Dipping My Toe In the Indoor Waters

I know I’ve been loading up the blog with XC posts even though the majority of you guys are moving onto track mode, but I like to try and save some of the end of season stuff until literally the end of the season. I think I have one more XC post in the queue for you guys, but I’ll sprinkle in some indoor talk in a moment with this post. Just need to do some quick announcements.

I’ll be doing two special end of year posts that I like to do at the end of December. The first is my favorite posts of 2017 where I share links to all my favorite posts from the year (I know, another self-indulgent post that is just a list of posts! Your favorite!) and I’ll also be doing my Bold Predictions for 2018 post which is always a good time (well, I think so anyway).

Lastly, I’ll just add real quick that if anyone is planning to do anything with any specific post on here for like a scrapbook or a gift or something (I know, incredibly unlikely, but I’ll offer anyway), just let me know and I can edit it, clean it up, fix the errors and try and make it better for you. I know it’s incredibly unlikely that anyone would care that much about the posts, but I’m just throwing it out there in the spirit of the holidays on the very off chance it’s needed.

OK, now let’s talk track.

Now I could jump right in and recap every race from meet, but I’m not going to do that for a variety of reasons. 1) It’s a long season and I don’t want to burn myself out on recaps, 2) It’s December and so it’s still super early, 3) You can get that stuff from Penntrack pretty efficiently and easily and 4) I don’t find it particularly exciting to read.

So let’s talk about my favorite thing to talk about during the indoor season: relays. This year it looks like the PTFCA has given us 18 4x800 squads and 12 DMR squads for the state championship (last year we had 17 4x8s and 12 DMRs) so we should have a nice variety racing around the track (hopefully). Already some teams have emerged from the first weekend of racing that I’ll be keeping my eye on throughout the year to emerge as state medal contenders (and maybe even more).

The first squad to watch has gotta be Pennsbury. I’ll be honest, I haven’t done any sort of deep dive on the 4x8 competition for this upcoming winter, but based on my gut, I think Pennsbury has a shot to contend for a state title this year. The usual suspects will be really tough to surpass (especially CB West), but I think they have a scary strong top 3 that could put them in the mix with anyone.

Jed Scratchard was the star of week #1, running 4:30 and 2 flat at Ursinus, but Javier Linares had an awesome race as well with his own 2 flat mark. Linares has good speed and he was knocking on the door of making his team’s relay all last year and is probably amped to get his shot to contribute this season. Plus, they have Aidan Sauer (1:54 split last spring) who could be a game breaker in the right race. Sauer is coming off his best XC season to date where he snagged one of the individual qualifying spots in District One.

The second team worth mentioning is Boyertown. This program has a lot of depth. They had top guys all over the place this weekend with their most notable individuals being Josh Endy (2:02 800) and Christian McComb (4:32 mile). However, don’t sleep on someone like Dominic Derafelo who was a top 50 guy at states this past fall. I believe Derafelo was anchor on their DMR which won the race at Ursinus with an 11:06.

Historically, Boyertown has a really good record in the DMR. They tend to get their guys engaged in this relay and put up big splits. The Brett Kelly teams in the 2010-2012 range come to mind, but last year’s Boyertown DMR squad was pretty legit as well (plus they had a 4x8 that just missed out on states). They dropped marks of 10:51.49 and 8:17.11 and they’ve only improved since then. Christian McComb, who just missed a surprise medal at XC states, is looking he’s on the verge of becoming a star. Last year, he was better on the track than he was on the grass, so he may just be beginning to scratch the surface of his potential within the state.

The last team is Wyomissing. In recent years, these guys have been really fast on the outdoor oval, storming through the 4x8 at outdoor states. However, their indoor record isn’t as outstanding because, like many district three teams, they haven’t seemed to make the indoor season a real focus. But as we saw with Carlisle a year ago, if Wyomissing decides to use that state championship enthusiasm on the indoor track, they could be lethal. They were the deepest AA team in the state last year and they showcased that early on the track with a DMR win at Maroon and Gold (plus a runner up in the 3k and a win in the 16).

The difference maker here is Joe Cullen who has potential to a super star at the end of a 4x8 or DMR. He has run 1:53 and 4:13, plus he has proven himself as a successful indoor athlete with a state medal in the 800 last winter. However, if Wyomissing really wants to make noise (maybe take down another state gold) they will need other pieces to step up the way they did during XC. Sophomores Ben Kuhn and Thomas Foster as well as 400 specialist Austin Keim could all play a role this winter.

Other teams that are deeper sleepers include: Methacton (Michael Clark is a star, I like Varghese as a young up and comer), Bensalem (always finds a way to contend and took 1-2 at M&G), and Spring Ford (hard to doubt them after XC, just want to see who their speedsters are).



2017 XC Top 50: Final Rankings

Honorable mention (no particular order) – Tyler Rollins, Owen Isham, Andrew Foster, Jarrett Giannascoli, Ben Barnes, Mitchell Rome, Christian McComb, Christian Fitch, Bradden Koors, Jason Cornelison

50. Vincent Twomey, So LaSalle (12 AAA)
Districts Finish: 2nd 16:41

Key Invitationals
Briarwood (7th/5th 16:53)
Carlisle (14th/10th 15:58)
Manhattan (28th/5th 13:07)
PCLs (2nd 16:44)

49. Jarrett Raudensky, Jr York Suburban (3 AA)
States Finish: 10th 16:32
Districts Finish: 5th 16:39

Key Invitationals
Foundation (8th 17:11)
Carlisle (22nd/18th 16:07)

48. Kendall Branan, So Indiana (7 AA)
States Finish: 11th 16:35
Districts Finish: 2nd 16:47

Key Invitationals
Red, White and Blue (9th 16:32)
Foundation (12th 17:23)
Indiana County (1st 16:57)

47. Jonah Hoey, So Bishop Shanahan (1 AAA)
States Finish: 31st 16:36
Districts Finish: 10th 15:54

Key Invitationals
Paul Short (24th/17th 15:57)
Manhattan (46th/8th 13:21)

46. Brendan Knepper, Jr Mechanicsburg (3 AAA)
States Finish: 32nd 16:37
Districts Finish: 3rd16:17

Key Invitationals
Carlisle (15th/11th 15:58)
Mid Penns (3rd 16:18)

45. Jack Zardecki, Sr Dallas (2 AA)
States Finish: 13th 16:41
Districts Finish: 1st 16:18

Key Invitationals
Paul Short (14th/9th 15:43)

44. Christian Groff, Sr Hempfield (3 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 49 (+5)
States Finish: 29th 16:34
Districts Finish: 6th 16:24

Key Invitationals
Kiski Cavalier (1st 15:49)
Paul Short (13th/8th 15:40)
Lebanon Lancaster (1st 16:05)
FL Regionals (51st/10th 16:46)

43. Sam Gatti, Sr Pittsburgh CC (7 AAA)
States Finish: 27th 16:32
Districts Finish: 4th 16:12

Key Invitationals
Sharpsville (2nd 16:28)
Mack Cooper (11th 16:43)

42. Brett Brady, Sr Butler (7 AAA)
States Finish: 24th 16:29
Districts Finish: 9th 16:24

Key Invitationals
Mack Cooper (7th 16:26)

41. Aiden Weber, Jr Harbor Creek (10 AA)
States Finish: 7th 16:29
Districts Finish: 3rd 16:00

Key Invitationals
Sharpsville (7th 16:44)
Harbor Creek (2nd 16:35)

40. Mark Brown, Jr Greensburg Salem (7 AA)
States Finish: 8th 16:30
Districts Finish: 3rd 16:48

Key Invitationals
Red, White and Blue (5th 16:12)
Foundation (5th 16:57)
TSTCA (3rd 17:24)

39. Garrett Baublitz, So Juniata (6 AA)
States Finish: 9th 16:31
Districts Finish: 1st 16:03

Key Invitationals
Foundation (4th 16:53)
Carlisle (3rd/1st 16:03)
FL Regionals (49th/9th 16:44)

38. Brandon Curley, Sr Montrose (2 A)
States Finish: 5th 16:32
Districts Finish: 1st 16:16

Key Invitationals
McQuaid (32nd/3rd 15:27)

37. Brendan O’Toole, Sr North Penn (1 AAA)
States Finish: 25th 16:30
Districts Finish: 8th 15:44

Key Invitationals
Centaur (3rd 16:45)
Salesianum (2nd/1st 16:51)
Suburbans (1st 15:54)

36. Chayce Macknair, Jr Mifflin County (6 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 46 (+10)
States Finish: 18th16:24
Districts Finish: 3rd 16:18

Key Invitationals
Carlisle (27th/23rd 16:13)
Mid Penns (4th 16:25)

35. Jacob McKenna, Sr Spring Ford (1 AAA)
States Finish: 20th 16:26
Districts Finish: 23rd 16:08

Key Invitationals
PTXC  (9th/5th 16:28)
Foundation (9th 16:51)
Paul Short (19th/12th 15:48)
Pioneer (2nd 16:12)

34. Sam Owori, Jr Seneca Valley (7 AAA)
States Finish: 23rd 16:27
Districts Finish: 6th 16:13

Key Invitationals
Red, White and Blue (4th 15:35)
Foundation (6th 16:41)
Mack Cooper (2nd 16:16)

33. Sam Early, Sr CR North (1 AAA)
States Finish: 16th 16:23
Districts Finish: 18th 16:03

Key Invitationals
Carlisle (18th/14th 16:03)
William Tennent (7th 16:14)
Suburbans (4th 16:14)

32. Czar Tarr, Sr Chartiers Valley (7 AAA)
States Finish: 15th 16:23
Districts Finish: 7th 16:21

Key Invitationals
Red, White and Blue (3rd 15:33)
Grove City (2nd 16:49)
Mack Cooper (15th 16:59)

31. Patrick Anderson, So Mount Lebanon (7 AAA)
States Finish: 22nd 16:27
Districts Finish: 5th 16:13

Key Invitationals
Red, White and Blue (9th 16:02)
Foundation (21st 17:06)
Mack Cooper (5th 16:23)

30. Payton Sewall, Jr DT West (1 AAA)
States Finish: 19th 16:25
Districts Finish: 11th 15:54

Key Invitationals
Paul Short (21st/14th 15:53)
William Tennent (6th 16:06)
Manhattan (30th/6th 13:08)
Ches-monts (2nd 16:32)
NXN Regionals (18th/4th 16:42)

29. Andrew Malmstrom, Sr Owen J Roberts (1 AAA)
States Finish: 17th 16:24
Districts Finish: 9th 15:48

Key Invitationals  
Centaur (6th 17:02)
Foundation (35th 17:27)
Paul Short (41st/30th 16:11)
Pioneer (5th 16:26)

28. Andrew Healey, So Holy Cross (2 A)
Preseason Rank: 51 (+23)
States Finish: 4th 16:30
Districts Finish: 2nd 16:29

Key Invitationals
Foundation (2nd 16:44)
Paul Short (3rd 15:54)
FL Regionals (43rd/8th 16:41)

27. Peter Borger, Sr Malvern Prep (Independent)
Preseason Rank: 35 (+8)
States Finish: 2nd 16:30
Leagues Finish: 2nd 16:40

Key Invitationals
Briarwood (3rd/2nd 16:43)
Paul Short (2nd 15:52)
FL Regionals (42nd/7th 16:41)

26. Elias Lindgren, Sr Episcopal (Independent)
Preseason Rank: 36 (+10)
States Finish: 1st 16:24
Leagues Finish: 1st 16:26

Key Invitationals
Briarwood (1st 16:35)

25. Nate Price, Jr General McLane (10 AA)
States Finish: 6th 16:28
Districts Finish: 1st 15:55

Key Invitationals
Lock Haven (1st)
McQuaid (20th/1st 15:14)
Mack Cooper (8th 16:31)

24. Ryan Stravaggi, Jr Harbor Creek (10 AA)
Preseason Rank: 37 (+13)
States Finish: 5th 16:24
Districts Finish: 2nd 15:58

Key Invitationals
Harbor Creek (1st 16:21)

23. Quinn Serfass, Sr Loyalsock (4 AA)
States Finish: 4th 16:23
Districts Finish: 2nd 16:15

Key Invitationals
Spiked Shoe (3rd/2nd 16:16)
Paul Short (20th/13th 15:51)

22. Jonah Powell, Jr Grove City (10 AA)
Preseason Rank: 25 (+3)
States Finish: 3rd 16:18
Districts Finish: 6th 16:17

Key Invitationals
Red, White and Blue (2nd 15:39)
Sharpsville (1st 16:07)
Carlisle (8th/6th 15:48)

21. Jack Miller, Jr Jenkintown (1 A)
States Finish: 3rd 16:28
Districts Finish: 1st 16:29

Key Invitationals
Mill Street (2nd 15:40)
Foundation (3rd 16:52)
Paul Short (1st 15:48)
FL Regionals (41st/6th 16:41)

20. Carlos Shultz, So Phoenixville (1 AAA)
States Finish: 21st 16:26
Districts Finish: 5th 15:37

Key Invitationals
CR Invite (1st 15:59)
Paul Short (5th/4th 15:21)

19. Sam Snodgrass, Sr South Fayette (7 AA)
States Finish: 21st 16:49
Districts Finish: 1st 16:33

Key Invitationals
Red, White and Blue (1st 15:30)
Foundation (2nd 16:38)
TSTCA (1st 16:57)
Mack Cooper (3rd 16:19)

18. Brendan Miller, Sr Upper Dauphin (3 A)
Preseason Rank: 20 (+2)
States Finish: 2nd 16:27
Districts Finish: 1st 16:21

Key Invitationals
Big Spring (1st 16:44)
Carlisle (5th 15:40)

17. Mitchell Etter, Sr State College (6 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 31 (+14)
States Finish: 14th 16:21
Districts Finish: 1st 15:43

Key Invitationals
Spiked Shoe (1st 15:51)
Foundation (4th 16:32)
Mid Penns (2nd 16:13)

16. Avery Lederer, Sr Penncrest (1 AAA)
States Finish: 12th 16:16
Districts Finish: 24th 16:09

Key Invitationals
PTXC (7th/3rd 16:10)
DELCOs (1st 16:27)
Central League (1st 16:13)

15. Bryce Ohl, Sr York Suburban (3 AA)
Preseason Rank: 23 (+8)
States Finish: 2nd 16:16
Districts Finish: 1st 16:14

Key Invitationals
Foundation (3rd 16:56)
Carlisle (21st/17th 16:07)

14. Ethan Koza, Sr CR North (1 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 32 (+18)
States Finish: 13th 16:17
Districts Finish: 6th 15:40

Key Invitationals
Briarwood (3rd 16:22)
CR Invitational (3rd 16:16)
Carlisle (4th 15:33)
William Tennent (3rd 15:52)
Suburbans (3rd 15:46)

13. Evan Addison, Sr LaSalle (12 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 19 (+6)
States Finish: 11th 16:12
Districts Finish: 1st 16:29

Key Invitationals
Briarwood (4th 16:30)
Carlisle (1st 15:21)
Manhattan (23rd/4th 13:03)
PCLs (1st 16:19)

12. Tristan Forsythe, Sr Winchester Thurston (7 A)
States Finish: 1st 16:12
Districts Finish: 1st 16:21

Key Invitationals
Red, White and Blue (1st 15:33)
Foundation (1st 16:38)

11. Ryan Campbell, Sr CR North (1 AAA)
States Finish: 10th (16:09)
Districts Finish: 4th 15:29

Key Invitationals
Briarwood (2nd 16:19)
CR Invite (4th 16:30)
Carlisle (3rd 15:28)
William Tennent (2nd 15:36)
Suburbans (2nd 15:37)
NXN Regionals (9th/3rd 16:31)

10. Spencer Smucker, Sr Henderson (1 AAA)
States Finish: 9th 16:08
Districts Finish: 7th 15:44

Key Invitationals
Carlisle (11th/7th 15:54)
Manhattan (18th/3rd 12;56)
Ches-monts (1st 16:24)
NXN Regionals (5th/2nd 16:16)

9. Seth Ketler, Jr Seneca Valley (7 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 24 (+15)
States Finish: 6th 16:00
District Finish: 2nd 15:55

Key Invitationals
Red, White and Blue (5th 15:44)
Foundation (7th 16:45)
Mack Cooper (6th 16:26)

8. Liam Conway, Sr Owen J Roberts (1 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 10 (+2)
States Finish: 8th 16:03
Districts Finish: 3rd 15:25

Key Invitationals
Centaur (1st 15:59)
Foundation (3rd 16:30)
Paul Short (3rd/2nd 15:08)
Pioneer (1st 16:07)
NXN Regionals (2nd/1st 16:02)

7. Josh Hoey, Sr Bishop Shanahan (1 AAA)
States Finish: 7th 16:01
Districts Finish: 2nd 15:12

Key Invitationals
Abington Invite (1st 16:11)
Paul Short (4th/3rd 15:16)
Manhattan (10th/2nd 12:46)
FL Regionals (15th/2nd 16:10)

6. Dan McGoey, So North Allegheny (7 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 27 (+21)
States Finish: 3rd 15:58
Districts Finish: 3rd 15:55

Key Invitationals
Red, White and Blue (2nd 15:30)
Boardman (5th/1st 16:10)
Foundation (2nd 16:27)
Mack Cooper (4th 16:19)

5. Tyler Wirth, Jr Wallenpaupack (2 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 41 (+36)
States Finish: 5th 15:59
Districts Finish: 1st 16:12

Key Invitationals
PTXC (6th/2nd 16:03)
Paul Short (6th/5th 15:24)
William Tennent (1st 15:30)
FL Regionals (22nd/3rd 16:24)

4. Morgan Cupp, Sr Mechanicsburg (3 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 7 (+3)
States Finish: 4th 15:58
Districts Finish: 1st 16:04

Key Invitationals
PTXC (8th/4th 16:21)
CR Invitational (2nd 16:08)
Carlisle (2nd 15:24)
Mid Penns (1st 15:58)
FL Regionals (25th/4th 16:26)

3. Isaac Davis, Sr Jersey Shore (4 AA)
Preseason Rank: 8 (+5)
States Finish: 1st 15:56
Districts Finish: 1st 15:58

Key Invitationals
Foundation (1st 16:01)
Shikellamy (1st 15:39)

2. Noah Beveridge, Sr Butler (7 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 2
States Finish: 2nd 15:57
Districts Finish; 1st 15:47

Key Invitationals
McDowell (1st)
Mack Cooper (1st 15:46)

1. Rusty Kujdych, Sr Neshaminy (1 AAA)
Preseason Rank: 1
States Finish: 1st 15:47
Districts Finish: 1st 15:11

Key Invitationals
PTXC (5th/1st 15:55)
Briarwood (1st 15:51)
Foundation (1st 16:14)
Paul Short (2nd/1st 15:01)
Manhattan (4th/1st 12:24)
Suburbans (1st 15:27)

FL Regionals (8th/1st 15:51)

2017 TheRealTrain XC Runner of the Year - Rusty Kujdych

This weekend, Neshaminy Senior Rusty Kujdych will compete at Footlocker Nationals, officially ending the XC season for the state of Pennsylvania. Rusty has been dominant in 2017 and, regardless of what happens in California, will end the season as the #1 ranked guy on my Top 50 list. As we get ready to support Kujdych’s run at the national championships, let’s take a look back at this impressive campaign he has put together to date.

9/9/2017 – PTXC Invitational
After a strong junior season, Rusty started the year determined to prove himself. He raced at the PTXC Invitational for the first time and faced off against an all-time great Loudon Valley squad. He finished 5th in the final standings with a time of 15:55, only trailing four of the aforementioned Loudon Valley boys. For the record, that Loudon Valley team is coming off a National Championship at NXN with the lowest boys team score in meet history.

Kujdych was the top PA runner by 8 seconds over Wallenpaupack’s Tyler Wirth. His time of 15:55 is 5th fastest in PA on the Farm Spring lay out (in place since 2011). Here’s how he stacks up on the all-time list.

1. Abert 15:21 (2014)
2. Deluca 15:43 (2013)
3. Groh 15:48 (2013)
4. Hockenbury 15:53 (2015)
5. Kujdych 15:55 (2017)

9/16/2017 – Briarwood Invitational
Kujdych trekked to the historic Belmont Plateau for a little vengeance on the course. He was narrowly defeated there a season ago by top miler Liam Galligan, but this time he made sure to leave with a victory. In one of his most dominant performances of the season, Kujdych dropped a 15:51 to win by 28 seconds over league rival Ryan Campbell. His time of 15:51 moved him into a tie for 6th on the course’s All-Time list since 2010 compared to other PA runners. Here’s that list:

1. Jax Hoey 15:30 (2014)
T-2. Brophy 15:39 (2014)
T-2. D Wilson 15:39 (2011)
T-4. Shearn 15:41 (2012)
T-4. Russell 15:41 (2012)
T-6. K James 15:51 (2014)
T-6. R Wilson 15:51 (2013)
T-6. Kujdych 15:51 (2017)

9/23/2017 – Foundation Invitational
After a grueling grind through Belmont, Rusty went to the Foundation Invite for the first time in his career to get some extra experience on the course. After a relatively conservative start, Kujdych blasted open the race in the second half by throwing down a 16:14. His time was the fastest in the gold race by 13 seconds and the second fastest of the day (behind Isaac Davis’s 16:01 in AA). The Foundation course has changed slightly since its original inception, but Rusty’s time is the 4th fastest over the past two seasons for this meet.

1. R James 15:58 (2016)
2. Davis 16:01 (2017)
3. McMenamin 16:03 (2016)
4. Kujdych 16:14 (2017)

9/29/2017 – Paul Short Invitational
Now get this. Rusty just raced the three biggest invites available to him for three straight weeks. He ran on two of the toughest courses I’ve ever been on (PTXC doesn’t look like it’s much of a pancake either) and then he had to journey to Lehigh with only 6 days rest and try and best arguably the best field of the season outside states. In a hard fought battle with out of stater Dalton Hengst, Kujdych took 2nd overall and dropped a time of 15:01. His mark was the best PA high school time by 7 seconds over future national qualifier Liam Conway. In the history of the Paul Short meet, here’s how Rusty stacks up compared to the other PA guys:

1. Abert 14:55 (2014)
2. Kujdych 15:01 (2017)

10/14/2017 – Manhattan Invitational
After a brief rest, Kujdych was right back to racing the marquee invite. This time, he went out of state to New York and raced against the best competition from the Northeast Region. In a potential preview for Footlocker Regionals, Kujdych ran to 4th overall in the Championship section with a time of 12:24.1 His mark made him 3rd on the PA all-time list for this meet and he was some 23 seconds ahead of the next best PA runner in the field (Josh Hoey of Shanahan). Only regional champs Noah Affolder and Tony Russell ran faster than Rusty while wearing a PA uniform.

1. Noah Affolder 12:10.6 (2016)
2. Tony Russell 12:20.0 (2013)
3. Rusty Kujdych 12:24.1 (2017)

10/20/2017 – SOL National & 10/27/2017
Now we dive into championship season. Rusty entered his two meets at Lehigh as the defending champion (and a heavy favorite to repeat). No PA runner had topped him to date, but he would have to face three of his closest challengers over the next two weeks, including Ryan Campbell twice in a row.

First, Kujdych won the National League championship with a time of 15:27. This ranked him #1 all-time in the National League at the Lehigh course. He now has the top 2 marks for his league on the course and trails Brophy, Comber and Miles across all suburban one leagues.

At Districts, Kujdych went head to head with Josh Hoey. The sub 1:50 800 runner was a bit fresher after missing the Ches-mont championships. On the final stretch, Hoey had a change to steal the district title, but Rusty was able to fight him off by a single second en route to a 15:11 final time on the course. Rusty’s district time was the 8th best District time since 2006 and 3rd fastest since 2009 behind only Tony Russell and Jake Brophy. Here’s the district list:

Paul Springer 14:47 (2006)
Jason Weller 14:54 (2006)
Tony Russell 14:59 (2013)
Chris Aldrich 15:02 (2007)
Mark Dennin 15:06 (2007)
Ben Furcht 15:08 (2008)
Jake Brophy 15:09 (2015)
Rusty Kujdych 15:11 (2017)
Tony Russell 15:11 (2012)
Jake Brophy 15:11 (2014)

11/4/2017 – PIAA State Championships
After a narrow victory at districts, it seemed like Kujdych might be vulnerable for his first loss against a PA competitor. Noah Beveridge from the Western part of the state was absolutely rolling and had the confidence of being the #1 returner in the state. On top of that, Rusty had finished just 10th in the state a year earlier, losing to a few guys he had defeated at Districts a week earlier. Considering this year’s district championship was arguably deeper, some people were ready to call for an upset.

But Rusty silenced all the doubters. Despite a rigorous early schedule, Rusty proved that he was not tired, but instead battle tested. Beveridge gave him a great run, but over the final mile Kujdych was not to be denied. He turned on the jets to run 15:47 and take state gold by 10 seconds. Kujdych only trails Noah Affolder on the new state course lay out all-time list.

11/25/2017 – Footlocker Northeast
With state and district golds in pocket, Kujdych entered the Footlocker Regional meet as our best hope for a national qualifying spot. However, the Neshaminy senior had yet to race the regional meet before. This would be a new experience and a long stretch of extra training would not be easy. But Rusty stayed focused and delivered with the pressure on yet again, becoming PA’s only high schooler to qualify for Footlocker Nationals. He took 8th place and posted a time of 15:51. Rusty’s mark is 20th since 2006 on the VCP Footlocker Regional course for PA runners (2009-2011 was contested at Sunken Meadow). Here’s the full list:

1. Mark Dennin 15:24.0 (2007)
2. Jake Brophy 15:27.2 (2015)
3. Chris Aldrich 15:27.3 (2007)
4. Noah Affolder 15:28.2 (2016)
5. Vince McNally 15:30.3 (2007)
6. Paul Springer 15:31.9 (2006)
7. Casey Comber 15:36.4 (2014)
8. Sam Affolder 15:36.6 (2016)
9. Jake Brophy 15:37.4 (2014)
10. Dominic Hockenbury 15:38.5 (2015)
11. Ross Wilson 15:41.0 (2013)
12. Vince McNally 15:41.9 (2006)
13. Brendan Shearn 15:45.5 (2012)
14. Zach Skolnekovich 15:47.7 (2016)
15. Nathan Henderson 15:47.7 (2016)
16. Max Norris 15:48.3 (2012)
17. Dan Lowry 15:50.6 (2007)
18. Brent Kennedy 15:50.9 (2012)
19. Austin Pondel 15:51.0 (2012)
20. Rusty Kujdych 15:51.3 (2017)

12/9/2017 – Footlocker Nationals
Now Rusty will but a cap on his XC career, looking to build his resume as a PA all-time great. He will be the 24th different PA performer to contest the National championships since 2006. Of the previous group, we had 11 under 15:50. Within the 40 person field, just 7 PA guys have cracked that half. Here’s a look at what history Rusty will look to join:

1. Noah Affolder 15:10 (6th – 2016)
2. Jake Brophy 15:21 (8th – 2015)
3. Dustin Wilson 15:29 (13th – 2011)
4. Mark Dennin 15:36 (13th – 2007)
5. Zach Hebda 15:38 (18th – 2010)
6. Max Norris 15:41 (17th – 2012)
7. Brendan Shearn 15:44 (21st – 2012)
8. Brad Miles 15:45 (21st – 2009)
9. Zach Skolnekovich 15:45 (28th – 2016)
10. Rad Gunzenhauser 15:47 (24th – 2009)
11. Casey Comber 15:49 (20th – 2014)
12. Ross Wilson 15:50 (26th – 2013)
13. Ryan Gil 15:52 (31st – 2009)
14. Vince McNally 15:53 (27th – 2007)
15. Jake Brophy 15:58 (25th – 2014)
16. Austin Pondel 16:00 (32nd – 2012)
17. Chris Campbell 16:01 (39th – 2010)
18. Chris Aldrich 16:02 (31st – 2007)
19. Ben Furcht 16:07 (31st – 2009)
19. Brent Kennedy 16:07 (34th – 2012)
21. Nate Henderson 16:11 (39th – 2016)
22. Sam Affolder 16:12 (40th – 2016)
23. Paul Springer 17:33 (39th – 2007)


In theory, because there are four regions with the top 10 coming from each, Kujdych would be “seeded” in the 30s for this championship (assuming all regions are created equal which, historically, they are not). Let’s see if he can better his seed and break into the 20s for PA. Good luck to Rusty and congrats on a fantastic senior season!

The Etrain 11: The Roman Empire

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

You’ve probably heard that expression before. It’s that annoying saying that your dad said when you struck out at your first baseball game. It’s that sarcastic comment your more fashionable friends make when they convince you to stop wearing sweat pants and start wearing jeans-but you’re still wearing the race t-shirts.

However, if you’re a runner, it’s more than a throwaway. It’s the definition of training. Much like Rome (or, you know, basically any city), a runner’s fitness is not accumulated in a day. Or a week. Or even a year. People may be amazed by how far or fast you run, but to you this level of fitness is surprisingly ordinary. It snuck up on you as part of a long, gradual transition. Running is a process. And you have to trust it.

Oh goodness, I did not mean to do that. Pretend I said evolution or progression or something.

For the Spring Ford Rams, that-um-advancement has been years in the making. It’s hard to pinpoint where anything starts, but I look at the 2011 season. Spring Ford was 37th in the District that year with 982 points. But look a little closer and you can see the start of something. Senior Joseph O’Such became the first state qualifier from Spring Ford in recent memory. It was a break through the program needed to show others what was possible.

The next year, the Spring Ford boys jumped from 37th to 19th in the district. This time they had two state qualifiers: senior Michael Cassidy and sophomore Paul Power, perhaps the most important piece of them all.

Paul Power may have graduated in 2013, but his impact on the Spring Ford program is still felt to this day. And that’s not just through his Power siblings. In 2014, Power was a state title contender. He had already qualified twice for states and medaled there in 2013. But now he was the Foundation Champion, running a blazing fast 15:50. Seeing his breakthroughs was inspiring, especially for a young core of runners. With Power at the helm, Spring Ford took 12th at Paul Short and 17th at Districts. The young squad included two freshmen among their scorers: Zach Smith and Shane Ainscoe.

And so the dominoes continued to topple over. One moment builds off the next. But that doesn’t guarantee that all pieces will fall in succession. Things looked great for Spring Ford in 2015 as a squad that prominently featured three star sophomores ran away with their league title. At districts, they finished in the agonizing 6th spot. However, they were young. With the exception of senior standout John Conner, Spring Ford was bringing back everybody from their varsity, including those three talented sophomores. Surely, the 2016 season would continue to bring big strides forward.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Something was off in the formula as Spring Ford took 6th yet again at the next year’s district championships. The narrative of prior years where Spring Ford was a “young team on the rise” was replaced by the fear of being “chokers”. The legacy of the class of 2018 could end up as “what could have been”.

Yet as we all know, Rome was not built in a day. Armed with the devastation of years prior, Spring Ford came back with a vengeance in 2017. After Shane Ainscoe made a big leap in 2016, his now senior teammate Jacob McKenna followed suit a year later. At Paul Short, McKenna provided a huge front running edge with a 15:48 while teammate Zach Smith followed in behind him under 16 minutes. Overall, Spring Ford won the Paul Short Invite, defeating emerging powerhouse Downingtown West.

The team was led by four battle tested seniors. Along with McKenna, Smith and Ainscoe, the Rams also boasted Milan Sharma, an 800 speedster who had made a very successful transition to the trails in 2016. However, the real x-factor was their youngest runner. A guy who hadn’t been around back in the Paul Power days and was likely in elementary school back when Joseph O’Such punched his ticket to states. John Zawislak, a freshman sensation, took this team’s ceiling to another level. Learning from his senior mentors, Zawislak nearly broke 16 minutes at Paul Short and then, in arguably the most pressure filled meet of the season, provided a key #2 leg for the Rams as they finished 4th in the district. After three years of struggle, Spring Ford finally punched their ticket to Hershey.

With the proverbial monkey off their back, Spring Ford raced across the Parkview hills with a sense of freedom. Almost across the board, the team saw breakthroughs. McKenna, who had finished just 23rd at districts, took 20th overall at states. Ironically, his finish matched exactly to Paul Power’s all-important first medal for Spring Ford in 2013. After finishing a disappointing 63rd at Lehigh, Shane Ainscoe rallied with a huge performance at Hershey, taking 57th overall. Their freshman, Zawislak, took an incredible 50th overall, making him just the 5th runner his age to break into the top 50 at AAA states in the last decade. With Zach Smith moving up 24 spots on the last mile and Milan Sharma bringing it home strong, Spring Ford jumped from 7th at the 2-mile all the way to 4th at the finish.

In a span of just six years, Spring Ford had gone from an afterthought in the district to the #4 team in the state.

***

In 2012, Bishop Shanahan was 45th in the district. They scored 1,109 points at Lehigh’s championships. But what they had on that season’s roster were freshmen Chris Kolimago and Seamus Breslin. In a few years time, those two would be critical pieces on a state caliber team. Starting in the 2014, Shanahan made the switch to AA for XC. The small school made a nice jump, moving from 40th in AAA to 3rd in AA during the first year. Seamus Breslin was a state qualifier for Shanahan with his 4th place finish.

But where this XC team really found its strength was, funny enough, on the track. In 2015, Shanahan surprised everybody with a 7:53 at the District One Championships. The upstart 4x8 nearly found themselves in the state final before people even had time to realize where they came from. Chris Kolimago was the strong lead-off runner for the squad that season and his heart set the tone for the relay behind him.

After their emergence on the track, the proceeding XC season seemed like a great opportunity to prove that wasn’t a fluke. Using a pack mentality, the Shanahan boys won the White Race at Paul Short and then survived a 1-2 finish by HG Prep to qualify for states out of the AA classification. Freshman Jack Ettien along with his brother Blake provided a killer 1-2 punch at the district meet. Sophomore Logan Yoquinto was also coming on strong at the right time. At states, Ettien and Yoquinto were the #1 and #2 runners for Shanahan. Despite the fact that their #1 runner was just 35th, Shanahan rolled to 3rd in the state and posted a strong spread to take the bronze.

Still, this was in AA. Most AAA schools in District 1 will dismiss those results without much consideration. So a year later, when Shanahan moved back to the largest classification, they would have the chance to really show what they could do. Of course the big news in 2016 wasn’t Shanahan’s transfer to AAA, it was the transfer of Josh and Jonah Hoey to their program.

In a quick span, Shanahan had went from obscurity to the center of attention for the distance running community. Josh Hoey, the reigning Penn Relays champion in the mile as only a sophomore, was perhaps the biggest star in the sport and after he and his brother Jaxson had led DT West to a state title in 2015, expectations were very high for Josh and his brother Jonah. But Shanahan’s 2016 season was shaky and things didn’t gel quite the way many were (ambitiously) projecting. Injuries loomed and a small school needs everything to click to make noise against the bigger ones.

However, Shanahan didn’t throw away the 2016 district meet. They had the chance to rest up and switch over to track, but all of their varsity runners raced. Josh Hoey gutted out a 15:53 and the team got clutch races from Jon McGrory and Logan Yoquinto to pair with Jonah Hoey and Jack Ettien’s best races of the year. In a somewhat surprising finish, Shanahan had 5 guys under 17 minutes and took 12th in the district, one spot ahead of Ches-mont Champions West Chester Rustin. And, as many noticed, their whole top 5 was coming back in 2017.

After spending years near the back of the AAA field, Shanahan found itself full-fledged contenders in 2017. From the first meet, it was clear that Shanahan was clicking better than they had the previous year. But depth was still a concern. One injury to someone in their top 5 and that could crush their hopes of state qualifying. To further complicate their state qualifying hopes, Shanahan faded from 2nd at the mile to 8th at the finish in the Paul Short Invite, losing to 4 other District One teams. On top of all that, it looked like Logan Yoquinto, one of the team’s most reliable and clutch performers, would miss the district meet.

But this program was ready for the challenge. Just as they had the previous year, Shanahan entered the district meet looking like they had no momentum. The absence of Yoquinto made qualifying for states a real long shot. However, the boys came to play. Josh Hoey set the tone with a 15:12 time and a close 2nd place finish individually. Then came his brother Jonah, posting his best race of the year in 10th. Jonathan McGrory, who learned a lot starting his sophomore season as a varsity member of the state qualifying 2015 squad, delivered a 16:24 as the team’s #3 and that set the team up well. Now they just needed someone to fill the shoes of Yoquinto. That role came to Ryan Doherty who stepped up with the pressure on and delivered a 16:56 mark. With Doherty in the clubhouse under 17, Shanahan was in to the state championship despite the fact that it was one of the district’s smallest schools.

But no. They weren’t finished. Shanahan entered the state meet with what was still a long list of question marks. They had snuck into the state field, but at Hershey some thought their depth could be exposed. However, Shanahan didn’t come to the Parkview course to get exposed. The squad stormed through the course and got themselves in a strong position early. The top 3 delivered big performances as expected, but the #4-5 punch was the difference maker. Jack Ettien, who had first come to states as a freshman in 2015, raced incredibly clutch just as he did that day. Ettien finished 60th in the team standings as the team’s #4 runner and edged out 9 other team scorers by 2 seconds in the final stretch. Those 9 points ended up being quite critical as Shanahan placed 5th in the state, edging out WPIAL champs Seneca Valley by just 3.

3rd in AA and 5th in AAA. All that coming shortly after this squad was 45th in the district. It’s one of the greatest turnarounds we’ve seen in the state.

***

In 2013, Owen J Roberts was 34th in the district. The team had no finishers outside the triple digits. But this was a young team with three sophomores and a freshman in the top seven. There was room to grow. And, oh by the way, they were about to add one of the best runners in state history to the equation.

Freshman Liam Conway burst onto the scene in 2014 with a 16:10 run at Paul Short. He helped elevate OJR to 24th in the standings at the meet. A few weeks later, when the school returned to Lehigh, Conway became the team’s first state qualifier since 2007. But he wasn’t alone. Junior Abe Van Helmond ran a fantastic race to take 34th overall and snag one of the last five qualifying spots to states. The previous year, Abe had finished 264th in the district, meaning he made a 230 spot jump in the final standings. Although Conway’s arrival was important, it was perhaps this breakthrough that changed the tone of Owen J Roberts XC for the years that followed.

After finished 24th in the district in 2014, Owen J. Roberts came out with a vengeance in 2015. They were completely off the radar for most teams, but quickly announced their presence at the Foundation Invitational. OJR took 4th overall in the team standings, defeating proven powers like State College and Cardinal O’Hara. Liam Conway and Abe Van Helmond led the squad as expected, but the pack behind them was what really brought things home. Only proven pack powers North Allegheny and LaSalle had a better pack as Ethan Conway, Sean Barone and Andrew Griffin bolstered the back half of the scorers.

However, the 2015 squad may not have been ready for the spotlight. After their hot start at Foundation and Paul Short, OJR slipped back at their league championships and lost to Spring Ford by a score of 38-70. The result likely meant their state qualifying dreams were over. However, the Roberts boys rallied at the District Championships and held on for 10th in the final standings. It was a huge achievement for the program and, even if they weren’t heading to Hershey, it was something to be proud of for this program.

After graduating most of the core from that team, the 2016 OJR squad wasn’t expected to make waves. Only standout junior Liam Conway was in the state spotlight and he continued to excel. But the team was quietly accumulating young talent. At Foundation, a nice crop of returners got some experience on the Hershey hills. At Paul Short, the team finished a sneaky good 13th place. They were second again at the Pioneer Championships and ended the season strong by taking 17th at the district championship. Although the result wasn’t particularly head turning, you could tell that OJR was proud of that mark. Particularly, Andrew Malmstrom’s 16:37 breakthrough time caught some attention. Still, they had a long way to go to surpass the teams ahead of them, including not just perennial powers like CR North and DT West, but also league rivals in Spring Ford and Boyertown.

Feeling confident, Owen J. Roberts entered the 2017 season with dreams of making it to states. To see their passion, one only had to check out the comment section of the blog. Freshly graduated senior Sean Barone told everyone that Owen J would be “put on the map this year”. Some could have seen this as homerism, but in due time, it would prove to be a sign of things to come.

From the first major invite at Foundation, it was clear this team had improved. They placed 6th in the varsity race and 2nd in the JV race. This was a level of depth we had not previously seen from this program. However, there was still reason to be cautious. OJR was over 100 points back from those two league rivals in Boyertown and Spring Ford. It was hard to ignore the fact that front-runner Liam Conway had finished 57 seconds ahead of their #2 and Spring Ford had put 6 guys in front of their #3.

But Roberts worked through those concerns. Quickly. A week later at Paul Short, Linus Blatz delivered a huge day and ran 16:19 as team’s #3. In a blink, they had narrowed the gap on both Spring Ford and Boyertown. The depth that first caught my attention was on display again with their entire top 7 under 17 minutes. Then, at the Pioneer Championships, Andrew Malmstrom stepped up as the team’s #2. After finishing roughly a minute behind Liam Conway in the first two meets, he pulled that spread down to just 19 seconds at leagues. His teammates followed as the entire top 5 finished within a minute of Conway and OJR came within 2 points of knocking off Spring Ford.

Next came the moment of truth. OJR was now officially mentioned with the biggest names in the district. This school had finished in double digits for years in the crowded D1. Could they have a big breakthrough in 2017? The answer was a resounding “Yes”. Andrew Malmstrom doubled down on his breakthrough at leagues with a 15:48 and 9th place finish. Kyle Malmstrom, who had his own big day at Pioneer, delivered a monster #3 performance in 28th. Vincent Fennell was the man to step up in the #5 spot as his 16:53 made their state qualifying performance an easy lock. However, it wasn’t just a state qualifier. They took 3rd in the district, defeating Spring Ford in a tight battle.

At states the next weekend, OJR brought home their first individual state medals since 2006 as Liam Conway and Andrew Malmstrom both cracked the podium. Thanks to another big day from Fennell and step up performance from David Brunton, Roberts finished an impressive 7th place overall in the state.

In one year, Owen J Roberts went from 17th in the District to 7th in the state! To the untrained eye, that would look like Rome was built pretty quickly. But we know the foundation for this team was built a long time ago with a big piece, ironically, coming at a meet called Foundation.

***
Each of these three teams overcame the weight of history to place in the top 5 in a loaded district and the top 7 of the entire state. It didn’t happen with just one runner or just one race, but that didn’t mean that each runner and each race didn’t matter. During a race, most people don’t think about every individual step they take. But without every single step, you don’t get to the finish.

Some team right now is already taking their steps. If you scroll down the district one standings the next Spring Ford may already be hiding. Maybe it’s Oxford at 21. Maybe it’s Souderton at 33. Heck, it could even be Kennett at 38. It wouldn’t be the craziest story we’ve heard. All it takes is a couple well placed dominoes so that when one falls …

Well, you know how the saying goes.