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.
Germantown Friend’s 10:45.91
CB East 10:45.02
CR North 10:41.53
Spring Ford 10:40.14
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