ROXBURY _ The lake, the halfway point, was where Mendham's Lucy Jeffs chose to make her move at the Roxbury Cross Country Invitational.
At the time, Jeffs was in sixth or seventh place. She was not enjoying the heat - about 91 degrees - or the humidity that made the first meet of the season even more of a challenge.
But Jeffs, now a junior and one of the Minutemen's veteran elite, kept pushing and came in second in the Girls Fastest 4, a 5,000-meter run, with a time of 19:44.62.
"It was very hot. Really hot," Jeffs said. "I wasn't sure how to race or who were were racing. It was a good way to start. We figured some things out today. I went out with a fast pack and stayed with them. I wanted to pick off people at the end."
Jeffs passed all the runners in front of her but one - Toms River North's Jade Tricomy. Tricomy, a freshman making her varsity debut, built up a substantial lead and had the top girls showing of the day, crossing the finish line in 19:31.27. TRN took top team honors as well, scoring 19 points to Mount Olive's 44.
The Marauders' Sydney Bradle came in fourth, posting a 20:03.93. Bradle, a sophomore, missed some time last season with a hip flexor, returning for the NJAC Championships, but appeared to be in fine form at Horseshoe Lake Park.
"Everything went pretty well but the conditions were not ideal," Bradle said. "I've been training lot, putting in the miles. The air was hard to work with but I pushed through. My teammates were very supportive."
Bradle and her teammates were elated to be runners-up to TRN at the opening meet.
"It is so heartwarming," Bradle said. "I love my teammates. We worked so hard to prepare."
Andrea Villar and Laura Green were 13th and 14th. Laura Ginefra was 17th.
Mount Olive coach Mike Behre has high hopes for this squad, noting that it reminds him of the 2013 team which garnered sectional and Group III crowns.
"Getting second today was awesome," Behre said. "We're all very excited. They're like the 2013 team as far as drive. They're young and energetic."
Being among the top five was Bradle's goal and she was glad she attained it. She, no doubt, would have preferred to be at the ice rink instead. Bradle's other sport is hockey. She plays left wing for Mount Olive's boys team.
"The last mile took a lot of strength," Bradle said. "I was dying a little bit. I just wanted to run my best. I was with the top pack for the first mile. At the second mile, I made my move on the fifth girl then stayed with the front group over the last mile."
Of utmost importance, of course, was hydration. Both Jeffs and Bradle said they drank water all day Friday and had more on Saturday morning.
Mendham captured the Group III title in 2015 and seems to have the personnel to contend once again. Megan Timoney was 16th and Hope Tiboni, back after a year off, was 25th in the Fastest 4. Shannon Timoney and Regan Hakes were Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the two-mile freshmen race.
"We've got a lot of people back and some new freshmen," Jeffs said. "We're aiming for what we did last year. This was a great start to the season. You get rid of the rust here."
Coming in right after Bradle in the Girls Fastest 4 Race was Roxbury's Julia Herraiz (20:10.58). Also in the first 10 were Chatham's Abby Bigham (9) and Jefferson's Sarah DeVries (10).
Other noteworthy performances by Morris County runners were Julia Chang, second in the Future 5,000-Meter Run, and Chloe Tempest of Chatham, fourth in the Junior Varsity Run.
Latest from Sandy Seegers