Senior Year: 2009-2010 (Part I)

This was getting really long (it's my senior year, I can't help but be nostalgic about it), so I split this into two parts so that it will be a slightly easier read.

Defining Runners
There’s more guys that could have made this list, but ultimately I narrowed it down to just these two. Keep in mind that the seniors in this class are my age so I “grew up” watching and comparing myself to them (and thinking, “Holy crap, how can these guys possibly be my age?”). My two main focuses over the years were XC and the 800, so these guys seem like logical choices.

Brad Miles, North Penn
Miles first burst onto the radar in XC his sophomore season. I couldn’t believe the kid was just a sophomore as he posted awesome marks at Briarwood and Carlisle, rounding out a crazy strong top three for eventual XC state champs North Penn. The signature moment for him that season in my eyes was his 15:24 at districts as a sophomore (placing 4th). I think that moment really blew my mind.

Over the course of three XC seasons, Miles was to 6 in the district each year. His team won two golds and a seemingly improbable silver. He has three top 10 finishes in the state. He’s run 15:20 at Carlisle, 15:20 at Salesianum, and 15:49 at Briarwood. During Miles senior season, he went undefeated against PA competition and dominated his league and district before unleashing a filthy kick to win the state championship in a then course record of 15:47. He then won the Footlocker Northeast Regional (only Affolder has done that since, no one I can remember had done it before). Miles has qualified as an individual for both Footlocker Nationals and Nike Nationals in his career-the only PA guy in the history of the meets.

Miles track career was never quite as dynamic as his XC one, although he did post some strong results. He qualified for the state finals in the 1600 as a junior and ran 9:15 for 3200 in a loaded state finals as a senior. Brad was also quick enough over 800 meters to help his North Penn squad make the district finals in the event.

Tom Mallon, CB South
If Miles sophomore year blew my mind, you can imagine what Tom Mallon’s year looked like. The CB South sophomore grabbed his first state medal indoors at 800 with a 1:56 (a big PR at the time). As the tide turned toward outdoors, Mallon continued to turn heads. He helped elevate his 4x8 into the state title discussion after they clocked a 7:53 to win the League title and then dropped a 4:23 for 1600 to defeat Zack Montijo for another gold. A week later, CB South took 2nd at Districts in the 4x8 with Mallon producing a personal best 1:53.89 in the 800 to earn the silver.

But his first state championship appearance was where he really shined. After anchoring his 4x8 with a 1:52 split (they ran 7:46), he shocked the world with a surprisingly easy state title run in the open 800. Doubling back, Mallon clocked a 1:52.35 to win state gold by over a second. Again, he was just a sophomore.

That put a lot of pressure on Tom as he entered his junior track season. There was a target on his back all season as he raced against Mike Palmisano of Upper Dublin. Although it seemed Palmisano had the upper hand, Mallon turned it up a notch at the most important moments. He won the Meet of Champs 800 over a doubling Palmisano in a season best 1:57.26 before blasting a historic 1:51.79 state record at PSU a week later. For good measure, he anchor his team’s 4x8 in 1:52 to steal another state gold. His indoor campaign ended with a 2nd place finish in the individual 800 at nationals and a 3rd place finish in the 4x8 (behind two teams that would go on to run under the national record at Penn Relays).

Mallon’s junior outdoor season was all about the 4x8 as CB South chased (and got) the 4x8 state record. Mallon split under 1:50 on two of the biggest stages-Penn Relays and States-including a 1:49.1 anchor carry that was basically solo. They clocked times of 7:36, 7:37 and 7:33 that year to put them under 7:40 three times! Individually, Mallon ran 1:52.02 (fastest time of the year), won the outdoor state title relatively uncontested and, somehow, seemed like he underachieved. But his senior year would give him time for individual accolades.

Indoors, Tom focused on the mile distance his senior season. That worked out pretty well as he qualified for the Millrose Games and then won the mile state title over PA #1 Tom Kehl of Father Judge. Mallon also anchored his DMR to a win at the Meet of Champs and a 5th place finish at states. Tom tried for an ambitious triple at states with the 800 falling in between the mile and DMR. Although Mallon won his section of the 800, he finished 4th overall as three runners from Heat 2 ran a faster time.

With extra mile strength in his back pocket, Mallon got to work in the spring at 800 meters. At Henderson, he blasted a 1:49.61 which, at the time, was PA #3 AT. After winning leagues in the 1600 (3 straight) and 800, he went to districts and clocked a 1:52.71 district record. Then it was time for states. Here, Mallon blasted a 1:49.31 to take his third straight state gold and set a state meet record that had lasted since 1984. Mallon capped things off with a third straight sub 1:50 open time of 1:49.01 at the PA Distance Festival which made him “co-record holder” with Paul Vandegrift (who clocked 1:48.8h in 1987).

When Mallon hung up his spikes at graduation, he was the state meet record holder in the 800 both indoors and outdoors. He was the state record holder in the indoor and outdoor 800. He was the state and national federation record holder in the 4x800. He had claimed 7 state golds.

For the record, Mallon also had multiple sub 16 performances in XC and two top 30 finishes at the state championships. His senior season he was top 10 in District 1 for XC, state champ indoors for the mile and raced on the 5th place 4x400 at states.

Defining Teams
What’s interesting about this year is that there weren’t many dominate teams. I think that made for some truly memorable races, but maybe not truly memorable teams.

The 2009 Henderson XC team started a big trend for the Warriors. Those around during the prime years of the blog know Henderson as a power that routinely won the district and competed for state gold, but before 2009 they had been routinely denied the title, watching Ches-mont rivals Coatesville and WC East take home the gold instead. But in 2009, Henderson stormed to a runaway victory at Lehigh and, with a deep team, eked out a victory in one of the tightest state meets in recent history (it included 5 teams with realistic title hopes). They had just one state medalist (Will Kellar), but got top 50 finishes from Khattabi, Andrews and Grab to help seal the golds.

On the track, Henderson continued to excel. Indoors, they won the state distance medley relay and their 800 man Luke Lefebure won individual gold in his best event. Outdoors, Henderson qualified for the Championship of America in the 4x800 relay and had a gold and silver medalist individually at outdoor states.

Quaker Valley
Top AA squads can tend to be overlooked in Pennsylvania, but the Quaker Valley boys made people notice them this decade. In XC, QV won district titles in 2007, 2008 and 2009 with scores of 47 and 41 points in those final two seasons. They posted six individual medals in that three year stretch and took 5th, 2nd and 2nd at states. Although they were narrowly denied a pair of state golds on the trails, they ended up making up for it on the track. Quaker Valley won the 2009 state title in the 4x8 with a 7:58 before turning it up a notch in 2010. They clocked a 7:46.46, the 2nd best time in AA meet history, and rolled behind a 1:52 anchor carry from Omar Hyjek. Hyjek ended up doubling up on his golds by winning the 1600 meters shortly thereafter.

Altoona was the first team I can remember that went after team titles in track. They weren’t afraid to double or triple where necessary to try and steal points. I think that was most exhibited in Wade Endress. The junior doubled with the mile and the DMR at indoor states, winning in an impressive bronze in the former before nearly nipping Will Kellar at the line to steal gold in the DMR. During the spring, Endress added medals in the 1600 and 800 while also being a 4x4 piece for their state final team. Altoona also had the sprint god that was Brady Gehret. Brady rolled to the state title indoors at both 200 and 400 and was splitting in the 45s for the 4x4 since his junior season. The dude was unreal.

By the way, the Altoona XC team was memorable as well. The school from District 6 made a legit push for the state championship in what would have been a huge surprise against the powers of the bigger districts. Although they ended up 4th in the final standings, Altoona finished with two state medalists (Endress and Chris Fischer) as well as another top 40 finisher (Liberman). 

Honorable Mention: Baldwin
What a wild season Baldwin had. The WPIAL squad spent the fall posting excellent team results, led by a loaded top 3 of Dennis Logan, Matt Cecala and Bobby Bishop. However, they remained in the shadow of the titans from North Allegheny. They missed NA by just 12 points at Tri-States and 17 at Coopers despite averaging 16:45 and 16:41. At states, they finished 5th in the standings, just 26 points off the podium.

During the indoor season, Baldwin emerged as a state title contender again-this time in the DMR. The Baldwin boys clocked a 10:26.78 at the TSTCA Championships and set themselves up as the #1 seed in the state. After impressive middle legs from Arkangelo James and Dennis Logan, sophomore Bobby Bishop was put in a position to close it out for the title. However, the ultra-talented sophomore couldn’t’ quite hold off the all-time greats he was racing and Baldwin had to settle for 4th in 10:25.50. A little while later, Baldwin trekked to indoor nationals and earned 3 top 8 finishes in the distance relays taking 7th, 4th and 7th in the 4x8, DMR and 4xMile.

Outdoors things really heated up for Baldwin as their 4x8 hit their stride. Dennis Logan was already a proven star in the half, but Arkangelo James was hitting another level. Add in a healthy George Crompton and the team was cooking. At their home invitational, they unleashed a 7:46.99 and moved to the #1 spot in the state. Their 7:47.61 at Districts cemented their status as favorites. But in the state finals, after running 7:50.03 for the #1 spot in the prelim, Baldwin managed just a 7:49.25 and had to settle for 8th in the final. It ended up the only medal for the boy’s squad.

NCAA Bracket Group

Hi y’all,
It’s the middle of March which, as we all know, is the time I get really into college basketball. I’ve spent the past week doing some in depth research and convincingly myself that, despite basically watching no college basketball all year, I know everything. This time next week I will have been reminded that I know nothing, but until then I’d like to invite all of you to hop in our ESPN bracket challenge group!

The group name is TheRealTrain (all one word) and the password is originalpancake (also all one word). If you were in the group last year, you can join without the password so I’m not 100% positive that’s right (so someone let me know if it works).

Good luck and have fun! Enjoy the madness

Josh Hoey's National Record Revisited

It’s been almost two weeks since Josh Hoey made the country’s jaws drop with his massive national record of 1:47.67 in the 800 meters. The Bishop Shanahan senior has always been a strong distance runner-he had two state championships at 800 and mile wins at the Penn Relays, Millrose Games and Boston Indoor. But this record was unlike anything we’ve seen from him before.

On Boston’s lightening quick track, Josh stormed through the four lap race and held his own in a group of semi-pros and top flight collegiate athletes. His record time was a massive PR indoors or out. He had clocked 1:49.37 last summer at Junior Nationals (his previous best) and owned a 1:51.49 indoor 800 best from February 15th of this year. However you can throw all those PRs out the window as, in a year of big half mile breakthroughs for many PA stand outs, Josh skipped the 1:48s entirely and shattered Robby Andrew’s national record of 1:49.21 by over a second and a half.

I can still remember Robby’s national record. At the time it was an absurd run-no one had ever broken 1:50 indoors before and he brought it all the way down to 1:49.2. Just a year later, Robby went on to win the indoor NCAA title at 800 and run 1:45 outdoors. He finished runner-up in Eugene to Olympian superstar Andrew Wheating that outdoor season. Andrews has since become a multi-time national team qualifier in the 1500 (including a USA title last year) and a world championship finalist.

Indoors has changed a lot since Andrews broke that record. Although no one could quite eclipse him, guys have been knocking on the door of history starting with Ben Malone’s sub 1:50 as a junior in 2012 and most notably Cameron Cooper’s 1:49.46 just last year. Now, however, it’s Hoey who sits across the standings. This time isn’t just fast for indoor race either, it puts Josh at #7 ever for high schools. He’s within 1.22 seconds of Mike Granville’s legendary 1996 record of 1:46.45. Nobody has been in the 1:46s since Granville did it and the closest we’ve seen anybody get to that record this century is Donovan Brazier (1:47.55 in 2015). Hoey’s in a similar spot with months still left to go.

By the way, when Hoey ran his mark, it put him in the top 70 Americans ever for indoor track. Only 10 guys in the NCAA have faster marks than the Oregon according to TFRRS and he actually beat 2015 NCAA runner up Dylan Capwell head to head during the record. Unsurprisingly, Hoey’s run is a PA record for indoors (by nearly 3 seconds) or outdoors (by almost a full second). PA now has two individual distance state records that were set indoors (Noah Affolder set the two mile record at nationals last year) and Carlisle’s DMR from indoors a year ago is our fastest of that relay on any surface.

Clearly the indoor landscape is changing. Sometimes PA’s top indoor performers struggle to hit those same times outdoors so there will be pressure on Hoey as he moves forward. I’d imagine the big goals for him now would be centered around a few things-national outdoor record in the 800, sub 4 minutes in the mile, making the US Junior World Team for Finland this July. The sub 4 list is short, but it’s been growing at a much more rapid pace in recent years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hoey chase some fast opportunities-including a run on his future home track out in Oregon and perhaps some local professional races at Princeton, Swarthmore or Penn. That 800 national record will be perhaps the hardest target of them all, but Josh has a huge head start on everyone else who has chased it in history.

I’d love to see Shanahan throw some relays together. Without Josh, they were in the mix for a state title indoors and have the pieces to win the DMR at the Penn Relays like Drew Hunter did with Loudon Valley a few years back. The Shanahan 4x8 could also make a run at a sub 7:40 time or a big Penn Relays performance. They will be qualified for PR based on their 7:49 from December last year.

As I’ve speculated before, I think this may be the end of Josh Hoey at state championship meets. After passing on the indoor state championship this year (and the decision paying off with a national record) he seems likely that he will chase top notch competition during the spring, keep a relatively light race schedule and look to extend his senior into the World Junior Championships this summer. He could be a dark horse medal contender if things break right.

Assuming this is it, Josh will graduate with two individual state championships at 800 and a team title in XC. He has two top 10 finishes in XC at states and has led two different teams into the top 5 in the final standings, including a surprising run from Shanahan this year. He was also the #1 man on PA’s only ever NXN Regional Champions as just a sophomore. Josh anchored DT West to a state medal in the DMR as a freshman, medaled at states in 1600 as a freshman, ran 4:17 for the mile as a freshman. He was 2nd in the mile indoor, 3rd in the 1600 outdoors and pulled down two more golds as a member of the DT West 4x4 as a sophomore. He won the Penn Relays mile as a sophomore. Junior year, he grabbed those two state golds at 800 meters and helped Shanahan to a 4x4 state title. Back to back seasons he was a part of the indoor state championship team.

There are no questions about his accomplishments. The only question is: what’s next?

Indoor Nationals Entries

Here's what I've seen thus far. Let me know which other entries are on the way/missing from the distance side (or the non-distance side if you'd like)

Liam Conway, Owen J Roberts
Collin Ebling, Pottsville
Aidan Sauer, Pennsbury
Brett Zatlin, Great Valley

Evan Addison, LaSalle
Noah Beveridge, Butler
Dalton Hengst

2 Mile
Dalton Hengst
Rusty Kujdych, Neshaminy

Tristan Forsythe, Winchester Thurston
Brendan Miller, Upper Dauphin
Tyler Rollins, DT West

CR South

Spring Ford

EE One Mile
Cameron Binda, Greensburg Salem
Seth Ketler, Seneca Valley

EE Two Mile
Jeffrey Love, George School

EE 4x800m
Germantown Friends

2018 Indoor State Recaps: The Relays

CB West came to play once again the 4x800. They started the day with a stacked relay and took on all challengers with what ended up being a fairly comfortable margin of victory-nearly five seconds. It’s clear this team was ready and focused for this attack and they once again posted an all-state performance. And I think there’s more room to give here-especially by outdoors. It’s encouraging to see Luke Fehrman dropping a big 1:56.28 split (third fastest split of the day) and with a bit more competition, I think there could be a nice drop for Brian Baker on the anchor (he ran 1:57.32 but his season best was 1:57.00 open). Plus, Jake Claricurzio is continuing to get healthy and drop time. By outdoors, they may be able to flip Baker back to lead off (would be very helpful for somewhere like Penn Relays) and Claricurzio back to anchor where both guys had success a year ago and may feel more comfortable.

Pennridge is going to be dangerous this spring. The team was off my radar as a 4x8 for a solid couple months before they suddenly became a force. They won the Meet of Champions and then took second in the state. Over the past few seasons, Pennridge has got consistently better in the 4x8 as we move ahead to outdoors. It’s not hard to remember their district champion squad in 2014 or the 7:40 team in 2015. The 2016 team was one of the best in the state despite missing Tucker Desko. Last year (and I forgot about this completely) they took 3rd in the state! After a relatively underwhelming indoor campaign. In 2018, they will be starting the year at 7:57. They already have a game changing anchor in place with Matt Eissler and they have three other guys right at the 2 minute barrier. They just need a #2 to step up and they are in a great spot.

CR South and Ephrata both really went for it in this race. They weren’t afraid to change up the traditional 4x8 order strategy as Ephrata ran their fastest leg 1st and CR South ran their fastest leg 2nd. Those strategies were effective in keeping these squads out of traffic as Ephrata had a 5 second lead to start the race and CR South was on CB West’s hip at the last exchange. Those aforementioned fastest legs were the 1st and 2nd fastest guys in the field.

The top two teams in Heat 1 may have been my favorite story of the race. Mount Lebanon had been consistently excellent against WPIAL competition. They were rolling as a relay and seemed poised for something big at states. Well, they delivered on that with three sub 2 minute legs and a total time of 8:03.83. Only CB West, the state champs, had more sub 2 minute legs than Lebo. They nearly led this thing wire to wire as well as Lebo was in 1st after the 2nd, 3rd and 4th legs. By outdoors, I think this team could be a real force (they’ve got enough inter-squad competition to really speed the guys up). Meanwhile, LaSalle showed once again why they are the deepest team in the state. Without their #1 guy in Evan Addison, the LaSalle boys entered the state championships an underdog. But the Explorers set to work with a consistent, balanced attack and hung tough in the pack until the moment to strike came about. Their final time of 8:05 got them 6th in the overall standings.

Abington is still hanging around as a 4x8 force. They always put the emphasis on the relays and it’s paid off with yet another medal. I’d like to see Cameron Mitchell unleashed in the open 8 this coming outdoors. I think he could do some big things. DT West showing some real range in ability as they know have a district XC championship and a 4x8 indoor medal in the same season. That’s not something you see every day.

Lastly, I have to give a huge shout out to Boyertown. They had two guys under the 2 minute barrier and did an awesome job taking 12th in this race and mixing it up on the big stage. I’ll continue to be rooting for this team into the spring as they inspire with their determination and perseverance.

As I mentioned in another post already, I’m excited to see Seneca Valley go all in on the DMR and come away with the gold. I thought their first three legs ran excellent races, especially Owori who had an awesome 3:07.72. Ketler, of course, is a beast, but I think he could have done a lot more if pressed. It’s ironic as Ketler was a little bit in the shadow of Owori and now things may have flipped after Seth’s clutch close to the XC season and his mile breakthroughs this spring. Of course, whoever is faster doesn’t matter as both guys are fast, leading to a Ben Simmons and Joe Embiid situation for SV. Let’s hope we get to see them at Penn Relays in this event representing the state and then it’s time to transition to the 4x8. They ran 7:46 last year with this exact same squad and there is no doubt in my mind they are better. I could see 1:55-1:57-1:56-1:53 kind of splits from this team which would put you in the low 7:40s and definitely be in the mix for state gold. They will be CB West’s toughest test looking ahead.

I also already touched on Spring Ford who, although I thought they would race well, I didn’t see leaving this meet with the silvers and a blazing 10:23.11. They put themselves in a great position with the best 4-8 punch in the meet. And McKenna is just a gamer on that anchor leg. He was surrounded by some of the biggest names in the state and raced unfazed. We will likely see these guys in the DMR at Penn (assuming the time gets them in), but after that I think the magic of the Spring Ford team will dwindle and it will be time for individual dreams to come to fruition.

CB West and LaSalle left the meet with two medals in the relays-the only squads to do so. Both were lurking dangerous on the anchor leg with Brian Baker and Evan Addison at the helm. Baker’s split of 4:19.10 was the fastest of any runner and he brought his squad from 6th to 3rd during his carry. Addison had the 3rd fastest carry and also jumped his team up a spot.

Bishop Shanahan led the race heading in to the anchor and held on for a 5th place finish. That’s pretty darn impressive considering they were without their #1 runner in Josh Hoey. How many other teams in the state could run under 10:30 without their best miler (and with multiple legs on the double)? A 3:07 on the double from Jonah Hoey is a pretty darn good lead off leg and sets the stage nicely for a potential DMR run at nationals (if Shanahan wants to go after it). In theory, if you swap in Josh’s 1600 best, they drop roughly 25 seconds to 10:02. Of course from a 4x8 perspective they can do pretty well considering they have a 1:47 guy.

Wyomissing put together one of the best small school DMR’s we’ve seen with a 10:29.01 for 6th, CR North posted another DMR medal for their growing stack-running 10:32, and the boys from Butler helped the WPIAL snag another set of medals with a 10:35. That’s a pretty fast medal group which, unfortunately, left the boys from Penncrest just off the medal stand. They ran an awesome 10:38 time and pushed late in the race to get back into it, backed by Avery Lederer’s 4:25 anchor carry.

2018 Indoor State Recap: Individual Events

Obviously, the mile lost some of its appeal without the reigning PA #1 in the field, but we still got a matchup between four bona fide stars-and those stars did not disappoint. LaSalle’s Evan Addison had the lead early, taking it through the 809m in about 2:11. The top 4 guys by time asserted themselves right at the top – Conway, Beveridge, Addison and Wirth. Beveridge. Wirth slipped back a bit at the end, but with a lap to go there were three runners within a second. Ultimately, Conway took command on the ultimate turn with a 27.86, but Beveridge put up an awesome battle with a 28 second final lap of his own. Keep in mind, Noah entered the season known best for his prowess at XC/3200 and now he ends the year going toe to toe with a guy who has finished in the top 3 in the state for the mile/1600 three times. As we look ahead to outdoors, it seems that we may see Noah back in his potential sweet spot-the 3200. I’d love to see him match up with Rusty again and hopefully push each other to sub 9.

For Conway the storyline becomes-can he duplicate this outdoors? Especially if Hoey is back on the line. At this point (as I’ll discuss in another post in the queue), I’m not sure we see Hoey in very many more high school only meets so it’s possible Josh is already done competed at PA State Championships. But if Conway does get a shot at him, he will be hungry to show that his mile win wasn’t a fluke and that he can contend with the mighty national record holder. That could make for another fun championship storyline this coming spring.

If there’s no Hoey, Evan Addison and Tyler Wirth are set up to be the prime contenders. That being said, last year we saw Matt Scarpill, Jesse Cruise, Isaac Kole, Bryan Keller, Sam Affolder, Liam Galligan and Owen Wing on the medal stand-none of which competed indoors in the state championship for the mile. Yes, only Conway had an indoor mile and outdoor 1600 medal last year (in AAA). I’d say that’s an atypical trend, but one to keep in the back of your mind when flipping ahead to spring.

As exciting as seeing the top 4 duke it out for medals was, it was equally exciting to see some newcomers get on the medal stand. Tyler Wirth will be the top returner, but Cameron Binda and Aiden Tomov joined him as juniors on the medal stand. Binda ran a 4:22 for a big indoor PR and a huge breakthrough on the oval this winter. Tomov ran an aggressive race at the front of Heat 1 and was rewarded with his own nice PR at 4:25 and a victory in the slower heat by a nose over Elias Lindgren. Mount Lebanon’s Patrick Anderson was the top sophomore in the field, taking 10th overall in 4:29.91.

Shout out to Connor Shields and the Warwick coaches. Shields had a strong season, but didn’t have that blazing fast seed time so it looked like he would be left completely out of the state meet. However, the coaches entered Shields into the meet with his 4:34 seed that was well over the standard and hoped for the best. He got into the meet and nearly stole a medal with a big indoor best of 4:29.55 for 9th place overall. That’s an awesome job seizing the opportunity to compete and gain experience. The junior now heads into outdoor with a little extra confidence after running in the low 4:20s a year ago as a sophomore. Watch for Shields as a sleeper out of District 3.

Will Merhige ends the year as the top independent runner in the mile (and the top independent distance medalist). The senior consistently dropped time every race that he ran. Merhige was entered in a lot of miles in a row this season and clicked off solid marks in the high 4:20s before popping off this big 4:22 PR. Merhige hung tough in the fast heat, hanging in the pack until the final 400 meters and then closing well at PR pace. We will have to keep an eye out for Merhige and Lindgren (as well as Peter Borger) when the tide switches to outdoors as they aren’t in the PIAA and likely won’t get a lot of coverage when we hit the postseason. Hopefully, we can see them match up against our stars throughout the regular season and continue to prove they need to be mentioned in state elite discussions.

We knew entering into the race that Heat 2 had a chance to steal the show and man did they set the stage for a terrific final. As expected, the Pennsbury boys were active early as they took Heat 2 through 400 meters in 55 seconds. That left the rest of the heat hanging on for dear life as Brett Zatlin and Matt Eissler clung to the 3-4 spot. By 600 meters, Zatlin had moved into second behind Aidan Sauer of Pennsbury and on the last lap he had just enough to go by Sauer and win the heat-both guys were under the impressive 1:55 barrier.

For Zatlin this was a huge breakthrough result. He entered the meet with a best at 1:57 and completely skipped the 1:56s and 1:55s to find himself in pole position for the state championship with one heat to go. For Sauer, this result was excellent as well as he got a lifetime best out of the race. It’s unclear exactly what happened with Pennsbury’s 4x8 (injury to Scratchard?), but ultimately it’s nice to see a talent like Sauer rewarded with an awesome race and new PR in the open event. If Scratchard can come back for outdoors, a Pennsbury-CB West (Shanahan?) match up would be fun.

In the fast heat, Robert Dupell’s first lap 26.49 indicated we could see a fast enough pace to make the winner of this heat the state champion. But 400 meters in, it didn’t look like that winner would be Liam Conway. The mile champ was in last place in the heat through the opening two laps. However, he made a nice move on the 3rd to get himself in position. Of course, Ephrata’s super sophomore Tyler Shue had a similar idea. The District 3 standout moved into the pole position by the bell in a move wise beyond his years and then it was just about holding on. Ultimately, despite a 28.43 last lap, he was not match for Conway’s 27.65. Conway completed the double and wrote his name in the history books. But Shue was rewarded with a silver medal, a gigantic open PR of 1:53 and a legion of new supporters. Both guys came out of this one pretty good.

Kamil Jihad of Neumann Goretti ended up with the bronze just a shade ahead of Zatlin at 1:54.59 to Brett’s 1:54.65. For Jihad, it’s his best ever indoor finish and second straight medal. He will be gunning for that elusive outdoor 800 title this spring against, most likely, Tyler Leeser.

Big shout out to David Endres and Collin Ebling. It was unclear entering the state meet if these guy’s 1:55 breakthroughs were just flashes in the pan or a real indication of fitness. Personally, I was pretty skeptical of both guy’s ability to get on the medal stand, especially the junior Endres, but they both delivered. David dropped another PR, getting to 1:54.90 and making him the fastest indoor 800 runner in a school that includes some all-time greats including 1993 state champ Jeff Heath and 1999 outdoor champ Kevin Nishiyama.

Matt Eissler of Pennridge had a heck of day in his own right. The junior was a state medalist a year earlier, but lended his talents to the 4x800 at the start of the meet. His 1:56 anchor carry lifted his team from 4th to 2nd in the final standings and got Pennridge 8 points in the team race. He also added a key 4x4 leg on the 4th place relay in the state. In between he managed to sneak in a heck of an open 800 at 1:55.37 (I think an open PR?). At some point, this kid is going to pop off a huge time. I’m not sure when or if it will be in the open or a relay, but I’m feeling a 1:52-1:51 kind of time from Eissler before this year ends. You heard it here first.

In total we had 11 guys under 1:57 in this race including non-medalists Jonah Hoey (a sophomore at 1:56.01 indoors would be a huge story if it wasn’t for Shue), Jarnail Dhillon (1:56.67) and Ethan Zeh (1:56.93). Radnor looks like they’ve found another medal contender in the 800. They are coaching ‘em up nicely down there.

Lastly, have to give props to Collin Ochs of CR South. He qualified for the state meet last week with a big run and then he unleashed an awesome final lap in the first heat of states individually to clock 1:59.07. CR South had a 1:55 split on their second leg (was that also from Ochs?) and took 4th in the state for the 4x800 as well. I love that CR South has stacked the 2nd leg the last few years on the 4x8. Just think it’s a cool move.

The Rusty Kujdych show is getting good. The Neshaminy senior has now clinched the first two legs of the triple crown-winning the XC State Championship and the indoor 3,000. How many guys in the last 15 years have won an individual state championship in the fall and the winter? Craig Miller (2006), Jason Weller (2007), Ryan Gil (2011), Tony Russell (2014), Jake Brophy (2016), Noah Affolder (2017). How many went on to complete the triple crown in the spring? Just one – Jason Weller in 2007. That’s the history that Rusty will be up against as he enters outdoors.

This was a huge win for Rusty as he rolled through a solid field to win by some 12 seconds. This is the biggest win I can remember since Colin Martin got the state title in 2014 with a similar time of 8:30.82. Martin went on to finish the season under 9 minutes for 3200. I’d imagine that Rusty has that sub 9 number in mind and he honestly may get down to 9:05ish at Nationals before we even hit the outdoor oval. He is very fit right now.

Let’s give big props to the 2-3 finishers in this race. Mitchell Etter and Tyler Rollins edged themselves ahead of the small school guys in the closing stages of this race to earn marquee state medals and drop some nice PRs. For Rollins, he only got a state qualifier last week with a time not much under 9 minutes. In this race, he dropped a monster 8:45 PR and pocketed the silver medal. This guy is ascending at the right time. As for Etter, I was worried about how he would handle this big stage, but the State College runner used that home track advantage to produce a huge 8:42 and second place finish. This is two clutch races in a row for Etter as he needed a PR about 10 days ago just to get into the meet and now he tops a great field for the silver. I’m eager to see how these two carry their momentum into the outdoor season where the competition looks poised to heat up in the 3200.

Brendan Miller and Tristan Forsythe represented the A classification well with 4th and 5th place finishes in this event. Forsythe took the pace out aggressively early and stuck is nose in the race, jockeying in the top pack through 2400 meters. With Hoey opting out of the mile, it would have been interesting to see Forysthe in that mile field competing for gold as well-hopefully that didn’t weigh on his mind in this race. As for Miller, he gets some revenge on Forsythe after finishing runner up to him during XC and sets himself up as the favorite outdoors in the 3200 (Tristan likely tries to defend his 1600 title outdoors). Miller was in 2nd place with 400 meters to go but couldn’t hold off the kicks of Etter and Rollins as all three jockeyed throughout the final 800.

Spencer Smucker and Dan McGoey added their first track medals to XC medals from the fall. Manheim Township’s Ian Miller became the first MT medalist in this event since Craig Miller (who has the meet record at 8:22). Miller’s 8:55 result was great as he has run a ton of 3ks this year and could have easily been too fatigued to deliver a PR on the big stage. Instead, he came through clutch and took 7th place. McGoey earns a 3k medal as a sophomore, joining a pretty exclusive club of all-timers. Penncrest’s Patrick Theveny was less than a half second away from doing the same. He ran a great race and was one lap away from a state medal of his own as he and McGoey flipped places on the last lap. I was still very impressed with Theveny’s season and hanging tough with the 3rd place finisher from XC states should hopefully give him some confidence looking ahead. The Theveny-Lederer 1-2 punch should be excellent this spring.

2018 PTFCA Indoor Championship: 5 Opening Remarks

I’ll spare you most of the sentimental stuff I put out there during XC as I start to look back on this blog’s last indoor state championship. The following post will capture my five biggest takeaways after an initial skim of the results. I’ll be doing more of a deep dive in the coming week with my full breakdown on all the events.

1. Liam Conway gets the double
In 1993, the indoor state championship switched from a Mile-1,000 format to a Mile-800. Before today, there had been just one double gold individual winner-that counts both the mile-3k and mile-800 doubles. On Sunday, Liam Conway doubled that list as he sits next to Wade Endress as the only other two time individual gold medalist in 25 years of indoor state championships. This is a truly remarkable achievement, with the stage being set for this possibility a year earlier when Conway successfully completed a double medal winning double at PSU.

In the mile, Conway used his strong tactics to pull off the win and post a new indoor mile best en route to the gold. When it came time for the 800, I personally really doubted that he would have enough left in the tank. In the beginning, he lagged off the pace, but he stayed focused and raced poised before rolling through to a second state gold. When the pressure was mounting on the biggest stage we have in the state, Conway delivered.

Last year, Liam entered the indoor state meet hoping to leave with his first state medal. He left with two. This year, Liam entered the indoor state meet hoping to leave with his first state gold. He left with two.

2. Seneca Valley goes all in – and wins
Personally, I always enjoy when a team goes all in to try and win a relay. Seneca Valley could have had a very strong 4x8, mixing it up for gold and certainly a top 3 spot. Their top two individuals, Seth Ketler and Sam Owori, would have been likely medal contenders given their PRs and racing acumen. But that wasn’t what mattered to this squad. Seneca Valley became the first Western team to win the DMR at indoor states and rolled to an impressive 10:21 victory. Sam Owori set the stage with a blazing 3:07 lead off and Seth Ketler brought it home with a smooth 4:24 anchor, but the guys in between-seniors Luke Bellack and Alex Dixon-really helped set the stage for the championship. Dixon had the fastest 800 split of anyone in the race.

In XC, Seneca Valley had an awesome team. They likely believed they had the potential to be state champions or at least get on the podium but-unfortunately-it just wasn’t their day. In the final standings, Bishop Shanahan snuck ahead of them by just 3 points and knocked them out of the top 5. As they entered the anchor leg on state Sunday, again Shanahan sat ahead of them, but this time they were able to flip the script. Seneca Valley also knocked off the 4th, 2nd and 1st place teams from XC states (as well as the AA state champions) on the road to redemption.

3. State Qualifying System
I started with some uplifting tales, I’ll end with some uplifting tales, but in between I’ve got to get a quick vent session in. States is truly a remarkable day. For some people, you only get one chance to compete a state championship. Often times, we can take the opportunity for granted, but for a lot of seniors who worked for four years to try and get to this moment that one little race is remembered for the rest of their life.

So it hurts to see spots thrown away when we know there are only a certain number up for grabs. Note that this didn’t just happen once or twice or only on the distance side. We had at least 1 scratch in the 4x2, 4x4, 60m dash, 200m, 400m, 800m, Mile, 3000m, 60H, and Triple Jump. I counted 17 open spots that, in theory, could have been filled by another athlete or relay across those events. That’s not just the work of one team, that’s a systematic issue across the state.

I’m not involved in the selection process, so I’m not saying I have a perfect solution, but I ask teams/the PTFCA to consider a few things. 1) Maybe we can extend the window of when a team has to make their state entries a little longer so that we can give coaches/athletes a bit more time to think about how best to distribute themselves across the events. 2) Can we have some type of alternate system so that the first couple guys out can be on call and they can be added if a spot opens up? Maybe not on the day of states, but if they can get a couple days notice, I’d bet a lot of athletes would shoot up to PSU for the chance to run at states. 3) I’m asking everyone to please remember that there are only select spots available. Use the time you have to think and consider those who are being shut out of the meet as a result of your decisions.

Another solution is to, of course, set a qualifying time for states and anybody who hits it is in. That way, a scratch doesn’t directly affect someone and we don’t have to worry about all this. This almost definitely isn’t going to happen because we are terrified of having too many heats of certain races, but maybe we could make the standards harder and then add teams if we need to. For the record, this year there was only one distance event (the 3k) where all the guys that raced had the current state standard. And that only left out one guy who could have easily been added to the 3k field for a 13 person heat.

Sorry, I’ll get off my high horse now. Plus, this is the last time I can preach with this crap since my last indoors is in the books, so you won’t have to worry about this anymore going forward.

4. Tyler Shue
I’ve been trying to get people to notice Shue for the last few months. Now I think I can stop worrying about that. The Ephrata sophomore started the day by running a 1:54 split and blowing away the rest of the lead off legs on the 4x800. That gave Ephrata enough of an early age to claim bronze in the relay. Then, doubling back after this solo performance, Shue made a hard charge on the toughest lap of the 800 and tried to steal an individual gold for himself. If it wasn’t for perhaps the Athlete of the Meet in Liam Conway than he would have done it. The sophomore stopped the clock at 1:53.85 which, as far as I can tell from my research, is the fastest indoor 800 ever run by a sophomore. Tom Mallon and John Lewis, the last two outdoor state record holders, ran only 1:56 during their sophomore seasons. That time also would have won states 8 different times since 2001. And by the way, he was on the double. The relay meet order has only recently changed, but we haven’t seen a 4x8-8 double this good in a long while. Let alone from a sophomore.

5. Spring Ford
The Rams from Spring Ford are quickly becoming the clutchest team in the state. During XC, they were 4th in Hershey after almost being left out of the state meet entirely. They came within a few points of knocking off the district champs from DT West and posted two top 50 finishers. After two heartbreaking years struggling to get a chance on the Hershey hills, it seemed like the storybook ending to this distance squad’s story.

But the Spring Ford boys are graduated yet. Although they are an east coast team, Spring Ford doesn’t race in the TFCAofGP and they proved you can have success outside its borders. In key meets like Burdette and the PTFCA Carnival, they established their credentials and got a SQG mark. They entered a fresh relay just like Seneca Valley, but unlike SV they were just the 8th seed on time.

Without the flashy names or revered history, the Rams simply rammed their competition in the closing stages of the race. Zach Smith set things off nicely with a 3:11.12 to hand off in 4th. The middle legs were absolutely blazing as Stephen Chapman clocked a 49.62 and Milan Sharma produced 1:58.90, making for the best middle distance crew of anyone in the field. So much for being just an XC squad. Then Jacob McKenna continued to prove he’s one of the best guys in the state. McKenna dropped a 4:23.49 and held off the charge from anchors like Brian Baker and Evan Addison. In the end, Spring Ford posted a 10:23.11 and grabbed the silver medals at the state championship.

It’s an unbelievable storybook ending. But I’m guessing they will go ahead and write another chapter in their story this spring.

Obviously, there was also an impressive national record this weekend set by one of our own, Josh Hoey, up in Boston. I will provide some thoughts on that in a coming post (spoiler alert: it’s really good), but wanted to keep this one state championship specific.

Thanks to those of you who have stuck around for the past few months during this lame duck term. I hope you enjoyed the coverage. Although the indoor season is considered the “least important”, it’s an important one to me as I keep the qualifier list here on the site running all year long and hopefully provide coaches/athletes a glimpse at the qualifying picture. Trying to give everyone the best opportunity to get the most out of yourself and get to states is really my biggest goal and I hope that the time and effort that went into that list helped at least one of you out there to run on the big stage.

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