Hillsborough High School girls cross-country coach Richard Refi had a feeling heading into the Skyland Conference Championships on Oct. 11 at Phillipsburg High School that his group of Raiders would walk out as conference champions.
Refi’s intuition was right on the mark as he watched his Raiders beat out 20 other schools to win the program’s third-ever conference championship and first since 2013.
“It was absolutely thrilling,” Refi said after Hillsborough won the Skyland Conference championship. “This is a good group of girls. They had a great meet. It was really fun to watch. I love this team.”
The Raiders tallied the lowest point-total in the meet with 98 total points to beat out Pingry for the top spot in the team standings and also won the conference’s Delaware Division championship during the event.
Senior Lauren Baker, sophomore Nivedha Sundarrajan, and juniors Anna King, Sabrina Sardar, Liana Dudajek, Adrianna Fetaya and Emily Miller represented the seven Hillsborough runners that competed in the meet.
King ran a team-best time of 20:23 in the 5K race to earn herself ninth place overall individually.
Sardar, Dudajek and Sundarrajan each finished in the Top-25 for the Raiders, while Baker placed in the Top-35. Fetaya and Miller placed in the Top-70.
The seven Hillsborough runners finished for a combined time of 1:45:35 and its top-five runners scored the 98 points to help the team win its first conference title in nine years.
“They really ran as a team and ran together,” Refi said of his runners. “All five scorers were equally as important. Every point mattered.”
Winning the Skyland Conference championship meet is hard to do, Refi said. The Raiders have won the NJSIAA Group IV championship more times (four) than they have won a conference championship.
“The (Skyland Conference Championships) is a really hard meet to win,” Refi said. “There are a lot of good schools competing in the race. I’m so happy for the girls.”
Next up for the Raiders will be the Somerset County Championships that are scheduled to take place on Oct. 20 at Pleasant Valley Park in Basking Ridge.
The last time Hillsborough won a county title was all the way back in 2015.
Following the county championships will be the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV Championships that will be held on Oct. 29 at Thompson Park in Jamesburg.
Refi believes winning the conference championship will give his runners a lot of confidence heading into those meets.
“Winning this (conference championship) is very significant for us,” he said. “The girls now believe in themselves and what (the coaches) are trying to teach them. We’re going to battle for a county title and hopefully a sectional championship.”