HOLMDEL – Stanford-bound Devin Hart wrapped up his stellar cross-country career winning his second consecutive NJSIAA Meet of Champions title Nov. 17 at Holmdel Park, but he almost let it slip away when he let up in the final 20 meters thinking he had the race won.

“I was coming out of the woods and I thought I had him, but then he kept coming up behind me,” Hart said of his near disastrous miscalculation. “That was real unexpected. So I put on a little surge in the final 20 meters, but I guess he (Madison’s Jack Stanley) had one final surge left, too. As I crossed the finish line I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I just let up at the line and cost myself the state championship.’ I really thought he had me beat.”

The finish couldn’t have been any closer. If it were a horse race it would’ve been a photo finish. However, race officials eventually determined that Hart’s chest hit the tape first and he was officially declared the winner after the automatic timer determined Hart had edged Stanley out by .14 seconds.

“I mean it was an instant classic,” said Hart of the heart-stopping finish. “I’m happy with the win – I’m a little disappointed in the time – but I’m glad I went out with a bang on this last race. It was really exciting and definitely a good challenge for me.”

Hart finished in 15:36:00, while Stanley clocked in at 15:36:14.

Hart is the seventh boy in the Meet of Champions history, which began in 1972, to win back-to-back titles and the first since Colts Neck’s Craig Forys accomplished that feat in 2005 and 2006. The win was also his fifth career Meet of Champions title, having won the X-C Meet of Champions twice, the outdoor 3,200 meters twice and the indoor 3,200 once.

Led by senior Tim McInerney, who finished sixth overall in 16:00:30, Christian Brother Academy, ranked No. 10 in the country, won their 23rd NJSIAA Meet of Champions title and eighth title in nine years. There have been 46 Meet of Champions races, so for the record, CBA now has as many M of C titles as the rest of the state combined. Paul VI is next with four titles.

Senior Luke Reid (17th, 16:12:09), senior Shawn Powell (18th 16:20:10), junior Mike Morris (32nd, 16:32:17) and Tristan Amell (57th, 16:54:28) round out the Colts top finishers.

CBA held out McInerney and Reid in last week’s group championships, won by the Colts, but needed to go at full strength Saturday to hold on, beating Haddonfield Memorial High School by a mere 18 points and 37 seconds in total time (1:21:58:00 to 1:22:35:00) to get the win.

“We got the win and that’s all that matters,” said Colts head coach Sean McCafferty. “Scoring 68 points in this meet is pretty good and the boys handled it well.”

The Colts now move on to compete in the Nike Northeast Regionals and more than likely the Foot Locker National Championships in San Diego on Dec. 7, if they qualify.

Including Hart (1st), McInerney (6th), Reid (17th) and Powell (18th), the Shore Conference placed seven runners in the top 25 including Freehold Township’s Nick Lundberg (5th, 15:57:30), Manasquan’s Colin Flood (11th, 16:04:00) and Red Bank Regional’s Tyler Schwinn (22nd, 16:24:00).

Led by Lundberg’s fifth-place finish, Freehold Township wound up finishing a very respectable 11th place with seniors Tim Kelly (17:00:35) and Zach Simon (17:08:45) finishing 66th and 77th, respectively for  the Patriots.