1978 BOYS' CROSS COUNTRY TEAM


TEAM


YEAR OF INDUCTION: 2017



The Steinert cross country team was on the way up. The Spartans had moved up from fifth place in 1976 to fourth in 1977 and then won the Central Jersey IV championship in 1978.

"We were the first running team from Steinert to win sectionals," Coach Jerry Bleistein said. Everything did not go exactly their way, but the Spartans rebounded to put five runners in the top 30. Star senior John Johnson, who got spiked on the first loop at Buccleuch Park in New Brunswick, used a strong kick to finish first for his team and seventh overall as the Spartans needed to rally defeat Neptune (which had two runners in the top six). Paul DiLouie, who ran the last 2-and-a-half miles with one shoe, finished 25th, and "fifth man" John Howell placed 30th to seal the victory. In between Johnson and DiLouie were Tom Porter and (12th) and Ken Robbins (19th).

"John Howell had the race of his life," Bleistein said.

"That '78 team was very special," coach Doug Martin.

With Bleistein and Martin, as well as Andre Modica and others, the cross country and track and field programs had a strong core of coaches. The continuity carried over to the athletes who participated throughout the year.

"Youíre in it to win it," Martin said. "You donít want to let anybody down."

In addition to the first state championship in cross country, the '78 boys also won the Edison and Neshaminy invitational races and captured the Mercer County crown. The only team able to defeat the Spartans in a dual meet was East Brunswick, which nipped Steinert (17-1 final record) when it was without one of its top runners.

In addition to Johnson, who was inducted into the Steinert Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007 as an individual athlete, DiLouie and Porter were All-Mercer first-team selections. Robbins was a second-team honoree and John Strycharz, Brian Mellan, Pete Campbell and Howell received honorable-mention recognition.

They ate a lot of pizza together, they ran a lot of miles together and "they became a family," Bleistein said.


Click Here to enlarge the team photo.

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