One year ago, the Kingsway girls cross country team experienced one of the lowest points in the program’s long, storied history. With their 6th place finish – 102 points behind champion Shawnee, they missed qualifying for the state championships.
They also failed to win any championships of any kind. This proved to be a pivotal moment for the program that initiated a renewed focus and motivation.
This drive resulted this past cross country season in one of the greatest seasons that a team from South Jersey has ever seen. Kingsway, coached by Christine Dacchille, Christian Lynch, Caitlin Hess, and Ryan Harrigan, rattled off a string of championships, winning the Tri-County Conference Royal Division, Gloucester County, South Jersey Open (with the fastest time of the day award), and the overall Tri-County Conference championships.
They then went on to dominate the field to win the South Jersey Group 4 Championships. Not only did they win 45-79 over defending champion, Shawnee, their team average time was the fastest in South Jersey history, with a team average of 19:01 for the 3.1 mile race. The previous fastest team averaged 19:11.
They were ranked as high as #3 in New Jersey and have been the top ranked team in South Jersey most of the season.
Individually, Rachel Vick, Alexis Mullarkey, Destiny Stanford, McKenzie Nugent, Morgan Robinson, and Lauren Krott earned all-conference honors. Vick won the Gloucester County and Tri-County Conference titles for the second consecutive year.
Mullarkey won the South Jersey Open (with the fastest time of the day award) and finished 15th at the New Jersey Meet of Champions. They both made the 12-member All-South Jersey team.
So how did such a metamorphosis occur?
“We’ve had great girls leading the way for years in Vick, Stanford, Nugent, and Becca Toner,” said Dacchille. “We were able to bring in new girls to support those older girls. Robinson, Krott, Laurel Hannigan, and Emily Pannullo came in as freshman and stepped right into varsity spots, taking that pressure on without pause. Then Mullarkey made the decision to switch from soccer to cross country. We added some great pieces to the puzzle.”
“These girls showed a commitment to the values and culture of the program,” Hess explained. “They bought into our training philosophy and rallied around proving the doubters wrong. They were relaxed, focused, and hungry. That combination can win championships.”
Amazingly, things look to only get better as there were NO seniors on the team this year, meaning every girl returns for another championship run. Their goals also will include trying to win the program’s first state championship as well as qualify for the Nike National Championships. If they qualified for Nike, they would be the first team from South Jersey to ever accomplish this feat.
The expectations and goals for this program are at an all-time high.
What a difference a year can make!