The world got back on its axis Nov. 12 when the Christian Brothers Academy of Lincroft cross country team reclaimed the NJSIAA Meet of Champions title.

The Colts have now won 25 of the 49 MOC races that have been held, but had to wrestle the crown back from Union Catholic, which won it in 2021.  

“We were very young and I got out-coached last year,” coach Sean McCafferty said. “We worked really hard over the past year to fix the problems we had, and it worked. The boys bought into what we changed and what we did and it worked.”

It was a dominating MOC performance by CBA at Holmdel Park. The Colts won by a whopping 54 points over Union Catholic as all five scorers finished within the top 23 in individual standings.

Senior Nick Sullivan was fifth in 15:44, followed by sophomore Joe Barrett (10th, 15:45), juniors Jack Falkowski (15th, 16:16) and Conor Clifford (20th, 16:24), and senior Lucas Ward (23rd, 16:27). Rounding out CBA’s seven-man field were senior Zach Shroba (34th, 16:40) and junior Alex Kemp (44th, 16:47).

After having last weekend off, CBA will compete at the NIKE Cross Regional meet Nov. 26 in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. The top two team finishers qualify for the Nike Nationals the following week.

While CBA’s goal is always to compete for a national championship, that in no way diminishes what it accomplished in its home state. Along with the MOC, the Colts won the Shore Conference meet and the NJSIAA Non-Public A meet for the 31st time.

“The New Jersey stuff is a very big deal to us,” McCafferty said. “Up until last year Non-Public A was really not very good and we were able to cruise through the Non-Public A meet. Last year Union Catholic got a little better. That makes us better. Iron sharpens iron as they say. I think this year we focused on states, took a week off to retool and now get ready to go to regionals.  

In looking at his lineup, McCafferty noted that the battle for No. 1 runner went back and forth between Sullivan and Barrett all season.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a solid number one,” the coach said. “At the Shore Conference Barrett kind of popped off (winning the title in 14:59) and it was like ‘Woah, we have something here.’ Sulllivan lost to him again in the state meet (taking third while Barrett won), but at the Meet of Champions Sullivan ran better than he did. It’s great. It’s good for both of them. They’ve both embraced it, which is good.”

Falklowski has been the number three man, who “has bounced back and forth a little between the two groups. He works out with the front two. He’s kind of in the middle of the groups. And the back group of four through nine or 10 guys have exchanged places a lot over the year.”

Clifford has emerged as a solid runner after going through an awakening as to how good he can be. He previously ran cross country and winter track to stay in shape for baseball. Last year, he went out for spring track and ran some solid times in the 800, 1600 and 3200 meters.

“That kind of changed his trajectory rather quickly,” McCafferty said. “He ran really well in the spring, but cross country is a different beast, and building that confidence is important. He ran JV for a while and got to win some races. He was up front and got some confidence before jumping into bigger races with good runners all around him. His first varsity race was the state meet, and he did well there and in the Meet of Champions.”  

One of the more pleasant surprises was Shroba, “who ran out of his mind this year,” according to the coach. Shroba ran some varsity last year and his best time at the challenging Holmdel course was 17:38. This year it dropped to 16:22.

“That’s something freshmen and sophomores do, not juniors and seniors,” McCafferty said. “He worked hard, he bought in. Zach got to run a little bit in some of those big meets. He’d go out with the lead group and fade the last 800 or so. I told him ‘Next year this is gonna help you.’ and it did.”

Guys like Shroba, Ward and Kemp give CBA some depth heading into the regionals. Although only the first five finishers count toward the scoring, having seven quality runners provides a margin for error.

“I think we’re the best team going in,” McCafferty said. “If we do our job, we should be fine. The good thing is, knock on wood, we have seven guys. A lot of these other teams have four, five maybe six. So even if we have a couple guys slip up we’ll be alright. The guys are rested, we had our best workout in a long time on Saturday. It’s been really good. I think we’re ready to go as long as we stay healthy between now and then.”

It is not only a talented team, but a group of good guys who rely on faith as well.

“They’re great kids, a good mix of some goofy kids and some serious kids, so that’s helped a lot,” McCafferty said. “That’s the balance. They know when to turn it on and off and when to have fun. And they absolutely focus (on religion). That’s a big part of the education at CBA so we take that very seriously.”