By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Three years ago, Wildwood High School’s girls cross country program consisted of one runner.
That one runner, now-senior Eva Troiano, and her teammates are now headed to the state Group I championship meet.
Wildwood placed three runners among the top 13 finishers to place second at the South Jersey Group I championship meet Saturday morning at DREAM Park in Logan Township, Gloucester County.
Freshman Macie McCracken led the way with a second-place finish in 20 minutes, 5.36 seconds. She finished 22 seconds behind the winner, Meghan Lex of Haddon Township, and more than 45 seconds ahead of the third-place finisher, Mia LaMarra of Schalick.
Another freshman, Leah Pawlus, also finished inside the top 10 with a ninth-place effort in 22:01.78. Troiano was 13th with a time of 22:46.07.
Wildwood’s other scorers were junior Reagan Kobierowski in 31st place in 26:14.86 and sophomore Monica Kobierowski in 39th place in 28:28.70.
A total of 55 runners were in the race.
Wildwood scored 55 points to finish behind sectional champion Haddon Township, which posted 31 points.
Cape May Tech also qualified for the state meet out of the South Jersey Group I sectional by finishing fifth. Sophomore Sheily Maldanado was Tech’s top finisher in 26th place in 25:27.67. Freshman teammate Marley Wetzel was 34th in 26:51.29.
The top five teams and the top 10 individuals at all sectional meets qualify to advance to the state championship meets, which are scheduled for this weekend at Holmdel Park.
Also qualifying for the state meet was Wildwood sophomore Jorge Cruz, who placed third in the South Jersey Group I boys meet in 16:50.66.
Also of note, Lower Cape May senior Zeb Hinker and junior Jack Cura each enjoyed excellent finishes but failed to advance out of an extremely talented field that saw the top 10 finishers post times of 16:16 or better. Hinker was 13th in 16:35.76 and Cura was 15th in 16:42.06.
Non-public schools do not have an official sectional — all non-public schools can compete in the state championship meet — but those athletes do participate in the Bob Keissling Invitational, also at DREAM Park. Wildwood Catholic senior Sammi Andress finished 10th in the girls race in 20:44.64.