PARSIPPANY _ Mountain Lakes' Izzi Gengaro and Kyra Velock most often run side by side or in a pack with teammates before Velock breaks away.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, however, Gengaro went out fast, maintained the lead and pulled off what was a shocker to some, prevailing in the North Jersey Section 2, Group II race at Central Park in a time of 19:36.09, a personal record.
It was only the second time Gengaro, a junior, outraced Velock, a senior. Velock was the runner-up in the sectional, finishing in 19:52.77, but it was all for the good as the Lakers captured the team championship with 37 points. Parsippany, led by Cristina Fernandez, was second with 63 points.
"I'm surprised," said Gengaro, the powerhouse runner who stands less than five feet tall. "I really thought Kyra would win. I couldn't do it without her. I couldn't do it without any of my teammates. They push me. We try to make each other better."
The day was even more special because the Mountain Lakes boys, paced by Jared Cooper, garnered team and individual titles as well. The last time the Lakers pulled off a girls and boys sweep was in 2011.
"We're very proud," Mountain Lakes co-coach Vicki Allison said. "This is great for Izzi. Kyra was predicted. Izzi just went for it. She's a very hard worker with a great work ethic."
"Izzi did what she needed to do," said co-coach Sue Bessin. "What a competitor... I'd say she took five seconds off her previous PR. People always ask us who will win. We really never know."
Mountain Lakes also had Therese Olshanski (5th) and Ally Jin (9th) among the top 10. Kyra Rozanitis was 20th.
Gengaro was at the forefront from the beginning of the race then kept building. She found the hills a little difficult, as always, yet persevered.
"I thought my teammates would pass me but they didn't," said Gengaro, who was third (20:20.22) at the NJAC Small Schools Race last month while Velock (20:32.28) was seventh.
It wasn't the individual honor that Gengaro relished. She was most pleased with the performances of the teams.
"I came in wanting the girls and boys teams to win," Gengaro said. "It had been done in the past. It was definitely a goal. It was what was most important."
The Whippany Park girls claimed the North Jersey Section 2, Group I championship - its first in five years - behind a second-place finish by Danielle Buro. Three other Wildcats runners were among the top eight.
"Our three, four and five girls all had PRs," Whippany Park coach Steve Manni said. "They ran very, very well. They've gotten progressively better."
Buro crossed the line in 21:17.22 at Central Park, Chiara Mennonna was fifth in 21:52.64, Lauren DeDreu was seventh and Kelsey O’Connor came in eighth.
O'Connor, a senior, took nearly 50 seconds off her PR in what had to be one of the most impressive efforts of the day.
"Kelsey ran as fast as she could," Manni said. "We told her to stay with the other girls. She was very strong on the course. I knew her time would be good. When Kelsey found out what she ran, her mouth opened and her jaw dropped."
Like Mountain Lakes, Whippany Park garnered girls and boys sectional titles and the squads celebrated by having lunch together after they returned from the meet.
"The teams are so close. They're like brothers and sisters. They pull for each other and are thrilled for each other."
Mendham junior Lucy Jeffs was sixth in Section 2, Group III with a time of 18:51.58. The Minutemen were third as a team.
"I did OK. I was a few seconds slower than the counties so my time was not that great," Jeffs said. "It was not our best day. We wanted to qualify. We'll see what we can do from here."
Randolph and Kinnelon topped the fields in North 1, Group IV and North 1, Group I, respectively, at Garret Mountain.
Abby Loveys, Brooke Olson and Meredith Finley of the Rams were second, third and fourth behind Ridgewood's Olympia Martin. Hannah Relovsky and Hannah Kline were first and fifth for the Colts.
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