PHS Boys Cross Country Takes 1st Place at County Rally as Senior Howes Plays Key Role in Victory

Leaders: Members of Princeton High School’s men’s cross country team compete in the Mercer County Cross County Championships at Thompson Park last Thursday. In the picture, from left to right are Atticus Ayres, Max Dunlap, Zach Deng (wearing sunglasses), Charles Howes and Marty Brophy. The Tigers ended up taking first place in the team’s standings with 54 points from runner-up West Windsor-Plainsboro North, who finished second last year with 82 points ahead of PHS. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Justin Phil

Charlie House has made great strides over the past year that helped the Princeton High School men’s cross country team win the Mercer County Championship last week.

House was one of three seniors who led the way with Marty Brophy and Zach Deng for the Tigers, who lined up four finishers in a 54-point victory at Thompson Park on Thursday. in the top 10. Runner-up West Windsor-Plainsboro North, who beat PHS by one point last year, was second with 82 points. Lawrenceville School ranked third with 146 points.

“It felt really good,” said House, who finished fifth on the 5,000-meter track in 16:47. “Going into this season, we knew we were going to lose our best player from last year to injuries, but we knew we would still have a strong team. Marty has been a leader all season and I can handle him well. I It feels like the chemistry we can all develop has helped us achieve even more. We’ve been dealing with a lot of injuries, and it means a lot for us all to come together and play really well and win the county championship.”

House is Princeton’s second terminator. Brophy finished fourth at 16:26. House was fifth after 21 seconds, just a second and a half ahead of the WW-P North leader. Dunlap 16:59 broke 17:00 to finish eighth, Max Dunlap finished 10th with 17:08. Felix Farrugia’s strong second half saw him finish 27th at 18:00 to seal the victory. Braedyn Capone was 33rd and Atticus Ayres was 53rd.

“This county is great, and our county has a lot of talent every year,” said PHS head coach Jim Smirk. “As long as you have a chance to win in County, it’s a big deal. We were a little nervous considering what happened last year and lost to North by one point. North is a young team. Coach (Brian) Gould put them in Well put together. They executed well. You know you get a game from them. We had some question marks to work out, and I think we’ve sorted them out. We put together the day we were looking for “I’m excited for them. I think they really took advantage of the opportunity that was given to them and proved they were championship-caliber.”

PHS girls ranked fifth with 126 points, only 6 points behind the third. Wilberforce School won the girls’ championship with a score of 88. The Tigers had an encouraging performance at Thompson Park with a sixth-place lead over Lucy Kreepke in 19:56.

“She didn’t really like the course and had some difficulties there in the past,” Smirk said. “Last year, when she didn’t have a great game there, we started working on that game the next day on how to find the right combination of tactics and toughness to be successful there. She put all the work in, It’s showing, no doubt. I’m excited about her performance.”

Robin Roth finished ninth after recovering at 20:15 and Kyleigh Tangen finished 16th at 20:31 to showcase her experience and finish in the top 20. Avery Ellen Bahr finished 39th and Tessa Thai beat teammate Clare Johnson for 65th.

“We’re looking for our 5-6-7 runners to step up and see who has a hot hand in the division,” Smirk said. “We’re not as nervous as we used to be 1-5, but I think we’re doing some really good things.”

The PHS girls and boys return to Thompson Park this Saturday for Central Jersey Group 4. The PHS girls will face stiff competition to stand out, while the Tiger boys emerge as division favorites and gain confidence from the county’s victory.

“We get along just fine,” the boys said with a smirk. “We’re making the right decisions. We’re starting to get into that kind of team thing where you know what your teammates are going to do at any given time. The next step for us is to understand every time we play the next tournament It’s going to be more competitive and it takes more depth and adventure to get into the right place. That’s where we want to be and I think we’re definitely in the right place. If we can’t get everyone back healthy, I don’t Determine if there is more we can do to continue to grow and challenge ourselves to put on a great game.”

Despite missing last year’s No. 1 player Andrew Kenny due to injury this fall, the PHS boys won. The Tigers are hoping Kenny can return to the winter and spring tracks, and hope he’ll be back on the off-road team late. Without him, PHS has seen others stand up.

“I put in more work this summer than I did last year,” House said. “I started summer training in early July. I had 10 to 12 weeks of consistent training before the season started. I peaked at 60 miles per week. I think my drive, dedication and focus got me there. Today’s achievement.”

House has seen some of the more notable jumps in the team. He has risen from double-digit finishes in nearly every major game last year to a top-five finish in every game so far. A year ago, he was No. 21 in the counties. Those improvements are directly related to his offseason work.

“I expect to do better than last year,” House said. “Going into my first game, I didn’t know what I could do. I was doing what I was supposed to do every day and hoping it would get me where I wanted to be. When I was in my first game I didn’t think I could do it even if it was me at 16:30. Everything after that was about doing everything I could to help my team do well and create a good surroundings.”

PHS has seen improvements across the board from its contributing runners. They helped the Tigers to the top of the county and set them up for further championship success. The senior trio at PHS has been leading the charge, as they did in the county. Dunlap played well behind them on Thursday.

“Our top three, they work there all year,” Smirk said. “It’s great to see Marty, Charlie and Zach really set the tone for us. Max has been working hard to come back. He had a rough spring last year. It took him a long time to get his footing and regain his confidence . . . He really puts everything in the 4th. That’s an impressive effort for him in terms of the competitive realm. He’s gone head-to-head against a lot of these guys all season, and Worked hard to make it happen and he actually showed up. He didn’t wait. The gun went off and he knew exactly what his job was and how to execute it. He showed the focus and performance of a next-level veteran. We’re very fond of him excited.”

Behind Dunlap is the real problem. PHS’ No. 5 player of the season, Cole Rose, is out with an injury, and the Tigers need their next group to fill the game. Farrugia is nursing her injuries, but has survived in the county seat.

“We have a little question mark on the back,” Smirk said. “The opening 1500m was a bit shaky because Felix was 58th, which is not where you want your No. 5 to be in the county. But he started to trust his stuff more and called up our 6 and 7, Braedyn And Atticus, take some action. When he finishes that inner loop, he puts it together and moves to 27th Overall for the day. It was really a top performance in the second half of the pitch. “

House has been enjoying his final year of high school running. He came to the team from football as a sophomore and experienced the sport in a COVID-19 abbreviated schedule. His comeback last year and finishing in the top seven showed him his potential. He has stepped up his training this year, becoming a leader alongside his senior teammates.

“My teammates Marty and Zach would have been training with me all summer, and they would push me to run,” House said. “Having my teammates with you at all games really helped me. The fact that I, Marty and Zach were able to have such a great season means a lot to me. I’ve been with them for a long time Friends, so I feel like we’ve made a lot of connections over the past few months.”

Howes overall has been substantially improved to help reduce graduation and injury losses suffered by PHS. His development has been a bright spot for the Tigers. In two years, he has come a long way.

“Last year, he kind of looked at one of our top players and did whatever they were doing,” Smirk said. “He was kind of like that experience. This year his contributions are totally different. He’s making great game decisions. He takes his edge to the top of our list. He’s not a good scorer, but someone you know will be there, and he’s actually doing things to rivals by changing the dynamics of the game and in positions that maybe they don’t want Press and work with Marty and Zach to create some pressure to affect the outcome of the game as a team pack. He’s been a huge addition to us this year.”

House is also looking forward to the outdoor track season and the opportunity to finish his high school career in his favorite season before moving on to college and studying business. The county conference is just the beginning of the championship portion of the season, and the Princeton victory is a stepping stone to the upcoming state conference.

“We know we still have the ability to do well in the playoffs,” House said. “Our goal is to do well. We want to win some games and we think if everyone has a good game, we can do it. Our team’s goal is to be in the Championship. We know it’s going to be difficult. We don’t Comprehensive like last year, but we know that if we have the right attitude in every game, we can do what we want to achieve.”

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