By Cassandra Vega (‘20)
On November 23, the Lady Vikings cross country team brought the 2019 season to a close finishing tenth in the state at the Meet of Champions at Holmdel Park. The team graduated four seniors last year, which was a concern for many considering a varsity team is only seven women strong.
Returning seniors Yashika Chidirala, Sophia Milla, Sanjana Raj, Liann Zyontz and Cassandra Vega stepped up onto the varsity platform along with sophomores Nina Liu and Srinidhi Gopalan to continue the winning streak set by last year’s varsity team.
“Particularly Cassandra Vega and Sophia Milla, as seniors, who were part of a championship team the year before, were helpful as we had some less experienced runners who really stepped up,” said head coach Mr. Wilfredo Rivera.
The girls beat out Metuchen in the Greater Middlesex County Conference (GMC) race to earn their fifth-straight GMC title for the first time in school history, with a total of 54 points to Metuchen’s 59.
To win in cross country, a team wants the least amount of points possible, so the place each respective runner finishes in is a point. For example, during the GMC meet, Chidirala scored four points as she came in fourth, Zyontz scored nine points finishing in ninth, and so on.
The top five on a cross country team score while the other two runners are there to displace opposing teams. The goal is to push the other team’s best runners behind, adding more points to their total.
To prepare for the championship season, Coach Rivera said, “We tried to take it week to week, especially as someone who was the number one runner last week, may not necessarily be the number one runner this week. We had a lot of movement within our top seven and just reminding everyone the burden was spread out between all seven girls really alleviated some of the pressure or anxiety bigger races bring.”
After GMCs, the girls moved on to the Sectional Meet, crushing the competition with a total of 65 points with Hunterdon Central placing second with 101. This was unexpected as media outlets covering the event had not mentioned South Brunswick at all during predictions, instead picking Hunterdon Central to win and naming another three schools, none SBHS, to be fierce competitors. This victory was also another first in school history: the only girl’s cross country team to win Sectionals two years in a row.
“We trained so hard, six to seven days a week, to get to where we got. The fact that we were able to pull through and defy everyone’s expectations, for that meet in particular, was so gratifying,” said Zyontz.
At the next championship race, the girls finished sixth at Group IV, securing a spot at the biggest and final competition for New Jersey high school cross country: the Meet of Champions. There, they finished tenth in the state and solidified their position in school history as one of the best girls teams to ever compete for the South Brunswick Vikings.
“Going into this season, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Coach Rivera. “I would be lying if I said that the end result exceeded any expectations I could’ve imagined. At the end, qualifying for the Meet of Champs for the second year in a row and the fourth time in school history, I was very happy, very proud, about how the season went.”
If the South Brunswick Lady Vikings continue to work hard and push themselves, there is no limit to what the future holds for this team.