MIDDLETOWN — For St. Rose High School to win the NJSIAA Non-Public B Athletics title, head coach Pete Casagrande knew he needed all the pieces of the puzzle of a talented team to come together. With his team not racing for three weeks, he knew that might be a question.
“I’ve been saying this all day, if we don’t do anything stupid we’ll have a great day, and that’s a very hard statement to back up,” Casagrande said.
The Purple Roses lived up to the bill, winning their first state championship since 2015 and third overall. They were led by a star-studded encounter from distance runner Brian Theobald. The junior won the 800 (1:56) and 3,200 (9:49) on Friday before taking first place in the 1,600 (4:30) on Saturday, securing the title for his team. He also ran a stage on second place 4×800 (8:35).
“When you’re on the line and you’ve already placed high in three races, the adrenaline takes over, you wake up more,” Theobald said exhausted after his 1600 victory. so what you’re used to, just keep running and get to work. We’ve been working all season for this moment.
While Theobald stole the show, it wasn’t a victory defined by first-place finishes, but rather a number of contributors who scored crucial points. St. Rose had 94 points, 15 more than runner-up Newark Academy. Sophomore Joshua Huisman had big points with second-place finishes in the shot put (57-0.5) and discus (141-6).
“To win something like this you need to have that depth behind you,” Casagrande said. “You can’t just rely on your lead horses.”
After a strong indoor season, a state championship was the only logical conclusion for this group.
“I have probably the best team I’ve ever had, that we’ve ever had,” Casagrande said. “We’ve coached great teams here before, but this team is deep, it’s very heavy with A+ athletes. Their work ethic trickles down, that’s what you rely on.
This objective was defined before the start of the school year.
“It means everyone to them because that’s what they told me,” Casagrande said proudly. “Coming back to cross country, they told us that the goal was to win all these competitions. It’s amazing, it’s so hard to do this, last July they told me they were going to win this. It’s quite impressive.
Record race for DeSousa
Red Bank Catholic’s Cate DeSousa woke up Friday morning with two goals: get her driver’s license and win a state championship.
She did both in what was a memorable 17th birthday.
“It was great, it was definitely all lined up perfectly,” De Sousa said.
After taking her driving test on Friday morning, DeSousa ran 10:30:97 in the girls’ 3,200-meter non-public Race A, setting a meet record and edging runner-up by more than four seconds.
“I was super happy, Non-Pubic A had amazing girls, even now there are amazing girls and it’s a great competition,” DeSousa said.
The record was a great achievement, but that was not the goal she sent.
“I was really just aiming to win, that’s what I was looking for all weekend, is to win the 3200, that’s definitely the icing on the cake to get it (the record),” said De Sousa after finishing third in the 1600 on Saturday (4:59).
De Sousa won’t lower his head on ‘a bad run’, but it adds an extra chip on his shoulder.
“It definitely motivates me more, I felt like there was nothing left in my legs on the last lap,” she said.
She will then take to the track at the Meet of Champions on June 18.
O’Connor wins three gold medals
It’s hard to top St. Rose junior Tilly O’Connor in the non-public Girls B meet. She won all three distance events, taking the 800 (2:22.34), 1600 ( 5:18.02) and 3200 (11:38.74).
“I was pretty happy with it,” said O’Connor, who will be competing in the Meet the Champions next week. “My goal was to do everything I could to win, but also to push the people around me.”
Individually, the Christian Brothers Academy boys won three Non-Public A gold medals: Kam Coleman in the triple jump (47-0.5), Chris Brown in the high jump (6-6) and Jack Ryan in the javelin (177).