Back with the Recaps

Sorry about last week friends, I was out of the office in Boston and didn’t have enough time to throw together recaps for all the meets. I may put up what I had drafted out later this week underneath this post if people want to see it (although it’s somewhat old news at this stage). Anyway, enjoy these more recent recaps …

CB West Relays
It’s amazing to think that neither of the two 4x8 powers from this race will contest that same relay at the Penn Relays. Pennridge dropped a 7:50.16 to outlast the defending state championships from CB West, who ran 7:53.32. Pennridge hung right with their inter-conference rivals and had two huge splits on the back end of 1:56.7 and 1:54.3. I would assume Matt Eissler brought things home and used his superstar speed to outlast a balanced CB West attack (1:57 for each of their last three legs). LaSalle had a pretty nice showing with a time of 8:02. I’d be interested to know if they ran this with or without Addison as that could change their Penn Relays odds. They had a 1:58.1 anchor carry.

All that being said, Pennridge’s big win sets the stage for an epic state championship battle. Once again this program is peaking at the right time and is ready to get that coveted 4x8 outdoor gold that they’ve been knocking on the door of in recent years. They’ve moved into the favorite position for now, but I’m not ready to count out CB West, Pennsbury or Ephrata. Hoping this relay stays this competitive and fun.

Speaking of Pennsbury, they knocked off CB West to win the DMR with a time of 10:38 to West’s 10:49. The key legs ran 3:15 and 4:29 for Pennsbury. I’m interested to know who was the 1200 leg for West (3:11) as that seems to be the biggest question mark in mind as we look ahead to their DMR chances at Penn Relays.

CB East is a team to keep an eye on. They won the 4x1600 in a time of 18:27, holding on against a late charging LaSalle squad that was anchored in 4:23.

Garrett Baublitz is back and as good as ever. The Juniata sophomore rolled to a 10 second victory in the 1600 with a time of 4:23.41. In the process he defeated a red hot Ethan Knoebel who edged out Zach Kohler for the silver. Any doubts about Baublitz’s health after his end to the indoor season should be silenced at this point. At this stage, Baublitz may be the one to beat in this event even if Forsythe, Cullen and Leeser all return ahead of him. He’s trending that well.

Andrew Stanley kept pace with some hot 3200s this weekend, taking the 8 lap title in 9:43. XC stand out Logan Horst of Lancaster Mennonite was 2nd and Ethan Knoebel was 3rd, both under 10 minutes. Stanley also won the 2,000 steeplechase in a mark of 6:18.

Danville threw their name on the list of 4x8 contenders, winning that relay (8:16) and the 4x4 on the future home of the state championships. Both victories came by impressive margins.

The Ephrata boys are looking impressive, just in time for the Penn Relays. After a 7:59 run last week, they came to Shippensburg and won another 4x8 title. Then Tyler Shue stepped up for gold in the open 8 at 1:55.17. However perhaps the bigger development was Alex Morales clocking a 1:57.05 in the open. They will need someone to couple with Shue if they are going to compete alongside the great D1 programs. Morales is stepping into that role perfectly.

In a battle of XC super stars, Morgan Cupp and Tyler Wirth went toe to toe in the 3200. Cupp came out on top as he continues to be superb this outdoor season. He ran 9:34 to beat out Wirth’s 9:37. I really feel like Cupp has a chance to run something quick at states in a month. I’m not sure he is on the Beveridge-Rusty level, but he’s got sub 9:10 in site in my eyes. I like Wirth’s day as well. A 9:37-1:56 double is pretty impressive for two off events. I’m excited to see him get in a mile and chase something fast. Can he get to Conway’s level before the season is over?

Jack Wisner ended up winning the 1600 at this meet by a nose over Connor Shields. Wisner had a really strong XC season despite the fact that he lost his core training group. This program knows how to produce champions and Jack has been speedy since his freshman year. No one expected Isaac Kole to be state champion in the 1600 last year, but he started his quest with a win at this meet. How will Wisner do? That comparison, of course, may be unfair pressure for the junior, but he’s got a chance to make waves this season with his combination of strength and speed. Shields also has great speed. We haven’t heard the last of him in the state medalist talks.

The breakout star of this meet, however, was Mitchell Forgash of Wyoming Valley West. The senior popped off a 50.57 and then a 1:56.10 for 4th and 2nd in the two events. That 1:56.10 is a big PR after his 1:58 last year and Forgash goes from off the radar to state medal contender in a blink. That 4-8 double is really, really hard (although Collin Ebling is making that look like a weak statement) and Forgash still excelled in the 8. At the big meets, I think he will have to choose between events if he wants to reach his full potential, but for now Forgash is making a well-deserved name for himself.

State College quietly runs 8:12 in the 4x8 for second. I think their absurd streak of low 7:40s type marks is over, but this team may be able to make a run at sub 8 before all is said and done. You can’t count out this program.

Hermitage Invite
Defending WPIAL 1600 meter champ Le’Shawn Huff continued his winning ways with a 4:25 victory over Nate Price of General McLane (4:26). Jonah Powell won the 3200 in 9:43 after his strong 1600 run at Butler the night before. District 10 is going to get multiple qualifiers out of that 1600 for states I’ve got to imagine (or maybe multiple guys in the 32 depending on where the talent goes). Price and Powell are studs. The jury is still out on whether Huff can repeat in the 1600. The WPIAL mile field is looking a lot deeper this time around. Worth noting, Reynolds ran 8:19 to win the 4x8. I believe they are a AA school for the spring and had a real nice XC season that could carry some momentum.

Butler Invitational
Rusty Kujdych soloed a 9:18 for 3200, but Noah Beveridge may have had the top PA performance this weekend with his 4:12.58 win in the 1600. Beveridge showed some serious wheels during the indoor campaign and mixed it up for a state title in the mile. Now he adds a 4:12 mark to his resume, winning by almost 8 seconds over an impressive field that includes past state qualifiers Jonah Powell and Sam Owori. I am very excited for Beveridge to get in a fast 3200 and I think the Kujdych-Beveridge rematch could be one for the history books. Of course, maybe Beveridge will consider an event change if the 1600 continues to go this well (or a double).

For Powell, this is a big run as well. A 4:20.07 gets him in the top tier of runners and he’s proven he can hang under the bright lights. Jonah was 3rd at the AA XC State championships this year in a very quick time. He’ll face AAA competition this spring, but I think he’ll be up for the challenge. Josh Lewis, a AA track athlete from North East, clocked a 4:23.59 to insert him among the leaders in that event in his classification. I think his best work will come in the 3200, but that speed is very impressive. The kid has huge talent.

As I alluded to a meet earlier, the WPIAL’s 1600 depth is growing. Brett Brady and Sam Owori are at 4:23 already this year, Cameron Binda medaled indoors and ran 4:25 this meet, Beveridge is a proven force and there’s lots of long distance guys who make look to move down. In the 3200, Sam Snodgrass led all competitors with a 9:30, edging out sophomore Christian Fitch’s 9:31. Binda, Zach Leachman (another youngster) and Dan McGoey (yes, another youngster) all broke 9:40 as well. The 3200 could get awfully crowded meaning the 1600 may be a more worthwhile move for some of these top guys. Only time will tell.

I think Seth Ketler could be the WPIAL’s next big thing. I’d be interested to see him go toe to toe with Beveridge in a 1600. He dropped a 1:56.24 at this meet and knocked off a big time speedster in Matt Busche (1:57.52). It was a deep 800 field, but Ketler handled it well. We will see the junior try to continue his hot streak at the Penn Relays on anchor duties for the DMR.

I’m still waiting on the WPIAL 4x8s being unleashed. Seneca Valley obviously looks impressive, Greensburg Salem needs one more piece (but will likely lean individuals), Butler is sneaky good, Indiana Area has some rising stars and you can never count out North Allegheny. Plus, the team that may end up better than all of them who I’ll touch on further down the post.

Butler was the winner at this meet with an 8:11.88 to edge out Indiana Area.

Blue Jay Invite
Manheim Township showed flashes of some serious 4x8 potential with Gavin Maurer and Timothy Antonacci running 1:58.93 and 2:00.95 in the open. Plus the team added a 3:25 victory in the 4x4. They have Evan Dorenkamp (hasn’t raced in a while) and Ian Miller (more of a long distance guy) on the roster as well and could potentially get into the 7:55 range sooner rather than later. They were state qualifiers last year in that event. Speaking of Miller, he won the 3200 in a time of 9:45, setting a meet record.

Collin Ebling is approaching superstar type stuff. I can’t stress enough how difficult the 4-8 double is, but Ebling is cruising through it like it’s a cake walk. After posting blazing times in both events last weekend, he decided to take it up another notch with marks of 49.62 and 1:55.98 for double gold (comfortably) at ASD. Ebling’s Pottsville team was also the 4x4 champs in 3:33. Keep in mind Collin was a state qualifier at 1600 last year so the kid has monster range.

With Hoey looking more and more like a collegiate and Conway’s double attempt uncertain (what will OJR’s 4x8 do to Liam’s schedule?) is Ebling suddenly the favorite for state gold in the 800?

Leonard Stephan
The AA 4x800 state championship race may have had a preview this weekend with Wyomissing going head to head with Schuylkill Valley. I’ve been impressed by the way SV has handled their business to date and they delivered with an 8:09. However, the XC state championships had another gear as they dropped an 8:05.06 for the win. Wyomissing’s Ben Kuhn was the winner in the 3200 (9:54) and Matt Driben was the runner-up in the 1600 (4:33 behind Nate Grucelski’s 4:30) while the Valley’s Ben Reisenweaver was the 800 individual champ.

Mount Lebanon Invitational
The Mount Lebanon 4x8 core may be the deepest we’ve seen. They had three guys on their indoor squad who were at 2 flat or under and I don’t think that counted sophomore Patrick Anderson (who ran the open mile). Well now Anderson’s 2:00.01 victory in the open 8 over a great 1-2 punch of Sam Snodgrass and Silas Mays makes him a factor on the relay. They are scheduled to compete at Penn Relays and need to be on your sleeper radar if they can handle the pressure on the big stage. This Patrick Anderson is a star.

Lock Haven
This may have been the best meet of the weekend – certainly relative to expectations. At a smaller meet, some of the lesser known schools had their chance to shine. AA stand out Brenden Miller rolled to a big win in the 2k Steeplechase, clocking 6:07 for the victory and a sizable meet record. He topped Sam Williams who was a 9:12 3200 guy at his best.

As Miller was making his presence felt, Isaac Davis was countering. His Jersey Shore team clocked an 8:14 to win the 4x8 over fellow district 4 squad Warrior Run. Jersey Shore had two sub 2 800 legs and ended up making a pass on the anchor to take gold. Davis was also the gold medal winner in the 1600, taking the title with a 4:28 to outlast Quinn Serfass of Loyalsock, a familiar foe, by 4 seconds.

But the moment of the meet came when Davis and Miller went head to head in the 3200. Davis led through the first 800, but Miller came right back to press the pace. Over the final 800, Davis found another gear and pulled away with an impressive 9:24 to knock off Miller’s 9:29. Davis competes in AAA for track (unless something’s changed) so we won’t see these two head to head at states, but Isaac Davis is making a compelling case for inclusion in the top tier of 3200 guys. His XC season was in the same league as the big names and his dominant performance at Hershey last fall was jaw dropping. Don’t sleep on this kid just because he isn’t from a power district.

By the way, a grand total of 9 different guys broke the 10 minute barrier in this meet’s 3200 including Penns Valley freshman Colton Sands (9:43!) who will compete in AA this spring. Also in the AA ranks were Quinn Serfass (9:43), Carter Kauffman (9:49) and Serfass’s teammates Ryan Sullivan and Alejandro Quintana (9:56-9:57).

And if that wasn’t enough to get you excited, Tyler Leeser told everyone he was back. The Milton senior rolled to a 1:55.48 victory in the 800, pulling away on the second lap after Griffin Sites of Towanda set off at a blazing pace to start things off (56.1). Tyler Bailey of Mifflinburg had a heck of a day with a 1:57.03. I think he may be in the AA field this spring which would make him an instant medal contender. Micah Worth of Jersey Shore, a sophomore, may have been one of the sub 2 splits on their 4x8. I think this kid could have a big result the next time he gets in a fast race after getting a taste of things at this meet. Keep an eye out for him in future results.

Hoka One One Warrior Invite
Yes, I made my Ches-mont friends scroll all the way down the page for this one (probably 95% of the readership at this point), but it was the last tab I opened so I apologize for that.

Liam Conway doesn’t seem to have lost a step after his indoor campaign. The senior clocked a 1:55.56 to roll to the gold medal in the open 800 over 2 seconds ahead of his next closest competitor. Conway heads to the Penn Relays next weekend for the individual mile, but he also may be racing the 4x8. OJR got into the field with a sub 8:10 time and could be a sleeper to do some damage with a superstar type anchor (if he doesn’t save up for the individual event). Kyle Malmstrom was 5th in the open 8, posting a time of 2:00.71. That time came from Heat 5 out of 6, where Malmstrom was 1st place overall. That’s a pretty nice one-two punch.

Of course the biggest performance from this school came in the 3200. Linus Blatz, a solid contributor during XC, turned himself into a household name this weekend. Blatz dropped a 9:35.91 in the 3200 to win against a strong field that included Tyler Rollins (9:36), Payton Sewall (9:37) and Noah Dusseau (9:38). Rollins was 3rd at indoor states for the 3k and Sewall was an XC state medalist, both for DT West. Blatz enters an elite crew as OJR continues to surprise me.

An out of stater won the 1600, but Elias Lindgren led the PA contingent well. The independent leaguer dropped a 4:23 for 2nd overall and the only top 5 spot. Haverford’s Aidan Tomov was next for the Keystone with DT West’s Evan Kaiser and Isaac Valderrabano breaking under 4:30 as well.

Jiminy's Week Two Rankings

Week 2 Update

1. Josh Hoey (Bishop Shanahan/Senior)
2. Rusty Kujdych (Neshaminy/Senior)
3. Liam Conway (Owen J. Roberts/Senior)
4. Noah Beveridge (Butler/Senior)
5. Evan Addison (LaSalle/Senior)
6. Tristan Forsythe (Winchester Thurston/Senior)
7. Tyler Shue (Ephrata/Sophomore)
8. Joe Cullen (Wyomissing/Senior)
9. Tyler Wirth (Wallenpaupack/Junior)
10. Kamil Jihad (Neumann Goretti/Senior)
11. Colin Ebling (Pottsville/Senior)
12. Morgan Cupp (Mechanicsburg/Senior)
13. Jonah Hoey (Bishop Shanahan/Sophomore)
14. Mitchell Etter (State College/Senior)
15. Brian Baker (CB West/Senior)
16. Matt Eissler (Pennridge/Junior)
17. Tyler Rollins (DT West/Senior)
18. Spencer Smucker (WC Henderson/Senior)
19. Jake Claricurzio (CB West/Senior)
20. Hudson Delisle (Quakertown/Senior)
21. Aidan Sauer (Pennsbury/Senior)
22. Brenden Miller (Upper Dauphin/Senior)
23. Seth Ketler (Seneca Valley/Junior)
24. Brett Zatlin (Great Valley/Senior)
25. Garrett Baublitz (Juniata/Sophomore)
26. David Endres (CB East/Junior)
27. Ian Miller (Manheim Township/Junior)
28. Jacob McKenna (Spring Ford/Senior)
29. Ethan Zeh (Radnor/Junior)
30. Zack Forney (Ridley/Senior)
31. Sam Owori (Seneca Valley/Junior)
32. Will Merhige (Haverford School/Senior)
33. Jack Baker (Cedar Cliff/Junior)
34. Alexander Ermold (Governor Mifflin/Junior)
35. Isaac Davis (Jersey Shore/Senior)
36. Elias Lindgren (Episcopal Academy/Senior)
37. Andrew Healey (Holy Cross/Sophomore)
38. Jarnail Dhillon (Upper Darby/Senior)
39. Dan McGoey (North Allegheny/Sophomore)
40. Jed Scratchard (Pennsbury/Senior)
41. Avery Lederer (Penncrest/Senior)
42. Le’Shawn Huff (New Castle/Senior)
43. Talus Gaymore (Penn Wood/Senior)
44. Cameron Binda (Greensburg Salem/Junior)
45. Sam Snodgrass (South Fayette/Senior)
46. Matt Maiale (Wissahickon/Senior)
47. Frank Brown (Radnor/Sophomore)
48. Max Steffey (Pittsburgh Central Catholic/Junior)
49. Matt Busche (Franklin Regional/Senior)
50. Collin Ochs (CR South/Junior)

Honorable Mention: Vincent Twomey, Jack Zardecki, Connor Shields, Brett Brady

Quick Notes:
-I tried to reward those who have gone out and run fast so far this season.
-However, I kept proven guys like Delisle and Smucker high up, even if they've lost to some other guys early on.
-Rough cutoffs: 1:58/4:28/9:45. Interested to see how these numbers move. 
-I'm a fan of those who run multiple events, which hurts the guys who focus on just one event.
-I feel like I'm lowballing the pure 3200 guys and maybe overrating the 800 guys. 

-Jiminy Cricket

College Freshman (2010-2011): Part II

Best “The 11” Story
Unionville’s Champions
In 2009, Unionville had a sneaky good XC team. They were real contenders out of District One and ended up posting two state medalists in Matt Fischer and Glenn Burkhardt (TRD fans may notice those names look familiar). At the time, Fischer was a better known name than Burkhardt, but neither were considered truly elite until the time track season finished up. Fischer battled injuries for a good portion of his senior year, but when it clicked, I’d say he was happy with the results. He clocked one of the biggest jaw-droppers in state history-a 9:03.01 3200. But we talked about that in last year’s post. Let’s take a look at Glenn.

Now Glenn had the chance to follow in Matt’s footsteps and was one of the prime contenders for the XC state title out of District One behind the top returner in Chris Campbell. But an injury kept him out of action for all of XC and indoor track. You kind of forgot about him as so many other things started to happen in the distance running universe. But when Glenn finally came back, he was legit from day one. He absolutely dominated the District One Championships, grabbing a second straight gold (look up how many guys have won back to back D1 3200s sometime) and then he knocked off Zach Hebda in Shippensburg keeping the golds in the family at Unionville. The school was responsible for three different state champions in the spring’s longest distance between 2006 and 2011 (see Paul Springer). That’s a pretty remarkable stretch that would have made for a cool story.

CB South DMR
This is another fun story. In 2010, Tom Mallon graduated and officially ended the “Tom Mallon” era at CB South (thank you captain obvious). But that didn’t mean his legacy was over. The CB South boys had picked up a few things from Mallon (and they have a pretty good coach as well) so they were ready to attack the season. Austin Gregor became a state medalist and the team’s 800 core excelled (they grabbed another 4x8 state medal for the trophy case). But I think the coolest story is their DMR.

Now the DMR had some skills the prior year (state medalists, impressive in the TFCAofGP), but Mallon was largely credited with their success. In 2011, they proved that this was a complete team effort. At the Meet of Champs, South stacked a DMR and managed a 10:50.30 mark. They had been hoping for more as that time wasn’t quite under the state qualifying guideline. As fate would have it, the PTFCA decided to expand the field to 13 teams, giving CB South a chance to compete in a race they otherwise would not have been able to. As the #11 seed, South overachieved, taking 5th overall and posting a time of 10:32.05. They were just 4 seconds out of the gold medal position, despite the fact that their two best legs were on the double. Shortly thereafter, at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York they lowered their time to 10:31.03 which may have been just enough to sneak into the Penn Relays field. They were the last squad accepted into the 19 team field.

After a 7:53.78 4x800m performance at the CB West Relays, South had to feel confident. But could they knock off the great that had run history making times at indoor nationals? Let alone the other top PA squads? Don’t worry, of course I’m going to tell you.

Joey Waddington set the tone with a brilliant 1200 leg. He clocked a time of 3:07.53 and put CBS in a crowded front pack. No other PA squad was within 8 seconds of the team at that point. I’ve said it before, but Waddington has to be one of the best pure 1200 guys we’ve seen. He was legit in other events (low 4:20s in the mile, 1:56ish in the 800), but in the 12 the guy was a natural from day one. After Joey, the middle legs were manned by Ryan Hynes and Ryan Dickson. The Ryans combined for 51.11 and 1:58.06. While neither leg was mind-blowing in and out of itself, they came against a bunched and crowded group. Ultimately, when both Ryan’s handed off the baton, South was in 2nd place and only trailed the NJ super power Christian Brother’s Academy.

In a pack of near four, Austin Gregor got the baton for South. While Gregor had been solid to date, he didn’t have any Millrose appearances or national qualifying marks individually. But he was a strong, tough miler who was ready for a fight. As the other runners failed to hang on the pace, Gregor stayed at the front and even challenged CBA for the lead before the battle finally ended with CBA edging away on the final lap to win 10:13.04 to 10:15.46. CB South ran a massive relay best and one of the best times we had seen within the decade. It was one heck of a performance.

What’s crazy is that many of those same teams ended up competing at the national championships at year end. St. Benedict’s (anchored by Ed Cheserek) went from running 10:22 at Penn down to 9:51 in Greensboro to win the national championship over West Windsor (9:54 from 10:25 at Penn). Also involved were Ridgewood (10:18 to 10:06), Warwick (10:34 to 10:02), Shaker (10:37 to 10:19).

The top PA DMR squad at Nationals ended up being Chesnut Hill Academy (who didn’t even medal at indoor states) who won the slow heat behind a 4:13.24 anchor leg by Dustin Wilson and helped lead CHA to 10th overall with a 10:15.49. CB South was 11th in 10:18.41 after racing in the fast heat.

Tommy Gruschow
The Trinity senior was dominant during his final year of high school. As a junior, Gruschow was just 41st at the state championships in XC making him the #17 returner within his classification. That race was a strong performance for him as well-he had been 21st the previous week at districts. But as a senior, Gruschow turned it up a notch. After placing 31st at Carlisle in 16:58, Gruschow won the Cumberland County, District 3 and then the State Championships. He saved his best for last with a 16:30 over the Hershey hills. Tommy was sitting in 4th place at two miles but timed his kick perfectly and stole the championship over the last stretch to outduel AJ Limongelli by a second.

Despite his gold medal on the trails, Gruschow’s real legendary status came on the track. Tommy was consistently busy over the stretch run of the season. At Mid-Penns, racing against large school competition, Gruschow helped lead his 4x8 to second place in a AA meet record of 7:56.88. Gruschow also took second place in the 1600 with 4:19.66 and 3rd place in the 3200 at 9:31. Finally, Trinity capped off the meet with a 3:23.89 4x4 that was good enough for another bronze in the trophy case. The AA program scored 51 points in the ultra-competitive Mid Penn.

Then came districts. With Gruschow leading the charge, Trinity was dominate. They won the 4x8 in 8:04.29 and the 4x4 in 3:25 (without Tommy this time) while Gruschow added 3 individual gold medals with wins in the 3200, 1600 and 800.

What would Tommy have for an encore? At states, he opted for the 4x8-16-4x4 triple (he tried to add the 8 but was too tired to pursue all 4). Things started with a blazing 4x800 race. Lewisburg Area, who had run 7:57 in the prelims, pushed the pace with a balanced attach. But Gruschow poured everything he had into his anchor carry. Running about 1:53, he carried Trinity through the line in 2nd place with one of the best AA relays of all time at 7:51.46 to Lewisburg’s 7:50.66. After that race, Gruschow seemed very tired for his 1600 run. Would he have anything left? Tommy almost toppled to the track mid race before making a late surge and kicking away from future two-time state champ Ryan Smathers with a 4:17.90 for the gold. Trinity then capped off the meet with a 3:24.90 victory in the 4x4, getting some vengeance on Lewisburg by 0.36 seconds.

Fun side note, Gruschow’s running mate on those relays was Derek Pawlush, a very talented 800 runner, while the Lewisburg relays were led by the Olenginski twins. Those three runners ended up all attending Franklin & Marshall, a D3 school in my conference the next year and went on to rewrite the record books in the 4x8 with those three guys leading the charge.

Best Race
I’m going to be honest, I’ve rolled through pretty much every state championship race from this year. My personal favorites were the 4x800m outdoors (Manley runs down Abington), the indoor 800m (Endress on the double) and the AAA 1600m. That last one hasn’t been touched on quite yet, but I’m saving it for the next post because (spoiler alert) it has a pretty significant name at the front of the results.

Biggest “What If”
Man, the injuries sucked this year. Endress was banged up and, after a brilliant indoor season, wasn’t quite at full strength for outdoors. Wade still took 4th and 3rd in the 16 and 8, but you wonder if he could have pushed Cho (a 1:50 guy) or Magaha (a 4:07 guy) to faster times or even won the race himself and dropped a better mark on his own. Meanwhile, Kyle Moran of Abington was dinged up and, although he ran incredibly clutch in the big moment, it would have been cool to see Moran mixing it up at the front of the open 800 fields the same way he was indoors (and have him and Manley both anchor head to head). Then there’s Mike May from the state champs at CB West. If they had kept him in the fray, could West have made a better push at the state record? Or at least Wissahickon’s old record of 7:36?

The spin off to this would be-what if we saw Connor Manley race fresh head to head against Hong Cho? They raced head to head at districts and Cho dropped a 1:50.92 to Manley’s 1:51.50, but Connor had already anchored West to gold earlier in the day (although he could somewhat coast in that one). Would have been cool to see if those guys could have maybe challenged the 1:50 mark.

Spinning off that, it was pretty windy at the state championship final for 800 meters. Cho “only” ran 1:52 to pick up the win and nobody else was under that. Hong had been running 1:52 with his eyes closed by that point, so you’d have to imagine in better conditions this race could have been a 1:50-1:51 type race with faster performances from a lot of state medalists.

My Personal Best Running Moment
I’m not sure there was any one moment that stands out from my freshman year of college. There were definitely some cool moments, including my first time trial under the lights after a good summer of mileage, but I’m not sure there was a signature highlight. I think the biggest thing for me was the transformation of being a high schooler who didn’t really know much about how training and mileage all worked to taking my training (and my thoughts about training) up to a whole other level. It’s tricky because you have to balance that newfound knowledge with the tendency to obsess about every little thing.

PA’s Fastest Seniors
800m (1:55.00)
1. Hong Cho, Wissahickon 1:50.41
2. Luke Lefebure, Henderson 1:51.08*
3. Connor Manley, CB West 1:51.50
4. Wade Endress, Altoona 1:51.73i
5. Kyle Moran, Abington 1:52.81i
6. Andy Flynn, Cumberland Valley 1:53.36
7. Brandon Krszal, West Allegheny 1:53.65
8. Mato Bekelja, Hershey 1:53.70*
9. Alex Sheltzer, Friend’s Central 1:54.31
10. Nate McClafferty, Conrad Weiser 1:54.65
11. Evan Gomez, Butler 1:54.82
12. Matt McGarvey, CB West 1:54.8h

1600m (4:17.00)
1. Nate McClafferty, Conrad Weiser 4:11.37
2. Wade Endress, Altoona 4:11.87ic
3. Ryan Gil, North Allegheny 4:12.24c
4. Ed Schrom, Central Dauphin 4:14.66
5. Chris Campbell, CR North 4:14.93*
6. Glenn Burkhardt, Unionville 4:16.02c
7. Matt Dallago, Perkiomen Valley 4:16.15
8. Mahdi Koliso, Glen Mills 4:16.23
9. Matthew Groff, Hempfield 4:16.77
10. Logan Mohn, Governor Mifflin 4:16.87

3200m (9:20.00)
1. Ryan Gil, North Allegheny 9:03.87*
2. Glenn Burkhardt, Unionville 9:07.53
3. Zach Hebda, North Hills 9:07.93
4. Jacob Kildoo, Grove City 9:09.41*
5. Reece Ayers, Tunkhannock 9:12.47*
6. Joe Kush, North Hills 9:12.91*
7. Juris Silenkis, North Hills 9:15.11*
8. Ian Barnhill, DT West 9:15.48
9. Paul DeGregorio, Baldwin 9:16.12
10. Tom Trainer, LaSalle 9:16.72*
11. Evan Gomez, Butler 9:17.09

4x800m (7:47.00)
1. Abington 7:37.79
2. CB West 7:38.97 (May, McGarvey, Bee, Manley)
3. CB West 7:41.51 (Metzler, McGarvey, Bee, Manley)
4. LaSalle 7:47.93

Top 50 Rankings - Courtesy of Jiminy Cricket

Big shout out to Jiminy Cricket, one of our most loyal readers and best commenters who decided to put together a version of the top 50 list for track. This is a tricky proposition given the fact that track has so many different races involved (unlike XC), but the guy (or girl, I technically have no idea) put together a pretty strong set of names. Let him (or her) (and all of us) know what you think!

As promised, here's my top 50 rankings as of right now. I tried to use a mix of guys off to good starts and guys with big PR's, but really it ended up being very close to the indoor state meet results. My plan is to update this every week. Please let me know who I misranked and who I left off altogether. Let's get some more hype going for this season!

1. Josh Hoey (Bishop Shanahan/Senior)
2. Rusty Kujdych (Neshaminy/Senior)
3. Liam Conway (Owen J. Roberts/Senior)
4. Noah Beveridge (Butler/Senior)
5. Evan Addison (LaSalle/Senior)
6. Tristan Forsythe (Winchester Thurston/Senior)
7. Joe Cullen (Wyomissing/Senior)
8. Tyler Wirth (Wallenpaupack/Junior)
9. Tyler Shue (Ephrata/Sophomore)
10. Kamil Jihad (Neumann Goretti/Senior)
11. Jonah Hoey (Bishop Shanahan/Sophomore)
12. Morgan Cupp (Mechanicsburg/Senior)
13. Mitchell Etter (State College/Senior)
14. Brian Baker (CB West/Senior)
15. Matt Eissler (Pennridge/Junior)
16. Colin Ebling (Pottsville/Senior)
17. Brett Zatlin (Great Valley/Senior)
18. Seth Ketler (Seneca Valley/Junior)
19. Tyler Rollins (DT West/Senior)
20. Aidan Sauer (Pennsbury/Senior)
21. Ian Miller (Manheim Township/Junior)
22. Spencer Smucker (WC Henderson/Senior)
23. Sam Owori (Seneca Valley/Junior)
24. Jake Claricurzio (CB West/Senior)
25. Brenden Miller (Upper Dauphin/Senior)
26. Hudson Delisle (Quakertown/Senior)
27. Garrett Baublitz (Juniata/Sophomore)
28. David Endres (CB East/Junior)
29. Jed Scratchard (Pennsbury/Senior)
30. Zack Forney (Ridley/Senior)
31. Isaac Davis (Jersey Shore/Senior)
32. Cameron Binda (Greensburg Salem/Junior)
33. Sam Earley (CR North/Senior)
34. Jarnail Dhillon (Upper Darby/Senior)
35. Aiden Tomov (Haverford Township/Junior)
36. Jacob McKenna (Spring Ford/Senior)
37. Jack Zardecki (Dallas/Senior)
38. Will Merhige (Haverford School/Senior)
39. Sam Snodgrass (South Fayette/Senior)
40. Matt Busche (Franklin Regional/Senior)
41. Jack Wisner (Carlisle/Junior)
42. Ethan Zeh (Radnor/Junior)
43. Avery Lederer (Penncrest/Senior)
44. Dan McGoey (North Allegheny/Sophomore)
45. Jonah Powell (Grove City/Junior)
46. Whoever split 1:56 on Abington’s 4x8 (probably Coleman or Mitchell)
47. Collin Ochs (CR South/Junior)
48. Chayce Macknair (Mifflin County/Junior)
49. Patrick Theveny (Penncrest/Sophomore)
50. Brett Brady (Butler/Senior)

Honorable Mention: Matt Maiale, Elias Lindgren, Connor Shields, Lamaj Curry
Left off for Injury Concerns: Ryan Campbell, Tyler Leeser

-Jiminy Cricket

Penn Relays Individual Acceptances

PA Mile Entries:
Josh Hoey, Shanhan
Liam Conway, Owen J. Roberts
Evan Addison, LaSalle

It wasn’t that long ago that Josh Hoey was crossing the line first in the Penn Relays mile. As a sophomore, Josh Hoey clocked a 4:11.90 mile to jump past a star studded field that included future PA stand out Noah Affolder (second in 4:12.19). A year later, Hoey was back in the line up again, but this time he had to settle for 4th place as Dalton Hengst was crowned champion. Will the third time be the charm for Josh? He comes in as the favorite with an indoor best 4:07 and a Millrose Championship. All that was before he clocked a 1:47 to smash the indoor national record in the half. He’s got the speed and the experience to win a title, but nothing is ever guaranteed at the Penn Relays as Josh proved only two years ago.

Liam Conway, the now two-time state champion, from Owen J Roberts is also in the field. He clocked a 4:15 and 1:53 at PSU to take the golds at indoor states a month ago. Conway has some very fast season bests, but he’s also proven he is a strong tactician. This has been Conway’s best year to date and he’s poised for a fast run at the Penn Relays if things click.

Evan Addison of LaSalle will round out the PA entries in the mile. After competing as a part of the LaSalle DMR last spring, it appears Addison may get a shot at the individual mile (although the relay entries aren’t final yet). Addison has placed in the top 4 at indoor states each of the past two years. He’s run 4:17.08 this year during the indoor campaign and has 1:54 800 speed dating back to last year. Addison has the tools to hang in a strength race or a speedy one.

PA 3,000m Entries:
Rusty Kujdych, Neshaminy
Mitchell Etter, State College
Tyler Rollins, DT West
Brenden Miller, Upper Dauphin

The top four finishers from the PTFCA State Championships will all contest the Penn Relays later this month. Neshaminy’s Rusty Kujdych will lead the field after a dominant indoor campaign that included an 8:30.88 time in the 3k with a near 12 second margin of victory. That time has put Rusty in a good spot in the rankings – it appears he is the #2 seed.

Etter had a strong indoor campaign, but the State College senior really caught fire when the lights were brightest. Etter stormed to second place overall in the 3k final, running a career best 8:42.70. State College is no stranger to the 3k, but they’ve typically been here for the 4x800 relay.

DT West has put together an impressive stretch of distance running and now they finally have a chance to represent in the 3k. Tyler Rollins, who dropped PR type runs in back to back weeks, has punched a ticket to the Penn Relays to represent the D1 XC champs. Rollins is in thanks to an 8:45 run at states that was 10 seconds below his seed. He’ll look to duplicate that magic after a strong 1600 win at his home invite.

Brendan Miller of Upper Dauphin will represent the small schools in the Penn Relays. Dominic Hockenbury and Ben Bumgarner, future AA state champions in the 3200, have both competed in Philly in the past and Miller will be looking to have similar success. Brenden ran an 8:47 season best at the 3k and is coming off a monster XC campaign. This is a pretty big stage for a guy from as small as a program as Upper Dauphin, but Miller has never backed down from a challenge when the lights are bright. He will try to be the Cinderella in this field.

PA has had their fair share of 3k champions at the Penn Relays, but we are in a bit of a drought. PA took the wheel in 2008 (Dennin), 2009 (Micikas), and 2013 (Norris). Nate Henderson was PA’s top dog in 2017 (4th) and 2016 (3rd) and none of our four entrants have prior individual Penn Relays experience.

But seriously, when is it going to be spring ...

Good news for Pennsbury fans-after missing the end of the indoor season, it appears that Jed Scratchard is back in action. He and state medal winning teammate Aidan Sauer rolled to a 1-2 finish in the 800 with times of 1:58.34 and 1:57.50 respectively. Pennsbury seems like the most logical challenger to CB West for the outdoor state title (although Pennridge and Ephrata will have things to say about that). Speaking of 4x8 contenders, the boys from CB East made a big statement on this front. The quartet knocked off indoor state medal winners Abington and sub 8 squad CR South and dropped a very quick 8:01.44. That time may be good enough to punch a ticket to Penn Relays. East has a star in David Endres, but is also getting back Marc Motter for the spring. These guys have the chance to be well under 8 minutes when all is said and done. I’m a big fan of this group’s potential.

For the record, Pennridge won both the DMR and the 4x4, staking their own climb for middle distance prowess.

Rusty Kujdych began his quest for the triple crown with a runaway victory at 1500. He dropped a 4:06 for the win (roughly a mid 4:20s type mark) to take gold by almost 9 seconds. Kevin Ehrgott of CR North was second. The CRN boys were victorious in the 400 (Mike Welde), 3k (Sam Earley) and 5k (Ethan Koza). It looks like the team’s #1 XC runner Ryan Campbell did not compete. I believe he also missed the indoor state championships so he may have an injury. Although Campbell’s been missing, CRN’s DMR team is still monstrous on paper. They ran 10:32 indoors and could potentially cut some more time off that mark in the right conditions. Their 12-4 punch out front sets them up to be similar to O’Hara from a few years ago, but the pressure will be on the back end to bring it home. I think low 10:20s is possible should they make it to Penn.

Bruce Dallas
Mechanicsburg’s Morgan Cupp left Bruce Dallas with perhaps the best performance of the day. He rolled to a meet record in the 3200, dropping a 9:31.55 to outlast indoor state medalist Ian Miller (who impressed himself with a 9:38.20). I’ve already mentioned Cupp’s name a couple times this spring and he’s on pace for what would be a huge breakthrough on the track. I think he’s setting himself up for a huge year. Miller (just a junior on the rise) should be a name to remember as well.

I was very impressed with the results from Schuylkill Valley in the middle distance relays. They dropped an 8:15 to defeat a strong field that included two of last year’s D3 state qualifiers, Manheim Township and Lower Dauphin, before uncorking a quick 3:26 in the 4x4. Ben Reisenweaver also won the open 800 in 2:00.42. I believe Schuylkill Valley is AA for track and, historically, does a great job in this relay. I could see them factoring in near the top of the state standings when all is said and done. With Seneca graduating their big three, the AA 4x8 is still up for grabs at this stage.

Cumberland Valley’s Andrew Brown had a strong showing in the middle distances. He rolled to the win in the 1600, holding a 6.5 second cushion on second place with a 4:33. Brown followed that with a 2nd place run in the 800. As a team, CV took 3 of the top 8 spots, including section 2 winner John Williams (a frosh) who ran 2:05.94.

As mentioned by one of our commenters, Zack Forney of Ridley has somehow caught fire despite the cold conditions. After a couple big victories in his first meet of the season, Forney doubled down on his success by blasting times of 4:24.16 and 9:42.06 in the 16 and 32. Those are great marks and back up his wins against loaded fields last time out. I’m excited to see this momentum carry forward throughout the season. He still may just be scratching the surface which could be a scary sign for this competition.

Haverford Township had a nice day at their home meet. Aiden Tomov won the 800 with a mark of 1:59.37. He was 7th at indoor states in the mile so he’s got a nice combination of strength and speed. His teammate Erik McCallion also dipped under two minutes at 1:59.87. Combine these two with Brendan Campbell and Josh Fingerhut (2nd and 3rd in the 1600) and you’ve got yourselves the beginnings of a very good 4x8. Haverford didn’t attack the relays indoors, but we may seem them give the 4x8 a real go in the spring. By the way, all four of these kids are back next year with three juniors and a soph (Fingerhut) on the roster. I believe they also return Donnelly who was a force during XC and has great strength.

WC East shined as well in this meet. A pair of sophomores, Josh Lewin and Domenic Moser, were excellent behind Forney in the 3200. They clocked times of 9:45 and 9:48 and put their names near the top of the state leaderboard thus far. We’ve seen Lewin do big things already in XC and track (which is crazy as he’s only a sophomore), but Moser is coming along nicely to push him. This 1-2 punch could be scary good in a couple years. East also took 5th in the 1600 (Matt Clarke) and 4-5 in the 800 (Brennan and Daley).

Pirate Invitational
CB West hasn’t lost much momentum from the indoor season. The defending 4x8 state champions indoors and out took the top 3 spots in the open 800 (without their best guy from the winter). Jake Claricurzio is hitting his stride at the right time, dropping a 1:57.95 after a banged up couple months. The consistently reliable Luke Fehrman was 2nd in 1:58.83 and Owen Shields, the breakout star on the 4x8, rounded out the top 3 at 2:02, just ahead of Burton Carbino’s 2:03 (Carbino ended up breaking 2 minutes at Kiwanis later in the weekend). CB West also took 2-5-6-7 in the 1600 and won the 4x4 and 4x8 relays.

Hudson Delisle flashed some serious range here as well. The Quakertown senior won both the 1600 and the 400. His times were 4:36 and 52 seconds. Delisle holds a best of 1:52 for 800 and may be the man to beat in that event if he’s healthy and in form.

Golden Ram
After an impressive DMR run during indoors, Spring Ford hit the track at West Chester ready to showcase their depth. Zach Smith and Milan Sharma took 2-3 in the open 800 and were closely followed by JT Clark and Calvin Thomas (6th and 7th). That right there is the pieces for a solid 4x8 if they choose to pursue it (they’ve also got McKenna, but I suspect he will be all in on the 3200). Freshman John Zawislak was 5th in the 1600 and the aforementioned McKenna teamed with Shane Ainscoe for a 1-2 finish in the 3200. McKenna’s winning time was 9:48.

Great Valley’s Brett Zatlin, a 1:54 800 man, was second in the 1600. He clocked a time of 4:30 and was 6 seconds ahead of mile state qualifier Jack Miller of Jenkintown (3rd place, solid run for the AA stand out). Zatlin’s Great Valley teammates were spread across the top of various fields with Roman Silen taking 3rd in the 3200 and Seth Hoffritz leading the GV 800 charge at 2:03.97 (5th). This Great Valley 4x8 squad will be interesting. They’ve shown flashes and they have a great piece in Zatlin, but the 4x8 in District One is always loaded. We will see if the young guys can step up. Great Valley won the 4x4 over Spring Ford at this meet 3:33 to 3:35.

Whippet Invitational
Owen J. Roberts was one of the most pleasant surprises in an XC season filled with pleasant surprises. So that’s saying something. Liam Conway shined during the indoor season (two gold medals are pretty shiny), but I thought we might see some relay action start to develop during the winter. Looks like I may have been a couple months early. The OJR boys depth is starting to show up again as they went toe to toe with indoor state qualifiers Twin Valley and DT West (who medaled indoors) in the 4x8 and came away with the win 8:07.98 to 8:13.82 (TV). OJR’s Kyle Malmstrom was also victorious in the individual 800 with a mark of 2:02.49. He knocked off Spencer Smucker of Henderson by less than 3 tenths of a second. OJR took 1-7-8-10 in the open 8 and 6-11 in the 1600 (and 6-9-10-11 in the 400). None of those guys were Liam Conway.

Of course, DT West still has one of the deepest squads in the state. The D1 XC Champs took 1 through 4 in the 1600, led by indoor state medalist Tyler Rollins at 4:31. Tyler Valderrabano was 3rd in the 800 (2:04) and, as mentioned, West’s 4x8 was 3rd in 8:17.  

College Freshman 2010-2011 (Part I)

Defining Runners
Hong Cho, Wissahickon
At Upper Dublin, our biggest rival was Wissahickon. The Wissahickon dual meet always felt different than the other ones (honestly, it was the only one that felt like it mattered, even when we were facing great teams like Cheltenham). So naturally, I was picking out guys on this squad as my own personal rivals. I’d go online and look at their times, comparing them to my own, and try to find a suitable guy to chase.

From an early age, I was chasing Hong. He was a year younger than me with more raw 400 speed, but our 800 times were comparable. Briefly. Hong and I were both trying to become sub 2 minute guys during the indoor season in 2010. At the Burdette Invite, Hong beat me by one spot and we both medaled, qualifying for Meet of Champs with about 2:03. But that was the last time I was even within sniffing distance of Hong.

From then on, Hong started to make big improvements. He and his Wissahickon teammates went on to grab a set of 4x8 medals at indoor states that year (his junior season). He suddenly became a consistent sub 2 minute guy and, at the outdoor state championships, he dropped all the way down to 1:53 and beat Sam Ellison (who, if you’ve been keeping with my posts, was a beast that season). But Hong still wasn’t at his peak just yet.

As a senior, Hong had his best ever XC season, qualifying for the state championships individually after spending his first few years coasting through the fall. The indoors, he medaled at 800 meters and ran the lead off leg for Wissahickon’s state championship winning DMR. But for the second straight year, when things got the spring, Hong turned it up to a whole other level.

Cho rolled through his races from 400 through 1600. He beat Dustin Wilson in the 1600 at the PTFCA Carnival and clocked a 47 split on the 4x400. However, his best event remained the 800 meters. Hong dropped a 1:50.92 at the District One Championships to set the meet record before winning states against a stacked field in windy conditions a year later. In a field at Henderson, with ideal conditions and competition, Hong lowered his personal best to 1:50.41. At the time, the mark was PA #6 all-time.

Ryan Gil, North Allegheny
North Allegheny had been a team on the rise throughout my high school years. They had some amazing runners during their WPIAL streak including Max Brown, Matt Jacob and Justin Taylor, but, ultimately, Gil was their first transcendent super star. As a freshman, Gil was a scorer on NA’s state squad, which finished 3rd. The next year, he was a state medalist as a sophomore and was the #1 guy on a national qualifying team. When 4 of the top 6 guys from that time graduated, Ryan helped carry NA to 2nd in the state (even better than their national squad) with a 3rd place finish at states. He went on to qualify for the Footlocker National Championships to cap off his junior XC season.

That right there was enough to make the kid a hall of famer, but he still had some magic left. As a senior, Gil and his North Allegheny team emerged as an early favorite for the state title in a relatively wide open team competition. However, a foot injury sidelined Gil and the once invincible front-runner was pushed down the state rankings. In fact, when he finally returned to action, three guys from the same team (the North Hills monster) defeated him. The Tigers were also pushed as a team. Baldwin emerged as a legit WPIAL contender (winning Tri States) and, if it wasn’t for Gil’s 4th place return at districts, their streak may have been over before it really got going. As things stood, with Gil in the line-up, they held off Baldwin at Coopers by just 6 points.

At states the defending state champions from Henderson were waiting for them, as were talented squads from the PCL and D6. And of course a rematch with Baldwin was in store.

As the state race started, it was unclear what Gil had in the tank. He raced off to a relatively conservative start, going through the mile in just 17th place. His team followed his lead as they were 4th at the mile. But Ryan stayed patient. Barely back running after his stress fracture, Gil moved to 7th at the two mile and timed his move perfectly to escape an absolutely stacked group and win the state title in 15:52. The three guys immediately behind him would all go on to qualify for national championships at the end of the month, but Gil was savvy enough to defeat them all in the big moment. And, oh by the way, North Allegheny won the state championship as a team, charging home on the final mile to win by 22 points.

By the way, Gil’s track achievements were pretty spectacular as well. He won a state title at 3k as a senior and was state runner up in the 3200 as a junior (with a time of 9:03). Gil clocked a 4:12 1600 equivalent at Baldwin and also picked up an indoor mile state medal as a junior. In 2011, he helped NA qualify for indoor states as a team in the DMR (they placed 10th).

As a senior, Gil looked poised for an outdoor title in the 3200, but surprisingly pulled out of the field after falling ill at districts.

Wade Endress, Altoona
Wade is one of my favorite PA runners of all time-and I’m not just saying that because he was the first person to ever ask for a picture with me. The Altoona grad was always a factor in big races and was never afraid to race the best or try a crazy double. As a senior in XC, Endress trekked across the state to race all the biggest names. He went to Coatesville to race Chris Campbell. He went to Coopers to race the WPIAL names. He went to Carlisle to take on the mid-state guys. Endress didn’t take the gold at any of those meets, losing to Chris Campbell and the North Hills monster, but when he got to the state championships, he had learned from those races. Wade sprinted his way to a silver medal, only topped by Gil.

In track, Endress was known for doubling or tripling in every meet that mattered. Altoona was usually in the mix for a team title or top finish and Wade wanted to help them get there. As a junior at outdoor states, Wade ran the 1600 and 800, medaling in both events with times of 4:15 and 1:53. This came after he doubled mile-DMR indoors and picked up major points in both events. But by his senior season, Wade was stronger than ever. He entered the indoor state meet as the favorite in the mile and, despite a great race from Nate McClafferty, dropped a 4:13 full mile to win the event. After that heroic, near record setting performance, Endress entered an 800 field that was stacked with defending state champ Luke Lefebure, relay stand out Kyle Moran and future state champ Hong Cho. All three of those guys were fresh, but Wade didn’t care. He hung tough to the pace and unleashed his signature kick to storm across the line in first place. In the process, he set a new meet and state record at 1:51.73 – beating what had, at the time, seemed like an improbable record from Tom Mallon two years earlier.

Unfortunately, Endress had injury trouble during his senior year outdoors. However, even though he was going to have to face some monstrous talents at less than full strength, Wade showed up at Shippensburg and delivered some awesome runs. He took 4th in the 1600, running 4:13.77 and helping push the early stages of the race (which played a role in the state meet record) and then doubled back for 3rd in the outdoor 800. Those were career best finishes on the outdoor oval for Wade.

All this traveling and doubling may make it sound like Wade was out to show off and look like a star. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Wade took every chance he had to not just elevate himself, but his team. Over his years at Altoona, the program grew from off the radar to a massive power. They had two top 5 finishes in the state in XC, took 2nd in the DMR, ran well under 8 minutes for the 4x8, and won multiple team titles. Wade was willing to sacrifice himself to go for the team wins and set an example of how to race every time he hit the track. He was a winner in all senses of the word.

Defining Teams
Abington & CB West
During this two year stretch, you couldn’t talk about one of these two schools without talking about the other.

For Abington, I think the story really starts in 2008 with Kyle Moran. From the time he was a freshman, Kyle was a revelation on Abington’s team. My sophomore year (Kyle was a freshman), we raced against Abington in the TFCAofGP frosh/soph 4x8. This was our one chance to win the event before moving on to varsity races. We got out to a good start before Kyle absolutely took over on the second leg of the race. It was the first time I saw him race and it was the start of something big. Kyle exploded over the course of the season and the Abington middle-distance dynasty began to emerge.

The Ghosts entered the 2008 indoor state meet as the #3 seed, but couldn’t hold that position and fell out of the medals. In 2009, they came in as the #1 seed, the only squad to break the 8 minute barrier with a 7:57 season best. They were also the #1 seed in the 4x400, led by Chris Morales. However, they had to settle for 4th place in both relays. Jump to spring 2009. Abington is once again a factor in both relays and their 4x8 drops a monster time of 7:47 but somehow that wasn’t enough to medal in the stacked field. Seemingly, the mid distance squad had that long awaited breakthrough when they shocked Altoona on the anchor of the 4x4 relay, knocking off the highly touted Brady Gehret. However, an unexpected DQ call knocked them off the medal stand completely.

In 2010, Abington entered the state meet as true favorites in the 4x8. The only team within striking distance was CB West, but Abington had the deeper squad and the faster seed. Still, there were doubters about Abington’s ability to perform under pressure (like me). After Kyle Moran finished 10th in the open 800 (in a wacky final), it seemed maybe these guys were just cursed.  But it turns out there was nothing to fear. Moran and teammate Charles Ross absolutely dominated the closing stages of the 4x8 and won the state gold 7:50.86 to West’s 7:53.23. They added a silver behind a legendary Cheltenham 4x4 and all seemed right for the Ghosts.

Unfortunately, Kyle had injury trouble in the spring of his junior year. Abington fought valiantly to hold on without him, but they ended up 2nd at the district finals behind that same squad from CB West. Of course, CB West had their own troubles. Although they had raced well indoors, their team had been largely buoyed by the efforts of Nick Scarpello. The senior was a breakout star, medaling in the mile at states before doubling back to hand his squad the silver on the 4x8. But now, he too was hobbled, struggling home on his 4x8 anchor carry to keep West ahead. Would he have anything left to anchor the team at the state final?

A week later, both Abington and CB West came to play. West needed someone to step up and they got it-junior Matt Bee clocked a massive 1:53 leg to position his team alongside Cedar Crest on the anchor leg. Then Charles Ross of Abington went to work to bring his team back into the mix on the last lap. Seemingly every team was still in contention for the win before Cedar Crest pulled away, leaving CB West with silver and Abington with bronze. But are protagonists were set for 2011.

Here we are. Kyle Moran, ending his legacy as a senior in 2011, looked to carry his Abington team on one last ride. Things got off to a fast start as Abington smoked a state record-without Moran. The team’s 4x400 relay blasted a 3:16.78 to set the 4x400 state record, led by anchor Will Taylor. Then, a day later, Abington doubled down with a 7:45.93 in the 4x8 to grab another record. Moran brought things home with his a blazing anchor carry of 1:52.8.

All this meant that Abington would toe the line at states as heavy favorites in both events. They were also the front runners for the team title. However, that team title would require some doubling. Moran was entered in the open 800 while his 4x8 teammates Will Taylor, Macey Watson and Tevin Smith all had 400 duties. That all went successfully (2-3 in the 400 for Taylor and Watson, 2nd in the 800 for Moran) leaving just the relays to close things out.

The 4x8 was first and, seemingly, the easiest victory. Abington’s seed time of 7:45.93 was nearly 15 seconds ahead of anybody else in the field-CB West was next closest at 7:59.46. But CB West had gone all in on the 4x8 relay. They were completely fresh for the event and knew they had the potential to do something big. The team of Mike May, Matt McGarvey, Matt Bee and Connor Manley ran a consistent race and kept their team out front. The first three splits were 1:57-1:57-1:56 which put Manley in a position to close it out. To date, Manley didn’t have any flashy times and McGarvey and Bee had arguably been bigger stars, but Connor had his coming out party with a 1:54 anchor to not only hold off Kyle Moran but also run a new state record of 7:45.06. That record, despite an onslaught of attempts from great teams, still holds up today.

Abington ended up with the team title, but CB West left with the record. Shortly thereafter, Abington chased that 7:45.06 mark at Nationals. They came close (7:45.21), but couldn’t quite there. Despite winning a national title behind another flawless Kyle Moran performance (with big help from Macey Watson on leg 2), the Ghosts came up just short of the ghost of CB West.

Heading into outdoors, the rivalry was better than ever. At the Penn Relays we got to see another CB West vs. Abington match-up. This time both squads had the same amount of fresh legs and the times did not disappoint. The squads pushed one another to what was then the #3 and #6 best 4x8s in state history 7:37.79 and 7:38.97. Macey Watson got things started for Abington with a 1:56.23 and then the squad’s secret weapon emerged. Will Taylor found his legs in the 800 after being more of a sprint specialist and rolled to a 1:53.01 carry. Despite a herculean anchor of by Manley at 1:51.51, CB West couldn’t catch up to Abington. Surprisingly, Moran could “only” clock a 1:53.26 as some injury concerns started to bubble up for the senior.

The next time the two schools saw each other was at Districts, however both squads weren’t the same as what they had been indoors. Mike May was out for CB West, replaced by junior Nico Metzler. Abington had decided to throw in a relative “B” squad for the 4x8 at districts. Metzler held his ground well as West rolled easily to a 7:46.07 victory. Meanwhile, Abington raced mid pack and left with just 5th overall. Abington tried to spread out their talent to get more points but, perhaps ironically, it was CB West who left the meet with the district title.

If you’re looking for the juicy part of the story, look no further than this. Abington initially entered Taylor and Watson in the 400 and Moran in the 800 for states. However, by the time they toed the line in Shippensburg they had a change of heart. Watson and Taylor both false started in the 400 and then Moran picked up a similar penalty in the open 8. Suddenly, the team was all in on the 4x4 and 4x8 relays and CB West was actually the one putting more on their plate as Connor Manley was in the 800 state final.

For whatever reason, Abington had already been a team that had been the center of fans animosity. So add in some sketchy false starts and a problematic viral internet video and things were really heating up as the 4x8 started on Saturday morning.

The Abington race strategy seemed to be get out fast and put the race away. Their legs shot off like rockets the first 400 meters, but on the second half of the race, they tied up slightly, allowing their opponents to sneak back into the picture. The Ghosts also made a surprise strategy change. They moved up the banged up Moran to 2nd, out of his usual anchor role. He came through with his best race of the year, seemingly blowing the race open with a low 1:52 carry. But Matt Bee chipped away on leg #3 and then it came down to Will Taylor of Abington against Connor Manley of CB West with about 4 second of daylight between the two.

As had become the norm, Taylor shot off like a rocket and Manley did his best to keep pace. The lead just seemed too big to be overcome but slowly over the final 200, the fans could see Taylor tying up. In a stunning turn, Manley sprinted up alongside the struggling opposition and took a dive at the line. Both runners were neck and neck but the video replay showed that CB West had overtaken Abington with a time of 7:41.51 vs. 7:41.57. All the other schools were over six seconds off the pace.

An epic rivalry between the two programs ended fittingly with a dive at the line.

Fans from back in the day may also remember the 4x4 results at the end of the meet. A year after O’Hara had hawked down Charles Ross of Abington with a blister 46.1 anchor from Corey “Philly” Brown (yes, that Philly Brown), O’Hara once again ran down Abington in the final race as Taylor had to settle for silver again. It was a rough finish to the Abington team from that season, but what a heck of a run they had. They were truly an elite 4-8 school, with some of the most disciplined and hardworking sprinters willing to push themselves that extra bit to run the two lap distance.

CB West has the titles and the record, but for whatever reason, I find the Abington run from 2008 to 2011 much more intriguing. Of course, CB West may be in the middle of yet another run this year after wrapping up an indoor state title. They will be trying to defending their outdoor golds in the spring.

The North Hills Monster
In the same year where Ryan Gil jumped out of the pool and into the history books for North Allegheny, he’s somehow the second best story in the WPIAL. Nothing in my history quite compares to the North Hills Monster of 2010-2011. Yes, there have been equal or better trios (most notably the DT West trio of Hoey-Hoey-Sappey), but nothing was quite the same as watching the Monster at work. Allow me to explain. It could take a while.

In the fall of 2007 (like I said, it could take a while), Juris Silenieks (sorry Juris, but I will never spell your name right, no matter how hard I try) and Joe Kush of North Hills become stars. As a pair of freshman, the two runners took 46th and 47th at states, making them the #1 and #2 9th graders in the field (#3, taking 52nd place, was Ryan Gil). That heaped a good amount of expectation on this duo before they were even half way through their first year of high school. In 2008, those flashes looked like they may have been misguided as the boys struggled a bit, but by 2009 they were back and better than ever. With Kush leading the way at 15:48, Juris and Joe took 3rd and 4th in the WPIAL as juniors and 5th and 13th in the state. Outdoors, they clocked times of 9:12 and 9:15 for 3200 and established themselves as two of the best in their class once again.

But something was a little different in 2009-2010. It wasn’t simply a 1-2 punch any more. Zach Hebda had emerged from out of the boy’s shadow. He was 5th at WPIALs, 27th at States and had dropped a 9:17 3200 PR to end the year. That meant North Hills entered the 2010 XC season with 3 sub 9:20 guys, all of whom had been top 30 in the state. And keep in mind that North Hills was a power within the WPIAL for the last decade plus.

So Kush and Juris are going to be stars and Hebda is going to be a nice piece to round things out. That was the story line over the summer. But Zach had other ideas. At the always fast Red, White and Blue Invitaitonal, Hebda knocked off his two teammates-and everybody else-with a blazing 15:16. Kush dropped a 15:23 and Juris added a 15:41. As a team, they finished 13th in the standings-three freshman and a sophomore rounded out the top 5.

With Hebda hitting another level, the North Hills trio looked down right invincible. They continued to improve steadily until October when the trio swept the top 3 spots at the Tri State Invitational at Coopers with times of 15:39-15:39-15:50 (Juris-Hebda-Kush). They defeated Wade Endress, one of the early favorites for state gold and PA’s top guy from Carlisle, and everybody else. Could this team actually take all 3 of the top spots at states? It was absurd enough to imagine a 1-2 finish from a single team (at the AAA level, it’s almost impossible), but what about a 1-2-3?

The frenzy was only amplified at WPIALs when North Hills did it again: a 1-2-3 finish, this time over Ryan Gil of North Allegheny. Hebda led the way with a 15:29 on the Coopers Lake course and Silenieks and Kush were also under 15:40. How many programs have had three guys under 15:40 on that course in its history? Let alone in the same race.

With the pressure on, North Hills jumped into the state final. Hebda, who had never even grabbed a state medal before, led the charge through the mile with Juris right alongside him. The two paced it through at 1-2 with Kush hanging back in 19th. Although they had been dominate to date, at 2 miles, their pack was shaken up a bit. Hebda was back to 5th, Kush was at 14th and Juris was the one leading the way in 4th. Reece Ayers led the charge with a hard surge and a familiar face in Wade Endress was 3rd. They gave it everything they had over the final mile, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. Hebda fought valiantly and took 3rd, Kush jumped up to 10th and Juris slipped to 11th. Three guys in the top 11 at states. It was historic, but it also somehow felt like a disappointment.

Apparently the North Hills guys felt that way as well. Juris and Kush convinced Hebda to extend his season through the extra month to the Footlocker Northeast Regional and the trio trained together for the extended time. After weeks of waiting for the chance at redemption, the North Hills boys came through. Hebda led the way with a top 10 finish a Footlocker qualifying spot, Juris was 11th, barely being edged for a spot at Nationals and Kush was 13th. Three guys from the same team were top 13 in all of the Northeast Regional. Now this lived up to the hype.

If you’re wondering, the North Hills boys found some solid success on the track as well. After all qualifying out of District 7, the trio took 2nd, 5th and 6th at states in the 3200. Under hot conditions, Hebda challenged for gold and raced to a 9:07.93 PR. Kush and Juris ran 9:20 and 9:21 respectively.