was going to nationals.”

The Brookdale runners qualified for nationals after winning the school’s first regional championship in 39 years, according to a press release.

Tursi, who was honored as the NJCAA Region XIX Coach of the Year, and Assistant Coach Dennis Flynn coached cross country at the former Mater Dei High School in Middletown before coming to Brookdale three years ago. In their first year they put a call out for runners.

“In cross country, you need five teammates to cross the finish line to score,” Tursi said.

The coaches had five runners that year (2019). The second year, 2020, the team had 11 runners, but COVID-19 limited the number of meets that could be held.

This year there were 10 men and one woman on the team. Only the top seven runners on the team can qualify for nationals. So, Brookdale brought seven men and one woman to Georgia.

“Brookdale was top notch. They flew us down, the hotel was nice, the banquet on the military campus was great, and Assistant Director of Athletics and Recreation Trish Taylor made the trip also,” said Tursi. “After 33 years of coaching, that was one of the best experiences I ever had.”

At the national championships, the top 15 runners received All-American status for outstanding performances.

Purdon, a resident of Little Silver, placed seventh in the 8-kilometer race in a time of 27:04 to earn All-American status. Purdon is the first Brookdale cross country All-American since Alex Fallon earned the honor in 2017, according to the press release.

Earlier this season, Purdon collected NJCAA All-Region honors, and became the first runner from Brookdale to receive NJCAA Division III National Athlete of the Week honors.

Purdon was followed across the line by freshman Michael Puzo of Middletown, who placed 41st and ran a personal record of 28:48.

Freshman Joshua Seba of Tinton Falls, who placed 59th in a time of 29:35, was only two seconds off his record.

Sophomore Captain William Broadhurst of Middletown ran his best race of the season as he placed 70th overall in a time of 29:54.

Freshman Connor Scott of Keansburg placed 77th and ran a time of 30:25; his second-best time ever.

Sophomore Captain Maksim Popov of Manalapan, who graduated from Colts Neck High School, placed 80th with a new personal record of 30:38.

Rounding out the scoring was freshman Joshua Beer of Oceanport, who placed 89th and ended the season with a personal record of 31:07.

Competing in the women’s cross country race, freshman Kristin Daly from Middletown qualified for nationals and completed her 5-kilometer race by placing 84th in a time of 28:33, ending her season with one of her best times.

In addition to the team finishing in the top 10 in the nation, Brookdale is the Region XIX Division III men’s team champions and the Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Division III men’s team champions.

Individual men’s All-GSAC honors are No. 1 Teddy Purdon, No. 5 Mike Puzo, No. 6 Josh Seba and No. 7 Connor Scott.

“I truly appreciate and respect the sport of cross country. The mindset and physical preparation are humbling, especially when you are running with student-athletes from all over the country,” said Taylor. “I enjoyed the bonding experiences with the student-athletes and coaches, such a special group of men.”

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