By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — An accomplished senior and an up-and-coming debutant emerged as first-time winners at the Big Five Cross Country Championships at Cape May County Park Friday afternoon.
Lower Cape May senior Zeb Hinker, a state qualifier last season after placing fourth at the sectional championships, won his first Big Five boys meet in impressive fashion, posting a time of 16 minutes, 12 seconds to place first by 41 seconds.
The race was not held last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hinker also missed the race as a sophomore due to illness.
On the girls side, Wildwood freshman Macie McCracken was also a far-and-away winner, beating the field by 21 seconds. She recorded a time of 20:39.
Hinker led a dominating Lower Cape May effort in the boys race. Teammates Jack Cura (16:53) and Elijah Jackson (17:36) placed second and third, respectively. Lower had all five of its scorers place among the top 12 as Jesse Coombs (20:03) was sixth and Nathan Stewart (21:13) finished 12th.
Lower posted 24 points to finish ahead of Middle Township (65), Cape May Tech (76), Wildwood (77) and Wildwood Catholic Academy (102).
Wildwood’s Jorge Cruz (17:44) placed fourth and Cape May Tech’s Luke Basile (19:01) ended fifth to round out the top five. Following Coombs in seventh place, Wildwood’s Robert Wilezcek (20:09), Middle’s Ohm Patel (20:19) and Thomas Hargest (20:39) and Wildwood’s Brian Cunniff (20:44) finished seventh through 10th, respectively.
Middle Township, with 39 points, won a close battle for first place over Wildwood, with 44 points, in the girls meet’s team scoring. Cape May Tech (68) was third and Lower Cape May (69) placed fourth. Wildwood Catholic did not have enough runners to score as a team in the girls race.
Following McCracken, Wildwood Catholic’s Sammie Andress (21:00) placed second, Wildwood’s Ava Troiano (21:30) was third, Cape May Tech’s Emie Frederick (21:42) finished fourth and Middle Township’s Sofia Jurusz (22:20) placed fifth.
The rest of the top 10 in the girls race included, in order, Middle Township’s Keira Phillips (23:24), Lower Cape May’s Hailee Stiefel (23:31), Wildwood Catholic’s Ava Sorensen (23:50), Lower Cape May’s Kaitlyn Crouthamel (24:11) and Middle Township’s Mariann Kurtz (24:25).
Both races featured 29 runners.