The Haddonfield Memorial High School (HMHS) boys cross-country team won the Colonial Conference batch meet against Collingswood, Gateway, West Deptford and Lindenwold at Pennypacker Park on Sept. 12.
The 4-0 win pushed the Bulldogs’ 25-year consecutive dual meet win streak to 245, breaking the previous South Jersey record of 244 for consecutive wins held by Paul VI from 1980 to 2007.
In cross country, scores are noted with places achieved by the first five to seven runners from each team. The lowest score possible is 15, because if racers receive first through fifth place, it would equal 15.
Haddonfield defeated Lindenwold 15-50, West Deptford 15-50, Gateway/Woodbury 15-50 and Collingswood 17-46
“This was our first dual meet of the season, so we defeated four other teams at this meet, and so we’re 4-0,” explained Assistant Coach Dave Stewart. “We will eventually meet all 10 Colonial Conference opponents. “We are certainly hoping for another undefeated season, in which case we would go 10-0.”
The team wants to defend its conference title, one they’ve kept for the past 25 consecutive years; its 20th South Jersey Sectional Title; and its sixth Group 2 state title.
Following the Sept. 12 race, Coach Nick Baker was recognized for his role and influence in leading the team since 1982. He has been with the team throughout its win streak, starting in 1997, and if the cross-country program remains undefeated, Baker would have 375 victories in his Haddonfield cross-country head coaching career.
“The thing about Nick, if you know him, is that it’s not just about winning meets,” noted school Superintendent Chuck Klaus. “He’s the best track coach in South Jersey, and I’ll stand by that. His impact on young people is amazing.
“Everything he does, he does for the right reasons, he does it thoughtfully, he does it intentionally.”
Throughout his career, Baker has also started winter track and a middle-school cross- country and track team.
“It is interesting that it was in 1997, when we got that middle-school … team started, the year our (high-school boys team) streak began,” Baker observed after this month’s race. “… Over the years, everything changed. And the captains, the seniors, really took over that part of the program (of encouraging runners to be consistent). And it really became so much more enjoyable for us as coaches to sit back and watch those young people develop, who couldn’t wait for those opportunities.”
This year’s team captains were also the top three racers at the recent meet. They include Haddonfield High junior Bennett Wright (second place), and seniors Liam Dougherty (first place) and Matthew Sullivan (third place.)
Stewart noted that there were some interesting connections this year: Dougherty is the son of Pete Dougherty, who ran for Paul VI’s team during their streak, and coach Matt Cieslik is a former head coach and star runner for the same school.
“To see them just mature from those goofy little freshmen they came in as to young men who just were so mature and handled so many things so well,” Baker added, “it was just such a pleasure to be associated with and watch that growth over the years.”
The Haddonfield Bulldogs will compete again on Tuesday, Oct. 3, against Haddon Heights and Audobon; and on Tuesday, Oct. 10, against Paulsboro, Gloucester City and Haddon Township. All meets will be at Pennypacker Park in Haddonfield.