Local Runners Show off their Stuff at Battle at Ocean County Park
By Eugene Stewart
The Henry Hudson cross country program, coached by Sean Pharo, now in his 10th season, started the season with a good showing at the Battle at Ocean County Park on Sept. 13. The co-ed team of six boys and 11 girls displayed their talent in the present, as well as gave a glimpse into their immediate future with two underclassmen poised for cross country greatness.
Sophomore Quinn Casey started his season with a PR 20:17.0 time and a 103rd-place finish in the meet.
“Quinn is beginning to see he has something and is buying in to making it work,” said Pharo of Casey’s work ethic to become better each day, each practice and each competition.
Casey is a long-time basketball player, following in the footsteps of his older brother Aden. “I started running track/cross country just to stay in shape,” said Casey. “The more I ran, I saw cross country as an escape. Now, It’s an everyday part of my life.”
Realizing a quicker route for reaching his track goals, Pharo ribbed Casey about participating in winter track. Casey begged off, listing his sports as cross country, basketball and spring track.
Casey has set personal records in the 3200m of 14:01.0 and the 2.5mi of 17:04.06 and draws determination from his mother and uncle, both runners, with his uncle having run the Marine Corps Marathon twice, as well as the NYC Marathon. As for personal goals, he has set his sights on running a 3mi in under 20:00.0 by next summer and is using track/cross country to help him secure a college scholarship offer.
For freshman Luke Jaccodine, the Battle at Ocean County Park was his first varsity meet. In that first contest, Jaccodine finished the 3200m with a PR of 14:17.0, good for 151 out of 238.
“Luke is a good student, focused on cross country who is also involved in other clubs and activities,” praised Pharo. He is the latest in a family of runners, drawing inspiration for the sport from his Aunt Diane, who is 70 years old and has run the Spring Lake 5K for over 30 years.
Jaccodine likes the thought of an individual sport offered through cross country which allows him an opportunity to work on himself and improve his performance times. A runner back to his days of middle school, he would like to work to lower his time for the 5K to between 22 and 23 minutes.
Pharo also has high hopes for the girls program, headlined by senior Corina Vidal, who placed first of 134 at the meet. A two-time sectional winner and 19th at the Meet of Champions in 2018, Vidal is currently ranked in the top 10 in the state with a PR of 18:21.00.
Meanwhile several miles to the west, Joseph LoCurcio, a senior at Freehold Boro, has begun his final campaign as a high school student-athlete in the Shore Conference. A three-year cross country participant, LoCurcio placed fourth out of 179 runners, with a PR of 15:54.0, in the Senior Race at the Battle at Ocean County Park.
“Joe is a good kid who works really hard and does all asked by a coach,” said head coach Todd Liebman. “The current seniors were my first group of runners here at Freehold Boro,” continued Liebman, a noted track and field athlete at Marlboro, before enrolling at what Is now Rowan University. He has a combined 17 years of coaching experience, including time at Middletown South, Marlboro, and now at Freehold Boro, where he has spent the last four years, two coaching both track and XC.
LoCurcio started running track as a freshman while still playing soccer. This was nothing he saw as a final product. “I wanted to be more competitive in soccer and after becoming more competitive in track, decided to do it year-round,” he said.
He is the first in his family to participate in track at any level, and Liebman touts his team leader as a great student who has entered his senior year with goals to further improve.
“One of my goals includes a sub 16-minute run at Holmdel this year and a top 15 finish at the Meet of Champions,” said LoCurcio. Both of these are well within his reach.
Along with his cross country exploits, LoCurcio has posted numbers that get better from season to season, year to year in track as well. For this calendar year alone, he has shown improvement of almost 1.5 seconds in the 1600m, 10.5 seconds in the 3200m and just over 5 seconds in the 800m from Winter 2019 to Spring 2019.
To date, he has received scholarship offers from Stony Brook and Tufts University.