Sophomore Year: 2007-2008

Defining Runners
Mark Dennin, Boyertown
My freshman year, Jason Weller had established himself as one of the clutchest performers in the state’s history. It didn’t take long for his teammate Mark Dennin to join the same group. After spending most of the XC season stuck behind Chris Aldrich and Vince McNally in the state rankings, Dennin entered the state meet an underdog. But he pushed the pace hard from the gun and broke the spirit of all his competitors en route to a 29 second victory at the state championships. By the way, it wasn’t a fluke. Dennin doubled down on his accomplishments with a 2nd place finish at the Footlocker Northeast Regional and a 13th place finish at the National Championships.

When he stepped on the track, Dennin did something that even Weller hadn’t done. He won the Penn Relays individual title at 3,000 meters (8:30.11). Capitalizing on that momentum, Dennin cruised to district and state championships in the 3200 and ran a very quick 9:03 for 3200 meters.

But ultimately my biggest Mark Dennin memory will be the time I met him on the bus at my first ever district championships. Apparently our teams were getting in some type of fruit throwing fight during a rainy day and Dennin came on board with Dave Moyer to talk with us once a treaty had been brokered. At the time, he easily passed the “Felix is probably wetting his pants right now” threshold that teammates used to determine how good a runner was. And isn’t that the most important testing of all when determining defining runners?

Max Kaulbach, GFS
From my perspective, Max Kaulbach was the first great independent leaguer. And Kaulbach’s achievements marked the first time (of many) that I would lament not having a PA Meet of Champions. I knew Kaulbach was good. He led a strong GFS team to one of the top spots in the Northeast Regional during XC, was top PA at Paul Short and had run very fast over 4,000m at Van Cortlandt (12:27). But Kaulbach didn’t truly become generation defining (to me) until his mile at indoor states.

Kaulbach, more of a longer distance type, entered the mile against Vince McNally and Nick Crits, the top two individuals returning from the previous year’s outdoor state meet. He was a big underdog against the speedsters and, as he sat back in the early stages and allowed a slow pace, it seemed like his chances for gold were increasingly unlikely. But on the last lap, Max sprang into action, handled an early surge from Crits and then blasted home the final 100 meters for the state gold. A short while later, Kaulbach won the indoor national championship for 2 miles at NSIC, defeating the reigning indoor state champ from the 3k in Josh Izewski. His time of 9:02.65 was also an indoor state record for the two mile.

Outdoors, Kaulbach joined the sub 9 minute club with an 8:58 for 3200. He also anchored GFS to a Penn Relays championship in the DMR and ran 3:54 for 1500. It would have been fun to see him go head to head with Dennin when both were clicking, but we never got that match up at either XC Regionals or a major outdoor meet.

Nick Crits, Wissahickon
Crits and I have the same birthday. It’s not really that important to the conversation, but I just wanted to throw that out there. The fact that I know that (and it was a huge deal when it was brought to my attention) should indicate how significant Crits was during his senior season.

Nick ran for our rivals in Wissahickon and was the first elite runner I saw up close and personal. His kick was lethal and no one within the Suburban One league could hang with him when he made his move. But Crits proved himself outside our small bubble of achievement. He was 5th at states for XC, 2nd indoors in the mile (while sick) and then 1st at states outdoors in the 1600. That race forever made him a legend-but we’ll get to that.

Crits is also a member of the sub 1:55, sub 4:17, sub 9:20 club, speaking to his range across a variety of distances. He has PRs of 15:26, 9:15 (basically solo), 4:11 (1:56 last 800) and 1:53 (on the double to win districts).

Vince McNally, Conestoga Valley
McNally is one of the greatest talents that we have ever seen come through PA. From his freshman season, he was a star. Lost in the shuffle of a loaded Lancaster-Lebanon, McNally took 13th at XC states as a frosh. He followed that mark with an outdoor state title, splitting 1:55 as the third leg of a 7:40.06 4x800 relay. By the end of his sophomore season, McNally had clocked 15:02 for 5k, taken bronze at XC states and set himself up as the favorite to take over the state once the Miller boys graduated.

However, things weren’t easy for Vince. He had to battle injuries during the next fall and settled for 5th in the state. During indoor track, he was well back from the leaders in the mile. Eventually, though, he rounded back into peak form and he hit his stride for the outdoor season. Vince entered the state 1600 feeling confident and strong for perhaps the first time all year and the results reflected it-he clocked 4:11 with about a 2:01 second half for gold. Then, extending his season out to nationals, he ran 4:08.99 for a full mile, or 4:07.55 converted for 1600. Vince is still in the top 10 ever for PA high schoolers in the event. If you don’t count indoor times, he’s even higher on the list as Josh Hoey, Noah Affolder and Sam Ritz drop out from ahead of him leaving only Vandegrift, Lowry and Magaha.

As a senior, Vince didn’t eclipse that 1600 PR, but he continued to add to his legacy. He qualified for Footlocker Nationals in XC, ran another 15:02-this time at LLs, placed all-state for the indoor mile and dropped 4:13-1:55-9:05 marks on the outdoor oval. It would have been interesting to see McNally shift his focus to the 3200 outdoors. He ran 9:05 very early in the season and beat Dennin head to head. However, McNally decided to stick with his original success at 1600 and try to defend his title. Ultimately, he didn’t have the kick to hold on and win another gold in the event. But we will get to that.

Defining Teams
Led by the aforementioned Max Kaulbach, GFS rolled to back to back independent league championships in XC. They also represented the state proudly in some marquee invitationals including Paul Short where they took home the gold. Germantown Friends was 5th at the first ever Nike Team Northeast Regional championships, one spot back of PIAA champs North Penn. Kaulbach was 2nd in the region and Jake McKenzie was 13th.

On the track, the GFS boys impressed as well. After running some fast times in the DMR, they decided to focus their energies on individual events at the indoor state championship. Kaulbach set the tone winning the mile and was joined by teammate Isaac Ortiz on the medal stand (6th). In the 3,000 meters, Kaulbach doubled off his 4:15 for 3rd in a time of 8:37. This time, it was Jake McKenzie who accompanied him at the awards, placing 6th with a time of 8:48.

Because they loaded up on the individual events, GFS decided to run a completely fresh DMR without any of their big three legs. Despite the absence of their seniors, a young squad competed valiantly with the deep field and clocked a time of 10:41 for 7th overall and another round of state medals. Their point total placed them 5th in the state and was made up completely of distance events. At indoor nationals, Kaulbach added an individual national title in the 2 mile and their 4xMile relay took 3rd in the same meet, dropping a very quick 17:34.

Outdoors, the focus shifted back to the relays where the team could shine. They dropped an early season 4x8 at 7:47.50 at the CB West Relays and asserted themselves as an early PA #1. Then, they rolled to the Penn Relays Championship of America in the DMR. Ortiz set the tone from the jump, running 3:07 on his 1200 leg, while Kaulbach brought it home with a 4:15.1 anchor. Their final time was 10:11.54 and they had a winning margin of exactly 5 seconds over indoor state champs LaSalle.

North Penn
The Knights in blue had already labeled themselves a “Dynasty” before the 2007-2008 season was underway. The team’s 4x800 relay had won 8 of the previous 10 indoor state championships, including the most recent three seasons. In the spring of 2007, after a drought in their favorite relay, a team of Justin Bookheimer, Brian Quintrell, Steve Franks and Zack Montijo brought the outdoor golds back to North Penn, outdueling a talented squad from Baldwin with a 7:43.22. All four of those guys were set to return in 2008 to defend their title.

During the indoor season, North Penn quickly established their dominance. Montijo, Bookheimer and Franks all entered the open 800 meters at the indoor state championship and took down 2nd, 5th and 6th respectively. They entered the 4x800 relay with tired legs-with the exception of lead off runner Brian Quintrell. But any doubts about their victory were quickly erased as Quintrell handed off at the front of the field, clocking a 1:57.08 split on leg 1. North Penn’s final time was 7:48.99, a new state meet record. Montijo soloed the final leg with a time of 1:55.45. The team clinched the state title with over 40 points. To cap off the indoor season, North Penn broke their own indoor state record by clocking a 7:47.48 at the indoor national championships to roll to the national title at the Armory by nearly 5 seconds.

After their electric indoor performance, it was on to outdoor track. They had bested records on the short track, but taking down the fabled 7:36 4x800 record would be much tougher. Things didn’t start great for the Knights at the Penn Relays either. After cruising through the preliminary round, North Penn entered the finals hoping to win the Championship of America against top Jamaican squads Calabar and Manchester. Quintrell held his own on the crowded lead off and handed off in third at 1:58.7. Steve Franks dropped a huge 1:53.4 to keep them at the front on the second leg and then Justin Bookheimer opened up the lead with a 1:54.9 split. That meant Zack Montijo had the stick in his hand with a lead. Up until this point, he had been money in that position.

But in a stunning turn, Montijo faded on the last lap and Machester soared by on the anchor leg. Montijo clocked an uncharacteristic performance, dropping a 1:57.4 split and North Penn had to settle for 2nd-7:44.39 to 7:43.22.

However, North Penn did not let it get them down. The Knights demolished a strong field at the District One Championships, clocking 7:44.81 and winning by nearly 8 seconds. In the finals at states, with heavy pressure on their backs, North Penn did not disappoint. Quintrell started things with a 1:57.54, then Steve Franks dropped a 1:53.68 on leg #2. Even with those fast times, North Penn still had company from CB West who had run arguably their best two legs in the 1-2 position. Once again it was Justin Bookheimer’s job to break things open and he did just that, opening up a big lead with a 1:54.16 carry. Now it was down to Montijo. Running completely alone and vulnerable, Montijo launched right into action. Unlike the Penn Relays, he ran strong and composed the entire way and torched the track en route to a 1:53.08 carry. The clock stopped on North Penn’s epic relay with a time of 7:38.79. It wasn’t faster than Wissahickon’s state record, but, at the time, it was the 2nd fastest 4x800 relay in the history of the state. Note-at the time.

Oh, by the way, the 2007-2008 North Penn Knights were also the state champions during XC earlier that fall. After not even qualifying for states the year previously, North Penn decided to turn it up a notch. Montijo and Quintrell were both integral parts of their XC success, each breaking 16 minutes at Lehigh. Montijo was the team’s #1 runner at states with a 6th place finish. However, the big lift came from sophomore Brad Miles. In one of the best sophomore performances ever, Miles clocked a 15:24 at districts and went on to take 10th at states and 7th at regionals. Miles, Montijo and Zach Hoagland (posted all time marks at Carlisle and Briarwood) all were medalists for the state and district champions.

Overall, North Penn came just 10 points shy of winning the triple crown-XC, Indoor Track and Outdoor Track. The Knights won both the 4x8 and the 4x4 relay (3:15.54) with their middle distance prowess and also had medalists in the 400 and 800. But it wasn’t enough as Altoona, led by sprinter Aaron Nadolsky and timely field events, scored 44 points and knocked off the D1 powerhouse.

Best “The 11” Story
Dan Lowry
The 2008 season was the last year before the PIAA let the PCL in to race with the rest of the state so we never got to see Dan Lowry go for an individual state championship in cross or outdoor. During the indoor season, Lowry decided to skip any individual events to focus on the DMR. So again, no individual title.

But Lowry was unquestionably strong. After winning the PCL championship, Lowry took 12th at the Footlocker Northeast Regional and came just a few spots away from joining PA’s big three at nationals. During indoor track, Lowry ran a 4:12.51 anchor leg to win the DMR championship by 14 seconds. His squad ran a meet record 10:15.89 that stood all the way until Carlisle’s national record squad was able to knock it off the list. Lowry also split 4:12.2 on the anchor at the Penn Relays, the fastest split of the meet. It was good enough to move his team past 8 others and into 2nd place overall.

Outdoors, Lowry ran 4:13.49 at the PA Distance Festival in the full mile distance to cap off his racing career. Although he had a rabbit in coach Greg Bielecki, Lowry ended up winning the race by some 6 seconds over the next closest competitor. That time converts to 4:12.02 for 1600 and would be in line with PRs from Nick Crits, Greg Kareis and TJ Hobart (the top 3 at states). Lowry was a team player, a gutsy anchor runner and a talented individual athlete. He went on to become a sub-4 miler and one of the fastest PA-native 5k runners ever (maybe the fastest?). I’m sure he would be a fascinating story, but also an under told one.

Khalif Featherstone
Khalif Featherstone is one of the most interesting runners in state history. Although he’s more sprinter than distance runner, the Simon Gratz grad could really do it all from the time he first stepped on the track as a freshman. After producing big times his first season, the sophomore led Simon Gratz to state championships in the 4x1, 4x4 and 4x8 relay. He anchored the 4x8 in a time of 1:52, knocking off title hopefuls North Penn, and brought home the 4x4 title with a carry of 46 seconds. Both wins were come from behind victories by the sophomore. Featherstone also split a 1:52.2 on an indoor SMR that got Simon Gratz near the national record.

But ultimately Khalif ended up more of a 400 runner than an 800 runner. It would have been interesting to see him truly test himself in the 800, but he ran the 4-8 double his junior season (the great “what if” open 800 from a post ago) and left himself out of gas for the second race. As a senior, he won long coveted state titles at 400 meters and skipped out on the 800 yet again. Not sure if it is a “what if” or a “the 11” kind of storyline, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Featherstone in with this class of guys.

And for added controversy, Featherstone graduated high school in 2008 at the age of 19 years old, making him on the older side for a high schooler.

This was another interesting storyline. Norristown, not known for their distance prowess, caught momentum at the right time and earned the silver medals at states for the 4x800 relay. In the fall, Norristown was 52nd in the district for cross country. Even the individual results for their 800 legs in the 2 and 4 lap races were lacking. But when the pressure was on, Norristown ran 7:45.44 with a balanced line up and took 2nd behind only one of the greatest 4x8 relays of all time in North Penn.

Best Race

I’m just going to leave that here. It’s the #1 race from my PIAA all-decade races list for a reason.

Biggest “What If”
What if Tom Troxell didn’t lose his shoe?
For those of you unfamiliar with minor details from 4x8s that happened almost 10 years ago, allow me to fill you in. Tom Troxell of Cedar Crest entered the 2008 outdoor state championships as one of the sport’s biggest rising stars. He had run 1:52.61 at his district championship in the middle of a triple and rolled to the individual title. That time made him the #1 seed in the open 800. Cedar Crest was also the district champs in the 4x8 (#6 seed) and 4x4 (#3 seed). For most, they were a compelling sleeper pick in a variety of events.

On Day One, the Cedar Crest relays qualified through to the finals with relative ease and Troxell won his section of the individual 800. Everything was going well. Day two for Troxell would start with the 4x8. He got the baton in the mix with a pack of teams competing for the silver. However, during his leg he was clipped from behind and lost his shoe. Despite this loss, he was able to gut out a carry around 1:53-1:54 and help his team to 5th overall. However, he was rolling when he lost the shoe and it’s not crazy to think he could have put together something heroic and chased down a higher position. Then, in the 800 finals, Troxell was feeling the effects of running a hard race without a shoe. He had to DNF the open 800 opening the door for a surprise state champion … Tom Mallon, a sophomore from CB South, stunned everybody with an epic 1:52.35 carry for the gold medal. That race set the stage for big things to come from Mallon and his CB South teammates. But, unsurprisingly, we will get to that later.

What if other teams cared about the 2008 Indoor DMR?
As mentioned earlier, a huge carry from Dan Lowry helped LaSalle absolutely roll to the indoor state championship in the DMR in a record setting time. But LaSalle was not necessarily favorites entering that meet. The top seed was Engineering & Science, led by state champion hopefuls in Elliot Rhodes (won the indoor 800) and Terrence Lee (won the outdoor 1600) along with speedsters like Austin Perron. However, E&S was doubling everybody, including anchor Terrence Lee off the 3,000 meters.

Germantown Friends was stacked (as evidenced by their DMR title at the Penn Relays), but they opted to load up the individual events and skipped out on the relay. Archbishop Ryan, who went on to become national champions at NSIC, chose the 4x8 over the DMR. Sean Mallon would have been their anchor. He ran a 4:15 anchor split in his best race at NSIC and also medal indoors at the mile, taking 3rd overall. Ryan was the Last Chance Meet Champions in the DMR and runner-ups to LaSalle at Meet of Champs.

CB East, who took 2nd in the 4x8, had the potential to unleash a dangerous DMR. If you combine their 4x8 pieces with the indoor state 3k champion in Josh Izewski you would have a pretty loaded squad. North Penn could have done damage (but they were always gonna pick the 4x8) and HG Prep or Wissahickon had nice squads as well. Out of the top teams that did actually enter (Baldwin, Upper Dublin, E&S) basically everyone was doubling (or tripling) a key leg.

Ultimately, this ended up a little bit of a one team race as LaSalle won big. If they had more competition, maybe they could have been pushed to an even faster time. Who knows what we could have seen from Lowry on a more urgent anchor leg? We have to give major props to Penncrest for impressing with their silver medal performance. That is one of the more unlikely DMR rises we have seen in recent years and they put it together perfectly on race day. Could things have been different if the race was more crowded out front?

It's not my favorite “what if”, but it’s something I think about from time to time.

My Personal Best Running Moment
Yes, I’m doing two moments again. Sorry.

The Quarter Bet
This was my first breakthrough moment in track. I think there’s a chapter on this in All My Friends are Runners that might sum it up best, but basically I ran a 56.9 in the 400 the day after a workout when I had never even broken 60 before that race. It was the race that first made me feel like I could actually be kinda decent at running.

The Best Race of My Life
Even now, having run for a decade since this race happened, I still feel that the 2008 Suburban One Conference Championships slow heat of the 800 meters is the greatest race I have ever run. It’s not the fastest, but it’s the best. I got the most out of myself that day that I can ever remember getting. Maybe it was just the first time that I really pushed myself (I was a young kid who didn’t know much about racing) and that makes it feel like the best race I’ve had, but regardless I’m sticking with it.

I didn’t even know if I was going to make it into the race. To that point, I had only run 2:07 in the 800 (hand time) so I was a bubble guy just to get into the meet. If I wasn’t running the 800, I was going to be entered in the 3200 (quite the difference) because my time stacked up better in that event. So it was hard to prepare. I warmed up with our other 800 guys and checked in to see if I would be accepted. By my count (and I could be way off on this) I may have been the last guy in. But I got the chance and I didn’t look back.

The first 400 I went out hard in about 61 seconds (my PR prior to the quarter bet). That was quick for a 2:07 guy, but back then I used to do stupid stuff like that all the time. I didn’t learn how to even split for another 6 years. The difference was, this time I was able to hang on. I pushed hard the third 200 meters and, when it seemed like I had nothing left, I found another gear for the last 200. I ended up gradually moving up through the heat, passing some guys who I knew were faster than me and nearly kicking down the top guy for the win in the slow heat. My final time was 2:04.82. A year earlier I ended my season running 2:21.

My legs actually kinda gave out as I crossed the line (I tried to do a lean for no real reason and fell over) and I just laid down on the track for a while as one of my friends (shout out Ryan Desch) ran over to the side of the fence and yelled “Felix-2:04!” to which I responded with a small wave of appreciation. Later on, I threw up a peanut butter sandwich and a hot dog in the stands at PW High School. Sophomore year was a simpler time.

PA’s Fastest Seniors
800m (1:55)
1. Elliot Rhodes, Germantown Academy (E&S) 1:52.43*
2. Tom Troxell, Cedar Crest 1:52.61
3. Brian Fulton, Malvern Prep 1:52.77
4. Nick Crits, Wissahickon 1:53.47
5. Joe Capecci, CR North 1:53.48
T-6. Tyler Golden, Central Dauphin 1:53.55
T-6. Ben Scheetz, Manheim Township 1:53.55
8. Chris Pregler, CB West 1:53.73
9. Dave Farina, Norwin 1:53.82
10. Steve Franks, North Penn 1:53.88*
11. Ben Hatch, Bellwood-Antis 1:54.05
12. Zack Montijo, North Penn 1:54.12
13. Eli Weeks, Owen J Roberts 1:54.25*
14. Trevor VanAckeren, Liberty 1:54.39
15. Max Kaulbach, GFS 1:54.7h

1600m (4:17)
1. Vince McNally, Conestoga Valley 4:07.55c*
2. Nick Crits, Wissahickon 4:11.69
3. Dan Lowry, LaSalle 4:12.02c
4. Greg Kareis, Red Lion 4:12.94
5. Terrence Lee, E&S 4:14.25ic
6. Max Kaulbach, GFS 4:14.32ic
7. Jake McKenzie, GFS 4:15.44c
8. Trevor VanAckeren, Liberty 4:15.91*
9. Chris Aldrich, Henderson 4:16.43*
10. Sean Mallon, Ryan 4:16.59ic
11. Dave Adley, Baldwin 4:16.63

3200m (9:20)
1. Max Kaulbach, GFS 8:58.69e
2. Mark Dennin, Boyertown 9:03.63
3. Chris Bodary, Bishop Shanahan 9:03.83ic
4. Vince McNally, Conestoga Valley 9:05.1
5. Chris Aldrich, Henderson 9:07.53
6. Nick Crits, Wissahickon 9:15.62
7. Greg Kareis, Red Lion 9:15.74*
8. Josh Izewski, CB East 9:16.03ic

9. Chris Cipro, Seneca Valley 9:19.19*

A Traditional Recap For Old Times Sake

Millrose Games Trials
The Armory’s in-week meet featured a big set of results for two top contenders. Liam Conway of Owen J Roberts inserted his name into the state champ miler conversation, dropping a 4:15.33 to win the title this weekend. This is a new indoor PR for Conway and continues a real hot streak for the senior. He went from about 5th with a lap to go all the way up to first in the race by the final meters. It’s a classic kick that Conway has shown in each of his past two state titles and will make people think in a tactical affair at either states or the Millrose Games.

Meanwhile, Pennsbury put their name in the discussion for state champions in the 4x800 meter. The Orangemen ran 7:57 and qualified for the Millrose games in their own right with a third place finish at the Trials. Unsurprisingly, Pennsbury had three guys under 2 minutes including a 1:57.1 and 1:56.2 leg from the #2 and #4 legs (listed as Jed Scratchard and Javier Linares respectively, but those names aren’t necessarily listed in the correct order). Pennsbury opened up a big lead on leg 1 and held it strongly on leg 2, meaning that those runners could have even potentially ran faster with more competition.

Also worth noting at this meet-Spencer Smucker bettered his mile time and ran 4:24.19. He’s up to #5 in the state for the mile and could jump up more after scratches come states (I’d be surprised to see Rusty in the mile, although maybe he surprises and tries the double).

Golden Bear Invitational
Kutztown isn’t the fastest track that you will compete at, but some guys made it look pretty quick this weekend. The boys from Ephrata continue to impress in 2018 as they dropped a season best 8:25 in the 4x800 to win by some 25 seconds. They dropped a similar time earlier this year at Ursinus in a faster facility with better competition. There hasn’t been much 4x8 buzz to date, leaving Ephrata 11th in the state at this moment and time (which would be comfortably into state qualifying). Things likely won’t stay this stagnant in the 4x8, but still this team could be really dangerous in a fast race.

Those Ephrata boys doubled back to take 2-3 in the open 800 and 1-2 in what appeared to be the fast section. However, Warwick’s Connor Shields, doubling off a silver in the 3k, popped off an impressive 2:03.44 to win the 800 from section 2. Shields, a dynamite miler, showcased some impressive raw speed in this meet. I think he’s going to be a dangerous sleeper in the mile should things come together for him in a qualifying opportunity. The mile will be crowded, however, as we already have 12 guys at the SQG (the most of any distance event).

Lavino Relays
Many of those aforementioned 4x8 squads ahead of Ephrata asserted themselves at the Lavino Relays. In the first distance relay of the day, CR South made big waves with a time of 8:03.88 to take top PA honors and second overall. South, who I had talked about intermittedly on this site before, really surprised me with this big of a breakthrough. They hadn’t been under 8:20 yet this year, but turned it up in their first marquee opportunity. The near state medalists from 2017 are back and ready to roll in 2018.

CB West, Bensalem and GFS were all also under 8:20, putting them in early state qualifying position. These are, of course, historically strong 4x8 programs. GFS was second at states last year, but graduated two key pieces in Nick Dahl and Jonnie Plass. However, the Independent League power still has a nice level of depth returning and their 8:19 proved that. Bensalem has been indoor state champs in the past (as recently as 2013) and CB West is the reigning outdoor state champs in the 4x8. They clocked an 8:16.52 for 3rd overall.

What made the CB West performance interesting was the fact that they weren’t strong in only the 4x8. West also clocked a 10:29 to win the DMR and take the PA #1 honors in that event. Their 4x2 won a gold medal as well (1:33.89), their 4x4 took home the bronze in 3:32 and their SMR was also 3rd (3:38.95). It really shows just how deep their stable of middle distance talent is at this point. Off the top of my head, they have Fehrman, Claricurzio, Baker, Bunch, and Laatsch to distribute across the various events and clearly other guys are stepping up to be contributors. This school is very dangerous in my eyes and I’m excited to see them fully unleash their pieces in a 4x8 before all is said and done.

As mentioned, CB West won the DMR in 10:29 (a point I just glossed over, speaking to how strong this team was across the board), but two other PA teams cracked 11 minutes. CR North, a very dangerous DMR squad, opened up their season in the event with a 10:41.53. That’s #3 in the state with conversions. Also making an impact were the boys at Boyertown. The Bears ran 10:54.89 to take 6th overall. Keep in mind Boyertown also had Christian McComb and Justyn Smith running at the TFCAofGP meet at the same day. This is another deep squad with potential to excel in a variety of events.

The sprint medley is not an event that often gets love, but the boys from CB East have put a lot of eggs into this basket this season and deserve a shout out. After a great performance at Burdette, the Patriots decided to attack the event on a fast track at Lavino. The result was a big win and a new school record, clocking 3:37.45 to defeat the home town kids from Lawrenceville. David Endres split 1:57.1 on the anchor and helped break a record that included state champ and all-time great Kevin Nishiyama (1:52.67 PB outdoors).

And, oh by the way, Pennsbury-just a few days after their 7:57-clocked a 3:28 and put themselves in the state title conversation for the 4x4 as well. Bensalem showed some nice mid-distance depth as well with their 3:32.

Division I
The LaSalle Army continues to flex its muscles this weekend. After taking 1-2 in the PCL regular season 3k with Bradden Koors and Jack Seiberlich (9:16-9:19), the Explorer’s Ethan Maher dropped a 9:14 to win the 3k at team’s league. It’s early, but as things currently stand, Maher’s time is 13th in adjusted state rankings and he would likely be into the state championship via scratches. Paul Ghantous was also a gold medal winner from LaSalle to just edge Christian McComb in the open 800.

Of course the most impressive result for LaSalle was their big win in the DMR. They clocked a 10:39 to win the race going away over a talented DT West squad. LaSalle will be the #2 team in the state rankings behind CB West’s Lavino performance. This program has an elite history in the DMR (two state titles and a bunch more medal worthy runs) and they look like they are on track for another performance in the 10:20s this season.

I liked DT West’s performance a lot. They put together a sub 11 mark and continued to be consistently strong in this event. They have a knack for sneaking into the state final in the DMR and, once there, they are always in the mix for a medal. The District 1 XC champs are ready to roll after taking their season through November in the fall. Kevin Wagner also put in a nice 3k performance to qualify for Meet of Champs.

The always dangerous Abington mid-distance squad left their first mark on the 4x8 this season, clocking 8:25 for the win. Also impressing in the relays was Haverford. They took 3rd in the DMR with a time just over 11 minutes. Haverford was another one of my teams to watch in some recent posts. I think they are just beginning to scratch the surface of their potential as a young, up and coming team.

Division II
 Ethan Zeh of Radnor won what was perhaps the race of the meet, dropping a 4:38.13 to defeat Elias Lindgren’s 4:38.54. The Radnor mid-distance runner has been in the mix at both the mile and the 800 this season and looks very strong. It feels like Radnor has had one guy a year who becomes an elite two lapper between Holm, Kelly and Cooke. Maybe Zeh is next in line this season. The Great Valley boys potential discussed by our commenters is starting to come a bit more into focus. Seth Hoffritz picked up a strong 800 victory over Jenkintown XC standout Jack Miller 2:05.44 to 2:06.56 and Riley Casey picked up a medal in the individual mile, running 4:47. Lower Merion won the 4x8 and Twin Valley grabbed a solid gold in the DMR, clocking 11:10 to defeat Penncrest.

Bears High Invitational
There was a lot of action from out-of-staters, but leading the PA contingent (on the distance side) was Spring Ford. Inner-squad rivals John Zawislak and Shane Ainscoe pushed each other to solid marks of 9:22 in the 3k to take 4th and 5th individually. Meanwhile, the middle-distance guys showcased some speed in the 4x8 with a time of 8:24.11. That was good enough for the silver medal in the event and places the Rams 9th in the state after conversions. Spring Ford is also well positioned in the DMR at #5 in the state based on their Burdette performance against Pennsbury.

Freshman Year: 2006-2007

Defining Runners
Jason Weller, Boyertown
Paul Springer, Unionville

As you will see from the rest of this post, the 2006-2007 was owned by Weller and Springer. There were other great runners, don’t get me wrong, but these two guys were the talk of the town. Over the years, I’ve written countless posts about these two runners on this version of my blog, which is pretty wild considering that I didn’t start this site until November 2013. They’ve got multiple chapters in my autobiography/history book “All My Friends Are Runners”, pepper the greatest races/all-time lists and even lend their names to two of the greatest runners in this blog’s fictional history within “The Running Diaries”.

For those of you who need a refresher, Weller and Springer were both long distance super stars. They were good since their sophomore seasons (both guys grabbing XC state medals), but junior year was where they really started to shine. Springer won the indoor mile state championship and then doubled down on that gold with a 3200 state gold in a time of 9:01.72. That time, within inches of the long coveted state meet record of 8:58, launched Paul into all-time discussions as he entered his senior season.

Springer and Weller were the clear 1-2 in the state during the XC season, but we had to wait until Districts for the boys to go head to head. It was here, at Lehigh, that the Springer-Weller legend really gets going. Paul and Jason ran 14:47 and 14:54 respectively on this course, blowing the mind of a 14 year-old Jarrett Felix who was hoping to break 20 for the first time on that same day (we will get to that). Then, after Springer seemed superhuman, Weller somehow beat him at Hershey a week later, running 15:04. Yes, 15:04 at some version of Hershey (not the exact same one as today, but still).

Indoors, Weller won the Millrose Games in the mile, but Springer defeated Weller for a second straight indoor state title in the same event. Paul’s time of 4:12 was a meet record (which stood until Sam Ritz came along). Even though Springer got the head to head victory, Weller ended up doubling back with a solo 8:26 3k for the gold (and almost his own meet record). Add in a DMR medal and Weller left PSU with athlete of the meet honors.

Outdoors would be the final battle between the two and, based on the early months, it didn’t seem like it would be close. Springer dusted Weller at the Henderson Invite en route to a new state record in the 2 Mile (8:52 for the full two miles) and then smashed the last mile in their district 3200 duel, running 4:19 for the second half. So it appeared that Paul would roll to a second straight state title in the 32 and break that state meet record.

Nope. Weller put on the clutch gene and outsprinted Springer in hot conditions, dropping a new PR of 9:02 with a sub 60 last lap. Weller was super clutch, an unreal doubler and a really fast runner. He left with three state titles, including an XC-Indoor 3k-Outdoor 32 triple crown (when’s the last time somebody did that?). Springer also graduated with three state titles and a state record (which he still holds-kind of). He ran the fastest time in his class for the mile and the 3200 (plus he split a 1:52 for 800 apparently). Springer also ran 14:47 and made Footlocker Nationals.

Defining Teams

There were other teams that deserve to be mentioned (mainly Henderson who was runners-up at XC states, 1st indoors in the DMR at states … and nationals and had multiple medalists outdoors), but Coatesville was so dang good they kinda deserve their own section.

This XC squad was the greatest PA has ever seen-and probably ever will see. Coatesville’s #1 guy, Kyle Dawson, ran 14:58 at Lehigh and led a team of 5 runners who all finished under 15:50. A week later, Coatesville’s top 5 all placed in the top 18 at states. That’s not team scoring-that’s out of everyone. How about 3-6-8-12-18 overall in a year that included two all-time greats in the aforementioned Springer and Weller. Pretty good, right? Well it was so good that they went on to Nationals where Coatesville took 1st overall. As in no one in the country beat them. A more complete breakdown of these guys is also a chapter in “All My Friends Are Runners”. I can link that as well as the Weller-Springer stuff in the comment section if people are interested.

By the way, Coatesville wasn’t finished after XC. Indoors, their marquee twins (Kyle and Owen Dawson) were swimming so they didn’t do much (besides a state medal in the DMR and another in the 3k). However, by the time Penn Relays rolled around, these boys were fit. They held off a surging Craig Forys (4:04 split) to win the Championship of America in the DMR over the indoor national champs from nearby Henderson. Coatesville also stretched their distance acumen down to the 4x8 where they placed 5th in the state at 7:48.31. Kyle Dawson and Sean Ward medaled in the 3200 and Owen Dawson qualified for finals in the 1600 (4:18 in the prelims to do it).

Best “The 11” Story
The 800m
Strath Haven

There were two good options here (apart from writing about Weller-Springer or Coatesville, which would obviously be really fun). The first was the 800 meters. Andrew Rotz was probably the #3 on my “Defining Runners” list, but didn’t quite make the cut. The Central Dauphin senior split 1:51 to anchor his relay into third place in the 4x8 in 7:47. Then he doubled back and cruised to a state title in 1:51.65 in the AAA championship. But Rotz missed out on the chance to battle his biggest rivals outdoors. Jamar Jones of E&S, the indoor state champ with a 1:51.94 personal best, raced in the AA field (and won the title easily in 1:53). You also had the best runner from the independent league, junior Elliot Rhodes, who had clocked a 1:52.3 that season. Obviously, as an independent leaguer, he wasn’t at PIAA’s state meet. Lastly, you have Andrew Lobb. The West Chester East senior was the defending champ at 800 (ran 1:51.99), but an injury kept him out of the finals at states. So we had the chance to have a dream race between four amazing 800 runners, but none of them ended up facing any of the others in the state championship.

The other story was the Strath Haven boys. Rob Speare and Ryan Fink both went on absolute tears to end the season. Fink was a solid miler, but nothing crazy. However, over the home stretch of the season, he dipped from above 4:20 all the way down to 4:13. That 4:13 got him 2nd in the state championship. Speare’s drop wasn’t quite as dramatic, but he ended up clocking 8:32 for 3k and 9:10 in the heat for 3200 and took 3rd at states when all was said and done.

And, by the way, the Strath Haven story was almost completely different. The Haven 4x8 ran 7:58 and finished one spot out of the 4x8 finals (missing by 0.09 seconds). If they make the 4x8 finals, that could have meant both Speare and Fink would have had to double and that could have really damaged their medal hopes in the individual events. It would be a solid “What If” as well.

Best Race
Indoor States DMR

The best race of the year was, undoubtedly, Weller vs. Springer in the 3200 at outdoor states. However, there’s been plenty of Weller-Springer talk in this post already, so I spared you another recap (but there is a post floating around out there with a full break down that I can find and link for those who care). Instead, I thought of two other great races. First was the Indoor States DMR. Henderson, the eventual national champions, nearly had disaster strike as usual anchor Chris Aldrich was sick on race day. That meant Henderson’s usual 12, Chris Ferry, had to step up to the 1600 leg (after having already run the open 800). The door was open for teams from GFS, Wissahickon and Upper Dublin, each of which had saved all of their legs to be fresh for this race. Ferry had a lead early, but Max Kaulbach and Nick Crits (along with UD’s Joe Dorris) made things very interesting in the later stages of the race. Ultimately, Ferry kicked away from the field to give Henderson the title.

The other was a race I’ve never actually seen-the WPIAL Outdoor 3200. The Western part of the state had two main distance stars: Scott VanKooten and Lucas Zarzeczny. These two guys had pushed each other to some jaw dropping performances at Coopers and RWB and Lucas was the reigning AA XC state champ. During track season, Avonworth jumped up to AAA and Zarzeczny and VanKooten were finally head to head at a major championship. Lucas decided to skip the 1600, focusing instead on the 3200 while Scott loaded up on both distance events. Even with SVK doubling, the stage was set for an epic match up.

However, Seneca Valley junior Chris Cipro nearly stole the show. Not bowing to the two WPIAL kings, Cipro through his nose in the race and went for the W against the front runners. It was a near blanket finish after 8 laps of battling with VanKooten, Cipro and Zarzeczny crossing the line in 9:19.06-9:19.19-9:19.45. Three other runners also broke 9:30 and qualified for the state meet at Shippensburg the next week.

Biggest “What If”
State Schedule

For those of you who don’t know the PIAA State Meet Distance schedule used to be 4x8, 32, 16 rather than 32, 4x8, 16 like it is today. So in 2007, we were looking at a different state landscape than what I’ve typically thought about it. But what if the schedule in 2007 was the same as it was in 2017? How would the meet have played out differently?

Well, for starters, the 3200 would have been contested earlier in the day. Maybe that would have made the heat a little bit more manageable for Springer and he would have had that much extra left for a kick at the end of the two mile. That could have swung one of the most pivotal titles in the pair’s rivalry.

But there’s more to consider. Nick Crits of Wissahickon anchored his squad’s 4x8 at the first meet of the day and then doubled back for the 1600. Back then, he had some extra rest between events which made the double a bit more doable (but still very hard). Crits took advantage and clocked a big PR to earn the bronze medal at states. It was a huge confidence boost for the junior who, spoiler alert, would go on to use that confidence to his advantage a year later in the same race.

On the flip side, if the order had been changed Jason Weller would have had more time in between his 3200 and 1600 runs. Weller made a hard surge on the 3rd lap of the 16 to close the gap between himself and eventual champ Vince McNally, but faded to 5th in the final standings. If you give Weller a bit more time to recover, maybe he could have been a hero again and competed for gold (or at least silver). Remember, Weller beat Fink, Crits, Bryan and Aldrich (the 2nd through 6th place finishers) at the District One championships the week before in the 1600, doubling off the 32. He also clocked an 8:26 3k indoors on the double from a 4:15 mile.

The same could have been true for AA’s Ben Hahn. The senior from Smethport won the 3200 and was the top qualifier for the 1600 meters in the prelims, but Hahn didn’t have enough in the tank to contend in his second final. With more rest, he might have been able to compete for gold. The AA title that season went to Mark Bucklaw of Lakeland in 4:20.03. Hahn ran 4:20.31 in the prelims, indicating his fitness. And, by the way, Bucklaw ran the 4x8 to start the day. If Hahn gets more time that means Mark gets less and the Lakeland senior would have been a little more tired when it was time for that finishing kick.

My Personal Best Running Moment
Running 19:12
Getting Cut

I know this only supposed to be one moment, but I’ve opted for two. The first was my freshman year time of 19:12. Doesn’t sound like much, but I spent the entire year (dating back to the summer) trying to break 20 minutes on a course that I was confident was 5,000 meters long. I had come close in a variety of ways, but never quite broken through until the district championships at Lehigh when I ran a big PR and finished things off with a smile.

But the best thing that happened to my running career was during the winter. I tried out for my freshman basketball team and got cut. In the first round of cuts. So I wasn’t really all that close. I didn’t suck at basketball, but I wasn’t all that great at it either. Ultimately, getting cut led to joining the track team and the winter and spring seasons cemented my enthusiasm. Plus, the fact that I started the year a month behind my other freshmen teammates made things hard for me. I had to fight back to get onto their level which made me hungry to prove myself heading into my sophomore campaign.

I suppose everything happens for a reason …

PA’s Fastest Seniors
800m (1:55)
1. Andrew Rotz, Central Dauphin 1:51.65
2. Jamar Jones, E&S 1:51.94
3. Andrew Lobb, WC East 1:51.99*
4. Matt Wikler, CR North 1:53.50
5. Chris Ferry, Henderson 1:54.09
6. Mike Kimmel, Northern 1:54.39
7. Andrew Kontra, Hempfield 1:54.55
8. Corey Grove, Chambersburg 1:54.91
9. Chris Wolfe, Baldwin 1:54.98

1600m (4:17)
1. Paul Springer, Unionville 4:08.88c
2. Jason Weller, Boyertown 4:12.26
T-3. Nick Hilton, Exeter 4:13.89
T-3. Ryan Fink, Strath Haven 4:13.89
5. Lucas Zarzeczny, Avonworth 4:14.83ic
6. Isaac Bryan, Pennridge 4:15.16
7. Tim Stepp, Parkland 4:16.87

3200m (9:20)
1. Paul Springer, Unionville 8:49.68e
2. Jason Weller, Boyertonw 9:02.75
3. Kyle Dawson, Coatesville 9:07.2
4. Ben Hahn, Smethport 9:09.75
5. Rob Speare, Strath Haven 9:10.09
6. Bryan Beegle, Gettysburg 9:15.83
7. Zac Ross, Meadville 9:18.30
8. Sean Ward 9:18.79
9. Mike Stolar 9:18.82*
10. Scott VanKooten 9:19.06
11. Lucas Zarzeczny 9:19.45

4x800m (7:47)
1. North Penn 7:43.22
2. Baldwin 7:44.08

3. Central Dauphin 7:47.08

A Year In The Life - Coming Soon

Already everybody, it’s time for a history lesson. As you’ve probably picked up on by now, I’m a bit of a stat nut when it comes to PA High School track and field. And I’m currently running out of chances to dive back into the old files to spill out some stories from “back in the day”. So I’ve come up with a new series of posts that are essentially yearly recaps. I’ll be breaking down the biggest runners, teams, races and stories from each of the past 12 years (starting with my freshman year back in 2006-2007).  Here are the categories:

Defining Runners
The runners who defined the year. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the best runners, but often is. Who are people talking about in the comments? Who are people clicking on articles to learn more about? Who is representing the state best on the big stage? Which runners will be still be talking about even after they are gone?

Defining Teams
See defining runners, but for teams. This stretches from XC through track.

Best “The 11” Story
As you may know, I like to write about stuff. My favorite pieces of late have been The Etrain 11 narrative style articles. What storyline would be my dream The Etrain 11 piece in each given year.

Best Race
Pretty self-explanatory. Which race was the best of the year.

Biggest “What If?”
This is pretty subjective and requires some good old fashion etrain creativity. But a “what if” is a time when something went wrong or a fluke or unexpected event happened and it had a big ripple through the track community causing people to wonder-what if this played out different?

My Personal Best Running Moment
I’ll throw this in there for a personal anecdote. What achievement in my own running was my best one of the year.

PA’s Fastest Seniors

Top three fastest seniors by PR (not necessarily season best) in each of the distance events on the track.

I'll be putting up the first year's worth of action (2006-2007) at some point later this week and then gradually start putting out more at various times during this year. Think about some of your personal picks (most will probably be in later years) and then post those up when the years start ticking toward the years you care about.

Also if you have any cool ideas for other categories to include in these posts other than what is bolded above, I'm all ears. Which is ironic because when I played Frisbee the other day, my friends were telling me I'm all thumbs. Yeah, not my best work. Hopefully these posts will be better ...

5 Lists of 5

As you may have already seen, a full recap of all this past weekend’s action is available in the comment section under the post “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” which is one down from this one. An anonymous commenter broke down a lot of the action in recap style and it’s definitely worth a read. Mr. Anonymous if you have a code name or something, I can give you a little more credit. Feel free to reach out via email or whatever if you are interested in writing some stuff more often and want it in post format. Same goes for all you other readers out there.

Because we’ve got the recaps taken care of for this weekend, I didn’t see much reason to rehash through all the points. Instead I’ve opted to write a post that I call “5 Lists of 5” that calls out some of my personal most impressive performances. Some of this is repeats of the recap talk as it seemed appropriate, but hopefully there’s some new stuff in here to chew on as well.

Top 5 Performances
1. Rusty Kujdych, Neshaminy
The number one XC runner of 2017 did not disappoint with his first 2018 result. Kujdych smashed a strong field with a time of 8:39 to win by 32 seconds. For those of you who have been reading along, I mentioned in my post “2017 Is In the Books” that Kujdych may be in better shape than he finished the 2017 indoor season (when he ran 8:36). Looking back on that comment, I felt a little silly until Rusty bailed me out with a huge run for 3k this weekend. Honestly, although the time wasn’t faster than his state meet PR, it was potentially intrinsically better when you consider the flat track, the lack of competition and the lack of extra hype/energy that comes from racing at a big meet like states.

2. Collin Ebling, Pottsville
Ebling is another guy I touched on briefly earlier in the year, but in my Kevin Dare preview he was completely absent. I honestly didn’t even see his name on the heat sheets. But when he stepped out onto the track, he made sure everybody noticed him with a 1:55.03 PR (indoors or out) which shot him to PA #1. He beat my personal two top contenders for a state championship in Cullen and Eissler (besides Hoey of course) pretty emphatically and showcased some real closing speed. The question now is: will Ebling be a state champion the next time he comes back to PSU?

3. Brenden Miller, Upper Dauphin
Another Kevin Dare winner, Miller clocked an 8:49.95 to roll to the victory against a really deep field. I knew Miller had a shot to win this coming in, but this kind of team really surprises me. Especially when you consider the fact that he opened up about a 15 second advantage on the rest of the field. Miller was in A this past XC season, so not many people likely noticed how strong this kid was in XC. And Miller may honestly be better on the track. I was leaning that way at the end of last spring and I’m pretty much all the way there now. Better than 15:40 on the trails on the track? The kid could produce a huge 3200 result by the time outdoors comes around (which is where I really think he will shine).

4. Jonah Hoey, Bishop Shanahan
It probably isn’t easy racing in a family with two state champion brothers, but Jonah Hoey is starting to make a name for himself. He clocked a 1:58.62 this past weekend on a flat track to roll to a 5 second victory. Hoey has now run 1:58 and 4:23 as a sophomore before MLK Day. We saw a Hoey brother 1-2 finish in the mile not too long ago with Jaxson and Josh during their senior and sophomore years respectively. Now we are there with Josh and Jonah and, oh by the way, they’ve run the two fastest times in the state (not counting conversions).

5. Garrett Baublitz, Juniata
Another outstanding freshman, Baublitz finished as the #1 PA miler at Kevin Dare with 4:24.21 and second place finish. That 4:24 time may not sound like much, but for this Kevin Dare meet it’s actually a historically great performance. Baublitz time is faster than the 2017 and 2014 champions and nearly identical to Alex Milligan (future 4:10 guy) in 2016 when he ran 4:24.09. The meet record is 4:20.74 by Jack Huemmler in 2013.

Top 5 Performances You May Have Missed
1. Jason Cornelison Cheltenham
Cheltenham’s junior is tops in his class after a 9:34.90 2 Mile time for 5th at the Hispanic Games. You probably didn’t miss this one as Cornelison’s time will convert to a top 3 mark in the state behind only Kujdych and Miller, but he could have gotten lost in the shuffle of the big time 3k surge. Plus, I think I’m higher on Corenlison’s upside than the average guy. He had a really good XC season that could have ended with a state medal if a few things clicked right. He’s hitting all the check points that teammate Will Griffen did (and Griffen ran 9:07 for 3200!) and he’s only a junior!

2. David Endres, CB East
CB East is a strong team with a great program. We may not remember now after all the XC states craziness, but CB East was just a few points away from state qualifying. If they got there, they could have been a top 8 team just like the other 5 D1 state qualifiers. Well the leader of that distance core is David Endres. The junior has some really strong PRs, including a 1:57 800 and he picked up a big time win in his first major individual result this indoors. Endres ran 2:01 to beat a strong field of 800 guys and remind us all that he is a contender for a state medal this season.

Endres has also split a 1:58 this indoors already on the team’s SMR at Burdette to win that race for his squad. Watch for a DMR later in the year from this squad with guys like Alex Bardwell, John Brophy and Richie Jethon (among others) getting involved.

3. Will Merhige, The Haverford School   9:17 for 2nd at TFCAofGP D2
The independent leaguers don’t get a lot of love on this site. It’s not really fair, but it’s part of the PIAA system. Well, during indoors we all race together and guys like Will Merhige of The Haverford School are seizing the opportunity. Will ran 9:17.57 for 3k at TFCAofGP to nearly knock off Peter Borger of Malvern Prep and put himself in the conversation for a backend state qualifying spot by season’s end. Merhige was 4th at Independent States this past XC season. His teammates, Mark Gregory and Khalil Bland, could help make an interesting DMR before all is said and done as well.

4. Colin Gallagher, Hempfield 2:03.54 Kevin Dare (1st in 2nd of 4 heats)
5. Davis Piercy, Kennett 4:38.13 to win slower section of 1600 (also has run 2:04 for 800)
The most important thing in racing is winning and these two guys both gutted out big wins. Davis Piercy of Kennett ran 4:38 for 1600 and won his section of the event at Ocean Breeze. The Kennett stand out had a nice XC season and has already clocked 2:04 for 800 this season to pair with his 4:38. Austin Maxwell was a state qualifier from this program last year and Piercy is hoping to use what he learned from the now graduated all-star to follow in his footsteps.

Meanwhile, Colin Gallagher won heat 2 of 4 at the Kevin Dare Invite and actually placed better than anybody in even heat 3. His time of 2:03.54 was one of the top marks for a PA runner and put the senior on the map. Hempfield had a really strong 4x8 last year, breaking 8 minutes, without one big name to carry them to that time. The team is still pretty darn deep this year (they placed 8th at states in XC) and Gallagher gives them a high upside piece to build around along with guys like Christian Groff, Justin Rittenhouse and Max Lessans (among others I’m sure).

Top 5 Team Performances
1. CB West
CB West has been one of the best track programs of the early season, so it’s not surprising to see them atop this list. The Yellow Jackets clocked a 10:50 DMR to roll for the win at TFCAofGP, but also took home a silver in the 4x8 with a time of 8:35. And oh by the way, one of their most dangerous weapons in Jake Claricurzio was in the open 8 (and ran 2:03 for a medal). West also raced at Briarwood a few nights earlier. I expect a 4x8 time down under 8:10 in the not so distant future.

2. Seneca Valley
Speaking of sub 8:10 4x8s, Seneca Valley did what they came to do at Kevin Dare. The Western powerhouse dropped an 8:07 4x8 to roll to the title over a sneaky good Radnor squad by a comfortable 23 seconds. This was a big result for SV who focused all their energies into the 4x8 in hopes of getting that fast time. Don’t count these out as state title contenders in this event. They’ve still got a lot of room to grow.

3. Wyomissing
It can be tricky for a small school (AA for track and XC) to compete during indoors where all classifications are thrown together, but Wyomissing is holding their own. We already mentioned Joe Cullen (a big time 1:56 performance in the 800), but how about his teammates? Foster and Vargo both ran 4:44 in the mile while Ben Kuhn and Matt Driben ran 9:12 and 9:14. Kuhn, by the way, is just a sophomore. Both he and Driben are setting themselves up for big outdoor seasons in the 3200 against that AA competition, but they also could surprise and sneak into this state field if they continue to have success like this. There is a ton of depth here. I think I overlooked just how deep they were during XC, even compared to the AAA teams, until I did my interview with them for the Etrain 11 series. Only LaSalle (AKA the Army) had a better #5 at XC states across all the divisions. That’s impressive.

The Wyomissing boys were also the top PA school in the 4x4 with a mark of 3:31. I expect this squad to throw together a DMR to be reckoned with at some point this year. They could be a 10:30 or faster kinda squad when all is said and done. I’m in on this team.

4. Haverford
I loved what I saw from this team at TFCAofGP. Aiden Tomov could have made the list right above this with his jaw dropping 4:37 victory in the mile over a couple state medalists, but his teammates also impressed. Erik McCallion ran 2:04 for 4th in the 800, Brendan Campbell added a 6th in the mile and Mike Donnelly took 5th in the 3k. And, by the way, none of those guys were seniors.

5. Greensburg Salem
Greensburg Salem was a really fun team a year ago who got some well-deserved DMR potential buzz indoors before showcasing their relay talent on the outdoor oval with a 7:51 4x8. Three key pieces are back and those guys opened with 2:01 (Dylan Binda), 4:35/10:05 (Mark Brown) and 4:40/10:03 (Cameron Binda). They gave Seneca Valley a nice push last spring in the 4x8. I’d like to see that carry over into the winter as I expect both teams to contend in the DMR before all is said and done.

5 Teams To Watch
Winchester Thurston – Pollock doubles 4:32-2:06

1. Great Valley
I’m stealing this one from my recapping friend because I like it. Brett Zatlin was one of the breakout stars in a weekend filled with breakout stars, clocking a 1:57 for 800 at Kevin Dare. Meanwhile, his teammates were doing work at Ocean Breeze. GV took 1-2-3 in their heat of the 1600 at the New York facility, resulting in times of 4:44, 4:45 and 4:46 (Riley Casey, Rahman Mohammed, Seth Hoffritz). They also added a 4:49 from Hayden Coates and a 1:29.98 600 from Hoffritz (aforementioned). GV was 11th in D1 for XC (just 1 spot behind Henderson and 1 spot ahead of North Penn), they’ve got a rising star to lift the team and some key pieces. I like the potential.

2. CR South
The “other” Council Rock team put up a trio of strong individual performances at the TFCAofGP meet this weekend with Kyle Kutney (4th in the 3k), Andrew Zawodniak (5th in the mile) and Gavin Ricchini (2:04 for 6th in the 800) leading the charge. They also have Collin Ochs (2:01 800 this year) at their disposal. South was a sub 8 squad last year, nearly stole a state medal indoors and impressed on the big stage of Penn Relays. Plus, they are still the #5 4x8 in the state by my math. They need to be taken seriously.

3. Jenkintown
This squad hasn’t necessarily done anything super flashy yet, but they seem to be focusing a lot on the DMR and racing well. That’s a good sign and the strategy that teams like Bishop Shanahan (a few years back) used to help rise as a program on the indoor scene. Jenkintown is a small school competing with the big boys which is already a good start. They’ve got two guys with a lot of state hardware in Jack Miller and Josh Jackson and they’ve got a gold medal in their trophy case from TFCAofGP this past weekend.

4. Chester
Another point that has already been made, but we’ve seen sprint powers like Abington, Cheltenham and Penn Wood do big things in the 4x8 over the years. Is Chester next? Malachi Langley joined Lamaj Curry as a legit 800 piece this weekend with his 2:04. Langley has also clocked 51.04 for 400 meters.

5. Winchester Thurston
My personal favorite high upside sleeper pick. Winchester Thurston has proven themselves as a distance power, competing consistently for XC state championships in A. They’ve got an all-world miler in Tristan Forsythe who could give them a 4:12 type anchor carry. And now they’ve established a #2 piece. Gordon Pollock, coming off a monster XC season, ran 4:32 and 2:06 in the same meet at Youngstown. He would be a great 1200 leg. This team has done the hard part-can they fill in the other pieces with some of that distance depth? That remains to be seen.

Top 5 Questions After This Weekend
Can anybody beat Rusty?
Seems like the 3k is his to lose, but sometimes it’s not how it seems in the longer events.

When will the relays explode?
We still haven’t seen an SQG in the DMR (the hardest SQG there is, but still) and the 4x8 has been relatively slow considering the SQG isn’t crazy fast (a lot more teams will hit the time than will be allowed to run states). There’s enough talent across the state to hit these standards though so expect a huge surge in fast relays sooner rather than later.

Can Shanahan get the national record?
This has gotten some buzz recently and I’m starting to buy in. The key may be Jonah Hoey and I’ll tell you what, he’s off to a monster start. Logan Yoquinto also looked great through two meets with a 1:57 split and a flat track 4:34.

Will Western PA ever have a meet?
We need to see these guys race. A lot of talent out there that should be super fun to add to the state qualifying landscape. The small taste we got this past weekend was enough to get us excited for a full-fledged league meet schedule.

Can the Eagles beat the Falcons?
We are underdogs at home. Hopefully we use that to our advantage and it’s not a sign of things to come. I like the defense, I like the potential for an ugly game. Just need to contain Julio and get a little bit more offense going from our boys.

Some extra stuff to mention …

Penncrest gets 4:39-4:39-4:41 marks from three guys not named Avery Lederer. That’s a pretty nice stable of distance runners and their DMR upside is looking good as well. Remember, Penncrest was state runner ups in the DMR in 2008 with a comparable team (although there’s no Anthony Batch on the 400 leg). Could be a sleeper.

Also, as a side note, Avery Lederer was clocked through 3k at 9:00 by the official timing system, but his final two mile time will be converted to something around 9:03 (based on the PTFCA listed 38 second conversion on the final 2 Mile time). Is he allowed to use the 9 flat for qualifying purposes? I hope so, otherwise the PTFCA conversion system is flawed (well, it’s already flawed, but that’s a conversation for another day). It may not matter as it usually takes in the 8:56 range to get to states, but it’s something worth keeping an eye on for the time being.

Pennsbury already has three individual state qualifiers in the 800 and their 4th has run 2:05 from scratch. Is there any way we get a Pennsbury v. Shanahan match up at states? Is 7:45 finally in jeopardy? Is it worth comparing Shanahan and Pennsbury in the 4x8 at this stage in the game? All fair questions in my opinion. Definitely exciting to see what happens next.

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

The weather has not been too kind to us thus far in 2018, but hopefully that won’t have a big impact on the action this weekend. If you are a runner from the Western part of the state than, yeah, it did already. But let’s be honest TSTCA-we knew that at least one of your meets was going to get cancelled at some point. That’s just how these things go. So at least now we hopefully got it out of the way early.

There was a meet on Wednesday night that produced some excellent times for the PA athletes in attendance. The Briarwood Invite at Haverford is typically the place where LaSalle unleashes their horde of the milers into the wild and the Army did not disappoint in 2018. Without their best runner (Evan Addison was listed as a DNF so fingers crossed it was nothing serious), LaSalle still posted 8 sub 4:48 marks including a third place finish from Jack Seiberlich in 4:34.66. Sophomore Griffin Pumilia continues his sleeper campaign with a big 4:40.25 (that won his heat by 5 seconds over Kevin Ehrgott and Noah Demis, both top 50 finishers at XC states).

Despite LaSalle’s depth, it was a different army that had the #1 man in the field. Spencer Smucker of Henderson took the top spot in the race with a 4:29.15. Spence, who is fresh off his best ever XC season that included a trip to nationals, was a state finalist in the 1600 last spring. I’ve underestimated Smucker’s speed in the past (I pictured him as a 3200 guy), but Smucker is putting together a compelling case for a top spot at states in the mile. Smucker has typically given up the indoor events indoors to run on his DMR (which has paid off most years with competitive results from the state power), but maybe this year we see him have an individual breakthrough in the mile.

Brian Baker of CB West was the runner up to Smucker in the mile, but did win the 800 a short while later, clocking a 2:03. Baker is off to a monster start to his senior indoor campaign. He was excellent last year for the state 4x8 champs, but had to run in the shadow of superstar Jake Claricurzio. Thus far, Jake has seemed to be in all sprint events (an interesting early season result) which has opened the door for Baker as the team’s #1. He has not disappointed.

The boys from CRN decided to play their cards close to the vest. Their three XC state medalists, Sam Earley, Ethan Koza and Ryan Campbell all ran the 800 meters (on the shorter side for these guys with the exception of Earley) and ran out of Heat 4 rather than the top heat (5). Earley still nearly won the meet from his heat, clocking a 2:03.99 to just miss Baker. His teammates Koza and Campbell made Heat 4 a 1-2-3 sweep for CRN.

By the way, Mahoney Timing is one of my favorite things in 2018. Shout out to those guys for the live results and well set up lay out.

Now, let’s talk Kevin Dare Invitational. Penntrack posted up the Heat Sheets for this marquee invitational (hosted at Penn State where states will be held later this year) which means I should probably do a preview (do I have a good excuse not to?).  I’ll be keeping it quick, but hopefully this is enough to get you excited.

Sam Snodgrass of South Fayette, a state medalist last winter, returns to this track to pick up where he left off. Snodgrass had an awesome XC season, even if states didn’t go exactly as he hoped. That should give him a little extra motivation to bust out a big time in his first major race since. His biggest challenge will likely come from sophomore Garrett Baublitz. Garrett was one of our best freshman in state history last year, breaking the 4:20 barrier as a 9th grader. That puts him in pretty rare company with guys like Josh Hoey and Craig Miller. Baublitz could do something big this track season (especially considering his XC campaign was excellent) and this invite may just be the first step.

Other guys to look out for include a couple dudes named Andrew: Stanley and Sullivan. I think Stanley, a A guy during XC, is better at the longer stuff but still very dangerous in this event. He won’t be afraid to push the pace either. Sullivan has a nice resume of results in the low 4:20s for this event over the past two springs.

This one is setting up to be fun. Matt Eissler and Joe Cullen, two of the top returners from last year’s state 800 meters, are both expected to hit the track and battle for a top time in the state. Kamil Jihad’s 1:56 state lead is in jeopardy if these guys are on their game. Eissler was one of my most impressive performers during the holiday break and I think he has state champion potential this year (if a couple things go his way). Cullen is no slouch either and has a big time clutch gene at the end of races. If he is in it with 100 to go, it would be tough to pick against him. Let’s see if he has the speed to get out hard after racing 3k last meet.

Beyond these two are some other top PA guys. Brett Zatlin has a 1:57 outdoor best and ran a really nice mile to open up his season. He’s coming off an XC state qualifying performance and has a lot of momentum. Seth Phillips of Mifflin County is running close to home, holds a 1:55 best, and is racing for a school that was one of the best stories during XC for breakout individuals. Silas Mays is another 1:57 type who has a teammate, the aforementioned Sam Snodgrass, to push him in practice and in this race.

I think the 800 will likely produce the fastest time, but I think the 3k will be the most fun. There are a lot of intriguing names on this performance list including some indoor newcomers. Brendan Miller of Upper Dauphin will be racing his first major indoor meet. Miller was an excellent 3200 runner last year, taking 3rd at AA states, but he was even better during XC. He ran 15:40 at Carlisle and placed 2nd at A states. He’s a gutsy runner who isn’t afraid to push the pace and chase sub 9. And he should have company. Andrew Stanley was just behind Miller in the aforementioned state 3200 last year and also holds a sub 9:30 best for 3200.
Local District 6 runner Chayce Macknair is fresh off his first state medal, cracking the top 20 at XC states this fall. He and is rival Owen Isham of State College will have yet another duel at Kevin Dare. These guys are two of the most impressive juniors we have in the state right now and they always push each other to big marks.

Another potential rivalry could be that of former teammates Carlos Shultz and Jake Robinson. Shultz, now at Phoenixville, ran under 9 minutes as a frosh last winter in a Conestoga uniform. This past fall, representing his new squad, Shultz ran in the 15:20s for 5k and earned his first state medal. He’s got the talent to run well under 9 minutes this race. Robinson is no slouch either. The Conestoga senior was a top 50 runner at XC states and nearly broke 16 minutes for 5k at Lehigh as well.
A few other names to watch include Ryan Sullivan (AA state medalist from Loyalsock), Ben Kuhn and Matt Driben (two talented state champs from Wyomissing), and Christian Groff of Hempfield.

I don’t actually know which teams will load this up, but I did notice that Seneca Valley was listed in this event (and maybe only this event?). The WPIAL champs and state medal winners from spring 2017 return a loaded squad (everyone?) from their 7:46 team. Seneca Valley didn’t get those XC team medals they were after this fall, but don’t sleep on this team’s ability to turn heads in the longest relay of the meet. I doubt they will hit a sub 8 this early, but they could definitely be in range of Pennsbury for a top spot in PA. That would establish them as an early contender for the state title.