Prior to this fall season, the Kingsway girls cross country team arguably has been as dominant as any athletic program in South Jersey over the last half of the decade.
In the previous five years, they have won five Tri-County Conference Royal Division titles, five Tri-County Conference overall titles, and five Gloucester County titles, including posting the only perfect scores (getting the first five individual places in the race) in girls county meet history in 2017 and 2018. They even became the only girls cross country team in South Jersey history to qualify for the National Championships in 2017.
However, the true testament to their legacy over that time has been what they did at the South Jersey Group 4 Championships. They won each South Jersey championship held during this time. They set the record for fastest team average EVER run at any South Jersey championships ever held. There even were times where you could have pitted all of the other teams in South Jersey against Kingsway at these meets, and Kingsway still would have won.
The South Jersey championships have been Kingsway’s time, and, this fall, they were looking to make it their sixth title in a row.
For almost the entire season, it looked like they had a great chance to do just that.
The Kingsway team ran through their Tri-County Conference Royal Division meet slate, easily repeating as divisional champions for the sixth time. They then put up another overwhelming performance on a rainy day at the Gloucester County Championships to win their sixth consecutive county title, with Aubrey Pierontoni winning the individual county title.
A week before the South Jersey Championships, they even participated in the South Jersey Open, a meet they had not raced in years, and ran through the competition to win that team title. Allison Helkowski won the individual title that day.
They were primed to win their sixth straight South Jersey championship. Unfortunately, they lost the chance to compete for that championship.
Days before the South Jersey Group 4 Championships, Kingsway shifted to all-virtual instruction due to a COVID-19 community outbreak, and the team was informed they would not be able to compete in the championship meet. Cherokee went on to win the Group 4 championship in Kingsway’s absence.
While they certainly were dealt a tough hand, the Dragons have decided to pick themselves up and continue pushing forward towards the future.
“Although we were disappointed with the way our season ended, I really am proud of our athletes and their resilience through that time,” said Coach Caitlin Hess. “They are the type of kids who will come out stronger on the other side of this hurdle. They already have big goals in mind moving forward towards next fall.”
Knowing the tradition of this program and the character of the people associated with this program, expectations will be high next fall when they hopefully get an opportunity to snatch that title back.
Next fall with Kingsway girls cross country should be an inspired one to say the least!
By Christian Lynch