Boys Cross Country runs to victory


Collin Clinton crosses the finish line to get first overall at Conference Championships. Photo Courtesy: Julie Bramley.

With West Milford having an unbelievable 2018 season, the Highlander Cross Country team was expected to have bigger and better performances this year.
The team is coached by Joe Andriulli, who has had a handful of successful teams over the past year. Although the team is returning with key varsity runners, the biggest loss for the Highlanders is Joey Cummings. In all but one race during his senior year, Cummings was able to finish top three. He is continuing his running career at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. He’s a four year team MVP and easily one of the greatest athletes at West Milford High School who will be missed.
The top returning runner for the Highlanders this season was Collin Clinton. “Collin has put in work during the summer,” Andriulli stated, and he is due to improve. In his freshman and sophomore year, Clinton earned First Team All Conference and County, two awards which are remarkable.
Aside from Clinton, the three key seniors are Jack Oesterle, Dan Woodcock, and Patrick Babbitt. All three are returning varsity runners and have unbelievable goals for the season. “We want to end our XC career on a high note and go big,” the three seniors have stated. All four of these gentlemen were chosen by fellow teammates to captain the team.
Aside from the four captains, the other returning top seven runner was junior Ryan Thenell , who’s ready to take a step to become a great runner. Replacing Cummings on the top seven was junior Kevin Bramley and sophomore Johnny Basil. Both reliable options and year round runner, both of these men will have to step up in order for the Highlanders to succeed.
Although West Milford has all of this talent, they had a pretty rough start. They started the season 4th at The Season Opener Invitational, even though they were without superstar Clinton. They also opened up the season 3-3, taking wins against DePaul, Wayne Valley, and Wayne Hills, but took hard losses against Lakeland, Fair Lawn, and Passaic Valley. Disappointed with this start, West Milford was furious about these performances and started to put in the work.
From working hard at practice, the Highlanders stepped it up and runners’ times started to improve. At the West Milford Run the Highlands Invitational, multiple kids hit their season goals, which had four athletes, Babbitt, Oesterle, Bramley, and Thenell all running five kilometers under eighteen minutes, goals they wanted to hit in late October. These great performances led the team to their first invitational win of the season, a huge confidence booster to round out September.
The biggest event in which West Milford participated was The Disney Cross Country Classic. It had been two years since West Milford competed in this national event. All runners were very anxious to face off against other high performing teams around the world. Although the trip was filled with tons of fun at Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom, the most important part was the race and not getting distracted from the fun they already had.
A hot and tiring race, West Milford hadn’t faced the heat since August. That challenge didn’t seem to bother Clinton during The Disney Cross Country Classic, as he crossed the finish at 16:22. He would finish third overall and would break a new course record. Although Clinton finished third, before that race the junior varsity team was able to capture 2nd overall in their race. About thirty minutes after that was announced, another unexpected announcement came that the varsity team claimed 2nd overall in the 2A division out of twenty-two teams. With the many medals and trophies the Highlanders received, West Milford was excited with their performance heading into the championship season.
After a rainstorm the day before, the Conference Championship meet was pushed back to Monday October 21st. Clinton had never beaten Lakeland rival Jess Campoverde, but with hard work and determination, his goal was accomplished as he crossed the line at 16:04, becoming the Big North Conference Independence champion. Aside from Clinton, the Highlanders placed third overall with Babbitt coming in 12th place which earned him Second Team All Conference. Thenell and Oesterle would also finish under eighteen minutes, which was something they had never done at that course before.
At the Passaic County Championships, West Milford was highlighted by Clinton, again. He finished at 16:31, which placed him 4th overall and allowed him to receive his third First Team All County. Babbitt finished 18th overall, which allowed him to earn Second Team All County. Thenell, Oesterle, and Bramley also finished in the top forty on a very competitive field. Although West Milford finished 4th overall, the country competition was very hard, and 4th overall is a great accomplishment for the Highlanders.
The final meet for the majority of the team was at the West Milford home invitational course against PCTI. The Highlanders would defeat them 25-30, as Collin Clinton would come 1st overall running a 16:19, which is a new course record outdoing Cummings record. Babbitt would come 3rd, Woodcock would come 6th, and Bramley would finish 7th. The key member for the race was junior Wyatt Koeppe, as he finished 8th overall and without his performance, the team would’ve lost.
Although West Milford still has state sectionals, and hopefully state group championships, overall, West Milford has had another successful season. The season was highlighted by Collin Clinton, as he has broken three school records, and is going for number four and five at sectionals and groups.
The main goal now is for West Milford to finish top five in State Sectionals, which would allow them to run in State Groups. From there, the team may not advance, but Clinton is hoping to come Top 10 the race which would allow him to advance to NJ Meet of Champs.
Even if he doesn’t make it, it was still another impressive season for West Milford Cross Country

Above: West Milford celebrates second place finish for JV and Varsity in Disney.
Photo Courtesy: Joe Andriulli.