Elliot Gingi broke the tape and was overcome with emotion.
The Ocean Township High School junior could hardly contain himself after winning the Monmouth County boys cross country title in 16:21 at Holmdel Park.
“I felt it was amazing,” he said. “I was happy and I was excited and to be honest I wanted to run the next race (the boys junior varsity race). I was that excited. I wanted to go again … running twice.”
Gingi, who is in his third season of competing in cross country, placed sixth last year in 16:46 at Holmdel Park.
“I wanted it so badly this year,” he said. “This is my biggest thrill in cross country.”
Gingi said he felt he had a shot to win it.
“Going into the race,” he said, “I felt confident. It is very important for a runner to be confident and focused. When the gun went off, a lot of positivity came into me. Any negativity I felt left me. My dad (David) always says, ‘Being positive is the key to winning.’ ”
Gingi was among the leaders during the first mile.
“I felt very strong,” he said. “I was among the top five runners. We cruised through the first mile in 5:25 to 5:30. It felt like 5:27. Myself and a runner from Colts Neck took off and passed through the two-mile mark. We had some space from the CBA (Christian Brothers Academy) pack at the two-mile mark. In the third mile, the Colts Neck runner kept on making moves and moves and I stuck with him.”
Gingi sped ahead to stay late in the 3.1-mile race.
“With 800 meters to go, I put in a final kick, which sealed the deal,” he said. “The kick felt amazing. I felt strong going over a little hill at the end. I ran downhill and broke the tape. My kick is natural. I do workouts up and down hills and they help me generate a kick.”
Among the members of Team Gingi at the race were his mom, Marni, his dad and Graham Huggins-Filozof, a former Freehold Township runner and a current training partner.
“Breaking the tape felt pretty amazing as I knew it meant a lot to my parents and especially my coach (Mark Desomma),” Gingi said. “After the race, Graham was jumping for joy and giving me hugs. My dad… oh boy … he was prouder than he could ever be. My mom was the same exact way. All my hard work during the summer paid off for me.”
Huggins-Filozof and Gingi put in plenty of miles during the offseason.
“We ran a lot,” Gingi said. “He took me on long runs of probably eight or nine miles each day. Once in a while, he’d take me to the Manasquan Reservoir or Holmdel Park. I met him through running during the summer. It was a runner to runner connection.”
Gingi crossed the finish line in his fastest time at the hilly facility.
“It was my fastest time by four seconds,” he said proudly. “I was happy with my time. I was just trying to win the race and do my best. Stretching prior to the race loosened me up so that I would not be tight during the race. You have to focus, focus, focus.”
Desomma said Gingi was determined to win the race.
“He had a great, positive attitude going into the race,” Desomma said. “He was going to try to win it as one of his season goals was to win that race. He has worked hard. His confidence went up and he was very much mentally ready for the race. He pictured what could happen and who the other kids were. It went according to the plan he had visualized.”
Desomma said it was Gingi’s first major victory in cross country. Gingi also competes in distance races in winter and spring track for the Spartans.
“This was huge,” Desomma said. “He just sort of glides along and floats along. He looks very relaxed. When he is at his best, you can see he is smooth and relaxed. He is something to see when he is going fast and is at his best. Other kids strain to run at5 the kind of speed he displays, but he is just gliding along.”
The 6-foot Gingi led the Spartans to a 5-2 dual meet season. He won five of seven dual meets and captained the team with seniors Jason Seo and Kevin Bauer.
“I tell Elliot he has no limits,” Desomma said. “He wants to run in college and he has found his sport (Gingi formerly played basketball). He loves running fast. He has a gift and I can see him going very far with it. He can go as far as he wants to with it. He has not hit his limit.”
Gingi said he enjoys running at Holmdel Park, site of the Spartans’ home meets.
“It is my favorite course,” he said. “Our team practices on it. We go there to practice on the hills to get used to them for the bigger meets. It builds me up for the other races and I have run it so much.”