By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — A Wildwood High School freshman did something that hadn’t occurred in 12 years and Ocean City’s boys team held off a formidable challenge from an opponent to highlight Friday’s Cape May County Cross Country Championships at county park.
Macie McCracken took top honors to become the first non-Ocean City runner to place first in the girls race since 2009. Going further, the Wildwood freshman is just the fourth non-Ocean City runner to win the race, which was first held in 1985.
McCracken, who led Wildwood to its first-ever division championship in cross country this fall, posted a time of 19 minutes, 29.21 seconds to beat the field by 13 seconds.
Ocean City easily won the girls team title, however, by placing five runners among the top eight finishers. Senior Grace McAfee (19:42.62) and freshman Chloe Care (19:44.21) placed second and third, respectively, to lead the Raiders.
Wildwood Catholic senior Sammy Andress was fourth in 20:32.47 and Cape May Tech’s Emie Frederick finished fifth in 20:44.86.
The rest of the top 10 featured, in order, Ocean City’s Cheryl Connell (20:56.66), Frankie Ritzel (21:04.80) and Olivia Palmieri (21:08.19) and Wildwood’s Leah Pawlus (21:11.65) and Ava Troiano (21:28.64).
Ocean City scored 23 points en route to the girls team championship, its 10th straight. Wildwood was second with 61 points, Middle Township placed third at 71 points and Cape May Tech was fourth with 76 points. Lower Cape May and Wildwood Catholic each did not have enough runners to score as a team.
McCracken joins Wildwood Catholic’s Tara Wuko (2007-2009) and Tiffany McKenna (2006) and Middle Township’s Hayley DeFeo (1997) as the only non-Ocean City runners to win the girls race.
Owen Ritti took top honors in the boys race to give Ocean City its sixth straight boys team title. Lower Cape May was expected to give the Raiders a healthy challenge but the Tigers’ top runner, Zeb Hinker, fell during the race after tripping over an Ocean City runner’s feet. Hinker, who was expected to challenge for top honors, ended in sixth place.
Even without that unfortunate mishap to Hinker, Ocean City still would have won the team championship as all seven of its runners finished among the top 11.
Ritti posted a time of 16:08.36 to finish ahead of teammates Nick Scarangelli (16:16.92) and Chris Sardy (16:25.45). Wildwood’s Jorge Cruz placed fourth in 16:28.68, Lower Cape May’s Jack Cura finished fifth in 16:30.61 and Hinker was sixth in 17:09.18.
The rest of the boys top 10 included, in order, Wildwood’s Robert Wileczek (17:12.42) and Ocean City’s Nigel Collins (17:18.95), Matt Hoffman (17:31.09) and Colin Abbott (17:33.48).