It wasn’t just capturing the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championship. It was also setting the course record at Bayonne County Park.
That mark was set in 2015 by Rafael Hernandez of Memorial, with a time of 15:48.
Even with the tough competition in the race, Nasser felt like he had a shot at the record.
“I was locked in during the warm-ups,” Nasser said.
Sure enough, Nasser sprinted out to the early lead in the race held last Saturday – and never looked back.
“I knew that the first hill was pretty steep,” Nasser said. “But I bounced back well after the hill. It changed the pace of the race. I came back strong, looked over my shoulder and saw nobody. I knew it was me.”
Nasser crossed the finish line in 15:30, shattering the old record by 18 seconds.
“It’s a huge accomplishment for me,” Nasser said. “I had this race mentally all along. My teammates pushed me along a lot. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”
Nasser finished 22 seconds ahead of Benedictus Bago of Snyder, who was second in 15:52. Kevin Keegan of St. Peter’s Prep was third, followed by Kevin Ventura of Memorial and Liam Christman of St. Peter’s Prep.
Keegan and Christman helped to enable St. Peter’s Prep to capture the team title. It was the fifth time in the last six years that the Marauders earned the team crown and the sixth time overall that Prep earned the county team crown.
Nasser was asked what it meant to finally have the county championship and the Bayonne Park course record.
“It’s amazing,” Nasser said. “I now have a couple of records and I hope it continues. The county keeps getting better. It would be awesome if someone beats my record in the years to come. Records are made to be broken.”
Nasser knew that the race was his to lose, despite the excellent competition.
“I knew that I had to be the one to make the race,” Nasser said. “I had to control the race. It was all up to me.”
Nasser became the third Cougar to ever capture the boys’ HCTCA title, joining Kevin Ratigan in 2011 and Younass Barkouch last year.
On the girls’ side, Hudson Catholic junior Weeshamar Senatus was attempting to successfully defend the HCTCA title she won a year ago.
Senatus said that she needed some help – from the competition.
“I want to thank the Kearny girl [Maria Laverde] and St. Dominic girl [Kayla Sullivan] for pushing me the entire race,” said Senatus, who won for the second straight year with a time of 19:47, breaking her winning mark of a year ago by more than a minute and a half.
Senatus won last year in 21:03, so she was definitely motoring this year.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” Senatus said. “They were in front of me, but then I took the lead back again and wasn’t going to give it up.”
Senatus said that she struggled a bit going up the second hill in Bayonne Park.
“It was hard,” Senatus said. “It made me realize that I have to practice more on the hills. But if there’s no pain, then no gain. That’s what I tell my teammates. I didn’t even talk to them about winning. I just wanted to do the best that I could.”
Senatus said that she was inspired by former Hudson Catholic standout Crystal Ortiz, who won the HCTCA title in 2014, but has since moved with her mother to Puerto Rico. Ortiz blazed the trail in 2014, winning as a freshman in a course record 18:36, but she was injured as a sophomore and never competed locally again.
“She is one of my best friends,” Senatus said. “We talk all the time. I always told myself that I could do it like Crystal did. At least, I was definitely going to try.”
Ortiz and Senatus are the only Hudson Catholic girls to ever win a county title. Now, Senatus will try next year to become the first three-time county champion since Paula Costa of Kearny won her third straight title in 1993.
Before that, Senatus will head to the NJSIAA state sectionals in two weeks with perhaps a chance to win there.
“I definitely want to see what I can do there,” Senatus said.
Laverde was second, followed by Sullivan, then Claire Chapeau of McNair Academic in fourth.
Suhayla Johnson of SDA was fifth, followed by Jazzlyn Diaz of McNair in sixth, Olivia Huang of Memorial in seventh and Andrea Tlacuilo and Jessica Wisowaty of team champion St. Dominic Academy, which dethroned three-time champion Union City in the process.
St. Dominic won its 11th overall team title and the first since 2011. It was a solid meet for the young Blue Devil squad, who should enjoy some success in the months and years to come.
Nasser should be the favorite to win the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I title at Greystone Park in Morris Plains this weekend. From there, he will head to the overall Group I state championships at Holmdel Park Nov. 11, also as one of the pre-race favorites.
In any case, it has been a very solid and competitive cross country campaign with some memorable performances throughout, especially those of the reigning county champs Nasser and Senatus.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.