2017 XC Top 50 Rankings: Week Three

50. Patrick Anderson, So Mount Lebanon (7 AAA)
49. Brett Brady, Sr Butler (7 AAA)
Currently, spots 48 through 54 on my rankings belong to the WPIAL. These two guys got the nods for the list although there are others in the just missing category you can make a case for. Patrick Anderson was bested by teammate Bryce Brandenstein this weekend, but this was Bryce’s first finish of the year in a major invite, so he has to bolster his resume a bit more to get a spot. As for Brady, I was pretty impressed with his performance at Boardman so he got the nod over Sam Gatti (who also has just one major invite performance). I’m starting to think Brady is going to be a medalist in AAA this season which means 49 may end up way too low when all is said and done.

48. Christian Fitch, So Fox Chapel (7 AAA)

47. Josh Lewis, Jr North East (10 A)
This kid has had a killer start to the season. There are some guys who jumped up the list in the early weeks of the year (Tyler Wirth, Alex Ermold, among others) that were on my radar entering the season. Not Lewis. North East is a good program that can develop talent, but I didn’t see Lewis exploding onto the scene the way he has so far. He’s mixed it up with quality AAA guys and seemingly improved every race so far this year.

46. Christian Groff, Sr Hempfield (3 AAA)
We finally got to see some of the top D3 names in action with allowed guys like Groff to get back onto the list for the first time since the preseason. Groff was the #1 man on a very good Hempfield squad this past weekend and boasts sub 16 credentials. Lots to like about Groff’s background from his team, to his family name to his results on the track and trails.

45. LeShawn Huff, Sr New Castle (7 AA)
44. Nate Price, Jr General McLane (10 AA)
43. Alex Ermold, Jr Governor Mifflin (3 AAA)
42. Jacob McKenna, Sr Spring Ford (1 AAA)
41. Tavonne Davis, Sr Allderdice (8 AAA)
40. Owen Isham, Jr State College (6 AAA)
39. Mark Brown, Jr Greensburg Salem (7 AA)
38. David Endres, Jr CB East (1 AAA)
37. Bryce Ohl, Sr York Suburban (3 AA)
36. Carlos Shultz, So Conestoga (1 AAA)
35. Ethan Hermann, Sr Allderdice (8 AAA)

34. Peter Borger, Sr Malvern Prep (Independent)
33. Evan Dorenkamp, Jr Manheim Township (3 AAA)
32. Elias Lindgren, Sr Episcopal (Independent)
31. Jeffrey Love, Jr George School (Independent)
The Independent League really started to heat up this past weekend. Love still gets the nod as top returner status (and he’s undefeated the last two weekends), but I really like Lindgren’s race this past weekend. I was high on Elias and the rest of the Episcopal squad after a great track season where they did a strong job in the relays. Now Lindgren opens up with a big win in the 16:30s at Briarwood under tough conditions. I’m excited to see the big three of Love-Lindgren-Borger match up again. Also wouldn’t be surprised if at least one GFS runners finds his way into that mix before all is said and done.

30. Jared Giannascoli, Sr Lower Dauphin (3 AAA)
29. Jake Underwood, Sr Wilson (3 AAA)
28. Ryan Stravaggi, Jr Harbor Creek (10 AA)
27. Brendan Miller, Sr Upper Dauphin (3 A)
26. Seth Ketler, Jr Seneca Valley (7 AAA)
25. Tyler Leeser, Sr Milton (4 AA)
24. Evan Addison, Sr LaSalle (12 AAA)
23. Czar Tarr, Sr Chartiers Valley (7 AAA)
22. Jack Wisner, Jr Carlisle (3 AAA)

21. Evan Kreider, Jr Cocalico (3 AAA)
It was tough figuring out just where to place this kid after Kreider absolutely rolled through the competition at Big Spring. He probably should be even higher than 21 considering he has asserted himself as arguably the best runner in a district that took the top 4 spots in the state last fall. Then again, all of those top 4 guys are gone as are other D3 medalists like Nick Norton and Colton Cassel. I’m excited for the big meets like Foundation and Carlisle to sort out just how good this district is and, therefore, where Evan deserves to be ranked. Ironically, those races may not even include Kreider (not sure where Cocalico usually goes).

20. Ethan Koza, Sr CR North (1 AAA)
As of this latest edition of the rankings, Koza has moved to 13th among AAA runners. If the state meet actually ended up finishing exactly like my rankings, that would give North two guys in the top 15 in the state. Although this program has been good, I don’t think they’ve had a 1-2 punch that good in the last decade plus. Koza was a bit of a jack of all trades during the track season and, after coming within seconds of knocking off a top 5 guy in the state, it seems like there is little this kid can’t do.

19. Quinn Serfass, Sr Loyalsock (4 AA)
18. Jonah Powell, Jr Grove City (10 AA)
17. Sam Owori, Jr Seneca Valley (7 AAA)
16. Jack Zardecki, Sr Dallas (2 AA)
15. Joe Cullen, Sr Wyomissing (3 AA)
14. Dan McGoey, So North Allegheny (7 AAA)
13. Tyler Wirth, Jr Wallenpaupack (2 AAA)
12. Morgan Cupp, Sr Mechanicsburg (3 AAA)
11. Mitchell Etter, Sr State College (6 AAA)
10. Sam Snodgrass, Sr South Fayette (7 AA)
9. Avery Lederer, Sr Penncrest (1 AAA)
8. Isaac Davis, Sr Jersey Shore (4 AA)
7. Liam Conway, Sr Owen J Roberts (1 AAA)
6. Josh Hoey, Sr Bishop Shanahan (1 AAA)
5. Spencer Smucker, Sr Henderson (1 AAA)
4. Ryan Campbell, Sr CR North (1 AAA)
3. Tristan Forsythe, Sr Winchester Thurston (7 A)

2. Noah Beveridge, Sr Butler (7 AAA)
1. Rusty Kujdych, Sr Neshaminy (1 AAA)

The back and forth battle for the #1 spot in the state swings back to Kujdych this weekend after he picks up another major win. Beveridge, unfortunately, was a DNF this weekend so he didn’t end up mounting a counter strike. Neither of these teams was present at Foundation or Carlisle last year, so this may be the way it stays even next week. Should be exciting to have these two continue to jockey for position. That’s already two switches at the top. Not sure we had any the past two years with Affolder and Brophy leading the way.

Get Your Money's Worth

Rusty Kujdych picked up a big statement victory as the Neshaminy senior rolled to the win on a hot day at Belmont Plateau. Kujdych covered the hilly course in 15:51, a time that slotted him 28 seconds ahead of his next closest competitor (who, by the way, was ranked #3 in the state going into the weekend). For Rusty, this is a big improvement on last year’s time (16:16 for 3rd) and one of the fastest we’ve seen in recent history on the course, especially given the conditions. With two straight sub 16s at top invites, Kujdych may have a case for the #1 spot in the top 50 rankings.

As for 2nd place finisher Ryan Campbell, he ran 16:47 a year ago, meaning he cut nearly 30 seconds off his mark from the previous year.  That’s a good place to start for a guy who was 7th in the state last fall as a junior. Of course the bigger storyline was Campbell’s teammates. Ethan Koza dropped a 16:22 in his first invite of the season, making him a name to watch for perhaps a top 10 finish in the state meet. Koza and Campbell both didn’t race for North last weekend and we can see the impact they have on the team’s performance. On the flip side, Sam Early did not finish the race for North this time around and so North was missing perhaps a top 10 finisher in the field (Kevin Ehrgott turned in another strong performance at 8th overall). Ultimately, that swung the tide as LaSalle’s superior depth got to the line first against CR North and took the title 75 to 113.

It looks like CR North did not have Matt Mullen on the varsity squad this weekend. He could have been a piece to add to their top 5 as he was a scorer at Mill Street and a top 7 guy on the state title team. This marks two straight weeks that North was missing arguably two of their best five guys in the final standings. We saw Lebo survive without one of their big guns (Brandenstein) because of that depth and next man up ability. Even if North can survive a bit of a drop off after the #4, it at least keeps things very interesting in the championship races. I think North is obviously a bit like Carlisle last season, but also reminds me a bit of the 2014 Henderson team. They had 4 studs on that squad and nearly stole the district title from Conestoga. However, at states one of their top 4 had a fall and things spiraled as they didn’t have the pieces to cover the loss completely (still a top 10 team in the state though was Henderson).

Personally, I’m just glad North and Kujdych are giving us plenty to talk about. There’s a lot up in the air in AAA right now.

Have to give props to LaSalle for going out and taking care of business on Belmont’s course. The Explorers lost a lot of pieces from last year’s squad. That team couldn’t quite keep it together for a podium finish at states as they had a near worst case scenario on race day. However, this is a resilient program that, apparently, has comeback just as competitive as last year despite a hard hit from graduation. Addison is a great leader and low stick and Twomey and Maher have clearly had a good summer. Those two sophomores were prodigies as varsity members on a deep team last year. Should be fun to watch them race this season.

As was discussed by some of our excellent commenters, Twin Valley is a sneaky good team. They didn’t have their best day at Briarwood, but they still were 3rd with just 145 points. As was mentioned, they’ve got a great top 4 that is very tightly packed (Schlegel can run with that top group) and Hill is a speed guy with upside. Considering that District 3 looks like it will be wild this year (we’ll get to that) Twin Valley has to be taken seriously. I’m basically just stealing what one of the commenters said (it was anonymous so can’t recognize you by name), but it was too good not to repeat.

The Championship race was obviously great, but did you catch some of the times in the Challenger race? Elias Lindgren and Peter Borger of the Independent League went 1-3 in a quick race, producing 2 of the fastest times of the day for PA runners (16:35 and 16:43). I thought both of these guys were among the top contenders for a title in the Independent League and in their first big invite, they proved why. I thought Lindgren had a monster track season and I was hoping that would translate to a breakthrough on the grass. Through one race, that’s definitely been true. Look for these two to continue to battle moving forward. With Love and the GFS boys in there, things will only continue to heat up.

A really nice run out of Jason Cornelison of Cheltenham earned the junior a 4th place finish and a quick time of 16:47. Cheltenham has really changed their reputation in the past few years, becoming a strong distance program (they used to be a 4x4 powerhouse). Will Griffen set the stage last year with a top 50 XC finish and a sub 16 (plus a sub 9:10 3200). Now junior Cornelison is off to a blazing start. I believe he may have also picked up a win against Wissahickon’s Ben Hoyer (a super talented runner just outside my top 50) in a dual meet earlier this month.

Ben Bloser Invite (Big Spring)
Two years ago, Evan Kreider of Cocalico was 29th in the District as just a freshman. He actually defeated Jack Winser of Carlise in that match up, although Wisner ended up becoming the number one freshman in the state just a week later. Evan Kreider, Mike Morris of Hershey and Jack Wisner ended up being the top 3 in the freshman class at states, all district 3 runners. So naturally, we expected big things from this trio in the coming year. However, Kreider missed last postseason and didn’t race for Cocalico, allowing him to slip back out of our minds as he entered that pivotal junior season.

Well Kreider didn’t wait long to reacquaint himself with the state’s elite. The junior rolled to the fastest time of the day with a 16:11, taking down a slew of top 50 types in the process. His time wasn’t quite as fast as we’ve seen with Nate Henderson in the past, but it’s a little unfair to compare a junior coming back to XC for the first time in a while to a Footlocker Finalist. This victory likely catapults Kreider into my top 25 or so in the rankings. Heck, he may even get top 20 as its hard to argue he is not a top 3 District 3 guy right now. Can he win the district title back on this course later this fall? Definitely. But I do think the guys around him will be hungry for a rematch.

Jake Underwood of Wilson, Evan Dorenkamp of Manheim Township and Christian Groff of Hempfield were the next 3 PA boys across the line. Each of these three guys were in my preseason Top 50 rankings and I thought all could be factors in a wide open District 3 this year. They didn’t disappoint with strong results and nice times under the conditions. Groff led his Hempfield team to the title. The 2014 and 2015 district champs were surprise misses from states last year despite three state qualifiers (including Groff and 14th place finisher in this race Max Lessans). This year, they’ve come out of the blocks as easily the most complete team of the bunch. They had the best pack of anybody to pair with solid front running from Groff, Lessans and Ryan Farmer. I like this team thus far, but I do expect some teams to rise and challenge them as they figure out the back half of their varsity. Carlisle and Twin Valley should figure into the mix the next time all these schools are here as well.

Manheim Township was the surprise second place squad. This was an up and coming team that I recognized in my district by district breakdown. As suspected, Ian Miller was back in the line up for MT and that made a huge difference. The junior is a big talent and was in the top 15 finishers this weekend thanks to his sub 17 performance. Miller and Dorenkamp make a nice 1-2, plus the team had a freshman who stepped up and posted a sub 18 in Drew Sassaman. I still think this team has room to grow as a couple of their top returners were MIA this weekend. If they get those guys back to help bolster the depth alongside their front running, Manheim Township could be a state qualifier.

The always dangerous Lower Dauphin Falcons were one piece away from mixing it up at the front as well. With 200 points, LD took 3rd place overall. If I’m a betting man, I’m buying up stock in Mark Walsh. The sophomore was Lower Dauphin’s #1 runner in this meet and placed in the top 10 overall. He looked really strong and is in a program that can really develop young talent. It wasn’t that long ago that they had sophomore Jeff Groh winning the district title. Plus, I expect Jared Ginnascoli, a state medalist last year, to bounce back and push Walsh for the #1 spot in the future. If those two can work together, they can shoot up the standings. They will have to bolster the back half of the varsity team, but Hunter Lohmann has an 18:19 Milesplit PR to his name and he can improve as the team’s #5. We will hear more from this squad before all is said and done.

Interesting to see the name Noah Martin in the top 10 overall. Now running for Warwick, I believe Noah is a transfer from Veritas Academy. He was 7th as a sophomore in the A championships last year, but posted a big breakthrough in 16:39 in his first big race at Warwick. Looks like this kid has really adapted to the new training and the success speaks for itself. Keep an eye out for Martin as a breakout star this fall.

Speaking of A stars, reigning district champion Brendan Miller started off his fall season with a bang. He rolled to an easy victory, using a conservative strategy at the start that we didn’t see much from him last year. Miller is a real go-getter who isn’t afraid to attack the pace. It’s helped him (like outdoor states in the 3200) and hurt him (like last fall’s state championship in XC), but this year’s Miller already seems more poised and comfortable as a star. That’s an excellent sign for a guy who wants to pull the upset over Tristan Forsythe at A states this coming November. I’d like to see Brendan head to head against some of the AAA guys from this weekend (could he have won the whole race?) or against some of the top A names. I hope he gets in a few races where he is pushed to limits or gets beat to help prep him a bit for the tough competition of states. That’s what I think might help, especially since Miller doesn’t even race teammates in practice, but the kid could also get a big confidence boost from running undefeated and use that to win the state title. Only time will tell.

How about the story out of Lancaster Mennonite? This program was 27th out of 27 teams last year in D3 AA with no one under 19 minutes and no one in the top 100 scorers. They graduated their top runner and didn’t exactly leave behind a dynasty. But it looks like these kids have gone to work and came to play in 2017. Newcomers Jordan Horst and Nathan Yoder joined returner Abenezear Abebe to roll through the AA portion of this race and take the top 3 AA spots. That was good enough for 2-3-4 overall. Abebe beat his district time from a year ago by roughly 3 minutes!

Thanks to that big three, Lancaster Mennonite was a surprise third place finisher in the AA team race with 163 points. The winners were, less surprisingly, Milton Hershey, who used a spread of less than 60 seconds from 1-6 to get the job done. Milton Hershey has become a consistent force in the team race behind York Suburban and seems poised to punch another ticket to states. Lancaster Mennonite will need to find a bit more firepower at the 4-5 to topple Hershey, but for right now I think we have to simply appreciate the strides they have made to get to this point where they are 2nd in the invite.

The A team race also belonged to an upstart power. York Catholic, who was 5th out of 8 teams in D3 last year, posted the victory with an impressive total of 52. They defeated St Joe’s from D6 as well as district rivals Delone Catholic and Tulpehocken. Those last two schools, along with Camp Hill, will likely combine for the 2 state qualifying teams that will come from this district. It was a big day for York Catholic, but I think they have even more room to grow. Evan Schlossler is a real stand out front runner and Christian Gervasi, their #4 this weekend, was 7th at districts last year. Ryan Corbitt has made a big jump and was the main reason these guys left with the trophy. Adding freshman Joseph Rizzuto as an instant top 5 contributor doesn’t hurt either. 

At Least The Cowboys Got Crushed

As usual, I’ll save a couple big meets for their own post. This week it looks like Briarwood and Ben Bloser will have that honor. Keep the great comments coming and hopefully enjoy the recaps. Be on the lookout for recaps part 2 tomorrow and then XC Top 50 on Wednesday. Team rankings are every two weeks so we will get to those after Foundation is in the books.

Boardman Invitational
It was an interesting battle at the Boardman Invitational as North Allegheny and Butler went head to head as two of the top teams in the WPIAL. However, Butler’s Noah Beveridge was apparently a DNF allowing the Tigers to take down Butler in the final standings by 12 points. For NA, the leader in the clubhouse was Dan McGoey, who clocked a 16:10 to take 5th place overall. For reference, this time is about 17 seconds faster than last year’s WPIAL champ Mark Provenzo and 8 seconds faster than last year’s AA state champ Ben Bumgarner (although Bumgarner was the winner of the D2 race last year). Overall, it’s another nice performance for McGoey who continues to excel as just a sophomore.

The big individual breakthrough came from Ethan Hermann who continues to excel. He also ran under Provenzo’s 16:27 from a year ago, clocking a 16:20. This time is 34 seconds faster than Allderdice’s state medalist from a year ago, Amadou Diallo. Hermann picked up his first finish in front of teammate Tavonne Davis, who was also under Diallo’s time and place form a year ago, taking 17th.

Butler’s Brett Brady was the only other top 20 PA finisher in D1 as Brady clocked a 16:43. This time is about in line with Mark Provenzo and Sam Blechman’s runs in 2015 and just a bit behind Scott Seel’s 2014 time. All of these guys were in the 20s at states at season’s end so Brady puts himself in a nice early season spot, especially considering how he excelled at Hershey a year ago. Doug Kostelonsky stepped up for Butler to become a scorer in this meet. He will be a key name to watch as Butler looks to move forward toward a run at top 5 in the state. Without their top dog in Beveridge, Butler managed a 17:30 average. For reference, the ultra tight pack of North Allegheny last season (who placed 6th in the state) was at 17:15 for this meet last year. North Allegheny’s 2014 and 2015 teams (1st and 2nd in the state) averaged 16:24 and 16:37 on this course.

Worth noting, North East’s Josh Lewis actually clocked the 3rd fastest PA time of the day in the D3 race. The North East junior, who has been quietly excelling against far west competition, dropped a 16:28 to take 5th in his section. Lewis and his North East teammates posted a very respectable finish in the D3 race with a 17:50 average time. I really like this squad as a sleeper in A and Lewis has a chance to be a top 3-5 guy right now. He’s running fantastic times and should be on every small school’s radar.

Bradford Invitational
After a strong showing at Red, White and Blue, Elk County Catholic sophomore Ben Hoffman stormed to the victory at the Bradford Invitational, besting both Smethport’s Darion Gregory and hometown favorite Logan Caruso in the process. With his low stick in the clubhouse, ECC rolled to a 31 point victory with five guys in the top 11 scorers. It was a great team effort that included another nice performance from varsity newcomer Jacob Carnovale as well as a strong 4th place showing from sophomore Isaac Wortman. A really strong showing by this squad’s top 5.

Bradford picked up the silver medals and Smethport, getting Christian Tanner back in the finishing shoot this weekend, were 3rd just 10 points back. Smethport freshman Jordan Pavlock should add a nice bit of depth to this squad as they try and sneak into the state qualifiers behind Elk CC in D9. Smethport’s top 5 runners were all non-seniors.

Bull Dog Rose Tree
Wissahickon’s Ben Hoyer put down the fastest time of the day with a 16:39 to win the small school section of the Rose Tree Invite. This result comes just a week after Hoyer impressed with a second place finish at Abington’s Invitational. Hoyer’s Trojan teammates helped out behind him with 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 7th place finishes in the small school section. Wiss also had a nice showing in the Novice race for a second straight week.

Upper Dublin’s Ben Brugger picked up the large school victory with a 16:43, the second fastest time of the day. It’s another nice result for the senior who bested Matt Varghese, a talented up and coming sophomore from Methacton, and Noah Dusseau, a state qualifier from Avon Grove. Ultimately, Brugger’s Cardinals and the rest of the squads was bested by the pack from CB East who, without #1 runner David Endres, still posted 40 points and a 22 second spread. Cade Sands was the step up man in 4th place overall and Alex Bardwell also had a big day. CB East continues to be intriguing as we try and shape up the (early) projected state qualifying picture.

In other news, Masterman had a nice showing on race day with a third place finish among a host of AAA schools. Dan Bici led the way with a 4th place finish. If Masterman can bolster the #5 spot (and their #5 is a frosh who could make nice leaps by season’s end), they could factor into the top 8 teams in A this season. Interested to see how high Bici can finish this year and how the rematch with Jihad ends up at districts.

Commodore Perry Invitational
Harbor Creek came to play at the Commodore Perry Invite, but perhaps none more so than meet champion Ryan Stravaggi. The junior clocked a 16:22 to win by 31 seconds over his teammate and fellow state medalist Aiden Weber who was 2nd overall. Even though Harbor Creek was missing their usual top 3 man Christian Babo, HC still rolled with just 54 points. The back half of their varsity stepped up big time to fill Babo’s large shoes with 13th, 16th and 22nd place efforts. A lot to be happy about if you are a Harbor Creek fan, particularly for Stravaggi. I think this kid has the potential to place very high at states this year. He’s had a little bit of troubles on the Hershey hills at times, but clearly the kid is a talent.

District 10’s Cochranton took 2nd in this meet in yet another tight team finish with a class rival. After battling Shenango and North in previous weeks, Cochranton got the best of defending D10 A champs Seneca by a score of 122 to 123. As I mentioned in my team rankings, Cochranton has strong front running, but needed guys to start to step up behind the top few. Well, they are starting to make strides I think as Alex McKay had a solid race and did enough to hold off a nice pack from Seneca. That being said, Seneca should feel pretty good about their efforts. Sophomore Brock Smith looked fantastic with a six place finish, helping to breakup the front running of Cochranton. Stepnowski also stepped up (sorry about that pun Rob) and delivered a top 20 finish. The pack is there for this team which makes them dangerous. Their top 5 all placed in the top 40 with a #6 runner at 42nd.

Also worth noting, in a battle of sophomores Patrick Stevens of Meadville edged out Cochranton’s Noah Bernarding 16:58 to 17:00. Bernarding was tops in A at this meet, putting down another strong performance by edging out district opponent Zach Tingley who clocked a 17:01.

George School
In a weekend that included some strong performances by his rivals, George School junior Jeffrey Love took care of business at his home invite. The top returner from the independent league defeated GFS’s newest crop of title hopefuls, led by Zach Goldberg, as well Ryan O’Donnell of the Westtown School. That’s two wins in a row for Love who has looked strong in the early going. I don’t think he has a complete clamp on the title just yet, but he will be tough to stop when he shows down with the other elite independent boys.

GFS will likely be the favorites for the team title in that race later this fall. They had three top 5 finishers, with Tim Peterson have a strong day as the team’s #3, and rolled to the title. Again, Briarwood may have had their best competition, but they held their own and won big at this key invite for the independent schools.

Kiski Cavalier Invitational
I’m not ready to declare anyone the state champions, but I am ready to say I’ve got Lebo as my #1 team in the state as of this moment. The WPIAL stand outs rolled at the Kiski Invite and, although they weren’t facing the big three of Butler, Seneca Valley and North Allegheny, they rolled past the consistently strong Pittsburgh Central Catholic. More importantly, senior standout Bryce Brandenstein crossed the finish line first for the time, bolstering an already formidable top five. With Bryce in the line, that spread shrunk big time and Lebo had their 5 scorers in the top 8 ahead of some quality names. Plus, Lebo absolutely rolled through the JV competition. My #1 concern with them is still front running in a top tier meet like states, but now they at least have 3 guys with the potential to break out and grab a medal. Plus, don’t sleep on Alex Brokaw. The kid is really improving at the right time.

Individually, the WPIAL had yet another finisher who has a case for a spot on the top 50 list. Sam Gatti took the individual title over the Lebo pack with a 3 mile time of 15:49. Gatti and Pittsburgh CC were absent from some of the big early season invites, but he is a seasoned veteran with multiple state qualifying appearances. Pittsburgh CC may be due for another state medal contender as they haven’t had a guy on the podium since Jeff VanKooten got there in 2013.

In AA news, Cejay Walker was tops in his classification for D5’s Somerset, while Indiana Area posted another impressive showing with 3 top 20 finishes, led by sophomore Kendall Branan. Hunter Armstrong also looks impressive in his early races, taking 11th overall. He’s a sophomore from Marion Center which I believe is D6 A. Lots of talent across the board in District 6 this year.

Some people might have missed this one as I didn’t see it on penntrack (only on RunHigh). North Hills junior Joey Buehner put the pedal to the medal in this one, taking a runaway victory from Mars sophomore Zach Leachman. I’ve been expecting big things from Leachman this season and he delivered in week one at RWB, so to see Buehner throw down this performance speaks a lot about this kid’s talent. Both of these guys are contenders for a top 10 spot in the WPIAL (which is saying something, because that is a loaded district this year). North Hills always seems to have a guy in contention and that could make Buehner a dangerous sleeper by season’s end.

Strong showing by freshman (possibly sophomore) Will Lamb of Beaver. The frosh is off to a great start to the season and earned the top spot in AA in this race.  Beaver finished 2nd overall in this meet, just 4 behind AAA Bethel Park. BP was led by two sophomores in 5th and 7th overall.

SFU Red Flash Invitational
Bedford freshman Van May ran a nice race at the Big Valley Invitational, but the District 5 man likely caught a lot more attention with a win at the Red Flash Invitational. Van May appears to be for real as he took down AAA’s Josiah Wudwych and also bested a nice pack from Central Cambria. The CC boys were led by Nate Kuntz and Ohm Vyas who took 3rd and 4th respectively.

As alluded to, that Central Cambria squad rolled to the meet title and had three freshman take 18th, 19th and 20th to round out the top seven. Just one senior was in the varsity squad with three freshman and two sophomores. This is a strong young team that was district champs a year ago, but didn’t have a huge impact at the state meet. They have a chance to build off that performance this year and maybe even become a Dallas like dynasty in the coming seasons. AA teams are on fire right now so it won’t be easy, but this was a nice start.

In other state qualifying news, Purchase Line defeated United by 7 points for 3rd overall in this race. Purchase Line has been a staple at the state meet out of A District 6 and defeated their closest in class rivals (Westmont Hilltop) by 35 points. Micah Kurka led the way in 11th. Keep an eye out for Windber in District 5. They knocked off Bedford despite Bedford having two top 10 finishers (with May winning). Windber may be able to surprise Somerset and steal the District 5 title in what is shaping up to be a compelling three team race in a very small district.

Souderton Twilight
The always dangerous squad from CB West made its first case for inclusion in the District One State qualifying discussion with a big win at Souderton. CB West placed four runners in the top 10 including a gold medal performance from senior Michael Samson and picked up a victory over Hatboro Horsham (who had 5 in the top 15). It was a tight race (45 to 56), but a small meet. I think the story here is Samson more so than CB West. Samson picked up a strong victory over Forney (who just placed quite well in the PTXC Blue Race) and looks excellent after his breakthrough XC season last fall. West needs to tighten up the spread a bit to be competitive, but it looks like this lurking power should stay on your radar or at least be kept in the back of your mind.

Two freshman placed in the top 20 in this race with DT East’s Jacob Lawson finishing in 6th place overall and Hatboro Horsham’s Devon Comber taking 17th. The Comber last name should be familiar to fans who have been around as Hatboro’s Casey Comber was a 9 flat 3200 man and XC Footlocker Finalist during his senior season in 2014-2015. 

Flash Back Friday

Although the AAA WPIAL has been successful at state championships in the past, competing as arguably the state’s second best district, the west hasn’t had two top five teams at states since 2011. That season also happened to be the best performance for Mount Lebanon in the last decade as they took home 4th place overall and were just a few rolls of the dice away from the state championship.

Two weekends into 2017, the narrative is somewhat similar. We have two WPIAL teams who are ranked in the top five of the state with a few others looming. And we have Mount Lebanon right to lead the charge up the ranks.

Entering the 2011 season, Mount Lebanon returned six members of their varsity squad which had placed 7th in the state the previous year (just 11 points out of 4th). 2011 was, undoubtedly, a transition year for the state on the whole. 11 of the top 12 state medalists in AAA for 2010 were graduating. There was just one sophomore in the top 40 state finishers, so it appeared the young talent waiting to fill the shoes of the graduated elite was not there either.

From this turnover, the experienced Mount Lebanon squad emerged. Alex Moran, who was one of the 7 returning state medalists, blasted a 15:30 for tops in the WPIAL at the Red, White and Blue Invitational. His teammates backed him up as Lawton Tellin and Kevin Tramaglini finished 10th and 16th respectively, followed by Scott Westover and Seamus Roddy in 22nd and 33rd. Overall, through 7 guys, Lebo was the deepest team in the state, even better than defending champions North Allegheny. Their final average on the quick course was 16:08.

Flash forward six years later. Again, only 7 of the previous year’s medalists are back. Seniors made up every single medal spot from 16th through 24th in last year’s championships. Many of the top teams were hit by graduation. This time, Mt Lebo was not a returning state power. They didn’t qualify for the 2016 state championships and were actually just 6th at districts. However, they returned five of their top seven runners including two young state qualifiers.

At the Red, White and Blue Invitational this year, Lebo didn’t have a front runner like Alex Moran was in 2011, but they had an even better pack. Patrick Anderson, Peter Cosentino, and Alex Brokaw took the top three spots for Lebo in 9th, 10th and 16th. Again, the deep pack was on display with 23rd and 32nd place finishes rounding out the top 5. In total, Lebo had 88 points, a 16:16 average but a dynamite 33 second spread. They were victorious at the invite, defeating the defending WPIAL champions. Just like they did in 2011.

Looking back at that 2011 team, the next few races were strong. Lebo battled hard with Cardinal O’Hara at the Foundation Invite, losing by 6 points in a tight race. Here, the Lebo pack was bested by a tighter one from O’Hara. At the Tri-State Championships, Lebo moved one step closer to that elusive WPIAL title by scoring 76 points to North Allegheny’s 90. This time their spread was excellent with just 39 seconds separating the 1 to 5.

Unfortunately, when the Lebo boys returned to Coopers a week later, the rain was pouring down about the course. In a dramatic turn from Zach Hebda’s blazing run a year earlier, the district title was won in just 17:04. North Allegheny shocked the world by scoring 50 points in the muddy conditions and Mount Lebanon barely hung on for 2nd as Pittsburgh CC was breathing down their neck.

However, that Lebo team was resilient. They overcame the loss and performed admirably at states. Alex Moran took home a second straight medal with Lawton Tellin finishing in the top 30 as well. That 1-2 punch helped lead Mount Lebanon to a 4th place finish with just 153 points, only 19 points away from a state championship.

They say history repeats itself and maybe we will see a similar battle between Mount Lebanon and this year’s defending district champions, Seneca Valley. The discrepancy between the two teams in week one was comparable to the gap in 2011. Both teams are currently projected to be top 5 teams in the state and the PA team title landscape seems ripe for a wild state meet similar to the one we saw in 2011.

Yet as great as that season was for Lebo in 2011, the members of this year’s team may be hoping against the tides of repetitive history. After some struggles at Coopers Lake in the past, Mount Lebanon should be hoping for redemption on the district course. Not only do they have a battle on their hands for the district title, but they will have close competitors in North Allegheny and Baldwin who will be looking to knock them out of the state picture entirely.

In the end, maybe the way to close this post is with a simple quote from philosopher George Santayana. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Ultimately, that’s why everyone should read this blog on a daily basis.

I feel like I just ruined a moment. Well, it’s gone now.

Good luck to all the WPIAL schools this year. It’s going to be fun to watch.

NCAA XC Team Rankings: When Garrett Is Away The Etrain Will Play

If you are a loyal reader of The Stride Report, I’m sure you have been enjoying Garrett’s carefully constructed team rankings during the early XC season, but let’s be honest: something is missing. You skim down the list of top names and you’re intrigued, but are you truly wiser after reading it? Once week two was in the books, I had one burning question on my mind that Mr. Zatlin seemingly refused to answer. Refused. Even though the masses were demanding it. So I think I speak for all of us when I say: What if we ranked the top XC programs by which mascots would win in an XC race?

Eventually, I got tired of waiting for this necessary truth to be prosed so I took this opportunity to do the job myself. First let's outline the teams. As of the writing of this sentence, here are Garrett’s top 10 programs in the Division I rankings:

1. Syracuse Orangemen
2. NAU Lumberjacks
3. Arkansas Razorbacks
4. Stanford Cardinal
5. Colorado Buffaloes
6. Furman Paladins
7. BYU Cougars
8. Oregon Ducks
9. Virginia Cavaliers
10. OK State Cowboys

As I dove into the analysis, I quickly realized why Garrett was so hesitant to pursue this rich and intricate organization of talent. It took a thorough analysis and quite a bit of commentary before I was able to put these bad boys (or girls (or non-gender-identifiable objects)) in a final order. Here’s the order from slowest to fastest. You’re welcome.

#10 Stanford Cardinal
Contrary to popular belief, Stanford is not the Stanford Trees, but instead the Stanford Cardinal. To clarify this is a reference to a color. Um, yeah what the heck are we supposed to do with a color? To be fair, if I was going to pick the fastest color, I’d probably go with Yellow and then Red, but still. Therefore, I decided to not use the mascot of Cardinal and instead use the mascot of a Tree. Which, incidentally, also can’t move in a forward direction on its own. Or can it? Some of you may be thinking what if it’s a giant tree that grows so big it can traverse from the start to the finish? Well, I’m sorry to tell you that the growth process of said tree is too long and will therefore not be completed in time to beat any of the other mascots. Good try though Stanford.

#9 Oregon Ducks
It’s important to understand some ground rules here. This is Cross Country running, not Cross Country flying. So we are going to have to keep the Ducks firmly planted on the grass if they don’t want to get DQed. Of course, that won’t stop all of these crafty beasts as, just like in the racewalk, sometimes the top athletes are going to cheat with form a bit to get ahead. Without any performance enhancing wings, the Ducks are going to be in rough shape. Take your typical Mallard. They are only 20-26 inches long, with two thirds of that being body. That’s a terrible running build and the stride length on these beasts is going to be miniscule. You think a Duck is outkicking a Paladin? I can see with confidence “no”. And I still haven’t even researched what a Paladin is yet.

#8 Syracuse Orangemen
The Syracuse boys aren’t giving me much to work with here. Orangemen? So just like your average joe off the street? Except he’s orange? That’s the big thing right there: why are these men orange? Do they like to spray tan? Did they eat a lot of tomatoes and carrots like that dude from that episode of Scrubs? I just have so many questions! But ultimately, no answers.
#7 Furman Paladin
Like most normal people in the world, I had no idea what a Paladin was so I looked it up. The first dictionary definition was “any of the twelve peers of Charlemagne’s court, of whom the count palatine was chief”. So we are really limiting ourselves with just 12 guys to pick from. Doesn’t leave a lot of room for injuries. Plus, what if some of these 12 dudes just aren’t that into running. Feeling unsatisfied, I then checked the second definition, “a knight renowned for heroism and chivalry”. Look, I respect those ideals as much as the next guy, but a dude running around in armor being respectful to a bunch of women does not inspire me. The Paladins sound like that dude who kills every workout to show off for the girls’ team. While also wearing a full suit of armor and carrying a lance. Every team has one.

#6 OK State Cowboys
For those of you who are pop culturely disinclined, the Cowboys are not young male cows but in fact humans who worked cattle. Cowboys are tough dudes who could certainly handle a hard run in the sun. When fatigue starts to set in on an XC course, Cowboys aren’t going to back down from the challenge. And these guys know something about running in a pack of thundering beasts. But here’s the problem: the golden age of the cowboy is 1866-1886 according to History.com. That means the Cowboys peaked during a time when track philosophies were very primitive. You think these Cowboys know anything about interval training? Certainly not.

#5 Virginia Cavaliers
Look we just had a history lesson about the dang Cowboys. We don’t need more of that garbage. So I decided to think outside the box for the Virginia boys. Rather than attaching them to some English Civil War dudes, I’ve decided to make the Cavaliers be represented by the actual Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team. You’ve got Kevin Love, Isiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, JR Smith, Kyle Korver, Tristan Thompson and (for now) Lebron James. That’s a stacked team. Obviously, you’ve got some injury issues with IT and who knows if JR has been doing his Sunday long runs, but Lebron knows how to get a team ready for a championship.

#4 Arkansas Razorbacks
A Razorback sounds like a sick name for an animal, but it turns out that Arkansas’s mascot does not actually have razors on its back that it can use as weapons in some type of fictional free for all XC race. However, these doped up pigs can move surprisingly quick. According to a Runnersworld Article, Wild Boars can hit a top speed of 30 miles per hour and can maintain the distance for a full mile! That’s crazy! But on the flip side, what happens after that full mile? What happens over the course of an 8k race? Because I can tell you this, a wild boar can way over 600 pounds. And they have to carry around tusks. As someone who doesn’t like to run in a watch because it adds weight, that just seems wildly inefficient.

#3 Colorado Buffaloes
Did you know that Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo is a sentence? Did you also know that American Bison can hit speeds up to 40 miles per hour? It’s amazing what Google can tell you. But here’s the problem, American Bison are not Buffalo. It’s a common misconception because they look so much alike. The two main Buffalo species reside in Africa and Asia. So really, a team based in Colorado should probably be the Bison right? Otherwise these Buffalo are going to have a cross an Ocean just to get to the start line of this race and that just seems impractical. C’mon Wetmore, get your stuff together!

#2 NAU Lumberjacks
A lumberjack isn’t the most glorious of jobs. You are out chopping trees, making logs and trying not to dismember yourself. You may think-what does this have to do with cross country? And the correct answer is-sometimes you run next to trees. But here’s the thing people often forget about Lumberjacks: Paul Bunyan. The dude is a massive giant with huge stride lengths that would allow him to eat up the course in a matter of moments. He’s a guaranteed low stick for your squad. Sure, one guy can’t win you a title, but we don’t know that there is only one Paul Bunyan out there in Lumberjack community. I mean, be honest, have you ever met a Lumberjack? I didn’t think so.

#1 BYU Cougars

Cougars can hit 40-50 miles per hour while running. That’s great at all, but even if they were only in the 20s I feel like this team would be the favorites. Think about standing on the starting line as a humble Buffalo/Bison next to these beasts. You aren’t going to be concerned about hitting splits, you are going to be concerned about being split open and eaten! OK, that was a little graphic, but I needed the word play. All the same, the Cougars intimidation factor is going to make some guys go out over their head and ultimately, it will be sound strategy, not speed, that allows the Cougars to take the title.

2017 XC Team Rankings: All Classifications (Week Two)

10. Mount Caramel (4)
The talk going into the year in D4 A centered on the big powers of NE Bradford and Southern Columbia. But maybe we should have given some of the spotlight to Mount Caramel. The former AA school (who has had good success at the higher classification) put together a back running clinic at Lock Haven’s Bear Mountain River Run with a 53 second spread and 164 points. That allowed them to take 3rd overall, defeating some top schools including Southern Columbia. We will see what happens the next time these two schools meet (as SC was missing a big piece in Nick Kuzo), but I like Mt Caramel’s ability to string together a solid performance despite just 1 top 20 finisher in the meet (Tyler Adams).

9. Cochranton (10)
In a wild playoff picture for District 10 A, Cochranton may have the best shot of making it to states. They’ve been just barely edged out by North East and Shenango in back to back weeks to start the season, but you can see the potential on this roster. Noah Bernarding looks like he will be a star after a terrific frosh campaign. The team put 4 guys in the top 20 at Hornet Harrier with four under 18 minutes. They had 4 sub 18 again at Big Red. This team is not too far away from joining the ranks of the elite. Their #5 will need to close the gap a bit, but I think they can get improvement at that spot. With the front running they have, there shouldn’t be a ton of pressure to do anything herculean.

8. Shenango (7)
I know I’m not supposed to say things like this if I’m being an unbiased member of the media, but I’m really rooting for Shenango this year. After a couple super close calls at districts, I think this could be the year these guys make it to states. They battled very well with Cochranton in their opening invite, pulling out the victory 92 to 95. Nick Pindel, a freshman, was a big part of this result with his 8th place finish, but they were also helped by a strong close from Jensen Lewis, one of the best #5 runners in the field. But what really impressed me was Shenango traveling all the way to PTXC to test themselves against some large school competition in a big race setting. They held their own with 209 points in the Blue Race and actually had one of the better packs in the field even as a small school.

7. North East (10)
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a version of North East like the one that was state champs in 2007, but this year’s team has the potential to be great. Josh Lewis is in excellent form to start the year. I’d argue he’s the best North East runner we’ve seen on the XC trails since Ryan Smathers. North East was the #2 team at Big Red behind only AA New Castle and they edged out Cochranton in the standings after taking care of business against defending district champs Seneca at McDowell. Those are two clutch performances and speak to the team’s consistency. One thing to note is they only had 6 finishers at Big Red, but did have the top non-New Castle JV runner in freshman Brock Pennington. Brock could compete for a scoring spot before all is said and done.

6. Riverview (7)
Riverview held their own with some of the big schools at RWB and ran well at Gateway as well. Ben Barnes is a low stick they can rely on and the pack is coming together. Looks like they will add a freshman with upside to the equation in the coming weeks as well. That could be a big swing as their spread at RWB was above 2 minutes. With the small schools, depth is often the biggest question mark, but Riverview appears to have the pieces to hold their own in that category.

5. Jenkintown (1)
Jenkintown looked pretty sharp in their first invite of the season, winning the small school section of Mill Street. Jack Miller was fantastic and is putting his name in the mix of A contenders for a top 3-5 spot individually. That low stick combined with a returning state medalist in Jackson should be big for success. Plus this team has some experience and confidence from last season.

4. Montrose (2)
Amazingly, Montrose somehow dropped in the rankings this week despite an awesome victory at Cliff Robbins. I think Montrose may be the deepest A squad we’ve seen in recent history and they picked up a victory over some really good AA teams using that depth. Brandon Curley appears like a front runner with big potential and their pack behind him is tight through to the #6 runner. I was very high on this team last year and I’m still high this year, it’s just shaping up to be a very competitive year in this classification.

3. Penns Valley (6)
I am very excited about the start to the season Penns Valley has had. They were already a contender coming in with Colwell and Bierley looking strong, but they added two freshman who appear to be real game changers. It’s tricky to rely too heavily on freshman for the state meet, but look no further than last year’s Elk County Catholic team to see a squad with two freshman scorers that had a big day at states. This team has been mixing it up with top level AAA teams through two weeks despite not all clicking on the same day. This top five is lethal and, if they can put it together for states, they can win the title.

2. Elk County Catholic (9)
Just like last year, Elk CC started out this season putting up a respectable fight against the empire at Winchester Thurston. They lost their #1 runner from last season, a stud is Zach Wortman, but Ben Hoffman appears very ready to take the reigns. He’s just a sophomore but he is a big talent, taking 4th at RWB and 2nd among A competitors. They’ve also added junior Jacob Carnovale to the varsity rotation and he seems more than capable of providing a strong run to keep the pack tight. If Elk CC wants to jump up to first in the standings, they will need to get some firepower behind Hoffman. Winchester Thurston had 3 guys in before their #2 which is consistent with what happened at last year’s state meet.

1. Winchester Thurston (7)
In case you missed it, I outlined the Winchester Thurston formula for success in my RWB recap. Looks like they are proceeding as planned with that method and, once again, Winchester Thurston will be a favorite for a state title. That being said, I do think the teams behind them are going to be very formidable and this program will not be able to slip. I think Winchester Thurston will get a big boost if one of their pack runners steps up and grabs an individual medal. Gordon Pollock seems like the logical name, having consistently improved every year and being near the medals last year.

10. Loyalsock Township (4)
Technically, Loyalsock and Milton probably tied for this spot, but I didn’t want to throw a tie on here so I decided to be bold. Loyalsock is far from the experienced, proven bunch that Milton is (as Milton is the defending district champions), but I was really impressed by their top 3 at Spiked Shoe. We knew about Serfass, but you sometimes forget about Ryan Sullivan who performed very well in 8th place ahead of guys like Brett Pope and Tyler Holcomb. Alejandro Quintana is a sophomore name on the rise, having finished 15th. The back half of the lineup will have to improve for this team to become truly elite, but they’ve got my attention after week two.

9. Holy Redeemer (2)
The big story at Cliff Robbins was the display of power from Montrose, but lost in the shuffle was the strong performance from Holy Redeemer. Without one of their top returners in Lucas Volpetti, HR was still 3rd in the order and had a big step up run from Conner Stevens. Their top 5 were all in the top 30 finishers and there is still room to improve on that total. I still remember how much time Holy Redeemer cut off their 4x8 relay personal best over the final weeks of this past track season and it excites me about their potential to drop a lot of time before districts and states.

8. South Fayette (7)
We didn’t see South Fayette head to head with the other top WPIAL teams in their classification so it’s hard to make too much of a judgement from this opening invite. However, based on average time, they will be playing catch up against some of the other top teams. South Fayette will miss the presence of team leader Aaron Pfeil who graduated last year, but they do have plenty of talent still on the roster. Sam Snodgrass will provide a low stick advantage, but it will be up to the rest of the pack to step up the same way their 3-5 guys stepped up at states last fall when they nearly stole the team medals from York Suburban.

7. Greensburg Salem (7)
The defending champions from the WPIAL are quickly finding that championship form. They were excellent at Red, White and Blue and showcased a dangerous top 3 that could match up to just about anyone else in the state. The 4-5 spot was the concern coming in, but Greensburg Salem is coaching up that spot well and developing talent. I’d argue the team already made big improvements just in the first week from Marty Uher to RWB. All the same, nothing will be given just because these guys were good a year earlier.

6. New Castle (7)
In Meet #1, the boys from New Castle took 5th at McDowell, finishing just behind fellow AA schools Grove City and Harbor Creek. In that meet, they had a solid 1-5 spread and got a nice performance out of LeShawn Huff, but didn’t have the same firepower as Harbor Creek or depth of Grove City. In Meet #2, they seemed to take strides toward improving both of those factors. Huff won the Big Red invite and was joined by two other top 10 finishers in Eggleston and Litrenta. Their 4-5 were also in the top 20 finishers with freshman Jonah Miller delivering a strong performance.

New Castle just missed out on states last year so I’d imagine they will be hungry to return. However, the WPIAL is loaded and one small slip up could cost you your spot.

5. Wyomissing (3)
No race out of these guys yet. I have high hopes though so I’m keeping them slotted high. They will have to come out of the gates well to keep their grip on this spot.

4. Harbor Creek (10)
Harbor Creek returned three state medalists (three!) so it wasn’t going to take much to convince me that they could contend again this year. All eyes were on the Harbor Creek 4-5 at meet #1 and they performed well with the pressure on. Senior Nate Dougan was 41st overall with a sub 18 minute clocking and sophomore Nolan Weber was 44th. That was enough to help them get within a few points of defeating district rivals Grove City and, at an arguably less deep meet like Districts, Harbor Creek may have come out on top.

3. Grove City (10)
Grove City narrowly edged out Harbor Creek in the team’s early season match up at McDowell and doubled down on their success with a strong showing at RWB. Jonah Powell is a dynamite front runner and the pack is looking strong. Their #5 was the 2nd best at McDowell, trailing only AAA Butler and 2nd best #5 in the small school RWB race behind defending state champs Winchester Thurston. Clearly, the depth is there and that’s encouraging, however, I think this team needs to get a guy or two to step up at the #2 and #3 spots of the varsity order. That will be the difference between being a good team and a great team.

2. York Suburban (3)
We still haven’t seen York Suburban run just yet, but my hunch is they will showcase something big in the coming weeks. For now, based strictly on returners and reputation, York Suburban holds tight to the #2 spot.

1. Dallas (2)
The two time defending state champs do look a tad more vulnerable than in the past after their first two invites. With no Jack Zardecki, the team was not in the front of the standings at PTXC and they were defeated by Montrose in the opening season invitational. However, Dallas certainly knows that state championships are not won in September. Their top four runners are crushing it so far this year as they had 4 in the top 9 at Cliff Robbins including individual champ Jack Zardecki. Mitchell Rome was a top 12 PA athlete at the PTXC Invitational and really stepped up in Zardecki’s absence.

We still haven’t seen York Suburban run yet so a statement performance could swing the rankings, but for now Dallas clings to their top spot. Can they hold on for the three peat?

10. Butler (7)
Butler. You know I’m a huge fan, right? I’d be surprised if this team finishes the season at just #10, but for now, I’ve got them slotted here. The Golden Bull Dogs (getting closer on the name) stormed out the gate with a win at McDowell with just five runners and they apparently knocked off North Allegheny in a dual meet this week. They’ve also got the best guy in the state in Noah Beveridge and one of the most underrated guys in Brett Brady. However, we didn’t see them at RWB and they didn’t beat Allderdice by as much of a margin as the other top teams did at Schenley (although there could be lots of reasons for that) so I decided to keep them here. That being said, this team is confident, they know how to peak, and I expect them to make their presence felt in their next invite. They will get their shot at Lebo soon enough and, when they do, we might see a huge jump in the rankings from this squad.

9. Boyertown (1)
Sometimes it’s as simple as this: since the move to three classifications, District One has had half of the top 10 teams in the AAA state meet every year. So if you can survive Lehigh, you are probably going to do well at states. The Boyertown Bears showed they were front runners to survive the challenge as they defeated two excellent programs in CB East and Spring Ford at PTXC. Josh Endy just missed my top 50 rankings this week after a 12th place finish at this big time invitational. And here’s the thing, I think Derafelo and maybe even McComb can run right with Endy and make a formidable top 3. Boyertown looked solid in invite #1, but they honestly might just be getting started.

8. Carlisle (3)
The second best team in the state last year refused to go quietly and put up a great fight against State College at Spiked Shoe. Jack Wisner is a front runner, their additions to the team are making big strides and they’ve got some young guys who I think have the potential to surprise. I honestly feel like they didn’t have their best day at Spiked Shoe and they still nearly won the thing. I’m seeing big things on the horizon.

7. State College (6)
State College is strong, consistent program so it’s not a surprise to see them move up the list, but they really impressed me in Week Two. They were a little depleted heading into this season, but three additions to the squad that didn’t compete in the post season last year have been clutch. First, and most obviously, Mitchell Etter looks like a top tier talent. Erik Boethius in the lineup was a major addition, adding some depth, and freshman Bennett Norton has already had two strong showings in first high school season. On paper, this team could be comparable to last year’s squad that was 7th in the state. I think the question will be getting a #3 guy who was as strong as Owen Wing was for the team a year ago.

6. Bishop Shanahan (1)
Well if you were a Bishop Shanahan skeptic, their opening invite may have brought you on board. Shanahan rolled at the Abington Invite with 51 points to defeat what I think is a sneaky good West Chester East squad. The Hoey boys did their thing with a 1-4 finish, Jonathan McGrory progressed well as was hoped and Jack Ettien seems healthy and fit. Yoquinto was a little farther behind on this day, but he’s proven in the past he has a clutch gene. His best XC and track races have come in the post season.

This is clearly a strong team and I’m looking forward to a match up against another top team on the list (maybe DT West soon?). Worth noting, the team also had two high finishers in the Novice race at Abington who could maybe come in and bolster the back half of the varsity squad by season’s end.

5. LaSalle (12)
No big invites for LaSalle yet, but we should see what they’ve got at Briarwood in the coming weekend. The Explorers did race at Belmont Plateau in a PCL league meet this year and, although circumstances around league meets are usually too suspect to read too much into them, they did have 9 guys under 18 minutes on the difficult Belmont layout. Their three returning varsity guys were the first three across the line so everybody seems healthy and ready to roll. Brady Koors was the early name to watch as a newcomer who could contribute.

4. DT West (1)
Ah, DT West. Not much to say about this team so far. No invitational 5ks yet and probably won’t really throw down a race until Carlisle. The thing is, it’s hard to deny the depth West has shown this year. Evan Kaiser and Tyler Rollins seem like serviceable front runners and then a nice pack of guys is filling in behind them. Rollins and Kaiser have to prove they can be top 30 guys like O’Neill and Alansky, but, in theory, this team is going to be comparable to the squad they had last year. And that team went ahead and took 3rd in the state.

3. Seneca Valley (7)
I’m still very much on board with this Seneca Valley team. Their two front runners are back and better than ever as Sam Owori and Seth Ketler were great in the season opener. In addition, they replaced the Trey Razanauskas hole with the addition of Connor Volk-Klos which is a clutch addition. This team struggled a bit at RWB last season, so getting 3rd at the meet again this year isn’t particularly worrisome. My early bet is these guys win the WPIAL and, if I’m in a bold mood, I’ll pick them to win states.

The key will be the #4 and #5 spots. That was an underrated part of this squad last year. We saw the sophomores at the top of the standings, but SV had the 17th and 22nd best runners in the WPIAL and they took 90th and 120th in Hershey. Those guys held their own with pack centered teams like LaSalle and North Allegheny and allowed Seneca Valley to take 4th in the state. That’s where the eyes will be focused in the next few weeks. My early prediction is they find a couple guys who can deliver again.

2. Mount Lebanon (7)
Mount Lebanon came out the gates looking like some of the great North Allegheny teams we have seen in the past. They rolled in the varsity and race and dominated the JV race with their incredible depth. Originally, I thought Bryce Brandenstein didn’t race at RWB, but apparently the multi-time state qualifier dropped out due to an asthma attack. So you could argue, Lebo won the meet without its best runner. That’s pretty wild.

I like the start and clearly this team is ready to roll. I would like to see a tiny bit more of a front running presence. The general consensus, based on historical results, is you need a couple medalists on your squad to win the state title. I’m not positive that Lebo has a medalist right now, but they do have 2-3 guys who can make me positive in the coming weeks.

1. CR North (1)

I feel obligated to keep this guys at the #1 spot until we at least see their full varsity squad race together. However, we did learn over the weekend that, from a depth perspective, Lebo has the edge on CRN at this point in the game. Of course, at the end of the day, they only score five guys and the projected five scorers for CRN are still really good. Kevin Ehrgott had an excellent race in Week One and he was one of the guys they needed to take a step forward. As far as I’m concerned, they are still the team to beat, but, unlike the preseason, I’m sure a lot of people vehemently disagree.

2017 XC Top 50 Rankings: Week Two

51. Kevin Ehrgott, CR North (1 AAA)
50. Tyler Rollins, Sr DT West (1 AAA)
49. Evan Kaiser, Sr DT West (1 AAA)
This was a tricky spot and ultimately we end up getting 51 guys on the list as a result. I’ve been impressed with the DT West guys start to the year. The depth is there, it just comes down to the front running. Based on year’s past, I see one of those two breaking out and becoming a top 30 guy in AAA, but it’s too hard to tell right now without normal 5k racing going down. As for Ehrgott, he had a great first race, runs for a strong program and seems like an ascending talent. Seemed deserving of a spot, but competition was tight this week. Also want to see him with one more performance of this caliber to back it up a bit.

48. Garrett Baublitz, So Juniata (6 AA)
47. Andrew Stanley, Sr Southern Huntington (6 A)

46. Patrick Anderson, So Mount Lebanon (7 AAA)
Mt Lebo’s #1 runner from Meet #2, this sophomore has been off to a hot start. I’m interested to see how he and Costentino will share the lead spot or if this sophomore will hit his stride and just take off down the stretch. Lebo needs somebody to finish in the state medals this year for AAA if they want to have a legit shot at the title (will likely need two state medalists and 4 top 50 guys). Right now Anderson is my #30 for his classification.

45. Jack Miller, Jr Jenkintown (1 A)
44. Sam Early, Sr CR North (1 AAA)

43. Cameron Binda, Jr Greensburg Salem (7 AA)
Binda was a prime example of why you can’t over-react to one week’s worth of performances. Binda was the #4 finisher at Marty Uher, but had the fastest time of any of those Uher guys this weekend when he took 3rd in a 15:58 at RWB. Binda and Brown should jockey with each other most of the season, hopefully culminating in both juniors getting on the medal stand for the first time.

42. Christian Fitch, So Fox Chapel (7 AAA)
I remember Fitch from an early season race at Coopers last year and thought he may be a top 20 guy in the WPIAL by the end of his freshman season. He ended up mixed in toward the back of the state qualifiers and now is joining an ultra-talented class of runners. Fitch was 2nd in his opener behind Ben Barnes of Riverview on the tricky Gateway course, but clearly benefited from the switch to the speedier RWB with a 15:40s time nearly 2 minutes faster. It will be interesting to see if Fitch can prove himself on some of the hillier layouts later this fall.

41. Peter Costentino, Jr Mount Lebanon (7 AAA)
40. LeShawn Huff, Sr New Castle (7 AA)

39. Ethan Hermann, Sr Allderdice (8 AAA)
Hermann may be the leader in the clubhouse for most improved of 2017. Doing a great job and emerging as a medal contender for Allderdice. After their best finish in the last 10+ years last season, Hermann and Davis are out to top it in 2017.

38. Nate Price, Jr General McLane (10 AA)

37. Alex Ermold, Jr Governor Mifflin (3 AAA)
A very intriguing name. It’s a bit of a transition year for District 3 and Ermold seems like the perfect type of runner to take advantage. I could see him as a top 5 guy in the district, maybe even top 3. Obviously, he is going to have to prove that this breakthrough is not a fluke, but I feel confidence that Ermold can hold his spot on this list.

36. Jacob McKenna, Sr Spring Ford (1 AAA)
I’m excited by this result from McKenna. After his sophomore track season, I had some pretty big hopes for him and, although he had a very strong junior year, I may have heaped too much pressure on him. This first invite of 2017 was brilliant and huge for a Spring Ford team that will be in yet another dog fight for a state qualifying birth. Let’s see if McKenna can hold this form or, better yet, his classmates jump up and join him.

35. Jeffrey Love, Jr George School (Independent)
Thus far, Love has been the best independent league runner by a good margin. He’s the top returner for that group as well. He picked up a nice first win, but I’m really looking forward to when he takes on some guys ranked well above him on the list. He’s making the sophomore to junior jump which makes him quite dangerous as the season goes on.

34. Owen Isham, Jr State College (6 AAA)
33. Mark Brown, Jr Greensburg Salem (7 AA)
32. Tavonne Davis, Sr Allderdice (8 AAA)
31. David Endres, Jr CB East (1 AAA)
30. Ryan Stravaggi, Jr Harbor Creek (10 AA)
29. Ethan Koza, Sr CR North (1 AAA)
28. Bryce Ohl, Sr York Suburban (3 AA)
27. Brendan Miller, Sr Upper Dauphin (3 A)
26. Evan Addison, Sr LaSalle (12 AAA)
25. Carlos Shultz, So Conestoga (1 AAA)
24. Seth Ketler, Jr Seneca Valley (7 AAA)

23. Tyler Leeser, Sr Milton Area (4 AA)
Although Leeser technically dropped in the rankings this week, that was more about others crushing it as opposed to him coming up short of expectations. I thought Leeser had a great day at PTXC and picked up a win, which never should be underappreciated. I’d like to see him match up with the top guys head to head, but there will be chances for that soon.

22. Czar Tarr, Sr Chartiers Valley (7 AAA)
Big opening result for Czar Tarr of Chartiers Valley as he was 3rd at RWB and defeated some big names in the process. I’m expecting those top names to jockey a bit (top 4 within 5 seconds) so that could swing either way for Czar in the coming weeks in terms of moving up or down the rankings. The guy was very solid last year as a consistent top 10ish performer in the WPIAL. He’s making a nice jump, but nothing so crazy that it can’t be maintained. Plus, he’s got an awesome name for a dominant runner. The Czar should continue to take names this fall.

21. Jack Wisner, Jr Carlisle (3 AAA)
20. Quinn Serfass, Sr Loyalsock (4 AA)
19. Jonah Powell, Jr Grove City (10 AA)
18. Jared Giannascoli, Sr Lower Dauphin (3 AAA)
17. Sam Owori, Jr Seneca Valley (7 AAA)
16. Jack Zardecki, Sr Dallas (2 AAA)

15. Dan McGoey, So North Allegheny (7 AAA)
In the preseason, I really liked McGoey’s upside. He had proven himself as a freshman and now, just one race into his sophomore season, he looks like arguably the best underclassmen in the state. We’ve had sophomores place 3rd at states each of the past two years. Both were young brothers of guys who, as seniors, competed for a state championship. This isn’t a perfect equivalent, but, hey, maybe McGoey can jump into the top 5 or so in the state this year. For now, he’s jumped up into the top 20.

14. Joe Cullen, Sr Wyomissing (3 AA)

13. Tyler Wirth, Jr Wallenpaupack (2 AAA)
One of the biggest movers from this past week, Tyler Wirth gets the nod for a top 15 spot after just one XC invitational. Why? Well the Wallenpaupack junior finished as the #2 PA runner in arguably the deepest PA Invite of the weekend at PTXC. I don’t want to overreact to one great race, but I felt the same way about Wirth entering this season as I felt about Domenic Perretta after his big sophomore breakthrough. The guy is too talented to not be a force on the trails. While comparing Wirth’s track accomplishments to Perretta’s isn’t fair to Domenic, I’m aiming to make the point that Tyler is a massive talent who, if things click for him in XC, will be a force. This was still just his first invite. That could mean I’m overreacting after one strong result or it could mean that he is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.

12. Morgan Cupp, Sr Mechanicsburg (3 AAA)

11. Mitchell Etter, Sr State College (6 AAA)
This is another big jump that may be a bit premature. Etter beat a couple guys I was pretty high on coming into the weekend in Quinn Serfass and Jack Wisner. And, quite frankly, Etter defeated them by a solid margin. We didn’t get to see what Etter could have been if he stayed healthy during his first big XC season last year. We barely even got to see him compete in varsity races. But on the track, he was excellent and after one outdoor race he’s already set himself up to pick up where Feffer and Milligan left off: potential district champ with a top 15 finish in the state. The question is: can he be even better than those two and crack the top 10?

10. Sam Snodgrass, Sr South Fayette (7 AA)
9. Avery Lederer, Sr Penncrest (1 AAA)
8. Isaac Davis, Sr Jersey Shore (4 AA)

7. Liam Conway, Sr Owen J Roberts (1 AAA)
Although Conway barely moved in the rankings this week, he had one of the most impressive performances there was. Liam proved last track season that he can be a clutch performer. He’s always been a solid XC guy and we shouldn’t penalize him because he also happens to be very fast on the oval. Honestly, the kid could win states this year in the right race. He’s going to be up against true XC guys, but he has the tools to pull off an upset on the right day. That being said, for now I’ve got to slot him here until he can build up his trails resume a bit more. He’s still aiming for that first XC state medal this fall.

6. Josh Hoey, Sr Bishop Shanahan (1 AAA)
The sleeping giant of the top 50 list. Still waiting to see his form against the top tier guys and make sure XC is a focus. Clearly, whatever Hoey puts his mind to, he is successful at.

5. Spencer Smucker, Sr Henderson (1 AAA)

4. Tristan Forsythe, Sr Winchester Thurston (7 A)
I always underestimate Forsythe. Always. That being said, I think Forsythe has a shot to be a national finalist this year after seeing his week one results. A 4:12 wire to wire win, the guts to take the lead at states at 2 miles and push for the win, and a long list of state medal accomplishments seems to be enough evidence. All he needs now is the health. Fingers crossed.

3. Ryan Campbell, Sr CR North (1 AAA)

2. Rusty Kujdych, Sr Neshaminy (1 AAA)
Will we see Kujdych and Beveridge head to head this year prior to states? Each guy has raced once and both have been tops in PA. Rusty didn’t do quite enough to take back his preseason #1 ranking, but he’s still just one statement victory away from reclaiming it. I’m looking forward to jockeying this two around the list at some point soon.

1. Noah Beveridge, Sr Butler (7 AAA)