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Union Catholic Girls and Boys Sweep Counties


On October 19th, 2023, the Union Catholic boys and girls cross-country teams competed in a race
a little over a 5k (3.19 miles) at the Union County Championship located at Warinanco Park, in Roselle,
New Jersey. The Union Catholic girls ran their hearts and legs out and, as a result, tore up the previous
course record by an eye-opening 36 seconds, averaging 18:18 and becoming the 2023 Union County
Champions. Approximately 30 minutes later, the Union Catholic boys toed the line. Seen as the
underdogs to the neighboring Westfield Blue Devils, the boys were determined to rise on top and set
the state in shock. This is just what they did, scoring a total of just 26 points, with Westfield following for a close second with 35 points.

As the gun went off for the Union County Girls Championship, runners Peyton Hollis, Paige Sheppard and Courtney Kaiser took off and established a convincing lead through the first mile, followed close by runners Cayleigh Kaiser, Ella Solorzano, Emmy O’Hearn, and Kayla Devine. Runner Kayla Devine made an intense surge at the mile mark, attempting to bridge the gap between the UC top three and the determined chasing pack consisting of runners Cayleigh Kaiser, Ella Solorzano, Emmy O’Hearn, and Addison McGoey from Kent Place.

Not too long after, the Union Catholic Vikings filed one by one past the two-mile marker on the opposite side of the field, beginning to crank up the pace in preparation for the closing mile of the race. Finishing just as strong as they started, the Union Catholic girls scored 15 points, putting seven runners in the top eight. In a story by Jim Lambert, the girls’ and boys’ coach, Mike McCabe, expressed his enthusiasm when he said, “No other team has ever dominated a county race like that while running that fast. That was just an amazing performance. Our top three went out hard and kept pushing, and everyone ran exactly the way we hoped.”

The girls who placed in the top five were Peyton Hollis, Paige Shepard, Courtney Kaiser, Cayleigh Kaiser, and Kayla Devine. In sixth place came Ella Solarzano, her first time breaking 19 minutes, and in eighth place came Emmy O’Hearn. These girls are always working hard and leaving it on the course. They all came within 19 minutes, and three of the seven have broken 18. Senior and Duke-bound Peyton Hollis, who finished as the lead runner for the Union Catholic girls, was focused on defending her Union County championship she had earned by just a mere second the year before. This team has so much depth and is one of the best girls’ cross-country teams New Jersey has ever seen. The UC girls have many goals and are high achievers; they plan to go to NXN in Oregon and work toward getting in the top ten.

While the girls were well aware they would most likely come on top with the win, the Union
Catholic boys team knew they would be in for a tight and competitive race that Thursday afternoon,
with Westfield presenting a strong top seven. The Union Catholic boys’ minds were set on finding a way
to strategically win over Westfield by working together and running in tight packs throughout the race. With this plan set in stone, the boys stood tall confidently before the race, awaiting the battle.

Sticking to their plan of running together, the Union Catholic boys launched off the line in a
strong pack led by the University of Virginia-bound Jimmy Wischusen. The Vikings hunted down the white Westfield jerseys one by one and made instinctive yet strategic moves to position themselves within winning contention. Jimmy Wischusen was on the move, extending his lead meter by meter with each stride he took and chasing down the previous course record set by former Union Catholic runner Shane Brosnan, who now attends Harvard University. Jimmy smashed the course record by running a mind-shattering time of 15:12, followed by Westfields Avery Keith in 15:42. To seal up the victory, Alessandro Alvarez-Tullo finished in third, Sean Wilson in fourth, Alex Saldana in fifth, and Aidan Cichocki in thirteenth. In another story by Jim Lambert, Coach Mike McCabe expressed his feelings on the unexpected victory, “It’s the biggest upset victory our boys have ever had. Westfield is such a great team; we knew it would take our best race to beat them. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wanted our guys to mix it up and go after it, and they responded with their best race. They stepped up to the challenge.”

The UC boys team has four seniors; only one, Jimmy, is committed. He has signed with the University of Virginia. The additional three seniors are still looking around. The other three boys on the team are juniors. These boys are an old team so they will change drastically next year, but it will give many others a chance at varsity. The boys work so hard and have a great time. This team has won counties conferences, got second at groups, and hopefully will place in the top five at Meet of Champions. They plan to go to regionals and make it to nationals, but that is up in the air still.

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