Northern Highlands honor Gilli’s retirement announcement with fast race by Paul Schwartz of The Record
Frank Gilli informed his Northern Highlands girls team at the starting line that Tuesday’s Big North Freedom meet would be his last league meet as the Highlanders’ coach after 22 seasons at the helm.
As the Highlanders are one of the best teams in New Jersey and has been ranked No. 1 in North Jersey most of the last two years, they didn’t need any more incentive, but Gilli’s girls still made the last league meet a memorable one.
With Monica Hebner racing to the fourth fastest time in Darlington Course history at 17:47 and twin sister Isabel running the 12th fastest 18:02, Northern Highlands defeated a rapidly improving Ridgewood team, 35-44 with previous No. 2 Indian Hills third with 56 points.
The Highlanders’ team time, still without No. 4 Paige Wilderotter who is expected back in two to three weeks, was 95:59 for its top five, a time beaten only by the Ridgewood and Northern Highlands 2014 teams.
And the Hebners needed every bit of their sensational race to hold off Indian Hills sophomore Corinne Barney, who sped to her personal best of 18:07 and tying for 15th all-time on the course.
Ridgewood’s first runner was Meghan Adams in seventh at 19:29. But the Maroons’ fifth was just 44 seconds later, while positions six and seven were also under 21 minutes.
Here’s a look at the other three races Tuesday.
It wasn’t the best of days for the No. 4 NV/Demarest team, but the Norsemen were still able to easily win their second straight title, 34-48, over Tenafly with NV/Old Tappan another five points behind.
NV/Demarest’s No. 1 Tim Larsen continued to impress, breezing to a 125-meter win over Will Dippolito of NV/Old Tappan in 16:23.
“We decided to go out fast today because we thought the other teams thought we would be tired from running at Shore on Saturday,’’ said Larsen, who led his team to a second place finish at the Shore Coaches D race. “I think I can run a lot faster if I can get into a more competitive race.
Two showdowns, two tight finishes, two one-second wins for Will Baginski of Ridgewood over Steve Fiumefreddo of Indian Hills.
After edging his senior rival, running a personal best of 16 minutes flat at the batch meet three weeks ago, Baginski, a junior, ran four seconds faster and edged Fiumefreddo to help his team to a 35-60 win over the Braves. It was the fastest race by a boy on the Darlington course this year
“We keep pushing each other to go faster and faster,’’ said Baginski. “We know we’re always going to be racing against each other all year and we hope to keep getting faster.’’
“It’s a little different for me this year, because this year I’m the one trying to motivate the other guys on my team,’’ said Fiumefreddo, who was part of the great Indian Hills teams of 2015 and 2016 which earned state group and Bergen Meet of Champs titles and was fourth in the State Meet of Champions a year ago. “It’s challenging because we’re a smaller group this year, but I’m hoping to keep getting better.’’
NV/Demarest stunned its sister school NV/Old Tappan on batch meet day despite the Golden Knights finishing 1-2-4 in the race. NV/Demarest took seven of the next nine places to earn a 29-30 win.
Tuesday, NV/Old Tappan only went 1-2-5 with Mary Scrivanich running 20:10 to beat her teammate Sari Abolafia by 150 meters, but the back of its top five, sophomore Minseo (Kaylee) Bae and freshman Ally Meeks, stepped up to finish eighth and ninth respectively. This enabled the Golden Knights to win a sixth straight league meet title, 25-30, over the Norsewomen.
“I just worked harder and harder,” said Bae, who took 93 seconds off of her time of 16 days ago, while Meeks credited the less humid conditions for her big race.