2018 District Picks - Projecting My Last State Meet

In XC the past few years, I’ve provided a full breakdown of every district with my picks for who is going to qualify for states. During the indoor season, I keep a running list of the top times in the state with a tracker of how the cutoffs are projecting. So I think it only makes sense that this year I try and break down every single district for track and field with some state qualifying picks and previews (for the distance events only, sorry to my non-distance fans). Because of my plan, I won’t be explicitly recapping all the league meet action, but those results will be rolled into some of the preview content. Feel free to play along at home with your own picks!

 This section will provide links to all the posts as they become available:

State Qualifying Info (auto-bids + qual times)


District 1 Championship Preview

District 1 AAA

District One is always tricky because a) they allow scratches so team’s enter basically everyone who has qualified and b) there are trails and finals to be concerned with. So these predictions will likely be terrible, but hey I’ll give it my best shot anyway. I’m a professional, dang it.

With the exception of the 3200 (which has no trials), I’ll give you my pick for which teams/individuals will qualify for the finals and then I’ll narrow it down to a top 8. I’m assuming that D1 will send 8 per event because that’s how they typically operate, but that could end up being optimistic (especially in the 32).  

Rusty Kujdych is the defending champion in this race and will enter as a heavy favorite. He’s clocked the best time in the district so far and is the reigning and XC and indoor state champion. Rusty also scratched out of the 1600 so you can bet all his focus will be on his marquee event. I would say this is a race for second, but last year we saw Will Griffen step up and nearly take an upset victory. Anything can happen when you are talking about the best guys in the state.

One of those best guys in the state is Henderson’s Spencer Smucker. He’s been mainly a miler in recent years but, after a 9:18 3200 at his home invite, it seems like Spencer is ready to try the longer event. He will bring a good combination of speed and strength to the event (has 4 XC state medals) and appears to be a safe bet for a state qualifying spot. He’s also entered in the 16 (which he might double up with), but I don’t think the trials in that race will take much sting out of his legs.

With Liam Conway expected to be a scratch, Tyler Rollins of DT West is the next highest seed. Rollins has past state qualifying experience, finished third at the indoor state meet for 3,000 meters and seems poised to deliver a big time at Coatesville. I think he rounds out a clear cut top 3.

Outside of that trio, it’s hard to pin down the state qualifying field. There are 16 guys between 9:34 and 9:42 (which is outside the SQS). Some of them are not a lock for this event (Brendan O’Toole, for example, is qualified in all 3 distance events) either. On paper, this doesn’t seem like a stacked group, but I felt like year’s past (particularly 2015) were similarly seeded and then those guys went out and blazed around the track for eight laps anyway. A few guys are going to have breakout races and my hope is that 8 guys go through to states out of this district.

So who is it going to be? Well, I’m crossing out Lewin and Forney (I think they go 16) and I tentatively am crossing out McKenna (I think he ends up pulling 4x8 duties, but I feel less strongly about this one). That makes my job a lot easier, but I still have to pick five guys.

No clue what O’Toole’s plan is as his range is crazy (has a great shot at advancing in the 32 or the 8). If he’s all in on this race, I like his chances of producing a big result. I’ll go with my gut and say he tries this event and gets one of the qualifying spots. I like Payton Sewall’s chances from DT West. I think he’s going to stick close enough to Rollins to get onto the podium. I’m also going to ride with Ryan Campbell. He’s making big progress with every race back and the kid has massive talent, but it’s never easy to qualify on a short window like this.

Rounding it out I’ll throw in Ben Bunch from CB West and Cole Walker from Unionville to finish the top 8. Walker did enough at this meet last year to make me buy in to his potential. Bunch could probably deliver a strong 4x8 leg if needed, but I see him delivering a strong PR performance in the longer event.

Watch for Ethan Koza as a big sleeper. Linus Blatz will be one of the most interesting wildcards of the weekend between this event and the 16 (and Owen J Roberts in general will be interesting to watch).

My picks (all advancing to states on time):

Kujdych, Rollins, Smucker, O’Toole, Campbell, Sewall, Walker, Bunch

So I’m going to push through a few major names right off the bat to finals – CB West, Pennridge, CB East. I’ll talk more about them later. I would normally push Pennsbury straight through as well, but I do find it a little odd that Javier Linares is not listed on their 4x8 entries. I’m not sure if this means they will scratch the 4x8 the way they did indoors (when they didn’t have Scratchard) or I’m just reading way too much into this and they will be title contenders. I’ll slot them into the finals on pure upside, but it will be interesting to see how they shake out.

Pennsbury is the leader in the clubhouse of the “if they go for it, they’ll be a finalist” category which also includes Spring Ford (popped a very quick 7:56 and has a strong recent history of showing up in the clutch), Boyertown (their 7:57 was a long time coming and may just be the tip of the iceberg for this squad) and Owen J. Roberts (if you have Conway and Malmstrom on the squad, you don’t need much else to break 8 minutes). My gut says Spring Ford and Boyertown push their chips in for the 4x8 while Owen J holds out their two stars.

We also have some interesting teams from further down the performance list. Radnor at #19 and Penn Wood at #18 both have high upside. It seems like Penn Wood is an annual “breaks out at districts” type squad. Radnor may have individual goals that trump the relay.

CR South was awesome during the indoor season, but enters this meet with just an 8:05 seed. Which CR South will we get on race day? They have a game changer in Collin Ochs, but he may be better off focusing on the individual event (where he is quickly gaining steam). DT West has a team line up and even without some of their flashy names, has the pieces to put together a time under the SQS. I’m a huge fan of Haverford’s squad. If they load up the relay, they seem like a really dangerous sleeper squad.

One more interesting (but probably unlikely wrinkle) – is there any way that Rusty hops on the 4x8 alongside sub 2 man Matt Taylor and tries to drag his relay to the final? It seems unlikely, but was fun to mention.

In the end, here are my projected 12 finalists: CB West, Pennridge, CB East, Pennsbury, CR South, Spring Ford, Boyertown, Bensalem, Haverford, DT West, Penn Wood, Radnor

Once we get to the finals, I think this ends up a two horse race for the championship. As mentioned, I’m nervous about Pennsbury loading up the relay, but I’m confident we get to see a CB West vs. Pennridge show down. In recent weeks, CB West has emerged as the deeper team. They get a big boost from Jake Claricurzio starting to hit some elite level stuff and they have three guys who can give you a 1:55 or better depending on the day. My guess is they win the district title this weekend, but I haven’t decided about states just yet.

Pennridge is loaded on paper and if they throw out the Dimon-Brashear-Eissler-Eissler line-up, I think they can be close to their school record by season’s end. I’m not sure we see that line up during district week (Dimon has some other things that I think may keep him off this relay), but I still see this squad as a clear top 3 team in the district and potentially a gold medalist this weekend.

I like CB East’s team a lot. Their readjusted order for the conference championships really worked well. I think they are on to something and expect them to advance. I’ve bought in on the clutch factor for Spring Ford. The only potentially complicating factor is McKenna in the 3200 beforehand. I’m buying Haverford stock and think Boyertown is getting the job done as well. Bensalem has a ton of speed on that roster and I like their history excelling in this relay (plus they have one of the fastest seeds).  

If Pennsbury wants it, they’ve got that last spot (and are a top 3 squad). We will see if they load up. If not, watch for Penn Wood to do their thing and sneak into the state championships.

My picks (all the top 8 advance to Shippensburg on time):

CB West, Pennridge, Pennsbury, Haverford, CB East, Spring Ford, Boyertown, Bensalem

Again, we’ve got a tricky group of entries to skim through. Now look, there’s not a ton of downside here for guys to enter this event if their focus is the 3200. The heats aren’t usually super taxing (depending on scratches and doublers) and, if you make to the finals, you double your opportunities for a state qualifier. That being said, if your focus is the 800, I think it’s safe to bet you are scratching. So that should throw out at least Jonah Hoey, Matt Eissler, Jed Scratchard and Ethan Zeh. Plus, some guys will either load up on the 4x8 or use the opportunity to get an extra little bit of rest relative to the competition in the 32.

In addition, the 4x8-16 double is no walk in the park. The top guys can usually handle it (especially if the 4x8s can coast a bit), but every once in a while there’s a few guys who have a hard time and blow up.

OK, with all that in mind, here are my picks for the 12 guys to advance to the finals (this was not easy): Liam Conway, Evan Kaiser, Josh Lewin, Kyle Malmstrom, Zack Forney, Avery Ledererer, Spencer Smucker, Jacob McKenna, Linus Blatz, Zach Smith, Aiden Tomov, Frank Brown

The back half of the finals is going to be pretty wild. It’s really hard for me to speculate about how good guys will feel coming off that 4x8 (and which goes will double up 16-32).

In the finals, I think it would be a shocker to see anyone but Liam Conway holding the gold. He’s the indoor state champ and has the best seed time by far (especially if Jonah Hoey scratches for the 800 like I think he will). He’s tactically sound and seems like a safe bet to get the job done. That being said, he’s no lock (I believe Scarpill pulled the upset last year) and in a kicker’s race anything can happen.

Outside Conway, I think it could end up a struggle to get 8 guys under that SQS. I think a lot of guys will be tired from one race or another. This might be the event where we don’t have 8 guys advance to states. Now that I say that, we will probably have 12 guys under 4:24, but you see my point.

My guess for the autos is:
Conway, Lewin, Malmstrom, Forney, Kaiser

Then it’s tricky. I’m surprised I’m doing this, but I’ll say only those 5 advance to states. The wildcard may end up being Lederer or maybe Blatz (if he doesn’t run the 32). Brown, Tomov, Smith, McKenna or Smucker would all be easy picks if I thought they’d be fresh as well, but realistically I think only maybe Brown can’t be expected to be on their second race by this stage.

It took me a while, but I think we’ve found the most stacked event in the district. We have 15 guys under 1:57 and it’s not crazy to imagine all 15 of them lining up for this race. Maybe the CB West guys don’t go for it if they are feeling invested in the 4x8-4x4 (last year they all scratched) and perhaps the OJR pair of Conway and Malmstrom prefer to focus exclusively on the 16 (Conway was a surprise scratch in the 800 last year, but this year I think he tries the double).

And that doesn’t even count the guys over 1:57 that I think have a great shot at advancing. I’m high on Sam Early from CR North, I wouldn’t sleep on Abington’s Josh Coleman and this kid Connor Hurst from Upper Moreland has been heating up too. Best of luck to everyone competing in this event and hopefully they keep the prelims small enough that everyone can stay on their feet.

This is going to be wild trying to sort out the finalists but here are my projections:
Jonah Hoey, Aidan Sauer, Matt Eissler, Collin Ochs, Liam Conway, Hudson Delisle, Ethan Zeh, David Endres, Jarnail Dhillon, Sam Earley, Jed Scratchard, Michael Clark

Geez, that was tough to type. I’m banking on the CB West guys not competing in this event, but if they do that’s bumping out some really talented names.

OK, now I need to bring this 12 down to 8?

Well, thus far this spring, Jonah Hoey has been the story. It wasn’t that long ago that his brother entered the district meet as a sophomore in the 1600 and left victorious. Now Jonah will enter this race as the favorite to keep things in the family. The only guy I can see giving him a challenge is Pennridge’s Matt Eissler, who is likely going to be on the double from a big carry in the 4x8. I’m a big Eissler fan and think he could pull this out, but I also have a habit of going with the fresh legs. I’ll take Hoey by a nose in what would be a huge victory for the sophomore. It sets up an outdoor states race where the two favorites for gold would both be sophomores (Hoey and Tyler Shue) which seems absurd to have event typed out.

My picks for the top 8:
Hoey, Eissler, Sauer, Ochs, Conway, Delisle, Clark, Earley

District 1 AA

Jack Miller and Josh Jackson will start their first of what could be three individual races with the 3200 meters. The pair of Jenkintown runners will be heavy favorites as they are the only two guys under 10:30 (and they are sub 10). Both have also already pocketed XC state medals during this year. The tricky thing is that only one of these two guys is guaranteed a spot in the state meet, the other has to hit the time. So will they time trial together to both advance to Shippensburg or trade off events (they are also the two top seeds in the 1600). My money is on Miller to advance here (and I think he could make serious noise at states in the 3200) and I don’t think these guys will tire themselves out in this event – in fact Jackson may not even run it.

Dock Mennonite has historically been the power of this event in recent seasons. They have the best 4x4 and 4x8 by seed and, with Jenkintown’s top two guys off the relay, it seems like Dock should roll to the victory in this four team field.

As alluded to previously, the Jenkintown boys will enter as heavy favorites in the 1600 just like the 32. Again, only one of them is guaranteed a spot at states. In this event, Jackson is only seeded at 4:39, a good ways away from the 4:31 time he would need to qualify for states if he were to finish 2nd in this race. On paper, Miler has been the better miler this year, but who knows if this pair has a plan for getting both to states. I say Jack wins, but we may see Josh toe the line in a week out west.

Miller and Jackson will contest their third race of the day, but this time they won’t be the favorites. Both Jenkintown guys are seeded at 2:03, but Ian Anderson of Dock and Michah Shaw of Phil-mont have clocked 2:02 this season and are the top two seeds. Shaw is the top returner from last year, having finished in 3rd that spring. Anderson has a faster season best at 2:02 and has 50.99 400 speed, but he’s going to double up with the 4 and the 8 this weekend. That could lead to an upset by Shaw. For the official prediction, I’ll pick Anderson, but I gave Shaw some serious thought.

If Miller or Jackson can pull out the win, it could be the end of an epic triple. There is a short list of all timers who have swept the distance events at a district championship.

District 5 Championship Preview

District 5 AA
I’ll be honest, I’m far from an expert on District 5. I know they’ve got a pretty legit sprinter from Tussey Mountain in Evan Germaux and a few years back they had Will Kachman medal at states. This year’s slate isn’t star studded on the distance side, but I would advise everyone to keep a look out for Ian Zimmerman. He’s just a freshman but the kid from Northern Bedford has already run 4:34.99 this year and is the top seed in his event by nearly 14 seconds.

Here are my picks for the D5 championship state qualifiers. Don’t hold me to these:
4x800 – Windber
1600 – Zimmerman
800 – Nathaniel Maxwell, Everett
3200 – Ian Sherlock, Northern Bedford

District 3 Championship Preview

District 3 AA

A year ago Joe Cullen, who entered with 10:18 seed time, ran 9:33 to win the district championship in this event. It was one of three individual golds he would win at District 3 last year. Cullen’s entered again this year with a similarly modest 10:08, but this time the quest for gold won’t be as easy as it was a year ago. Brendan Miller is racing at an extremely high level, including the equivalent of a sub 9:20 time at the Penn Relays. If we see Miller and Cullen both go all out we could see some blazing times, but with Wyomissing hoping to maximize points, an all-out effort may not be in store.

The same could be said for Cullen’s teammate Ben Kuhn. The sophomore has been incredible this year with 4:21 and 9:34 bests to date. I think he’s a little bit more likely to be all out in the 3200 which could set up a big test against Miller. Kuhn has some decisions to make before states with the 32 and 16 (and the 4x8) each looking like medal opportunities. If he can hold his own against Miller, and maybe even pick up the win, that would set him up as a top tier contender for states.

Another member of the Wyomissing army is Matt Driben. The senior was a state qualifier last year after finishing 3rd in the championships. His season best to date is just off the SQS at 9:49.49 (he needs 9:48.01 or top 2 to qualify for Shippensburg). This field is pretty deep so Driben will need to bring his “A” game to this race if he wants a spot at states. I think he can get down to that 9:48 time and he maybe even gets some pacing help from Cullen depending on if he is out for gold.

Logan Horst, a medalist from XC and top performer on the trails, is also in the mix for a top spot. The Lancaster Mennonite sophomore was a breakout star in the fall and has since clocked a 9:43 for 3200. I’d be surprised to see him left out of the state qualifying mix and, considering his PR, he’s got a great shot to advance to states whether he is inside the top 2 or not. His teammate Nate Yoder and Wyomissing’s Josh Diehl are among the sleepers for a top finish in this meet.

My picks for states? I think Miller wins it with Kuhn 2nd and Cullen 3rd (who is almost definitely a scratch for states). I have Horst and Driben getting in via time in 4th and 5th to round out the qualifiers.

The two top teams in the state for the 3200 relay both reside in District 3, but don’t get your hopes up for a showdown this weekend. Schuylkill Valley and Wyomissing are the only AA teams under 8 minutes so far this year, both clocking 7:57 in a finish that was decided by just 0.03. However, historically Wyomissing is in survive and advance mode in the District 4x8. If they place top two or run under 8:15 they’ll punch a ticket to states and I think that’s all they are particularly concerned about. So I’m betting on Schuylkill Valley for the win and Wyomissing for second but not much drama or fast times.

The real intrigue will be Trinity. They’ve run 8:22 this year, meaning they’ve got to drop some 7 seconds to advance to states. This is a program that has a knack for excelling in the 4x8 and my gut tells me they will put together a big day and qualify for states.

So I’ve got Schuylkill Valley, Wyomissing and Trinity all advancing to states for my picks.

By the way shout out to Upper Dauphin for not only qualifying a 4x8 to the District Championship, but clocking a respectable 8:37 (#5 seed). Pretty crazy result and awesome to see how well this program has been progressing since Brendan Miller’s breakout.

The protagonists from the 3200 will be back in the 16 and Joe Cullen, Brendan Miller and Ben Kuhn make up the top seeds in the field. As mentioned, Cullen is the defending champion as he handled Miller in this race last year. The Wyomissing senior was second at states a year ago in the 1600 and has been awesome in this event again in 2018, running 4:20.08. He’s also got impressive closing speed, boasting a season best of 1:54 in the 800. I think Joe will win this race, despite a healthy challenge from both Miller and his teammate, but I’m still not 100% sold on him competing in this event at states. I think he may be more likely to try the 800 this year for whatever reason (for the record, I thought that last year too and I was way wrong).

I feel like I’m repeating myself a lot, but this too will be a big race for Kuhn. His 4:21 is a legit time and puts him in a great spot for the stretch run of the track season. It’s not crazy to see him dipping into the 4:17ish range by states which would make him a contender for a top 4 spot in Shippensburg (depending on entries). As for Miller, I’m not positive the 16 fits in with his long term goals as he has a really good shot at the 3200 state title. If nothing else, it will be a good opportunity to work on his speed. If he drops a fast time, he can double up at states without much consequence.

If we do see scratches from Miller and Cullen/Kuhn, that opens the door for another runner to grab an automatic qualifier. Wyomissing’s Matt Driben and Ryan Vargo lead the charge in this area. Driben will have a 3200 in his legs from the night before while Vargo may or may not be involved in the 4x8 (it’s unclear to me what Wyomissing’s line-up plan is). Will Bucher of Trinity, another prime contender for the qualifying spot, may also be on tired legs from the 4x8. That could really open the door for some craziness.

Ultimately, I’m going to pick Cullen-Kuhn-Miller for the top 3 spots. My guess is that no more than one of those guys scratches and nobody else eclipses the 4:31 state qualifying time, meaning the state field will be set based on that trio’s performances.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Joe Cullen is the defending champion in this event. He won a year ago in 1:58 for his third individual gold. He will be chasing that same triple this season and, with a best some four seconds ahead of everyone else, it seems like this event won’t be his undoing. I’ve got Cullen rolling to the championship in this event and setting the stage for a run at a state championship next week.

That being said, I really like both Ben Reisenweaver and Shamus Keefe as candidates for a big race. Reisenweaver has been one of the stand out legs on Schuylkill Valley’s awesome 4x8 and I could see him popping off a 1:56-57 kind of time at districts. His 2:00.42 seed time doesn’t do his ability justice. Meanwhile Shamus Keefe of Delone Catholic has been very quietly racking up some big times. He’s clocked a 1:58.62 already this year and hasn’t had the opportunity to race on a major stage with guys of this caliber. He also might be in store for a big PR.

My guess is all three get through to states with Cullen winning in a potentially down to the wire race (depending on how hard he needs to go in the other individual events). I’ve got Reisenweaver for 2nd and Keefe for 3rd with an SQS.

District 3 AAA
Morgan Cupp has been the best long distance guy from District 3 dating back to the fall. He’s been consistent, clutch and is proven to get better as the race gets longer. However, Cupp won’t enter this race as the #1 seed – or even the #2 seed for that matter. Andrew Foster of Ephrata dropped a monster time of 9:28.80 to change the script on the district landscape. Now he will look to double down on that impressive result but knocking off the favored Cupp.

Only three runners in this race have run a season’s best under the SQS (Foster, Cupp and Conestoga Valley’s Nathan Grucelski) and only one other guy is within 10 seconds of the time, so it seems likely that only the top 5 in this race will be state qualifiers. I feel pretty comfortable slating the top four in this field to advance. Ian Miller of Manheim is an indoor state medalist with a lot of 3200 experience so far this spring. He’s super talented and, even if he doesn’t come out with the win, I don’t see him falling outside the top 5. Cupp is my pick to win and I believe in Foster and Grucelski enough to have each advancing. So then it just comes down to the #5 spot.

Carlisle as a herd of guys ready to take on the challenge. Drew Barefield leads the pack with a 9:44 best (he’s the #5 seed), but they also have Casey Padgett (9:47), Cade Rush (9:49) and Jack Wisner (9:53) available. Wisner is the most talented of this group, but has some important races on his schedule for the next day so I think he will likely be in cruise control. That being said, he could still clocking a high 9:30s time and sneak into the top 5 (but he won’t run this at states unless he has no other option). I honestly think any of these four Carlisle guys could cross the line first and, considering the potential for team tactics, I like the chances of one of them breaking through for a top 5 finish.

But my pick for the 5th spot is going to be Jake Underwood of Wilson. I think he has the most potential and, although he’s only the #10 seed, I see him bettering that mark with a strong race. Jake was 5th last year in this event, edging out Morgan Cupp for what would have been the last spot to states (Kole scratched to open the door for Cupp to advance).

Other sleepers include Brandan Knepper of Mechanicsburg (awesome XC season, trains with Cupp, waiting for that breakthrough time), Max Lessans of Hempfield and Chris Scharf of Elizabethtown.

My picks for states (in order) are Cupp, Grucelski, Foster, Miller and Underwood. This will be an important race for Cupp. If he pulls away for a big win, it will be clear he’s ready to do something big against Rusty and Noah. If it’s a tight battle to the line, the back end of the medal picture gets a lot more crowded.

Seeing this performance list, I was surprised by how little teams are sub 8. It feels like it’s been a deeper year for the 4x8 in District 3, but only Ephrata is under 8 minutes. That Ephrata team, by the way, is a heavy favorite to win the gold. I’d be shocked to see them outside of the pole position at any point in this race (assuming Shue is leading off as usual) and I suspect they will be gearing up for a run at a state championship. So let’s instead consider who the four (or more) teams joining them in Shippensburg could be.

I think a lot of this teams have big potential. Cumberland Valley has always been near the top of my list for 4x8 programs and they’ve got a well balanced attack that I think can scare 8 minutes in the right race. Twin Valley has three guys who have already cracked two minutes in the open, led by Dylan Servis. They kind of feel like this year’s Lower Dauphin. When it clicks, they are going to drop a really fast time. Hempfield and Manheim were surprise qualifiers last year and posted sub 8 times when the pressure was on. I can definitely see them pulling something like that out again. I haven’t seen as much from Lower Dauphin as I did last year, but they should be contenders as well.

Honestly, when I saw Nothern in the #2 position, I couldn’t even remember where they ran that time. This squad was totally off my radar so I’m naturally going to undervalue them going into this race. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do on this big stage, hopefully dropping a sub 8 mark with Ephrata to chase.

I had a tough time with this one (especially factoring in Manheim Township could be split out from the fast heat), but ultimately here’s my best guess: Ephrata, Twin Valley, Cumberland Valley and Hempfield are the top 5. There may be an additional 1 or 2 teams under 8:02, but I’ll go conservative and say only these 5 advance.

This race is going to be wild. I really feel like a wide variety of guys could go out and win this one. Cupp is the #1 seed and, considering his accomplishments to date, may be the favorite. However, I don’t see him as a true speed guy in the same way I see some of others. I anticipate this race being a bit more tactical with kickers ending up playing a big role.

I think the winner is going to end up being either Connor Shields (1:55 speed) or Jack Wisner of Carlisle. Those two are both juniors so maybe they are a year away from being ready to take this title, but I think they have the talent and potential to win it. I lean toward Shields as he is going to be fresher and he’s got the better raw speed on paper.

The tier of Ermold, Dorenkamp, and Groff is most interesting to me. These are all mid 4:20s type guys who have the potential for a breakthrough. Groff and Dorenkamp may end up on their 4x8s which scares me (that’s a tricky double), but Ermold should be fresh and was a state qualifier last year. He’s one of my sleepers.

I like Matt Carroll as a deep sleeper. The sophomore has only run 4:29 this year, but he’s a big talent who really showed up in crunch time during cross country. This young Palmyra squad is a team of the future in the district.

Ultimately, I’ve got Shields, Wisner, Grucelski, Cupp as the top 4, with Cupp likely (?) to not put his name in for states to focus on the 3200. I’m throwing John David Lane in the top 5 as well as he’s been consistently strong this season. The West Perry senior could be a dark horse for the gold. After that, I’ll throw Ermold in at #6 and say he sneaks under the SQS and gets a spot in Shippensburg. Someone will need to keep the pace relatively quick so it’s not overly tactical, but I think that happens somewhere along the way.

Tyler Shue has been close to untouchable in the 800 this year. His outdoor best is 1:54.87, but he ran 1:53 indoors for 2nd in the state (on the double). He’s also split a 1:52 lead off leg at the Penn Relays. I’d be surprised to see him knocked off. The more interesting question to me is how he will do at states as he is among the favorites for gold right now in my mind. A big time here would cement that status.

Shields and Wisner are the #2 and #3 seeds, but I’ve got both guys being big factors in the 1600 final which is going to hurt their chances in this race. Keep in mind this will be Wisner’s third race of the weekend. Although I’m a fan of both guy’s talents, I don’t think either is a lock for the top 5.

Jack Baker has been consistently strong all season. I think he advances and maybe clicks something really fast this weekend or next. I wouldn’t rule out a drop into the 1:54s (or faster) in the right race. He always seems to stick his nose in the mix and contend.

After these guys, that next tier is a little more open. If Ephrata cruises in the 4x8, Alex Morales should be a bit fresher for an attempt at state qualifying. Servis and Mauerer’s qualifying chances could also be tied to the relay. Maurer has been a strong racer so far this year and I like his upside as a sleeper state qualifier in this event.

My picks for this event are: Shue, Baker, Maurer, Kramer, Shields. I think only the top 5 will end running fast enough to qualify for states. It could be a blanket finish for the final state qualifying spot between a number of guys which will make this one of the most exciting races of the weekend.

District 7 Championship Preview

District 7 AA

Riverside enters as the clear #1 seed in the championships, boasting a season’s best of 8:15.13. Other than this squad, there are no teams under the state qualifying standard (and no teams under 8:30) thus far. However, there are five spots up for grabs to these teams, meaning qualifying for Shippensburg may not be tied to a blazing time.

I’d bet on Riverside to take the win, given their success to date, but after this team things get pretty open. Winchester Thurston certainly has the potential to drop a massive time (they have 2 guys under 2 minutes on paper), but I’m not projecting their “A” team to take the track. That being said, we saw during XC that this squad is deep enough to punch a ticket to states anyway if they chase it at all. I don’t know exactly where they fit in, but I think they’ll be top 5.

Among my other picks are Shenango (liked their XC squad, they are among the leaders in this event with potential to improve), Freedom, Trinity Christian and Deer Lakes. In theory, if I have Winchester Thurston in, then I need one of those four teams to drop out. I’ll guess Freedom drops out, but I don’t love that pick as they’ve got some really talented pieces.

I’ll be honest, I don’t have much of a read on this event as things stand. I’ll mostly be watching this race to see which teams breakout and push Riverside (if any). That should tell us more about what to expect at states.

My prediction is: Riverside, Deer Lakes, Trinity Christian, Shenango, Winchester Thurston and then Freeedom being the first team out with a lot of potential to jump one of these squads if they have a big race.

It’s going to be the Tristan Forsythe show at the WPIAL championships. The senior is slated to run the 1600 and 3200 with hopes of leaving the meet with a pair of golds. First will be the 16 where Tristan enters as the defending state champion. His season best of 4:14 is well ahead of the next closest competitors and it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s how the final standings look as well. It doesn’t seem to me like Forsythe is likely to chase a fast time and I believe his kick is strong enough to roll to a victory. Maybe a low 4:20s type race.

Behind Forsythe, the battle for the remaining 4 state qualifying spots should be interesting. Forsythe’s teammate Gordon Pollock is seeded 3rd based on his 4:30 1600 best, but he’s actually run much quicker for the full mile. I have to imagine the talk in the Winchester Thurston locker room is a 1-2 finish in this event and Pollock seems poised to get there. The biggest challenge for him will likely be Chris Kocent of OLSH. He’s run 4:29 and has been a consistent presence near the top of the WPIAL standings throughout his career (particularly XC).

The remaining two state qualifying spots are up for grabs. Ethan Stroebel is next fastest on paper (4:36), but there is a long list of guys who could knock him out of qualifying position. Some sleepers you may not be looking at too closely include Jonathan Asay and Michael Komaniak. Honestly, I’d be pretty surprised if the state qualifying group didn’t include a runner from Quaker Valley – my money is on Dan Ford. And could Sean Heintzleman make it three for Winchester Thurston? I don’t think that would be too crazy to see, assuming he doesn’t have 4x8 duties slowing him down.

Ultimately, I think only the top 5 will advance to states (cut off is 4:31.13 for non-automatics which may be too steep). My picks are Forsythe, Pollock, Kocent, Stroebel and Ford. Yes, that is very chalky of me, but I think that’s how it shapes up.

As much as Forsythe is sure to grab headlines during this meet, WT’s Gordon Pollock has a chance to really make a name for himself as well. His recent 1:57.97 performance in the 800 makes Pollock the #1 seed in the event. He could be the favorite for the WPIAL championship. However, he will have to handle the 16-8 double, which is no easy task. I think that will open the door for Josh Yourish of Deer Lakes to take the title.

This race seems ripe for some breakout star. I have no clue who it could be, which is why I’m sticking to the clear favorites, but keep an eye out for a sleeper. Maybe it will be Aiden Brewer of Greensburg Salem or perhaps Ari Kendra of 4x8 favorites Riverside. Your guess is better than mine at this point.

Here’s my picks in this one: Yourish, Pollock, Kendra, Kott, Brewer.

There are few things better than a 3200 under the lights. The WPIAL championships distance events will close out with a late night 8-lapper to send the last five (at least) individuals to states. The cut off here is 9:48 which could end up coming into play (especially if Forsythe is aggressive with the early pace), but my gut says only the top 5 will advance out of this one.

Forsythe will enter as a big favorite with his two closest competitors also coming from Winchester Thurston’s gymnasium. For Forsythe, like many top guys, the state race is really his focus. Will he even contest this event at states? That’s my number one question. Heck, Tristan may not even contest this event at districts if he likes how the 16 goes (or maybe he jumps in to pace Routledge and Malone to the state standard). I’m guessing he runs the 32 to keep his options open (not sure what the easier event for him to win at states would be or if he would like to try the double) and he probably walks away from this race comfortably victorious.

Behind him, there will be some big pressure on the youngsters of Routledge and Malone. They have been spectacular so far this season, dating back to the fall, but the pressure will be on in this race with a state berth on the line. Trying to knock them from the top 5 will be Adam Hessler (super talented sophomore), Zach Gould, Ben Barnes (experienced and strong) and other sleepers (I like Lukas Dunaway as a potential party crasher). In the end, I think it’s going to be tight for that 5th spot. Routledge seems quick enough to get in, but Malone, only a freshman, may have a fight on his hands for the final qualifying spot

Here’s my pick for top 5 and the full state qualifiers: Forsythe, Routledge, Barnes, Gould and Hessler. I think Hessler-Malone and potentially someone from the Dunaway-Liu-Asay tier of guys is the battle to the line for states.

District 7 AAA

It’s always difficult to project exactly which runners will line up for their respective 4x8s. In an event like this, where there are so many teams with high upside, it’s particularly agonizing. Personally, I think basically all the top squads will go for it in this event. The biggest question marks are Butler (do they run Beveridge?) and Seneca Valley (they haven’t seriously pursued this relay all year), both of which I think end up competing for the gold.

Mount Lebanon seems the safest bet for the victory. They’ve run 8 flat and they have the deepest stable of individuals. I really like what I saw from their relay indoors and its clear Nate Everhart is developing into a star. I’m in this team’s corner. I’m betting on sub 8 this week and then maybe sub 7:50 before the season ends. I think they are that good.

But Seneca Valley has the chance to be a buzz saw. If Owori, Ketler, Dixon and Bellack are on this relay, they may end up my pick to win states. Remember, that same crew last year were the district champs and rolled to 7:40s clockings in the prelims and finals at states. They also are the reigning indoor state champs in the DMR. I like this squad’s potential a lot and, if they load up the relay, think they will end up winning a second straight district title.

Butler has serious potential in this race as well. They were 6th last year in 8:02, just missing states. This year, I think they come back with a vengeance. If Beveridge is running anchor for this squad, they should be under 8 minutes. It’s not a one man team (they have the potential to even make states without Noah like Seneca Valley did without Kolor a few years back) and they are likely hoping for gold in this event as well. It’s a confident bunch with good reason to be confident.

Then you have the always dangerous North Allegheny. They punched yet another ticket to states last year (8 flat for 4th) and they are better on paper to start 2018. Zach Ehling is having a terrific season, they have a deep core with Phillips and Turkovich and a potential x-factor to throw in with McGoey. This is another team that seems destined for a sub 8 minute clocking in this race.

So those are four teams right there that could end up your automatic qualifiers. That brings to mind the SQS (8:02.04) which should be meaningful to more than one team. I personally think Norwin has a chance to pop off a big result. 8:02 may be too rich for their blood but, on paper, they are way better than the 8:18 seed. Indiana is one of my favorite relays as well. They ran 8:01 for 5th last year and should be in a similar position this year. They’ve only run 8:11 to date, but sub 8 seems very, very possible for them. I think Branan could have a 1:55ish type day if they need it. And don’t sleep on Franklin Regional. They were a surprise state finalist last year and, although they lost a big piece in Provenzo, still have Matt Busche to provide a quality anchor split.

So who is getting in? Ultimately here are my picks: Seneca Valley, Mount Lebanon, Butler, North Allegheny for the autos with Indiana getting in on time. I wanted to pick more squads to advance under the SQS, but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it.

Last year, Le’Shawn Huff surprised the entire 1600 field with his narrow victory over South Fayette’s Sam Snodgrass. This year, Huff won’t be sneaking up on anybody. The defending champion has run 4:25 and 1:56 this year and is again among the top seeds. However, I think most would agree that a second straight victory for Huff would qualify as an upset. Snodgrass is back and ready to reclaim the title he was denied a year ago. The senior has already ran 4:21 this year which makes him the #1 seed. Cameron Binda owns a 4:22 best and was an indoor state medal winner. He qualified for states last year in this event and will not have 4x8 duties to worry about in 2018.

Two runners that will (likely) have 4x8 duties to worry about are Patrick Anderson and Sam Owori. Although these two are among the top seeds, they will have tricky doubles with the tight window between the relay and the mile. Owori struggled a bit with this double last year (he was 6th in 4:32), but he’s gotten a lot stronger as a junior. I’m an Anderson fan and I think he could be a sleeper, but I’m not ready to throw him in the mix if he’s got a hard 4x8 leg in him.

This field has a long list of compelling participants. Greensburg Salem has added both Mark Brown and Dylan Binda to this field. Dylan is the surprise as he’s primarily been 800 focused so far, but a 4:26 time in his last outing indicates he may be ready for a transition. Brett Brady has run 4:23 and was an XC state medalist. He seems like a good bet to advance to states in this event given his credentials. A big sleeper could be Czar Tarr. His seed time blends in with the group at 4:28, but Czar was a top 20 finisher at states in XC and can pack a punch in the big moments.

This one was really tough for me to call. Only four guys have the SQS on paper (4:24.22), but it feels like this is a deeper field than that. Ultimately, my picks for the state meet are the following: C Binda, Snodgrass, Brady, Huff for the autos. Then I’ve got some internal debate going on the remaining spots. I’ll say Owori sneaks under the SQS and then at least one from the Brown-D Binda-Anderson group (my guess is only Brown, but I’ll be kicking myself if Dylan has a big day). So that is six guys in total for the state meet.

Another awesome, wide open distance race at the WPIAL championships. The #1 seed is Mount Lebanon’s Nate Everhart which feels crazy to say as he wasn’t getting much talk until right up to the deadline. Nate memorably ran 1:57.23 a year ago, making him a state qualifier by the skin of his teeth. Now he has bigger dreams of not just one, but two district championships (counting the 4x8 in there). But the same dreams are likely in the mind of Seth Ketler of Seneca Valley. Ketler opted out of the 16 in favor of the 8 where he was a big early season winner with his 1:56.24 time. Ketler has been a monster after since his fantastic WPIAL XC finish and the guy could cement himself among the greats with a victory in this event.

Le’Shawn Huff suddenly became a title contender in this event. On the double, he ran a 1:56.7 which, ironically, may have given him better odds of qualifying for states in the 800 than in the 1600 (the event he won last year). Throw in past state qualifiers in this event like Matt Busche (1:56.92 seed), Nick Gabrielli (1:58.17) and Zach Ehling (1:57.12) and you’ve got yourself a hodgepodge of potential winners.

This one is really tricky to call and the state qualifying picture is very cloudy. Heck, event that slow heat (which includes 6 sub 2 guys by the way) is going to be something to behold. 

Here’s my best guess for how it shakes out: Ketler, Busche, Everhart, Ehling and then I think there will be another couple guys who get in by hitting the time – Gabrielli and Kostelansky. The Kostelansky pick may be bold, but I’m feeling the Butler vibe today. If Kendall Branan wasn’t in the 400, I’d have him in the qualifying picture as well, but that 400-800 double really scares me, especially for a sophomore.

I’m excited to see Noah Beveridge race the 3200 because he is one of our state’s best runners, but I’m not expecting anything crazy out of him in this race. In fact, I’d be less likely to pick him for gold in Shippensburg if he ran sub 9 than he doesn’t (thinking back to the Matt McGoey moment a few years earlier). I can’t wait for Beveridge-Kujdych so I’m hoping both guys don’t have any issues during qualifying and we get the match up. Other than that, I won’t be paying too much attention to Noah in this race.

Instead, the battle for the other state qualifying positions will consume my attention. Dan McGoey seems like a good pick to qualify. He’s not entered anywhere else, he was 3rd at XC states and he’s got the #2 seed of 9:24. It’s crazy to think the guy is just a sophomore. But lost in the shadow of McGoey has been Christian Fitch of Fox Chapel. The sophomore has run 9:31 already this year and seems destined to follow in the footsteps of Ethan Martin and advance along to Shippensburg. He too seems locked in for this event and, although he can’t say he was 3rd at states, Fitch proved in the fall that he could handle the big stage as he nearly snagged a state medal. I’m excited to see these two go head to head and hopefully both punch tickets to states. And oh by the way, another sophomore in Zach Leachman enters as the #6 seed and is a bubble contender to qualify for Shippensburg.

When all is said and done, I think the story of this race will be Cameron Binda. Not only do I think Binda is going to win the 16, I think he’s got the best chance of beating Beveridge in this race (it’s a small chance mind you, but a chance nonetheless). I feel like Binda has been sitting on a breakthrough or some time and this is going to be his coming out party. Sub 4:20 and sub 9:20 is possible.

I’m very interested to see if Sam Gatti has a surprise in him (maybe he and Steffey can work together to drop a big time) and it will be fun to watch guys double back from the mile and go for a state qualifying spot (Snodgrass is obviously the biggest name, but also Volk-Klos and Czar Tarr).

Again, the main question will be how many guys can hit the SQS and advance on time beyond the top 4. The mark to beat is 9:31.71 and last year on the top 4 got under it. If Beveridge is willing to shoulder some of the load and keep the pace quick, they may be able to sneak a couple extra guys to states. But with a 4:12 1600 PR and a huge match up looming in a week, I’m not sure he has a ton of incentive to keep it quick.

So with all this in mind, here are my picks: Beveridge, Binda, McGoey, Fitch for the autos and nobody else gets under the time. I took the longest look at Leachman for a qualifying spot, but guessed he would just barely miss (rooting for him to prove me wrong). Snodgrass obviously is also very much in the mix to get a spot, but I have him also just missing out.

District 4 Championship Preview

District 4 AAA

In AAA, only one squad will be allowed to go through to the state championships automatically and, although we saw Williamsport run under the SQS at times last year, my bet is that only one team will survive districts. Jersey Shore is the clear #1 seed, having run 8:14 (which is #1 in the district by some 13 seconds). However, they didn’t list Isaac Davis for the relay which could potentially impact their results (I’m not sure if Davis usually runs on the squad, but I’d think he’s got sub 2 ability on the right day). That opens the door for Williamsport who, as the defending champions, has an extra element of pride on the line. Although they’ve only run 8:29 this year, Willaimsport boasts the district’s #1 800 runner in Jared Thompson and returns experienced relay piece Tyler Holcomb. I think that, ultimately, Williamsport will end up with the top spot in the final standings and return to the state championship.

Shikellamy has the chance to be interesting if they load up their roster and can build around the Hallman-Strouse combination. They’ve only run 8:36, slotting them in the 4th seed, but they could likely run much faster if their other pieces are ready to step up.

Assuming Davis doesn’t line up for the 4x4, the AA state champion from Cross will start is championships on Saturday with the 3200. Davis is a big favorite, boasting a season’s best of 9:24 that slots him 44 seconds ahead of the next best runners. The real test for Davis in this event will likely come at states where he will be an interesting wildcard in a field that has been largely dominated by Beveridge and Kujdych. I’ll save my Davis thoughts for that race (which I may be overconfident we get to see).

In the battle for second, I like Doug Hallman and Tyler Holcomb as the primary contenders. Both have had excellent seasons and have strong XC resumes (plus they were second and third last year). Maybe they can ride behind Davis to a state qualifying time, but that would take a big season’s best for either runner. More likely, they will mix it up, grab a PR and end their season on a high note. There’s a frosh, a junior and three sophomores seeded in the top 8 so lots of guys can make statements and have something to build on heading into next season.

Davis’s second race has a chance to be much more noteworthy. Although Isaac is the defending champ and boasts serious stamina, Logan Strouse of Shikellamy may have the speed to take him down. Strouse was second to Davis in last year’s championships (trailing by 7 seconds), but he’s improved a ton relative to their last match up. Strouse boasts a season’s best of 4:28.13 and has proven he knows how to win big meets. I don’t anticipate him backing down from Davis and, depending on how much the Jersey Shore senior pours into his first race, Strouse may be able to spring the upset.

I’m taking Davis for the win, but I’m excited to see how Strouse handles the state champ. By the way, Strouse may get to states even if he finishes second with the state standard. A year ago, Davis scratched the 1600 to focus on the longer distance which opened a spot for the silver medalist (which, as you may remember, was Strouse). I’m guessing that, regardless of who leaves with gold, Strouse will be the one representing the district at states.

As mentioned, Williamsport’s Jared Thompson has been #1 in the district this year, clocking a 1:56.84 best in the two lap race. That slots him 3 second ahead of his closest competitor, Logan Strouse, who will have to double off the mile. Of course Thompson will be busy as well-he’s slated to run the 400 about 2 hours before the 8. I think that will end up being enough time for Thompson to recover and claim gold, but you never know how doubling will go in a major championship like this one.

From the fresher group will be Joey Olah of Shamokin and Chase Carpenter of Jersey Shore. It would take a big day for one of these guys to surprise and jump into state qualifying position, but they have scheduled themselves in a way that maximizes their chances. Ultimately, my pick to advance is Thompson, but don’t expect this to necessarily be as easy as it looks on paper.

District 4 AA

District 4 guarantees two spots per event, but the 4x800 seems poised to push through many more. This event is absolutely loaded, starting at the very top with the boys from Mifflinburg. Four seniors make up the Mifflinburg roster including 1:55 man Tyler Bailey. Their season best to date of 8:04 is among the best in the state. A year ago, Mifflinburg took 6th at states with a time of 8:03.71, but they look miles ahead of that pace so far and return all four guys from that relay. With Seneca’s dominant squad out of the picture, it seems like Mifflinburg has just as good a chance as any to steal state gold at Shippensburg.

But first they will have to survive a crowded district field. Mifflinburg did not leave last year’s championships with gold as that honor belonged to Warrior Run. Warrior Run, who returns three members of its own from last year state medal winners, is seeded just behind Mifflinburg at 8:06. They’ve been steadily closing the gap in recent weeks and seem poised to spring a similar upset to the one they did last year.

Mount Caramel also qualified for states last year and finished just outside the medals in 9th. They too are a team on the rise with three returners from last year’s state squad. Tyler Adams has really made a nice jump into an elite relay piece and the team on the whole has a lot of confidence after their excellent XC run. The wild card in the equation could be Krystof Lapotsky, a sophomore with a ton of talent. They’ve run 8:08 already this year.

Danville (state medal winners last year, always dangerous) has already dropped an 8:09. Milton has only run 8:17 to date, but has perhaps the best AA 800 runner in the entire state in Tyler Leeser. This team has a history of coming together at the right time and they have a ton of talent. Sub 8:10 seems pretty reasonable given their depth. Lewisburg is an always formidable program (but two frosh and a soph on the roster) and Loyalsock cannot be discounted either (8:14 last year, one of the best teams in the state for AA during XC). So that is 7 teams all with the potential to crack the 8:15 state qualifying barrier.

My prediction is that all seven teams get under. Has there ever been a district meet with 7 AA 4x8s under 8:10? That seems pretty outlandish, but it definitely could happen when the meet action kicks off. And, because the 4x8 is on Thursday and the rest of the major distance events aren’t until Saturday, the guys can go all out on the relays without it affecting their individual events.

I’m most excited to see how Mifflinburg handles the pressure. They’ve been the best team in the district all season, but other squads are hunting them down. Will they make a statement with a sub 8 minute clocking? Or will they get hunted down once again? Honestly, I gave Milton a lot of consideration for the gold just because I think if they can keep it close for Leeser we could see a monster split (I’m thinking 1:51-1:52 if he’s in the right spot). Here’s my final order (all 7 punching tickets):

Mifflinburg, Milton, Mount Caramel, Danville, Warrior Run, Loyalsock, Lewisburg

Hoping for at least one sub 8, but maybe we get two.

Two days after the 4x8, Loyalosck will look to show their dominance on the longer platform. They enter with the top two seeds and three runners under 10 minutes. Quinn Serfass, a state medalist last year in this event, leads all seeds at 9:39 and should be the favorite for gold. The bigger question for him should be how he stacks up in Shippensburg. After Serfass the battle gets much more interesting. Keep in mind that, unless the race is quick, only the top 2 guys are guaranteed a spot at states. Otherwise, they need under 9:48. The race was deep last year too, but nobody dipped under 9:50.

This year, I think we will see the top 3 finishers under the SQS, with potential for more. The Loyalsock pack can only get to states if the pace is fast enough, so I would guess they will work together to make sure Sullivan and Quintana at least have a chance at the time. This shouldn’t be super tactical. Those three helping keep the pace in a good spot (maybe Serfass even paces them through the first mile or so) should really help the other bubble guys if they keep this team in sight. I’m high on Lapotsky for a big breakthrough, but Kevin Heeman could also make noise.

My guess for states? I think Serfass wins with Sullivan taking second place. Then I think it’s going to be a close race with the clock for Lapotsky and Quintana. Ultimately, I’m going with Lapotsky to sneak in and Quintana to just miss out, but I would be amped to see three Loyalsock guys line up in Shippensburg.

Tyler Leeser won’t have quite as ambitious of a schedule this year as he did last (when he won 3200, 1600, 400 and 800 on the same day), but he’s still going to be busy. He will try the 1600-800 double that he attempted at states last year with hopes of winning both events (and contending for medals in Shippensburg). Leeser has been a prominent figure in the 800 this year, emerging as the state favorite, but his 1600 hasn’t been as much of a point of discussion. That being said, the senior with a 4:16 PR has run 4:22 already (faster than he had run to this point last year) and has a seed time 5 seconds ahead of anyone else. With his speed and proven ability, he’s likely to take a second straight district title.

But don’t sleep on Ethan Knoebel. The junior is in the middle of his best ever season of racing and he’s clocked a 4:27 to date. Knoebel was 3rd last year (running 4:25) and 3rd in the 800. Plus he qualified for the state finals, taking 11th overall-all as just a sophomore. This year, he’s been a district champ in XC, a consistently strong competitor and overall his confidence has to be higher. I’m not sure he will have the raw ability to take down Leeser, but if the Milton senior isn’t focused, Ethan won’t sit back and roll over.

Quinn Serfass tried the 32-16 double a year ago and ended up a state qualifier in both events. He will look for similar success in this event, having already clocked 4:28 this year. Serfass has doubled a lot over the course of this season and always seems to have something in the tank so I trust his ability to produce a quality race. That being said, it will take something super human to knock off Leeser and Knoebel. We will see what he has saved after the longer race earlier in the day.

If things hold to form and those three stay atop the standings, there may not be any more state spots to hand out. However, I think one other runner will end up surprising. Danville is so well coached and always seems to click at the right time. That makes me think we might see a big day from Jacob Foster (currently seeded just off the SQS at 4:31.55). Quenton Long of the loaded Mifflinburg mid distance squad is another sleeper candidate. Plus, the Loyalsock duo of Sullivan and Quintana could contend if the 32 sits OK in their legs.

My guess? Leeser wins with Knoebel second and Serfass under the SQS in third. I’m also going to bet Jacob Foster and Quenton Long hit the qualifying standard and get into the meet. Hopefully the weather is OK for those two as I feel they have some serious upside.

If things go as I suspect in the 4x800, this could be an epic rematch between the anchor legs. Tyler Leeser, who holds the best time in the district at 1:54.28, will face off with another Tyler, Tyler Bailey of Mifflinburg. Bailey has quietly run a season best of 1:55.63 and is within striking distance of the seemingly invincible Leeser. Plus, he’s going to have the fresher pair of legs as he won’t be contesting any events prior to this one. Last year, Leeser won the title in just 1:58. Weather permitting, I’d be shocked to see the gold medal winner coasting across in anything above 1:56.

Griffin Sites has a chance to turn heads in this event as well. He’s an aggressive racer with some serious foot speed. His best to date is 1:58.59, but that’s well ahead of his positioning prior to districts last season. He finished off his 2017 campaign with a brilliant stretch run that included a 1:57.80 PR for the last medal spot at states. My hunch says Sites gets down to 1:56 or faster before this year is over. Maybe that happens this weekend.

The 4x8 boys Tyler Adams (Mount Caramel), Addison Magyar (Warrior Run), Kellan Guinn-Bailey (Milton) and Matt Nickolaus (Loyalsock) are all 2 flat or faster. Plus it looks like they will all contest to event fresh. Considering the depth out front, it wouldn’t surprise me if any (or all?) of these guys gets pulled to a time under the SQS and gets to go to Shippensburg. The doubling Ethan Knoebel could figure into that equation as well if his legs are still underneath him. This district had just 1 guy under the SQS last year, but they have a chance at 6-8 with this talented group.

My prediction is Leeser wins a close one with Tyler Bailey and Sites gives it a good run for 3rd. He and Tyler Adams both advance on time to the state championships. Whoever ends up in 5th will be knocking on the door as well, potentially dipping under. I’ll be conservative and say it’s just the top 4 who get to states so this way somebody can drop the #DerailTheTrain on me on Sunday.