While both the boys and girls cross-country teams have logged fairly solid performances this season, senior Tyler Gibbons has moved far ahead of the pack both on his own team and in competition. During recent weeks, Gibbons captured first-place finishes in and then, a week later, at the Skylands Conference Championship.
This Saturday, Gibbons will be traveling with both girls and boys teams to the beginning of the state sectionals, to be held at Warinanco Park in Elizabeth.
Both the Somerset County and Skylands races were held in the second half of October. Both also were held in a picturesque fall setting at Natirar County Park in Peapack-Gladstone. But the first race was held on an ideal fall day — the second required runners to endure pouring rain that created a mud-slicked and puddly course.
Either way, Gibbons managed to shine and with a bit of a smile on his face.
Gibbons is the first Ridge runner to win an individual Somerset County championship since Ricky Gibson won his second consecutive county crown in 1997.
“It’s been pretty cool. We haven’t had a county champion since Gibson back in ‘97, so it’s kind of cool to get a Ridge individual back up there to get recognized for that,” said Gibbons.
Things got even better at the Skylands meet, which Gibbons finished first with a time of 15:47. "Ridge has never had a Skylands Champion and this was awesome," Gibbons said after his second win.
"Right now, he is the favorite to win the Meet of Champions this season," Head cross-country coach Tim Mooney said of Gibbons.
"Obviously we were pleased with Tyler's win," Mooney said on Friday morning. "He did a great job of separating himself in the back hills of the course. At the state section, his competition only gets better as Tim Ball of Piscataway is in the same race."
At the state level, Gibbons will have a handful of other runners who are capable of competing with him on a given day, according to Mooney said.
“I’ve been training hard, looking forward to this all season,” Gibbons said following the county meet. “It was nice to get a win.”
Gibbons outlasted Franklin runner Darrel Gooding in the county race, with whom he has a healthy, competitive rivalry.
“It’s definitely a friendly rivalry. I’ve raced him at least six times this year,” Gibbons said of Gooding. “It’s pretty cool getting to race the same guys during the year. I get to see how they race, and improve my times in the races against them.”
Another familiar foe for Gibbons—Phillipsburg’s John Harper—was be on-hand for the Skylands Conference Championship the week following the county meet. Gibbons finished second to Harper at a dual meet in September that also featured runners from Hillsborough High School.
“I’ve raced him seven times,” Gibbons said prior to the Skylands race. “I’m definitely looking forward to staying with him and making some moves to advance in the race.”
With college lying ahead in the not-too-distant future for Gibbons, the runner says that he would like to continue his cross-country career wherever he ends up next fall.
“I’ve been talking to some schools. I’m still trying to figure out what I want. The plan is definitely going forward into college. I love it, so I want to keep it up,” said Gibbons. “I’m still keeping my options open. There’s not really set anything in stone yet, but I’m figuring it out. There are some good schools and programs out there, so it’s a pretty exciting time.”