2018 Indoor State Championship Preview: DMR

The Stage
In one of the biggest surprises of the championship, Seneca Valley pulled out of both the individuals and the 4x8 in order to put all their focus into the DMR. The reigning WPIAL champs in XC are hoping to become the first western team in state history to win the DMR (after Carlisle was the first mid-state team to win last year). Based on my records, a WPIAL team has never won either the 4x8 or the DMR on the boy’s side at indoor states which means this could be a truly historic achievement for this squad. Standing in their way is a familiar name in Bishop Shanahan, a 4x8 power in CB West and a two time DMR champ in LaSalle.

The Field
Germantown Friend’s 10:45.91
CB East 10:45.02
CR North 10:41.53
Neshaminy 10:40.25
Spring Ford 10:40.14
Penncrest 10:39.94
Wyomissing 10:38.07
LaSalle 10:36.50
Butler 10:33.94
CB West 10:29.22
Bishop Shanahan 10:24.64
Seneca Valley 10:23.07

As mentioned, Seneca Valley is pushing all their chips into the pot on the DMR and I am really excited about the decision. The team ran a 10:23 in a mid-season trip to the armory and, although they haven’t raced the event since, has clocked big times individually and in the 4x8. Sam Owori and Seth Ketler are set up to be two strong pieces on the end legs and the Dixon-Bellack combo is not going to lose ground to many. This team looks great on paper and has been good in practice as this quarter ran 7:46 in the 4x8 last spring with two sophomores leading the charge.

Shanahan, at full strength, would be the team to beat. Despite SV’s great roster, Shanahan is somehow better. A Hoey-Zink-Yoquinto-Hoey relay would be blazing fast across the board. But will we see that relay? With Josh entered in both the mile and the 800 and the team qualifying a 4x4 last minute, I think we will see a modified squad like featuring Carlos Shultz. Shanahan was still a sub 11 team at Meet of Champs with the aforementioned modified relay so they are still dangerous, but I don’t see them as title contenders at this stage.

I think Seneca Valley’s biggest competition will come from CB West, LaSalle and Wyomissing. CB West skipped the individual events to attack this race. For me, I’m curious what West’s relay order is going to be. I’m assuming Baker is the mile, but I don’t know who is going to run that 1200 leg. That is where the race will likely be won or lost for this squad (unless they throw Baker on the 12 and give Bunch the anchor with fresh legs-they could pull a 2016 O’Hara type move and breakaway in the early stages). LaSalle may have the best anchor in this field as Evan Addison has 1:54 speed combined with 4:17 strength. They’ve got a nice #2 piece in Twomey (who should be fresh) and a 2 flat x-factor in Boyle.

But I really like this Wyomissing squad. They ran 10:38 last week with essentially no competition. Joe Cullen is a star with 1:53/4:13 ability. I don’t know if he will be on the 12 on the anchor, but either way he can do a lot of damage. Sophomore Ben Kuhn will have some pressure on him, but he’s risen to the occasion before for the W. Remember, these guys won a state championship in a complete team effort during the fall. They’ve scratched all individual events to chase another one this weekend and they may shock the world in the process.

It’s amazing that I still haven’t talked about Butler. Seneca Valley has overshadowed them in the WPIAL, but they have a comparable 1-2 punch in Brady and Beveridge. Noah has scratched the 3k specifically for this DMR relay and that sort of good karma can go a long way (I think of Kevin James in 2015-a second O’Hara reference for you). Both he and Brady will be on the double which could complicate the picture, but they just ran their own solo sub 10:40 DMR and they shouldn’t be counted out.

Penncrest, CR North and Spring Ford are also all in on this DMR. Penncrest won the Meet of Champs, clinching their spot. They remind me a lot of Lower Merion’s medal winning squad a year ago and Avery Lederer (who scratched multiple individual events to focus on this relay) is a reliable anchor piece. CRN hasn’t dropped a fire DMR since the Lavino Relays so they’ve been playing their cards pretty close to the vest. They have 3 XC state medalists on this squad plus a guy who has split 47 on a DMR before in Welde. Spring Ford’s last state championship featured a 4th place finish so they are no stranger to rising to the moment. McKenna is great, but Zach Smith is the x-factor. He’s had a terrific season to date and can really swing this race with a big leg (I assume he’s the 12 but they may use him at 800).

In a fresh scenario, Neshaminy has the best anchor in this field-Rusty Kujdych. However, Rusty is doubling off the 3k which is a tough ask for any runner. However, if anyone can pull it off, I suppose it may be Kujdych who has been seemingly invincible thus far in 2017-2018. Can his teammates keep it close enough for Rusty to work his magic over the final 8 laps?

CB East and GFS are the last two teams in the field. CB East has a really interesting squad. I’d love to see Endres on a 12 and Bardwell on an anchor. I think that line up (assuming Endres has the stamina to double/triple) could be really effective. GFS has a championship pedigree in this event as one of the most consistent medal contenders we’ve seen. This is perhaps their biggest long shot for a medal we’ve seen during the last decade, but they still return a crew that knows how to win a national championship in this 4,000 meter race. Don’t sleep on the 12 seed.

Seneca Valley is certainly the easy pick as they are fresh, focused and the #1 seed. However, I think this race has the potential for madness. To me, it really comes down to the order. I’m interested to see who is anchor for CB West and Wyomissing. I want to see what strategy each team is going to use to try and either break the field or make up ground in the second half of the race. I think you can make a good case for any of the 12 teams to place top 3.

I would bet a substantial amount of money that these predictions will be least accurate of all my predictions. But I’ll make them anyway.

1. Seneca Valley 10:24.70
2. CB West 10:28.03
3. Wyomissing 10:28.85
4. Butler 10:29.41
5. LaSalle 10:29.57
6. CR North 10:31.52
7. Spring Ford 10:32.64
8. Penncrest 10:34.18

2018 Indoor State Championship Preview: 4x800m

The Stage
Ironically, what has easily been the best 4x8 performance of the 2018 winter track season came during 2017. Bishop Shanahan opened up the year with a 7:49.37 4x800 that has held his position across the leaderboard throughout the year. However, it’s unclear if Shanahan will have those same pieces on the line when the gun sounds for PSU’s first distance event. Ironically, seemingly their top challenger in Pennsbury has scratched the event (as has western power Seneca Valley) seemingly further opening the door for Shanahan. However, CB West, the reigning outdoor state champions, are not expected to go quietly. They’ve yet to fully unleash their 4x8 on a fast track, but they’ve clocked 8 flat this year and are all in on the relays here at states.

Heat 1
CB South 8:19.74
Bensalem 8:17.17
Penn Wood 8:16.93
Radnor 8:13.88
Indiana Area 8:13.22
LaSalle 8:13.17
Twin Valley 8:12.96
Boyertown 8:11.63
Mount Lebanon 8:11.45

With a two heat set up, the odds say that at least one team from the slow heat will slip onto the medal stand. Last year, funny enough, it was Bishop Shanahan who won the slow heat and grabbed some medals. This year, I think it is more likely to come from a team outside District One. Personally, I think LaSalle will likely leave off Addison (and potentially Boyle) from this 4x8 and focus on the 4x8. They are still pretty dangerous (they’ve got a lot of pieces in the 2:04 range), but I don’t see them contending for a medal.

I really like the western teams. Mount Lebanon has been consistent all year and finally dipped under the SQG once they got the right competition (from a talented Indiana squad). I could see Lebo continuing to shine as they get their first real opportunity to run on a fast track. They were in this race a year ago which also gives them an edge in experience. Plus, they likely still have a bit of a chip on their shoulder after XC. Twin Valley out of District 3 is another team that has strong pieces. Dylan Servis is a great star with sub 2 ability and this team impressed at the Meet of Champs when they finally got that SQG to punch a ticket to states.

Of course, there will be a strong D1 contingent in this race. Radnor has two stars in Brown and Zeh. If the other legs step up, then this team will be near 8 flat. Boyertown is another team that I’ve been watching closely in 2018. They have a lot of talent including Josh Endy who has been down near 2 minutes often this year. Bensalem and CB South have each won state titles in the past and Penn Wood is a developing power with a potential star on the rise in Gaymore. They’ve got raw speed that no other team has.

Heat 2
DT West 8:09.50
CB East 8:08.53
GFS 8:07.59
Abington 8:07.41
Pennridge 8:03.98
CR South 8:03.88
Ephrata 8:03.62
CB West 7:57.74
Bishop Shanahan 7:49.37

As I’ve discussed before, I don’t see Shanahan stacking this relay. With Josh Hoey’s Mile-800 double looming, I doubt he would be featured on this relay. I’m also skeptical that Jonah Hoey will be included although it’s definitely possible. If they feature Jonah along with Yoquinto, Penney and McGrory they may still be the favorites for gold.

However, I think CB West is the team to beat. Not only are they all in on the relays, but they are super talented. Brian Baker is a star. Luke Fehrman can drop a 1:56 at least. I’m not sure what kind of shape Claricurzio is in, but when he’s at his best, there’s only a handful of guys that can keep within spitting distance. This program has proven they know how to put it together for the big races and they’ve got at least two, likely three, guys on the relay who are already state champs after last outdoors.

After these two, it’s hard to know which other squads will crack 8 minutes. Ephrata is a team I’ve talked about a lot, but are they ready for this moment? They have some state experience from last spring, but their best runner is only a sophomore. Can they handle the pressure? If they bring their “A” game, this team may win the whole thing.

Abington and Pennridge are yearly powers. Abington has a great 1-2 punch in Mitchell and Coleman (both could be sub 2 guys), but Pennridge’s is even better. If Matt Eissler is included on the relay (and I think he will be) then they have two sub 2 minute guys in the Eissler’s. The Rams were quiet early, but they’ve caught fire in recent weeks including a big win at Meet of Champs.

CR South lost their best runner from last year’s sub 8 squad, but they may be deeper this year. Collin Ochs and Andrew Zawodniak have been on fire as of late. GFS was second a year ago in a sub 7:50 time. They may have lost their two big names, but that doesn’t mean this team is finished. DT West isn’t a traditional 4x8 power (I think of them more as a DMR squad), but they’ve quietly developed a nice middle distance core over the past few seasons. Their DMR didn’t end up making the cut for states this year so they will have to be all in on this relay. I think an all in CB East team could make a nice run at a sub 8 kind of time, especially if Endres is ready to roll on the anchor leg with his 1:55 speed. However, I’m not sure what their intentions are as they have two relays and Endres in the open 8. They may hold him out of this one (they are deep enough to be under 8:10 without him if things click).

Shanahan could definitely win this one, but there are a few too many questions heading into this race. After seeing them win the slower section without Josh last year, it’s clear this program is deep (and knows they are deep) so they may believe they can score big points here without either Hoey (but definitely without Josh). That leans me towards CB West.

I will say that I really like Ephrata’s squad. I’m not sure they are deep enough to match up with the middle legs from West, but if Shue and Baker get it together, I’m not positive Baker wins it (as good as he has been this year).

1. CB West 7:52.50
2. Ephrata 7:54.98
3. Pennridge 7:57.32
4. CR South 7:59.47
5. Abington 8:00.11
6. Shanahan 8:03.64
7. Mount Lebanon 8:04.92
8. Radnor 8:05.76

2018 Indoor State Championship Preview: 800m

The Stage
If things hold to script in the Mile, Josh Hoey will enter the 800 with history on his mind. The defending 800 champion is seeking to win both the mile and the 800-the first such achievement since Wade Endress in 2011 and just the second time it’s been done since 1992. Hoey enters with a season best well ahead of the rest of the field (he’s the only one under 1:55 with his 1:51), but he will have tired legs from at least one race prior to this one. Those tired legs could leave him vulnerable to a challenger-a slew of relative unknowns have dipped into the 1:55s this season and are hungry for more. And, oh by the way, the 800 has three heats, each with high upside kind of guys. That could lead to some madness across the board.

Heat 1
Matt Wehrle, Punxsutawney 2:00.42
Tyler Wirth, Wallenpauack 1:59.78
Dylan Servis, Twin Valley 1:59.56
Jarrett Zelinsky, HG Prep 1:59.29
Hudson Delisle, Quakertown 1:58.77
Nick Gabrielli, Kiski 1:58.59
Collin Ochs, CR South 1:58.45
Seth Phillips, Mifflin County 1:58.37

There’s usually at least one guy who pops off a top 10 performance from the first heat, but who seems most likely to do it? At least a few names from this heat will enter the race on the double: Wirth from the mile, Ochs and Servis from the 4x8. As I’ve said before, I am always wary of guys doubling off earlier events as state races can take a lot out of you. That being said, we saw Liam Conway a year ago double between the mile and 800 and leave with medals in both events. Another talented junior with good speed (Wirth) could end his state meet the same way if things click.

The most logical names from this heat to me for a breakthrough are Delisle and Zelinsky. Delisle has run 1:52 and was third at states a year ago, kicking to a win in the 2nd of 3 sections. However, Delisle hasn’t raced much since the early season so it’s unclear just how sharp he is. Meanwhile, Zelinsky is a relative newcomer to the 800, but he has great speed. He’s been gaining confidence in recent weeks, holds a sub 2 best and vaguely (very vaguely) reminds me of the Sam Ellison story. I could see him popping a 1:57 and winning this heat.

Heat 2
Lamaj Curry, Chester 1:58.22
Ethan Zeh, Radnor 1:57.94
Michael Clark, Methacton 1:57.53
Javier Linares, Pennsbury 1:57.36
Jarnail Dhillon, Upper Darby 1:57.29
Brett Zatlin, Great Valley 1:57.13
Matt Eissler, Pennridge 1:57.03
Aidan Sauer, Pennsbury 1:56.68

At least one runner from this heat will medal. That’s what history tells us and, unsurprisingly, I tend to side with history. I’m even more confident in that prediction based on the fact that this heat is pretty stacked. First of all, you have two Pennsbury runners in this heat in Javier Linares and Aidan Sauer. After Pennsbury surprisingly scratched the 4x8, these guys are suddenly fresh, fearless contenders who are all in on this event. If memory serves, Linares went out near 25 seconds at Ocean Breeze a few weeks back during his 1:57 run. Assuming he is bold enough to push the pace early again (perhaps with Sauer accompanying him) this race could be fast enough for a 1:54 winner which, in my eyes, has got to get you at least top 6.

Beyond the Pennsbury duo, I think Matt Eissler and Brett Zatlin will contend for the win in this heat. Zatlin is fresh and seems ready to roll after his multiple 1:57-1:58 times this year. He could pop one this weekend. Eissler may have the 4x8 already in his legs, but he’s a returning state medalist in a program that knows how to produce 800 stars.

The deep sleeper would be Ethan Zeh of Radnor. Not only has Radnor become something of a mid distance power (Holm, Kelly, Cooke all excelling in recent years), but Zeh is fresh off a massive 1:58 run at the Meet of Champions (winning the slow heat if memory serves). I think Radnor will make a push for the medals in the 4x8 so Zeh might be tired out, but the junior shouldn’t be counted out of this field.

Heat 3
Robert Dupell, St. Joe’s Prep 1:56.41
Jonah Hoey, Bishop Shanahan 1:56.11
Tyler Shue, Ephrata 1:56.01
Kamil Jihad, Neumann Goretti 1:55.43
David Endres, CB East 1:55.05
Collin Ebling, Pottsville 1:55.03
Liam Conway, Owen J Roberts 1:54.41
Josh Hoey, Bishop Shanahan 1:51.49

I think between my posts thus far I’ve said enough about Hoey’s credentials. He’s a super talented runner who could potentially end the winter season with state records in the mile and 800. He’s got a big advantage by seed time in this race, but he’s going to have to produce with tired legs. Unlike Endress who doubled or tripled at nearly all major championships in his career, Josh doesn’t have a history of marquee doubles. It doesn’t mean he can’t do it, but it does mean we could see a surprise in this. If somebody makes him work in the mile, that will add even more stress to this 800.

The other thing I feel compelled to bring up is Tom Mallon in 2010. Mallon was the defending 800 meter state champion as he entered this race his senior season. He was by far the most accomplished 800 guy in the field and he had already split sub 1:50 the previous outdoors. However, Mallon was doubling off a mile victory earlier in the meet and took a passive approach to the 800 on tired legs (he was also slated to run the DMR). As a result, the pace lagged too much in the early stages of the fast heat of the 800 as everyone simply defaulted to Mallon and he didn’t have it in him to take on the pace. That left the door open for Luke Lefebure to steal the state title from the second of three heats in a surprise upset. Maybe that happens here with the top two seeds (Conway and Hoey) both doubling and other guys being more of the kicker type surrounding them.

As alluded to, Liam Conway is doubling off the mile, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contend. He’s very familiar with this double from a year ago. Of course more than just the top seeds are doubling. David Endres and Tyler Shue are likely both doubling off the 4x8 (although I’m not 100% positive we see Endres on that relay). Jonah Hoey may also be doubling off the 4x8 although my current speculation is that we see him fresh.

It’s a younger, more inexperienced field out front as Shue and Jonah Hoey are both just sophomores. Jonah nearly made the outdoor state final last year as a frosh so he’s poised to run above his age, but we don’t know quite as much about the emerging talent of Shue. David Endres completely skipped the 1:56s (and most of the 1:57s and 1:55s) with his massive PR at Ocean Breeze this season. Was that a flash in the pan or is the junior ready to join the state’s elite? Robert Dupell was #3 in the state at 400, but chose to throw his hat in the ring at the longer distance. Will that prove to be the right move? Does he have enough 800 experience to hang with this group?

But the two most important names in the gold medal hunt are Kamil Jihad and Collin Ebling. Jihad has championship pedigree. He’s run 1:52 for 800 and taken state medals in his last three trips to states for track. He’s also coming off an impressive XC season that included a surprising (to me at least) state medal at Hershey. It seems like he has more strength than in year’s past and he’s very confident in his ability to close. Plus, I think Jihad has been kicking himself for almost a year after just barely missing out on state gold in AA at 800 last spring. He’s ready for this chance at redemption.

Ebling is a wild card, but a wild card who has proven himself. He was excellent last year in District 11 at both 800 and 1600 (where he made states), but couldn’t put it together in Shippensburg to make the final. He’s taken gradual consistent steps forward this year, winning a key race at Kevin Dare and also showing real strength at the over distance with a top flight mile result and a great 1k. He seems hyper focused on this race and poised for an upset.

Although I floated out the Tom Mallon comparison, I think this Hoey performance is more likely to be reminiscent of Sam Ritz in 2015. Ritz won the mile with a blazing 4:09 and then doubled back to run 1:51 in the 800. That kind of time wins almost every year-he just ran into the best 800 guy we’ve ever seen in John Lewis. Ritz was strong and fast and that’s how I see Hoey being for this race. He’s not a lock, but I think he gets the job done.

As for the race behind him? I’ve got no idea. I think any combination of guys could fill out the medal stand with basically everybody in the field looking dangerous. Keep a good eye on Heat 2. They could steal the show.

1. Josh Hoey 1:52.96
2. Jihad 1:53.88
3. Sauer 1:54.85
4. Zatlin 1:55.57
5. Jonah Hoey 1:55.62
6. Ebling 1:55.73
7. Eissler 1:55.81
8. Curry 1:56.50

2018 Indoor State Championship Preview: 3,000m

The Stage
Rusty Kujdych of Neshaminy will enter the 3,000 meter final as perhaps a bigger favorite than even Josh Hoey. Rusty was the runner-up in this race a year ago, only denied the title by a fierce close from Nate Henderson. It’s Kujdych’s third straight year in the event and he’s hoping the third time will be the charm. Rusty is set to get his biggest challenge from a couple small school guys that don’t typically get a shot at Goliath. Tristan Forsythe of Winchester Thurston and Brendan Miller of Upper Dauphin, the top two runners from A XC States, will look to take down Rusty alongside 9 other distance talents.

The Field
Ian Miller, Manheim Township 8:57.42
Peter Borger, Malvern Prep 8:56.23
Kyle Burke, Abington Heights 8:56.08
Jason Cornelison, Cheltenham 8:55.95
Tyler Rollins, DT West 8:55.29
Patrick Theveny, Penncrest 8:54.38
Chayce Macknair, Mifflin County 8:53.12
Spencer Smucker, Henderson 8:51.10
Brenden Miller, Upper Dauphin 8:49.95
Mitchell Etter, State College 8:48.57
Tristan Forsythe, Winchester Thurston 8:40.19
Rusty Kujdych, Neshaminy 8:38.71

As mentioned, Kujdych comes in with impressive credentials. He’s got the best PR and the best SB. That goes for the 3200 and the 3k. He’s the reigning XC state champ, a Footlocker finalist and top returner from this race and last spring’s 3200. Plus he’s run the fastest mile of anybody in this field in 2018, running 4:15 earlier at Ocean Breeze. The guy has a killer resume.

But, as I’ve typed too many times to count, the races aren’t won on paper. Tristan Forsythe is taking a bit of a risk in this event, attempting the 3,000 instead of his usual distance, the mile. Forsythe dropped an impressive PR this indoor season with a 9:15 for 3200 at SPIRE. For qualifying purposes, that’s converted to 8:40, but realistically it’s worth faster than that. He skipped the mile (where he won a state championship last spring) to focus on the longer event. Of course, he’s fresh off a state championship in XC from the fall so it’s not like he won’t have some experience. I actually really like the move. It puts some pressure on Rusty and, if he can hold on for the kick, he will be dangerous.

I’m very high on Brendan Miller of Upper Dauphin. For what it’s worth, he’s already run two 3ks on this track, including an 8:49 win at Kevin Dare. Miller ran 15:40 for XC and has stretched himself with some big races this indoor season (after having a nonexistent indoor campaign last year). I just think the guy is a big talent who races fearlessly. He’ll go after Rusty and see what happens. Of course Mitchell Etter of State College just knocked off Miller in their most recent 3k duel, dropping a new PR of 8:48. Etter will also be very familiar with what is essentially a home track advantage. Chayce Macknair, the third member of this mid-state triumvirate, is also racing close to home. He clocked an 8:53 personal best to get to this state meet last week and will now look to add a second straight state medal to his collection after a clutch run at Hershey this fall.

Somehow Spencer Smucker seems to have skated under the radar this indoor season. He’s dropped an indoor mile PR and an indoor 3k PR. He’s proven he can run clutch at states, anchoring Henderson to a state medal in the DMR last winter. He’s got 4 XC state medals and he’s fresh off an appearance at nationals. Plus, he’s never had the chance to mix it up individually. This race is 4 years in the making for him. The Henderson senior has all the tools to finish in the top 3 in this race.

The rest of the field is a bit more unknown. Ian Miller, Peter Borger, Kyle Burke, Jason Cornelison, Tyler Rollins and Patrick Theveny aren’t exactly household names, but they are huge talents. They will all be gunning for their first state medals and, for some, this is their first ever state track race. Theveny is just a sophomore and, although he has the fastest seed of the bunch, will have to prove he can handle a stage that usually overwhelms younger runners. He’s had a monster indoors, but this will be a huge test. Borger is doubling off the mile, but his high upside. Burke won at the Carnival and is a fearless runner who has learned from his battles with Tyler Wirth what it takes to be at the top of the state. Miller has run a lot of 3ks/32s this year which can sometimes tire you out, but also makes you very experienced in the event, ready to finally have things click. He’s lived under 9 minutes this year.

Rollins and Cornelison seem like the most dangerous names. Cornelison has been awesome this year and is really underrated. I can’t help but come back to the Will Griffen district performance a year ago and think big things could be in play. Meanwhile, Rollins is a massive talent. He has a sub 15:40 5k best, comes from a great program and is not coming out of left field as a senior. He was a sub 9:30 guy a year ago at 3200.

I think Rusty wins this one. I picked against him in the fall and got burned so I won’t do that again. This feels a lot like Henderson a year ago-a guy due for a state title on the track with all the tools to make it happen. I’d love to see someone make him work (Forsythe in a kick? Miller hanging around and making a late surge?), but I think Rusty will be all alone, potentially gunning for a record. Keep an eye out for sub 8:30 (unless he wants to save it for the DMR). Personally, I think the battle for 2nd-3rd-4th will be the closest it’s been in a while.

1.      Kujdych 8:30.88
2.      Miller 8:37.65
3.      Forsythe 8:41.09
4.      Smucker 8:44.71
5.      Cornelison 8:46.23
6.      Etter 8:46.99
7.      Burke 8:49.30
8.      Theveny 8:51.04

2018 Indoor State Championship Preview: Mile

The Scene
A year ago, Noah Affolder raced to an impressive win in this event, doubling off the 4x8 to win with a 4:15.21. Right behind him were three juniors-Liam Conway, Tristan Forsythe and Evan Addison. Conway and Addison are back to chase the title this year (Forsythe in the 3k) but, perhaps surprisingly, both guys will enter the meet as big underdogs. Josh Hoey of Bishop Shanahan is the favorite after running a near state record 4:07.42 to win at the Millrose Games. Hoey is looking to pull off the Mile-800 double, a truly rare achievement. Although he’s a clear favorite, Hoey can’t sit back as his competition will not give him anything easy.

Let’s breakdown both heats of the Mile.

Heat 1
Connor Shields, Warwick 4:34.28
Nathan Grucelski, Conestoga Valley 4:33.68
Jack Miller, Jenkintown 4:32.72
Peter Borger, Malvern Prep 4:32.30
Davis Piercy, Kennett 4:31.89
Gordon Pollock, Winchester Thurston 4:31.61
Connor Volk-Klos, Seneca Valley 4:30.38
Patrick Anderson, Mount Lebanon 4:30.27
Aiden Tomov, Haverford 4:30.27
Elias Lindgren, Episcopal 4:29.92

As was discussed, a few surprising scratches opened the door for some guys outside the state qualifying standard to get into the field. The big beneficiaries came from District 3 as Connor Shields of Warwick (outside the top 50 by time) and Nathan Grucelski of Conestoga Valley snuck in with 4:33 and 4:34 seeds. But don’t let those times fool you-these guys can run. Shields as a low 4:20s PB and has good 800 speed. He can hang in a faster race and he can kick off a slower pace. He’s going to be a dangerous medal contender. Meanwhile, Grucelski was a winner against a deep field at the PTFCA Carnival this season (one of the best meets in the state) so he knows how to win. Grucelski hasn’t had the same week in and week out opportunities to run fast that his competitors have on the east coast, but when he gets the chance to shine he does. Watch for one of these guys to finish top 10 in the final standings.

I’ve been a big Aiden Tomov fan so far this season as the Haverford junior has also proven he can run well in big races. He’s been at 4:30 twice this year and also beat some big names in a TFCAofGP association meet gold medal run earlier in the season. He’s got good speed as well, helped by some strong training partners at 800. He could make noise. I also wouldn’t rule out a big day from Jenkintown’s Jack Miller. This guy’s last two XC states runs were incredibly clutch. He was the top soph in the state just missing the top 10 and then he nearly caught Brendan Miller for the silver this season. He’s got the strength and I think he can win this heat if he has his day.

We will also see a great rivalry match-up between Peter Borger and Elias Lindgren. The best two runners in the Independent League this season will go head to head in an epic battle. Borger has great strength (he’s qualified in the 3k as well), but Lindgren has had his number in recent face-offs. Let’s see if Borger can get some revenge for the Independent League XC title and if these two runner’s competitive fire carries over to the rest of the field. The winner of this race will likely need a time near 4:24-4:25 to get into the medals.

The western names really draw my attention. Gordon Pollock obviously has some good training partners at Winchester Thurston and he has gathered some nice big meet experience the last two seasons at XC and outdoor. Forsythe won the slow heat two years ago and that led to a state medal for him, maybe Pollock uses a page from that playbook? Connor Volk-Klos is not on Seneca Valley’s awesome DMR, but is a 4:30 miler. Holy cow, speaks to how good that squad is, but also means you shouldn’t underestimate Volk-Klos. He comes from a program that knows how to do big things. But Patrick Anderson of Lebo is my guy to watch. They too have a deep team (their 4x8 is competing) and he emerged a little bit out of nowhere at TSTCA’s to make states. He was an XC medalist after one of the clutchest home stretches in the state. I think Anderson is your winner in Heat 1 and a state medal candidate.

By the way, now that I’ve failed to mention him you can bet Davis Piercy is going to have a big day. He’s had a consistent season, been successful at the longer and shorter stuff and represents a Kennett team who has produced strong distance runners of late (Austin Maxwell most recently).

Heat 2
Charlie Herrmann, Lower Merion 4:29.64
Will Merhige, Haverford School 4:29.06
Cameron Binda, Greensburg Salem 4:28.83
Brett Brady, Butler 4:26.59
Mark Brown, Greensburg Salem 4:25.40
Tyler Wirth, Wallenpaupack 4:24.11
Evan Addison, LaSalle 4:17.08
Noah Beveridge, Butler 4:16.40
Liam Conway, Owen J Roberts 4:15.33
Josh Hoey, Bishop Shanahan 4:07.42

This should be a compelling battle. Yes, Hoey is a big favorite and with a 4:07 best and 1:51 800 speed in his back pocket, it’s hard to see the Bishop Shanahan senior being toppled. Josh in the defending 800 state champ and was the runner up in the mile two years ago as a sophomore (to his brother). It’s possible that Hoey will enter this race doubling off the 4x8, complicating the picture, but I’d be very surprised to see him on that relay. I think he enters this race fresh.

Of course, fresh doesn’t mean you will be going all out. Hoey will have the 800 in at least the back of his mind as he contemplates the double. I’d imagine he’s going to keep things under control until he absolutely needs to take over with his kick. That’s a strategy that’s worked out fine for him so far, but it does potentially leave you vulnerable to an upset if someone else gets a good jump or you get boxed in.

The guy most likely to pull the upset in the kicking scenario may be Liam Conway. The Owen J Roberts senior was second a year ago (with a big kick) and also picked up the bronze outdoors in the 1600 (with a big kick). He always seems to be coming on blazing fast at the end, but maybe he starts his kick a tiny bit too late. If he’s figured out how to time it right, he can steal this race. This past fall was the most confident and consistent Conway we’ve seen which is scary considering he won two state medals a year ago.

The other two primary contenders are Noah Beveridge and Evan Addison. As mentioned, Addison was a state medalist last year. He dropped a 4:17 already this year and the kid was absolutely flying on his 4x800 leg at Meet of Champs. Evan isn’t afraid to set a fast pace and he could potentially throw a wrench into the kickers strategy in the state final. By the way, he too is coming off a monster XC season that included a marquee victory at Carlisle. Meanwhile, Beveridge is a bit of a newcomer. He’s been a 3k-32 kinda guy in the big meets (backed up by his XC prowess) but he does have speed to unleash. He split a 1:54ish mark last spring and he’s PRed in the mile this year with a 4:16. Beveridge made the decision to pass on the 3k for this mile so he must be confident in his speed. At the very least, Beveridge is high on the gamer scale which gives him a chance to pull off something spectacular.

The wildcard in the title hunt is Tyler Wirth of Wallenpaupack. He was a monster during XC, holds outdoor bests under 4:20 and at 1:53 (split) and comes in with a top 5 seed. Wirth is the top junior in the field by time and we’ve seen underclassmen contend for the title each of the past two seasons.

Greensburg Salem will have a pair of runners in this race, potentially giving them an extra advantage. Mark Brown has been the faster of the duo this indoor season, but Cameron owns a 4:22 outdoor PR. Both will be dangerous in the fight for the medals. Will Mehrige is an excellent runner from the Independent League who didn’t get much love during XC. That being said, he’s been perhaps the #2 guy in the TFCAofGP mile field the last two weeks. Brett Brady of Butler dropped a big time at TSTCA, hitting 4:26. That was a wow kind of performance that hopefully brings him out of Beveridge’s shadow. He was an XC state medalist and his 4:26 earned him the confidence of the coaching staff that he could add more hardware here at PSU.

Lastly, we have Charlie Herrmann of Lower Merion. The junior was a part of an awesome LM squad last indoor season and ran the 800 leg of a medal worthy DMR. He snuck into this hot heat as the 10th seed but will have redemption on his mind after failing to improve his seed time in an important race at Meet of Champs.

I didn’t plan on talking about every runner, but hey, these guys all gave me something to say. It’s going to be a fun meet.

Ultimately, I think this has the potential to be a race for the ages. I’d like to see the pace stay reasonably quick, but if it lags too much, I think Hoey could be vulnerable on a perfect day for Conway. That’s what it is going to take-a perfect day from someone-if they are going to knock off the 4:07 man from Shanahan. Ultimately, I can’t bet against Hoey. He’s been unreal thus far this year and has been much more consistent than year’s past as well. That’s what really takes this thing home in my eyes.

1.      Hoey 4:14.00
2.      Conway 4:14.96
3.      Beveridge 4:16.02
4.      Addison 4:16.55
5.      Brown 4:21.17
6.      Wirth 4:22.59
7.      Anderson 4:25.42
8.      Merhige 4:25.88

Etrain's Projected State Qualifiers

These are my estimates for who will be qualified for the state meet when you factor in scratches. Thanks to those who have provided some insights regarding the entries. I will continue to update these and edit the lists throughout the weekend until the final numbers come forth. Let me know if you have questions and I'll do my best to answer. Any updates are appreciated.

Get your entries in before the deadline and congrats on a great season for those who are all finished up!


State College Invite – What Went Down?

As the state qualifying landscape continues to heat up, we had a pretty epic night of races at State College on Thursday night. Things started with the boys from Wyomissing in the DMR. The AA state champs have had the pieces to put together a huge run in this event, but they’ve saved it until the last possible moment. With only one team within a minute, the W boys rolled to a 10:38.07 and essentially guaranteed a spot at states (they are #5 right now with conversions). This was a really exciting result as I’ve been hoping they would chase a DMR for a while. Will be interesting to see if Cullen opts for the mile or 800 now knowing he has a 1200 leg (or a 16?) still left to come at the end of the day. I was thinking 800 before, but now I’m kinda leaning mile for him.

This meet is typically Mid Penn/D3 teams, but we got a surprise as Bishop Shanahan brought some big guns to punch the last few state tickets they needed. Going into this weekend BS didn’t have a state qualified 4x4 and defending champ Josh Hoey wasn’t qualified in the 800. With neither of those qualified for Meet of Champs, I’d already started mapping out a schedule for the Shanahan boys thinking they wouldn’t have those events as options. Whoops.

Josh Hoey stormed across the PSU track in a new indoor personal best of 1:51.49. He won by 6 seconds in a time that as recently as 2011 would have been a state record (now there’s 4 sub 1:51 guys which is wild). This opens the door for a Mile-800 double out of Hoey if he wants to chase two events. Jaxson went for that same double his senior season (and then tripled in the 4x4) which I’m starting to think may be the route Josh takes looking ahead.

By the way, that Shanahan 4x4 punched their ticket to states at this meet as well. They dropped a 3:28 to make it in and, although they won’t be in the fast heat, this relay could still be dangerous with Zink and Hoey leading the charge.

The other big event from last night was the 3,000 meters. This event was already stacked on paper and things got even tougher last night. With still two marquee meets remaining, we have 15 guys under the SQG (14 of which I think would like to run this event at states). Mitchell Etter made it so that he won’t have to sweat the action on Saturday thanks to a nice PR of 8:48. He beat Brenden Miller of Upper Dauphin (doubling off a 4:34) for an impressive win against a strong field. Miller was well under the SQG as well, but he has a sub 8:50 mark already in the bank for a seed time. Chayce Macknair of Mifflin County showed once again that he’s a clutch performer. After starting the day outside the top 20, Macknair produced a 10+ second season best and soared up to 7th in the state. His mark of 8:53.12 should lock up a state qualifying spot barring a truly historic weekend of indoor track.

With these new events taken into account, the current state cut off times look like this:

4x800 – 8:19.76
Mile – 4:32.45
800m – 2:00.89
3,000m – 8:56.47
DMR – 10:47.86

The biggest outstanding questions (beyond who is going to run fast this weekend) center around what Shanahan’s plan is for states (with all their relay and individual potential), what Pennsbury will do with their 800 guys (double in the open 8 and take up 3 spots? Scratchard in the mile? DMR?) And will any team actually scratch a relay if they aren’t going to go all in on it? Or will they run some inferior version of the squad that got them there?

TFCAofGP MoC: A Preview

In case you guys haven’t seen, the TFCAofGP Meet of Champions entries list is officially here:

I plan to give a quick run through the entries and give some thoughts/preview the action. Like most of my posts this week, this will have a big “what does this mean for states” feel because I think that is important/interesting. However, this shouldn’t devalue the significance of this meet from a purely racing perspective. This meet is a pretty big deal, just qualifying and getting out there and racing is an honor. My Meet of Champs medalist shirt from 2010 (shout out to Sam Ellison for carrying us) is one of my most prized possessions. I’ve worn it so much it’s got some pretty sizable holes in it and I can’t really wear it out in public. But I’m not throwing that away (much to my wife’s chagrin).

So I apologize if this has too much of a state slant, but hopefully that won’t have much of an impact on your ability to enjoy the meet. Actually, hopefully nothing I ever say has any sort of negative impact on anything in your life whatsoever. I shouldn’t be important enough for that.

So lots of good news here – only 14 teams entered this event which means we won’t have to split this race into two heats. That means that the top teams can battle head to head for a spot in the state championships. On the entry list, we have the three best eastern DMRs in the state in Shanahan, CB West and LaSalle. For Shanahan, I don’t know if we see their full “A” squad, but they aren’t entered anywhere else so if they were going to pick a spot this would be it. Maybe we see their non-Hoey guys in there competing for a spot at states on the 4x8 or DMR if Shanahan decides not to push all their chips in on the relays (which I’m guessing they will not want to do considering their individual potential).

CB West has lots of key guys entered in the individual events (most notably Brian Baker in the mile). They’ve got a deep team so we could see anything from complete “B” squad to title contenders out of this squad. I’m guessing they rest at least Baker, Fehrman and Bunch (Fehrman is also entered in the 4 and the 8, Bunch the 3k). LaSalle is crazy deep and has plenty of options for this race. Their state spot is secure, but they don’t really need to push it in other events either. I think they are pretty comfortable with what they have besides some lesser known bubble guys who could sneak into states this weekend. Again, we could see a “B” squad with what would be “A” squad guys on most teams like Pumilia or we could see the “A” team in all its glory. I feel like maybe an Addison 1200 leg and Twomey 1600 leg is coming but no guarantees.

The second tier group is the intrigued one to me. This includes Neshaminy, CR North, CB East, DT West, Penncrest, Great Valley and Boyertown. You can throw Abington in there because their “A” squad is good enough to compete with these teams, but I’m speculating they will keep Mitchell and Coleman fresh for the 800 instead.

This group is basically the state qualifying bubble. It’s #6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17 and 20 in the state as of this moment. I gotta imagine some of these teams really want a big race in this event. CR North, a consistent contender with a 3 XC state medalists, should be a big factor in this race. I think they will be looking for a big time and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win with a low 10:30s kind of mark. Their XC rivals from DT West also could use a big result as they are 11th right now in the standings. They showed really good speed with their sub 8:10 4x8 and they’ve gone a proven ace in Tyler Rollins.

CB East is a fun team. This squad is loaded on paper and have a breakout star in David Endres. Their also really deep, with a plethora of runners to pick from near the 2 minute barrier. It would be cool to see Endres on the 12 and Bardwell on the 16 as a slight order change, but East would also benefit from more competition for Endres on the anchor leg (a factor they didn’t have going for them when they ran 10:49 last week). Penncrest is one of my favorite squads on paper as well. They are really dangerous in the right race. It tentatively appears they will chase a fast mark here, although Lederer and Theveny are slated to run the mile very soon after this race so who knows. They are 13th for now so the only way to get in for this event is to run fast at MoCs.

I’ve been on the Boyertown bandwagon in this event since the early season. I could see a state medal from them at PSU. They likely have clinched a 4x8 spot already so that may be enough to sit back on, but I think they have big upside here. Great Valley shouldn’t be overlooked either. Brett Zatlin is going all in to try and help his DMR advance to states with no individual events on his program. He ran the 1200 at Yale and set them up for their 10:51, but the young guys on the squad had to bring it home. A Zatlin-Endres-Addison 1200 leg would be awesome (let’s throw in Earley and Baker and a Hoey too).

Not positive Neshaminy will go all in on the DMR again. It would be fun to see Rusty chasing guys (he could run down half the field and win this thing on the anchor), but they are more than likely guaranteed a spot at states regardless. A little surprised that teams like Haverford, Twin Valley, Pennsbury and CR South scratched, but that clears the way for a one heat final so I appreciate that.

Lastly, Jenkintown hasn’t thrown down a big mark, but they definitely could. If they load up the relay, watch for this team as a sleeper to dip down near 10:50.

Brian Baker has spent this year becoming a superstar. The kid ran a 1:57.00 800 to win at Lehigh on February 3rd and then blasted a meet record 4:21 last Friday. The record used to belong to Jake Brophy so yes it is a big deal. Baker enters this mile as a comfortable favorite. Maybe he’s going to chase the school record in the event before loading up on relays at states (my tentative guess) so we could see a sub 4:20 mark if the competition is there.

With Kujdych and Eissler as scratches, Charlie Herrmann of Lower Merion and Jed Scratchard of Pennsbury have the two next fastest season bests in the field. However, based on fastest association time, Will Merhige of the Haverford School looks like he will be the #2 seed. Can any of those guys push Baker to a PR? Scratchard would be my personal pick (his season best is from back in December) and he’s fresh and ready to roll.

With Pennsbury scratching the DMR at this meet and loading up the individuals, there’s a chance they may do individual events at states as well (after the 4x8, skipping the DMR). A 4:24 kind of time for Scratchard would make him a medal contender. Meanwhile, Hermman and Merhige are likely already into the state meet when you consider scratches, but they could maybe even jump into the fast heat at states with a big run. At the very least, they have a chance to boost their confidence before the big dance.

Ethan Koza, Avery Lederer and Ryan Campbell were top 15 guys in the state during XC. All three of them may be doubling when they hit the track of the mile (with the DMR first), but all three of them have the talent and pedigree to produce an impressive result.

Some sleepers? I like Aiden Tomov of Haverford as a potential surprise. He’s run 4:30 at Ocean Breeze and has thrown down some impressive association marks on the flat track. I also like Cheltenham’s Jason Cornelison. He’s had big success at the 2 mile distance and I think he has the strength to mix it up with the big names in this field.

Some state meet bubble contenders include Elias Lindgren (#17 after scratches on my list), Jake Robinson (#21) and Dominic Derafelo (#23).

This event should be loaded. The always formidable Kamil Jihad is in this one. The aforementioned Brian Baker is competing. Evan Addison (4:17-1:58) is entered. Hudson Delisle (3rd place at last year’s state meet) is slated to compete. In fact, of the top times in the TFCAofGP, 8 of the top 9 guys are slated to compete. It’s loaded. Sometimes, that makes for a crowded fast heat (especially if the pace lags early) which could open the door for a surprise result. In which case, keep an eye on one of the slower heats.

Depending on how may they choose to fit in a heat (my guess is two of 9 and two of 8 but who knows), you could see Pennsbury’s Javier Linares (a 1:57 open guy) help set a fast pace for his heat mates much like he did at Ocean Breeze (I believe he set the pace in the race where David Endres dropped his mammoth 1:55.00). 

There’s plenty of state meet bubble guys in this race so those guys will certainly appreciate a fast pace. Collin Ochs of CR South is my first guy out while Talus Gaymore of Penn Wood is my second to last guy in. Those guys are both entered along with Jarnail Dhillon (#21), Dylan Servis (#19) and Jarrett Zelinsky (#18). Keep an eye on the Haverford duo of Campbell and McCallion. Both of those guys could pop off a big race and surprise down near 2 minutes. Sam Earley is another name that could well exceed his seed time.

The extra drama with this loaded field revolves around the fast heat at states. They will only take the top 8 in the fast heat of the 800 which makes for little margin for error for the top seeds. As of right now it would take somewhere between 1:57.2 and 1:57.7 to get in the top 8 (flat track). That puts pressure on Matt Eissler of Pennridge and Delisle of Quakertown who are my #10 and #17 as of now. Lamaj Curry of Chester is #13. If any of those guys surprise, they could into the fast heat with a big win.

Unsurprisingly, the 3k is going to be a barn burner this year. As of now, I’m projecting the cut off at 8:58.22 flat track. Only one guy in this field has bested that time and, oh by the way, it’s Rusty Kujdych the state #1. Behind him is a set of wildcards. Ben Bunch was nearly a state qualifier last year and comes in with a 9:04 best (#3 seed). Jack Miller was third at XC states in A and ran sub 15:50 at Paul Short this year. He’s broken 9 and has big incentive for a fast time as he’s currently slated to be first guy out at states.

Peter Borger of Malvern Prep passed on the mile to go all in on the 3k. He definitely could close out this race under 9 minutes. Tyler Rollins and Payton Sewall are both proven talents with converted times at 9 flat and 9:01 (for longer distances). If either of those guys dips under 9 minutes it wouldn’t be surprising to most considering their resumes. LaSalle’s always deep contingent will make a push, led by Bradden Koors and Ethan Maher who were the 2-3 for the state champs at Hershey.

Andrew Malmstrom and Noah Demis don’t have flashy times to date, but they were two monster XC guys who ran very clutch at states out at Hershey. That clutch gene will be needed again to emerge from the sleeper cop and punch a ticket to states. Sean Rahill of William Tennent has qualified in the past and also owns a top 50 finish at XC states.

The biggest sleeper may be Wissahickon’s Matt Maiale. He’s had a phenomenal season to date, showing great range from 800 up to the 2 mile. His time at Ocean Breeze nearly got him into states, but he will need to duplicate that effort (and then some) to get to PSU. The way he’s raced so far this winter, I think he can do it.

However, for all of these guys, nothing is guaranteed. The 3k is a really tricky event and sometimes it’s just not your day. However, having Rusty Kujdych as a pacemaker should help. Rusty won’t play games and he’ll drag the pace out fast. That means everyone should have at least one guy to shoot at. Kujdych is expected to smash the meet record of 8:47 set by Dustin Wilson in 2012 (assuming he wants to go hard). His best this season is under 8:40.

The 4x8 is at the end of a busy day at the Meet of Champions, so it’s anyone’s guess who will leave with the title. I still remember the 2013 championships where Upper Darby, from the slow heat, knocked off a tired Bensalem squad to win the MoCs. Bensalem went on to win states the next weekend and Darby, unfortunately, didn’t medal which goes to show you this event can be wild.

We will likely see lots of doubling guys on the line from schools like CR South (8:03 best but all their relay guys are running individual events), Haverford (big potential based on season’s best with doubling Tomov, Campbell and McCallion), Pennsbury and CB West (if they even want to do this double/triple). And, yes, I’m definitely missing some others like Abington, Boyertown, LaSalle, Radnor and Penncrest but this list is getting really long.

But we will see some fresh squads as well. CB South and Bensalem appear to be gearing up specifically for this race. Bensalem is 17th out of 18 state qualifiers and could use some extra time. CB South is 21st but looked great at the last chance meet with a season’s best 8:25. As I just touched on my last 12 years post, CB South has some history when it comes to the 4x8.

Those two will be bubble contenders, but I also think you can’t count out Twin Valley, Holy Ghost Prep or Penncrest to make noise. Penncrest is currently #19. And, hey, it would be silly to overlook a titan of the 4x8 in North Penn.

All that being said, I think the two most dangerous teams in this race may be Pennridge and CB East. Pennridge will seemingly be pretty fresh beyond Eissler and will have a chance to recruit the junior to the “A” squad for states with a big win. CB East seems to only be doubling with the DMR and, honestly, they could bring some fresh guys off the bench for the 4x8 who would be equally formidable. I’m jumping on the CB East bandwagon now before it gets too crowded.

For the record, don’t be surprised if LaSalle wins this. Historically, they like to chase the 4x8 at this meet. That may have changed by 2018, but I think they really chase a big mark in this event and try to make a statement. If you look, you’ll see they’ve got the meet record from 2012 at under 8 minutes.  

2/14 State Qualifying Rankings

Check out the posts below for more details on what I think could shake up these lists in the coming week. It's almost state time folks ...


One Week To Go: Who Will Make States? Relay Edition

Meets Remaining on PTXC Calendar
Valentine’s Invitational 2/14
State College Invite 2/15
CSU Run at the Rec #3
TSTCA Indoor Champs
Youngstown #4

With one week to go, the state cut off is set at 10:48.57 and leading the bubble is State College. The Little Lions just raced a fast DMR this past week at their home meet, but they may choose to use their last home meet to take one more shot at better that mark. At this point, they’ve got some solid performers (Etter being most obvious, but sophomore Zach DeCarmine was awesome at the PTFCA Carnival), but it seems like they don’t have high odds of qualifying individuals outside Etter in the 3k (Etter is #11 right now so he may want to try his hand at the 3k one more time).

Some other teams that could show up for the last State College meet include Mifflin County (10:52 is #16) and Wyomissing (the AA state champs have been super quiet with no Cullen or Kuhn at the Carnival). Let me know what other mid-state teams may be active in this meet (Penns Valley? Could they get in the mix?).

Henderson has their Valentine’s meet so, if they can find the competition, they may take a shot at lowering their 10:52.14 DMR. Otherwise, they are not in the MoCs so I believe they won’t be able to better that time.

Which brings us to the two big meets: TSTCA and TFCAofGP Championships. Currently only Seneca Valley has punched a ticket to states from the western part of the state. SV (currently #1 in 10:23.07) won’t need to run a DMR hard this weekend and I’d be surprised to see them chase it. However, Butler seems like a very real contender. They’ve already clocked 10:57.38 and Noah Beveridge just ran a blazing 4:16 (while Brett Brady clocked his own big time mark at 4:30). AA darling Greensburg Salem, fresh off two big runs at 1600, could take a big shot in this event. If they click, they can definitely dip into the low 10:40s. But will they go for it? Dylan Binda isn’t in qualifying position, but Cameron and Mark Brown appear to have Mile spots locked up for now (they are both top 15 with projected scratches). I’d like to see Indiana Area push their chips in the pot on this race and see what happens as well.

Now at the TFCAofGP Meet, the DMR is the first event of the day, meaning you can bet your bottom dollar teams will go after it. Last year 7 teams broke 10:52 and the top 6 teams ran state qualifying marks. You can bet a similar style race will take place this year. I’d guess LaSalle is safe from a qualifying stand point so they won’t need to run hard. Same for CB West. Neshaminy should be OK with their time (if they don’t get in, it would be an unprecedentedly fast DMR in the state. They may choose not to take any chances seeing as Rusty is safely in for individual events already and dabble in the DMR.

CR North, Pennsbury, CB East, DT West, Penncrest, Great Valley, Boyertown, Haverford and Twin Valley are all qualified and all in the top 21 times in the state this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of these guys load up and chase a fast time to punch a state ticket. Twin Valley, Boyertown and Great Valley would likely have to do it out of the slow heat at Meet of Champs, but that’s doable (teams have won from the slow heat). CR South would be fun to see in the DMR as well as I think they could pop a sub 10:50 kind of mark.

My guess as of right now? It’s going to take about 10:46 (flat track) to guarantee a spot at states for the DMR. That leaves GFS right around the bubble (without an obvious path to improve their time, they could maybe toe the line against Henderson at Valentine’s).

The 4x800 is on the slower side right now. The past three years the state cut off has been 8:12, 8:12, 8:14. Right now I’ve got it at 8:19.76. Now remember that the amount of accepted teams has increased this year (up to 18 teams compared to 16 last year and 12 before that). If you look at the 16th time it’s 8:18 (converted) and the 12th time is 8:11 so at least that last one is fairly in line.

I’d expect more than a few bubble teams to dabble in the 4x8 this year. With 18 teams being accepted, no one under 8:10 should have cause for fear (unless they want to guarantee a spot in the fast heat, which currently projects to cut off at 8:07 bank). However those teams near 8:20 flat track will need to improve to feel more comfortable. I’d guess the Penn Wood time from last week (8:16.93 converted) is going to be the cut off. Bensalem is an obvious candidate to make a big push to improve their time. Haverford could certainly make waves, but have to come from a long way back at 8:29. I really like CB South has a dark horse. They have been historically very well coached in the middle distances. Penncrest could be dangerous if they’d like to be, but I think the DMR will (and should) be more of a priority. Mount Lebanon is the team to watch out west.

As mentioned, the hot heat cut off right now is 8:07 so we may see some teams try and sneak into the fast heat. The most likely programs would be CB East, Radnor, Boyertown or LaSalle who are in qualifying position but not in the fast heat. LaSalle likely isn’t running a full “A” squad at states (Addison has mile duties) so I’m not sure they will load up the 4x8 at this point (although historically they tend to stack the 4x8 at MoCs). CB East is in 10th so they don’t need a huge day to sneak into the hot heat. I still feel like Boyertown’s best event in the DMR long term. I like Radnor’s squad a lot, but I don’t know if they can break 8:10 this weekend and make the hot heat.

Long shots to turn heads this weekend? The always dangerous powers of North Penn and State College could make one last push into the state finals. 

One Week To Go: Who Will Make States? Individual Edition

Meets Remaining on PTXC Calendar
Valentine’s Invitational 2/14
State College Invite 2/15
CSU Run at the Rec #3
TSTCA Indoor Champs
Youngstown #4

I’ll choose to focus more on the qualifying picture as opposed to who I think will do well at states (that will come when I make my state predictions later). So obviously I could write paragraphs about Hoey and Forsythe and Kujdych (and Hengst now maybe as the PTFCA lists him as a qualifier but his Boston interview makes it sound like he won't be at states), but I’ll save those. That being said I do want to point out a couple interesting sub plots. With Hoey looking so close to unbeatable (and with seemingly no way/desire to punch a ticket for the 800) will someone like Liam Conway scratch the mile and go all in on the 800? What about Forsythe and the 3k? And suddenly Kujdych and Beveridge are mile contenders. Do they have interest in the shorter event or do they only have eyes for the 3k? It’s a tricky read right now.

With the mile, I tend to believe a lot of scratches will happen whether it is for relay reasons or other individual event reasons. That means that even if you are outside the top 40 right now, you could still sneak into the state meet. And that’s why I suspect we will see some big time performances in the last weekend of the season.

Elias Lindgren of Episcopal and his usual rival Peter Borger of Malvern Prep are names to watch here as they try to punch their ticket for states. Jake Robinson of Conestoga is another logical name who, unlike Borger and Lindgren, is not qualified for the MoCs 3k and doesn’t have much of a fall back option. Jack Miller is a wildcard after his impressive 3k last week. The 3k is setting up to be the toughest event to qualify in, but he’s currently on my projected just missing list for both the 3k and the mile. Jack Sieberlich of LaSalle has a shot at punching a state ticket. Yasin-Spann from Overbrook, Theveny from Penncrest, Hoyer & Maiale from Wissahickon and Zawodniak from CR South are fun wild cards if they chase in this event.

Out west, Gordon Pollock will need a big finish to his season to guarantee a spot next to his teammate Tristan Forsythe on the line at states. He could definitely do it (heck, he may get in even if he doesn’t improve his time if scratches work in his favor), but he will need to have things click. Connor Volk-Kloss is likely the only Seneca Valley miler who won’t be pulling 4x8-DMR double duty and, based on his most recent result at SPIRE, he’s right in the mix for a bubble state spot.  

In Fast Heat news, it’s also important to keep an eye on how the top 10 spots in the state shake out for this event. Charlie Herrmann from Lower Merion, Will Merhige from the Haverford School and Sam Snodgrass from South Fayette jump out as names with a lot to gain with a big race. I’ve currently got them at 11th, 12th and 10th in the standings when accounting for scratches. I’m not 100% Snodgrass will even contest the mile at states (he may have a better shot at the 3k depending on where the big names go), but he’s a returning medalist with big talent who could drop a nice time at TSTCA this weekend.

The 800 has seen some craziness this year. There are plenty of new names atop the current state qualifying list which could put some pressure on the big names to run fast this weekend to secure spots in the top heats. Hudson Delisle of Quakertown jumps out as one of those guys as he’s currently slotted at #17 in my rankings. That would be Heat 3 of 3. Now Delisle may be hurt (I haven’t seen him race in a while) and he’s also proven he can produce from the slow heat in the past (was 3rd overall last year, running out of the middle heat). Matt Eissler, a state medalist as a sophomore last year, also needs a big time this weekend. He’s sitting in 10th on my current standings which would leave him out of the fast heat. He will almost certainly be gunning for gold in this event at MoCs. Brett Zatlin of Great Valley is a top contender who may just miss the fast heat, but he’s not qualified for the 800 at MoCs meaning he may not have an opportunity to improve eon his time.

What will the Pennsbury guys do? Are they concerned at all about the open 800 or is this school all in on the two relays? In the Western part of the state, the same thing applies to Seneca Valley’s Seth Ketler. And, heck, you gotta wonder what CB West’s plan is for Baker, Claricurzio and Fehrman (and Laatsch).

But how about bubble guys? There are some prominent Westerners like Dylan Binda, Zach Ehling, and Kendall Branan. All of those guys are currently slotted out on my list, but they aren’t far from getting in. I’d be interested to see if Zach DeCarmine can keep the magic going from PTFCA and find another big PR on a fast track like State College. Will any district 3 guys be at State College with a chance to make an improvement? Tyler Wirth of Wallenpaupack could also lock in his spot with a nice run at CSU.

Ah, the 3k. This event has always been brutal to qualify for and this year is setting up to be no different. There are 17 guys under 9 minutes by conversion with two more at 9 flat and another at 9:01. And to make matters even trickier, there are not projected to be a lot of scratches in this event. Out of the top 20 or so guys, I’ve only got three who may scratch (McKenna of Spring Ford seems likely but not guaranteed, Lederer could scratch if the DMR qualifies and same for Rollins at DT West).

Of course, you never know if Kujdych would rather do the mile-DMR double or Beveridge wants to try that if Butler has a big day this weekend. Maybe Forsythe doesn’t have any interest in over extending himself with the double.

By the way, the field is likely to get more crowded this weekend. I’d be surprised if Ben Bunch of CB West and Peyton Sewall of DT West aren’t on the start line at MoCs trying to punch a ticket to states. Chayce Macknair of Mifflin County has the ability to get into states, he just needs the opportunity. Maybe he and Morgan Cupp (plus Etter?) take a shot at a fast time at State College this week.

One of the Cinderella stories of this season, Matt Maiale of Wissahickon, is another name to watch at TFCAofGPs. Plus the TFCAofGP has some fun sleepers like Donnelly of Haverford, the LaSalle boys, Noah Demis of North Penn and Andrew Malmstrom of Owen J Roberts.

Out West, Christian Fitch and Josh Lewis lead my picks for game changers in the 3k. Those two plus Dan McGoey (3rd at states in XC) have a ton of talent and have shown signs that they could break 9 minutes on the right day. At this point you’ve get down to 8:56 to start to feel confident about your state qualifying odds (and even still there are no guarantees with the depth of this group).