Secaucus harriers off to sizzling start; Prep’s Hilliman gets elevated to Giants’ roster; top fives

The Secaucus boys’ cross country team finished third recently in the prestigious Xavier Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. From left are assistant coach Claire McAndrew, Dylan Mercado, Zarrar Narwar, Sebastian Flood, Mohammed Alobaidi, Dan Chinchilla, Nicholas Munoz, Vishwa Naik, Brandon Vasquez, Mohammed Abada, Harry Li and head coach Stan Fryczynski.

Long before the high school cross country season officially began, the Secaucus High School boys’ team was making plans.

“We started talking about this year last year,” said veteran coach Stan Fryczynski, who is his fourth decade of coaching the Patriots. “We started talking about this year after the [NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I] sectionals last year. We wanted to build on that solid outing, so we went into the summer with that in mind.”

The Patriots had a veteran roster, so they knew what to expect.

“We brought back basically the entire team from last year,” Fryczynski said. “We knew we had good depth.”

So the Patriots traveled to the Xavier Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx with a solid group.

“We could put 10 in the race, so we did that,” Fryczynski said, noting that usually, a team can enter seven runners, but this race, they were able to enter 10. “The kids knew from the get-go that we were serious. We knew we were in a tough division in that race and it’s not an easy place to run any time. It was a good place to be pushed.”

Fryczynski said that he had a good idea how the Patriots would fare, considering they finished third overall at the Back to the Mountain race at Garret Mountain in Woodland Park, placing as the top Group I school at the event.

“We planned the schedule back in March,” Fryczynski said. “We knew that this race [Xavier Invitational] was going to be an indication of where we were going. We knew that there was a possibility of this team being the best cross country team in Secaucus history.”

Fryczynski thought that his team had a chance to do well at Van Cortlandt.

“I knew that we were going to run against the best teams in New York,” Fryczynski said. “I knew that we were going into hostile territory. But I felt we were in a good place. We were solid.”

Leading the way was senior Danny Chinchilla, who is as smooth as the fur that is also his last name. Chinchilla has already posted a 16:58 time this season, so he was destined to be the leader of this team.

“He just joined the team last year,” Fryczynski said. “He’s a transfer from Hoboken Charter School and never ran a single step before. After six days of training, he was with our top two runners. He’s a special kid. He’s not full of himself. Basketball is really his sport, but he’s been tremendous as a runner.”

Chinchilla ran second overall in his division in the 2.5 mile race, entitled the Jose Benitez Memorial Varsity A Race, in 14:17. That’s an awesome finish.

Senior Mohammed Alobaidi finished fourth overall in 14:34.

“He’s been with us for four years,” Fryczynski said. “He just grew at a natural pace. We knew he would be a solid kid. He’s been in our top three all year.”

Senior Sebastian Flood was next for the Patriots, finishing fifth overall in 14:38..

“He’s a different kid this year,” Fryczynski said. “He kind of never trusted himself, but he’s been a consistent runner from start to finish this year. He just gets out and sets the tone.”

Senior Mohamed Abada was 15th overall in 15:13.

“He never came out for cross country before,” Fryczynski said. “He ran outdoor track [competing in the 3,200-meter run], but he was a soccer player in the fall. His younger brother pushed him to join the cross country team.”

And that younger brother, Younes Abada, won the freshman race at the Xavier International, displaying his bright future.

“I wanted to give him a chance to get his feet wet,” Fryczynski said. “He’s still young, but he’s becoming a varsity runner.”

Junior Vishwa Naik was 26th overall in 15:40.

“He’s improved a lot,” Fryczynski said. “He’s a wiry kid. It took him a while to get going. He’s come a long way.”

Senior Dylan Mercado was 45th overall in 16:42.

“He’s a three-year kid who has also improved a lot,” Fryczynski said. “We were fortunate to use our depth in this race. The word ‘depth’ has not been used at Secaucus often. But that’s what we have this year. It’s a difficult sport, but we have to keep rebuilding.”

Needless to say, this could be a year to remember at Secaucus, especially when it comes to the state sectional championships in a few weeks.

“There’s a certain bounce in their step,” Fryczynski said. “Every single time they go out, there’s a sense of confidence. They need that bolt of confidence. They can’t train any harder than what’s been done. It makes things easier as a coach.”

Fryczynski rarely talks in superlatives unless he knows he has a good cross country team and it appears as if the Patriots are indeed very good this fall…

St. Peter’s Prep graduate Jonathan Hilliman got some great news last week, when he learned he was being promoted to the New York Giants’ 53-man active roster after the injury suffered by All-Pro running back Saquon Barkley.

Hilliman was on the Giants’ practice squad, but once it was learned that Barkley would miss four-to-six weeks with a high ankle sprain, Hilliman earned his spot on the Giants active roster for their game against NFC East divisional foe Washington.

Incredibly, Hilliman probably knew about his status, but didn’t let on when he spoke to a very familiar reporter after practice on Thursday morning. Hilliman’s official status was released later that day.

It means that Prep has two alumni in the NFL, with Hilliman joining the recently traded Minkah Fitzpatrick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fitzpatrick was traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Steelers and the defensive back quickly collected an interception in his first game with his new team.

In any case, Grand and Warren now has two reasons to be very proud these days…

Hudson Reporter High School Football Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (3-0). 2. Union City (2-1). 3. North Bergen (2-0). 4. Bayonne (3-0). 5. Lincoln (1-2)…

Hudson Reporter High School Soccer Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (6-2). 2. Union City (4-3). 3. Ferris (6-1). 4. Dickinson (3-3). 5. Hoboken (3-3). – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com

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