Barry did just that, not only maintaining a spot among the top five or six runners, but actually fighting it out for the lead at several junctures.
When all was said and done, Barry, the individual Group III champion on Nov. 12, was a very respectable third, just eight seconds behind winner Holly Bischof of Bishop Eustace and one second behind Caroline Kellner of West Windsor-Plainsboro.
Bischof and Kellner are seniors so Barry had the best finish by an underclassman. The next closest was Shelby Cain, the sophomore from Haddonfield who was 18th.
"I wanted to be with the top group," said Barry (18:21). "I didn't set a time I wanted or anything. All I wanted was to go out, be strong and be near the front."
It was a stellar day for female runners from the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference. Eleven of the top 30 were from NJAC schools. Six of the top 20 were from Morris County schools.
High Point's Sarah Disanza and Sparta's Claudia Disomma, both juniors, were 11th and 12th, respectively. Tara Hanley of Chatham and Colette Richter of Mountain Lakes came in right after them, finishing 13th and 14th.
Sam Jones was 16th and led Randolph to a fourth-place team finish behind Rumson-Fair Haven, Hillsborough and Mount St. Dominic. The Rams, comprised of Jones, Carole Harsch, Liz Wellman, Margaret Thomson and Jennifer Zackowski, had 153 points and averaged 19:45.80.
Abby Seel, a junior from Mendham, and Caroline Wolfe, a senior from Hanover Park, were 19th and 20th.
Barry's effort was a superb one as she started out slowly and worked her way up the the front after the big hill.
"Holly kept passing me and I finally pushed," Barry said. "I sprinted and we were neck and neck. Around the bowl, a lot of the runners caught up. Holly just went ahead and that was it."
Hanley, the runner-up in Group II a week ago, was "hurting a bit" yet turned in an 18:38.
"That's OK. That happens," Hanley said. "It was a tough race. I tried my best so I can't complain."
She was pleased with the superb showing by Morris County runners.
"It didn't surprise me to have so many of us in the top 20," Hanley said. "We pushed each other all season. It was friendly competition that made all of us faster."
Richter (18:49) took seven seconds off the time she had when she took Group I honors. At 10 a.m. when Richter was warming up, she said she couldn't feel her feet because of the chilly weather. By race time, of course, she was ready to go.
"I'm very happy," Richter said. "I was up with the pack then was separated for a bit. I caught back up and stuck with it."
The best showings by freshmen were girls from Morris County. Harsch was 26th in 19:23 while Olivia Viparina of Roxbury was 35th in 19:34.
Viparina came into the season with knee injuries and was sidelined for much of September. Soon, she found her way into the varsity mix and posted some impressive times. Simply making it to the MOC was a thrill.
"I really can't believe I'm here," Viparina said. "I didn't expect to make it this far. I felt pretty good except for when I cramped up a little about halfway through. I had to keep going. I improved my time from last week. It's my best here. People say this course is hard but I like it. Now I can say I raced with all the big-name kids. They're so good."
Sophomore Kylene Cochrane of West Morris was unconcerned with her result. Cochrane was just glad to be on the course at Holmdel on Saturday.
"I felt like I accomplished something just getting here," Cochrane said. "I came here to have fun. I gave it my all."
Cochrane, a soccer player as a freshman, said her legs felt a little tight. She considered it "an end-of-the-season thing." In the spring, Cochrane went to the MOC and competed in the mile, taking 12th.
Rams coach Len Pietrewicz was delighted by his squad's fourth-place finish. Harsch and Margaret Thomson, another freshman, played large roles in Randolph's success. Thomson's uncle, David, was a standout at Dover. Her father, Jay, also was a runner.
"I thought we were a top five team so this is great," Pietrewicz said. "The freshmen have been unbelievable. Carole's the No. 1 freshman in the state and Margaret is always strong. She almost got into the 19s."
Thomson said the Rams are a tight-knit group, always encouraging one another.
"We try our best and run with each other," Thomson said. "We push each other. If someone's slacking, we hold them up if they have a bad race."
Morristown, tops in Group III, was 11th as a team at the MOC. The first Colonials runner to cross the finish line was senior Nicole Gomez in 19:56.
**For full results, see lfracing.com**