By Paul Schwartz /

Here’s a detailed look (in reverse order) at North Jersey’s top 25XC teams:

25. Passaic Tech

The Bulldogs had solid third place finishes in the Big North Liberty and Passaic County meets. Junior John Swaney will lead four of the top seven who will return next fall (Preseason: ranked).

24. New Milford

The Knights finished 11th in group 1, their highest finish at the state meet since an 11th place finish in 1992. Kevin Senzamici and Sebastian Herrera Pineda finished in the top quarter of the state meet individually and coach Greg Kelly will return all but Senzamici next year. New Milford was second in Bergen group D. (Not ranked).

23. Tenafly

After a second place in the Big North National and a strong sixth in Bergen A, the Tigers faltered and missed the state group meet for the second straight year. Michael Forde was the solid leader on the senior laden team that will be rebuilding next fall. (15)

22. Ramapo

It didn’t look it was going too be much of a year for the Green Raiders when they got crushed in the Big North Freedom batch meet, but led by first year cross-country runner Ryan Welch, they got better in each race for the rest of the year. Just two seniors graduate and freshmen Zach Berstein and Jake Bernstein could lead to big improvement next year (Not ranked)

21. Pascack Hills

The Broncos had a roller coaster season with top performances in finishing second in the Big North Patriot division, making the Lou Molino Bergen Meet of Champions and a third place in the North 2 group 2 sectionals to make their first state meet appearance since 2018. Dylan Barrett leads five varsity returnees into next season. (14)

20. Bergen Catholic

The Crusaders were second to Don Bosco in both the Big North United and Bergen E meets but the big story is their freshman team which was the best frosh team in North Jersey. Five varsity runners also return. Look for BC to make big strides next season. (24)

19. Pascack Valley

The Panthers came within one point of making three straight state meets since 1974 after graduating most of their 2022 sectional championship team. Senior Patrick Kurtz was the first individual sectional champ in a decade. Valley finished third in the Big North National meet and soph Marcus Koshy, a state qualifier this year leads five varsity returnees next fall. (Not ranked)

18. Old Tappan

The Golden Knights returned to the state meet after a year’s absence and had a consistent season, taking fourth in the Big North National, third in Bergen B and fifth in the state sectionals. Ben Johnson is one of the best sophs in North Jersey and is one of three varsity returnees for next year. (16)

17. Wayne Hills

The Patriots were fourth in Passaic and third in the Big North Independence race on a mostly senior team that returns only one underclassman, sophomore Wilson Stansfield. (6)

16. Fair Lawn

The Cutters showed flashes of excellence, especially in their runner-up finish in the Big North Independence and a fifth place finish in the strong Bergen A meet. State qualifier Aidan Soukas leads three varsity returnees for next year. (7)

15. Northern Highlands

The Highlanders missed out on a chance to make three straight state meets but had some bad breaks and wasn’t able to get there. They were third in the tough Big North Freedom and fourth in Bergen A. Carter Monaco had a solid season and the Highlanders return four varsity runners next year. (Not ranked)

14. West Milford

The other Highlanders enjoyed a solid season with a close fourth in the Big North Independence and fifth in Passaic County before a huge race, taking fourth in the group 2 sectionals which sent them to the state meet for the first time since 2019. Colin Menier had an all-Passaic season and West Milford returns five varsity runners next year. (20)

13. Clifton

The Mustangs seemed on the way to a fourth straight trip to the state finals after taking strong seconds in the Big North Liberty and Passaic meets, but came up a bit short and missed by two spots. Junior Lamarr Olive won the Passaic title and reached the State Meet of Champions and the Mustangs return three other varsity runners. (9)

12. Leonia

The Lions came oh-so-close, losing the NJIC Colonial title by one point to Glen Rock, was second behind Demarest in Bergen B, qualified for the Bergen Meet of Champions, finishing ninth and returned to the state group 2 meet after a year’s absence. With Ian Cortez leading the top five runners back next year, look for a leap into the top 10. (22)

11. Kinnelon

Seconds in the NJAC Small Schools and North 1, group 1 sectional races gave the Colts a chance to earn a fifth straight top 10 finish at the state level and the Colts delivered with a ninth place finish after winning the group with a veteran team the year before. Kyle Bjornson led Kinnelon all year as the only senior but the Colts should be contenders again next fall. (17)

10. Hasbrouck Heights

A ton of injuries to the middle of the Aviators’ pack held them from a sectional title and a top five group 1 finish. But led by all-North Jersey junior Aidan Morrow, Heights won the Bergen D title, took runner-up finishes in the NJIC Meadowlands and North 2 group 1 meet and took eighths in BMOC and state group 1. The Aviators return all but their #3 runner next year. (3)

9. Park Ridge/Emerson

PRE had its best state meet finish since 2007’s fourth place finish with a 1-2 punch of William O’Donovan and Patrick Tallman and a strong veteran supporting cast. The co-op won the NJIC Meadowlands, was third in Bergen C, reaching BMOC and survived the loss of a key runner at sectionals to finish fourth, setting up their state finals performance. PRE returns just one other varsity runner with O’Donovan. (11)

8. Bergen Tech

Former Ramsey star Mike Buser did a good job with the Knights, who won the Big North Liberty meet, took second in Bergen A and seventh in BMOC. The Knights also returned to the state meet in back-to-back years for the first time. Soph Eashaan Maggon leads five returnees next year. It could be a breakthrough season. (2)

7. Wayne Valley

The Indians lost a lot from last season but also returned Matt Califf and Milan Mistry and the senior duo led the team to the Big North Independence and Passaic County titles. The Indians were the only Bergen-Passaic team to qualify for State group 3 and did so for the third straight season. And with just three returning varsity starters next year will be a challenge. (5)

6. Hackensack

As usual the Comets started a little slowly but by the end of the season were solid and near the top. A second place finish in the Big North Freedom was followed by third in Bergen A, sixth at BMOC and a second at Group 4 North 1 sectionals which put them in the state group finals for the third straight year. Senior Dylan Guarquila and soph Michael McGinnity gave the Comets a good 1-2 all year and McGinnity is joined by excellent freshman Kevin Remache next fall. (12)

5. Glen Rock

The Panthers had a strong veteran group returning who lived up to all expectations and led Glen Rock to its strongest showing in the state group meet since 1966. The Panthers edged Leonia for the NJIC Colonial title, then took second in Bergen C, an all-time boys best finish of 5th at BMOC, then won their first sectional title in more than 20 years before finishing fourth in group 1. The senior triumvirate of Ben Raser, Ben Habler and Ryan Wolfe were consistently terrific. Only three varsity runners return but they all have sectional gold medals. (8)

4. Demarest

Demarest’s biggest strength, it’s tight and disciplined pack, also turned out to be its biggest weakness as the Norsemen couldn’t close the gap on teams with better upfront runners as the race fields grew larger. Demarest won both the Big North National and Bergen B races with outstanding spreads of less than a minute, and took a solid fourth at BMOC but couldn’t overcome Indian Hills at the state sectionals and finished ninth at states, despite a 53 second gap between its first and seventh finishers. Unfortunately their top runner was more than a minute and a half behind first place in that race. Four of the top seven return next year. (13).

3. Indian Hills

Ten straight trips to the state group meet and 21 visits in 22 years include a win, three seconds and six other top five finishes including fourth in group 2 this year. Clearly one of the state’s best and most consistent programs, this year the Braves won the Big North Patriot, the Bergen C and the sectionals (North 1 group 2) for the 13th (including NBIL), 15th and 11th times during that span. Mainstays Dan Phillips and Nico Tucci graduate along with a third varsity senior but the Braves will return Bergen County’s two top varsity freshmen, Frank Coppa and Lukas Kertesz, two other juniors in the top half of the state race and the area’s second best freshman team (which doesn’t include Coppa and Kertesz). The biggest loss might be in the head coach, alumnus Pete Tuohy, who has taken the job at Montclair State. His successor has not yet been named.

2. Don Bosco

The Ironmen have taken a step back on the state level after an amazing run of five Non-Public A championships and six runner-up finishes between 2006 and 2016, but locally they have been first or second in 26 of the last 32 BMOC meets, including 17 wins. The Big North United and Bergen E winners again, they were second at BMOC this year. Ryan Locicero continued the Bosco streak of at least one top 10 finisher in each state group meet since 1999 (except for 2004 and 2019) While the eighth place finish in Non-Public A was Bosco’s third worst since 1990, there’s great hope. The Ironmen return their next six finishers, most of them sophomores. (4)

1. Ridgewood

From the first to last day of the season, no one in North Jersey (and few in the state) were close to the Maroons, led by junior all-stater Luke Pash, who could hold all the course leads before he’s through. Seniors Chris Brady and DJ Murphy never had a bad race and junior Trevor Kane worked through some health issues to join that trio on all-North Jersey. Juniors Tom Mevissen, Jett Lincon and Benji Papageorge helped Ridgewood win the Big North Freedom, Bergen A, BMOC and state sectionals by record or near record margins including only the fourth sectional sweep (1-5) in state history. Ridgewood was second in group 4 and third in the SMOC. Juniors Ryan Holmes and Jack McKenna had some varsity time this year and help the returnees try to do it again next fall. (1)