Mainland Regional High School senior Alyssa Aldridge won her third straight state Group III cross country title by outsprinting Monica Hebner of Northern Highlands over the final 60 yards of the 3.1-mile race at Holmdel Park in Monmouth County on Saturday, Nov. 11. Aldridge finished in 18 minutes, 18 seconds, while Hebner ran 18:20.
Aldridge is the first Cape-Atlantic League girl to win three consecutive state cross country championships. She could make history again at the Meet of Champions Nov. 18 at Holmdel as she is the two-time defending champion.
This year's championship is special to Aldridge because of a bone bruise/stress reaction in her right foot that caused her to stop running in July. She spent much of the summer training in a pool to maintain her aerobic fitnessm, and didn't make her first training run of the cross country season until Sept. 16.
Aldridge, who will continue her athletic career and education at Georgetown University, was passed by Hebner with about 800 meters left but didn't panic, remembering when Devon Grisbaum of Ocean City retook the lead from her on the final straightaway three years ago to win the race.
“I knew it was possible to pass someone on the last straightaway,” Aldridge told Mike McGarry of The Press of Atlantic City after the race. “I kept telling myself, ‘Now you’re on the opposite side of that equation. It’s time to go.’”
Aldridge passed Hebner with 60 yards left and pulled away for the win.
The top 10 individuals and the top three teams in each of the six group races qualified for the Meet of Champions. Kevin Antczak of Mainland Regional gave the best performance by a CAL boy during the state group championships. The sophomore finished 13th in Group III in 16:36. Paige Sofield of Holy Spirit finished sixth in the girls Non-Public B race in 20:30.