Hershey, A History

I just want to establish before I post this that this is by no means my predictions for what will happen at the state championship. This post is meant merely project the top 10 teams at the state meet using a version of historical precedent. Why? Eh I got bored and looked up a bunch of stats. C'mon people this is what i do.

So district one is the best district in the state. Big surprise, they are the biggest district and thus have the best competition for dual meets and invitationals. No need to elaborate further.

But just how good as district one been? Well for starters they have had 8 of the last 10 champs in the state. There hasn't been a year in the last 10 where a district one team hasn't been in the top 2 in the state. A good start. But what about the depth not just the top 2 teams?

Well consider this, no district one team has finished outside the top 12 since 2004 (and back then the district sent 6 teams). Here is the average place for the first, second, third, fourth and fifth best team from D1 at a given state meet.

1.2, 3.7, 6, 7.4, 9.1.

In other words in an average year you can expect district one to take 1, 4, 6, 7 and 9 at states. The peak was in 2006 when district one took the top 4 spots and 6 of the top 7 (and maybe it could have been more as a very good CB South team was left home that season). But that's an outlier realistically.

District 7 has been pretty solid, especially over the last 8 seasons. They have had a top 5 team every year and a champ. They placed 20 teams in the top 10 over the 8 year span, second only to D1s 39. But keep in mind D7 has sent 30 teams to states over that span vs D1s 42.

District 3 has sent 38 teams (I believe they were sending 5 before the three class split) and has had just 6 top 10 teams. That's roughly 15% vs 66% for D7 and above 90% for district 1.

Of course the champion of this category is district 12. Since the PCL has come into the PIAA in 2008, they have been given 10 spots to states combined over 6 seasons. They've placed 11 teams in the top 10. In other words 110%.

The remaining top 10 teams over the last 8 years have been 3 district 6 squads and one district 2 squad. No D11 teams have cracked the top 10, although some have come quite close.

Which brings me to the point of this post. We need a meet of champs!

Wait, no that's actually not the point of this post. Sorry it's a reflex at this point.

Which brings me to the point of this post: projecting the state meet purely based on history. So here's how I see it.

District one has had the champion 8 of the last 10 seasons and 7 of the last 8. So logic says district one has the champ again this year.

Henderson is still a strong team this season and they have won 5 state titles since the turn of the century.

Therefore, history says Henderson is your 2014 state champ.

Now for 2-3. In recent years this comes down to two schools: NA and the best team from D12. The PCL has had a top 3 team every year since joining the PIAA, placing an average of 2.5. NA, the top in district 7, has had 6 top 3 teams in the last 8 years and a state champ, an average of 2.875.

So history says O'Hara for 2nd and NA for 3rd.

At the 4 spot we are due for another district one team (remember the 2nd best D1 team each year is on average place 3.7). The best team left is probably Stoga so they grab 4.

At 5 you could argue for a district 6 team (they've had 3 top 5 teams since 2009) but the consistency of the D7 and D12 teams outlasts the upside of the D6 boys. D7 has had a slew of top 10 teams but also has had 4 recent top 5 squads not name North Allegheny (Baldwin twice, Lebo, Seneca Valley). That gave them the slight edge over d12 who had 2 teams in the top 10 5 of the last 6 years but only 1 year with two top 5 squads (2012).

So Lebo gets 5th.

At 6th we are due for another D1 squad and the logical choice is CRN. The last 8 years they have been 7th, 6th, 6th, 12th, 9th, 6th, 3rd and 5th. An average of 6.75 with 3 seperate occasions of exactly 6th.

CRN falls in at 6.

From here it's not too tricky. History says D12 needs another top 10 team. They take 7 with LaSalle. D1 needs two more top 10 teams and District 3 tends to sneak someone in around 10. 2013 was the outlier for D3 when Carlisle got 6th. CV however has clawed it's way to 13th, 9th, 9th, 13th, 11th, and 8th for 6 of the last 8 seasons. So they slip into the top 10 this year as well.

The final standings according to the history books.
1. Henderson
2. Ohara
3. NA
4. Conestoga
5. Lebo
6. CRN
7. LaSalle
8. CB West
9. DT West
10. Cumberland Valley

Do I think that's really what's going to happen? Of course not! But it was fun to look at right?

Oh, I just wasted a post putting you guys to sleep and I should just put out a Paul Short preview like a normal person?

What about another post about meet of champs? Ok geez you don't need to throw things at me ....

Paul Short preview should be coming tonight or tomorrow ... FYI I'm going bold with my predictions so be ready to put your hating shoes on.

Crowded at the Top

Before I get too far into things ... Here is what ought to be the link to the team listing for Paul Short (posted first on Padontplay and I don't know if I copied the link correctly, but you can also just take it yourself from there). I want to tape the preview tomorrow night so if you are interested, get in touch ASAP.

Anyway enough business here is another post to ponder.

In case you haven't noticed the play off picture in District 3 is super complicated. No one is safely through to states and the top 12 teams or so could rotate through in a bunch of unpredictable ways.

In other words here is a list of things I currently understand better than District 3.

-Quantum Physics
-How The Kardashians deserve their own show

Yes, the picture is hazy at this point, but that doesn't stop me from doing my darnedest to figure things out. Let's with some long shots.

Governor Mifflin is a really solid program that has a knack for putting things together at the district meet. Mills and Luckanitz were both really strong last year at districts and guys like Luke Meyers are developing solid this year behind them. The team wasn't overly impressive in it's first meet, but I anticipate them coming up really strong for the stretch run. I can't see them cracking the state qualifying 4, but I think they will surprise some people with their performance in Hershey.

Cedar Crest is a solid program as well. They put together a nice 4x8 last year outdoors but haven't quite translated that to the cross country course. They are real long shots to advance, but I include them because they have had team and individual champs in recent years and look like a top 10 team this year despite the depth of the district.

So that leaves the following squads, all of whom I feel like at least have decent shots at states if they have the right day. In no particular order:

Cumberland Valley
JP McCaskey
Lower Dauphin
Red Land
Twin Valley

(Alright you caught me, they are in alphabetical order)

8 teams! For 4 spots!

And here's the thing. Sean and I discuses how Carlisle was able to run a strong race at districts and states and he said that you had to save a little something at districts.

How the heck is anyone going to be able to save anything for states in this field?

Hempfield is probably the biggest long shot of the year on paper. They were bested by a lot of D3 teams at Carlisle and they didn't make states last year. But they return basically their entire varsity from a year ago and Justin Yurchak has looked strong early. But there was no Yurchak or Brady (their top returner from a year ago) at Carlisle. Nick Norton was sub 17 at Carlisle and Christain Groff is an emerging name, hoping to follow in his brother's footsteps (4:16 miler Matt). Hempfield will lay it all on the line at districts and they may be able to sneak by a team that's saving something.

The Hershey boys were not at Carlisle this year but they did beat Red Land (top D3 team at Carlisle) in a dual meet already this year. Aidan Demko and Will Sponaugle are a great 1-2 punch for Hershey and they appear to developing a serviceable pack behind them (they return all 7 guys from districts last year). At PTXC, Hershey was right in the mix with CV and Red Land and beat defending district champs Lower Dauphin.

And those defending champs LD have been handling business as well. They also defeated Red Land in a dual meet behind a very strong top three Sean Weidner, Colton Cassell and Kyler Shea. The last two guys are just sophomores which could mean the team has room still left to grow. But also could mean they will be too inexperienced to perform under the state meet pressure. They looked plenty strong at Pre States placing 6th as a team, but they need to establish some reliable back up at 4-5 in case the youngsters falter.

Never underestimate the power of being defending champs.

Then we have one of the biggest surprises of the weekend in JP McCaskey. Huge run by Nathan Henderson to establish himself as a medal threat in AAA. Hopkins had an outstanding day behind him and Guiterrez rounded out what was arguably the best top 3 of the day. JP finished with a spread of close to 2 minutes, but did have 4 guys under 17 with Perez running 16:55. Most teams in the district are still trying to determine who will be their 5 and establish a tighter spread and McCaskey fits in line with those other teams. But their top 4 is where it needs to be to get into the state meet.

Twin Valley got into the state meet a year ago with a brilliant piece of pack running. Dom Digicombo was top 50 in the state last year, but he was barely top 40 at districts. That was the #1 stick for a Twin Valley team that squeaked by Dallastown and #1 stick of Patrick Reilly (the district champ).

This year Twin Valley is going to need to use a similar tactic. The Geary bros, Dom Dig, and Coakley have been a killer top 4 so far this season and had a great showing against CRN (who they beat) and CB West (who they didn't) on CRN's home course out in the foreign lands of District 1. Their pack wasn't far enough up the pack to give CB West a real run for their money and their spread was a little too large to make a statement to the other D3 teams. But they made it a year ago with a similar crew and it looks like they only ran 5 guys at CRN which could have hurt their 5's performance. Teammates are the best motivators. But right now Twin Valley has their work cut out for them if they want to get back to the state meet.

Carlisle didn't have the showing they were probably hoping for on their home course. But they still have one of the favorites for District champ on their side in Zach Brehm and a really strong #2 in Joe D'Angelo. Wisner should bounce back in the coming weeks, but in the mean time Carlisle is also developing a strong 3/4 in Brandin Dyche (17:01 on Saturday). The 5 spot is a tricky spot for them, but it's a tricky spot for everyone right now so it's not a huge reason for concern.

The boys from Red Land are determine to avenge their 6th place from a year ago and get to the state meet. Zach Seiger was fantastic at Carlisle running a thrilling 15:40 for third. The performance, coupled with Drew Wikinson's 16:09 catapulted the squad to top D3 honors (for AAA at least) avenging their loss to CV at PTXC. Mills was a great three for Red Land as well and they rode the top 3 theory to a 7th place overall finish. Their spread was nearly 2 minutes, but that will happen when your #1 runs 15:40. If the top 3 deliver at districts like they have been at the early invites, it looks like this team will get to states and maybe even win a district title.

Cumberland Valley is kind of like the CRN of District 3. I don't need to see what they are returning, just pencil them in for a state spot. CV has looked consistently strong, tops at PTXC and 3rd AAA to Red Land and JP at Carlisle. They did get edged by Carlisle in a dual meet however, and they didn't have the same front running this weekend that they did at PTXC when Wasko was 7th. But unlike the other teams around them in the district, there 5 were all strong (17:12 was their 5). I think as we get closer to districts, this team inches towards the front of the pack and their intersquad competitiveness drags them all together. I thought Soliman would be their #1 guy this year at seasons end and he is currently running in the 4 spot. Higgins has been money at the 3 and Seeber and Wasko are consistent.

With a complete 5, they have the best shot of any of the teams I mentioned to return to states. However, they are one off day on the Hershey course from being sent spiraling right into the middle of the pack. And as we saw this weekend, you can only do so much with a strong 5 if you don't have the firepower out front.

Hopefully this helps clear up the picture of district 3 picture a little better. I still feel lost.

I think I'm just gonna watch some Kardashians.

For the Good of the Sport

When the PIAA went to a three class system, it was with the goal of giving more teams a chance to participate in the state meet. That happened. More teams are involved simply because there are 3 races instead of 2. More people are involved in the state championship meet and schools that used to be irrelevant suddenly have state titles, which hopefully has spread running in those schools. With more people involved in the state championship, the hope is that more programs are involved and, in turn, more runners may be inspired to join cross county teams and grow our sport.

I can not speak to how much the sport has grown as a result of the class difference, especially at these small schools. This is a noble goal and certainly, if it is working, then the change to a three class system has been worthwhile.

But here's the dirty little secret that probably isn't much of a secret. The way the class split was implemented, we sacrificed top tier teams appearance in the state meet for teams that may end up averaging 19 minutes out at Hershey. The split was made in AA and A, AAA was relatively unaffected. Well, the talent pool was anyway.

The next statements are facts.

At least One of the following teams will not make states: Conestoga, Henderson, DT West, Pennsbury, CR North, and CB West.

One of the following teams will not make states: Altoona and State College

One of the following teams will not make states: Freedom, Easton and Parkland

At least Two of the following teams won't make states: Cumberland Valley, Carlisle, Twin Valley, Red Land, JP McCaskey, and Lower Dauphin

(For the record CB East, Hempfield and Hersey probably deserve mentions here too.)

The switch to three classes slashed the race sizes down at the state meet (which has a lot of advantages) which meant that D7 was down to three teams, D3 down to 4, no chance of D1 moving back to 6, and D12 and D11 were both down to 1 (however, both jumped back to 2 fortunately for us).

Most likely, regardless of the smaller collection of AAA teams being sent to Hershey, the very best teams in the state will make it to states. If a team can't make it out of their district meet then they probably aren't a top 5 team anyway. So really we are just arguing for teams in the 8-12ish level at best.

I understand. I understand that this is the way it has to be to satisfy most of the small programs and coaches. I even understand that growing the sport may be worth sacrificing the best field possible.

But if things go poorly for somebody like CB West at Lehigh, I'd hate to be the one to tell Ian Davies that this is how his cross country career has to end.

I don't write this stuff about meet of champs and unfairness in the system because I like taking shots at authority. I don't do it because I'm some punk kid looking to cause trouble.

I do it because in a month, there's going to be a senior leader who left his heart on the course for 4 years who was one of those quality kids sacrificed for the good of the sport.

And he should know that he's not the only one that thinks that's a load of crap.


Top 30 Podcast

Hey guys, you can read my reactions to the weekend action in the two posts below. For tonight I decided to make a podcast on my top 30 rankings after this weekends action. Here is what I got:


30. S. Curtin, Mercyhurst Prep
29. J. Perlman, LM
28. E. Graca, Fox Chapel
27. J. Heinauer, North Hills
26. R. James, O'Hara
25. G. Mackey, Selwickey
24. B. Delaney, Manheim Twnshp
23. S. Hilverding, Waynesburg
22. H. Sappey, DTW
21. J. VanKooten, Pitts CC
20. Jo. Hoey, Malvern Prep
19. A. Gebhardt, New Oxford
18. B. McDevitt, Malvern Prep
17. D. Green, James Buchanon
16. N. Dahl, GFS
15. H. Wharrey, NA
14. Z. Seiger, Red Land
13. S. Ritz, GA
12. M. McGoey, NA
11. S. Webb, Pennsbury
10. C. Comber, Horsham
9. D. Hockenbury, Lake Lehman
8. Z. Brehm, Carlisle
7. A. Marston, Conestoga
6. J. Brophy, CB East
5. K. James, O'Hara
4. P. Power, Spring Ford
3. G. Molino, South Williamsport
2. J. Hoey, Malvern Prep
1. C. Abert, Easton

Hoping to get Evan on for a pod and still looking for more people to talk to! If you are interested let me know!

Top 7 Thoughts of the Weekend

Well Conestoga still hasn't run a full 5k this season so some people may not be ready to jump on the bandwagon.

(Yes that was a 3 mile joke. I thought it was funny anyway).

But the squad that has been my favorite for the AAA state title for nearly a month did not disappoint me and my trumpet playing cohorts on the bandwagon this weekend at McQuaid. The team placed third in a very strong field behind two teams that are probably going to nationals and doing well there (although I'm far from an expert on this sort of thing). Andrew Marston proved the "he will only get better as the races get longer" talk was pretty darn justified. He took first overall and defeated a quality field in a near meet record time. 14:31 for 3 miles is worth roughly 15:10 for 5k (which would be PA #1 even with KJs 15:11 this weekend).

The pack behind him was real solid as well. They had 5 guys under 16 for 3 miles which is worth roughly 5 guys under 16:40 for a 5k. Killian Nelson and PJ Murray look like sneaky medal threats while Cooper is beginning to come on (he runs the state course well) and Cruikshank is one of the best 5s in the state, if not the very best. (And their 6-7 were no joke either. Never hurts to have depth when it comes to the state course). Stoga put 4 guys in front of Alek Sauer (sub 16 last year).

This team is for real and they are clearly focused on going to nationals this year. That appears to be the ultimate goal.

But at states, they will be competing with a bunch of teams who's goal is to win states and don't care too much about regionals. Just a thought.

With St Anthony winning at Carlisle, three of our major invites have been won by teams out of state. But we have had the individual champ at all those meets. Just a thought.

Remember that time Forrest and I beat you over the head with the fact that Drew Pastore was improving for O'Hara? Well he dropped a 16:38 this weekend (a couple seconds faster than Ryan James). That's a great sign. Also Jack Nolen (17:20) and Connor Hassard (17:30) had nice races at 5-6. Kev James continues to roll, running 15:11 down south in DC.

Now usually southern courses tend to be a little short and fast, but the times don't indicate that was the case here. This looks like a legit 5k and an impressive performance for KJ.

Ohara looked solid but it's hard to take too much away from this race because it was another race split up by class! Gosh I hate these meets. Why do teams do these? I guess they are fun for runners, but they are brutal for us analysts.

Oh yeah who cares about us analysts? Plus they get the chance to race the team from Remember the Titans. How awesome is that!

Just a thought.

(Sick of this catch phrase yet? Cuz I'm loving it .... Bud a buh buh ba)

I have a rule that I created half way through this year. I refused to comment on the likelihood of Henderson and/or CRN making states until October. I probably won't even put them in my top 10 rankings until district week (even though Henderson is clearly a top 10 team right now). So yeah CRN was third at their home meet and got beat by CB West (who looks sick) and Twin Valley (one of 513 teams that wants to make states in AAA) but I refuse to speculate on how good they will be in a month.

But I will say Conestoga, CB West, DT West and Henderson looked good this weekend. Just a thought.

Northeast Bradford had a quietly nice weekend up at McQuaid. They showed some nice depth and Garrett Smith may be on the verge of taking the next step in A. This team should at least be mentioned with the Avonworths and Elk Lakes of the world.

Also Griffin Mackey, a stud sophomore from A, had a nice showing in DC, beating Ryan James in the sophomore race. A district 7 is loaded, but Mackey is looking like one of the favorites for the individual title, good news for a Sewickley Academy team that is trying to make states out of a really impressive looking District 7 A.

Oh shoot I forgot to say just a thought after thought #5! Well there's no going back now I guess ...

Alright so serious question, is Casey Comber the only guy to race more than 1 invite and be undefeated? This is an honest question, I don't know the answer.

Hoey, Brehm, Brophy, KJ and Marston (I think he was 2nd in a 2 mile to an out of state kid) have all lost races (although you can asterix some of those certainly). Meanwhile I don't think Comber has lost yet this year. And really I can remember him even being challenged this year. Yet he still has multiple sub 16s and looks confident and strong.

Power, Marston, Brophy, Comber and Webb all want a district title. Who will win? And perhaps more interestingly, how fast will they run?

Just a question. I mean a thought.

Paul Short next Friday. Who is gonna be there? Last year we didn't get to see this meet cuz of the extreme heat so I don't know for sure who the top returners are.

(I had the honor of running the final race before the hospitals filled up. A dude passed out right in front of me the last 100m. My mom cried. I thought, hey one more point for the team. I'm a horrible person. He was ok.)

Here are some of the teams that history shows might be involved: Easton, Spring Ford, Malvern Prep, GA, GFS, Tunkhannock, Parkland, LaSalle, Cumberland Valley, Lower Merion and much more.

Plus it's Lehigh and that place is fast. And this year has been fast. Sooo is sub 15 in play? At the very least you can't rule it out.

Or at least, that's what I think. And these ... These are my thoughts.

Instant Reactions: Carlisle Invite

Instant reactions:

Wow! York Suburban! That is a huge statement. Sean and I discussed them on the pod but neither of us thought they had the depth to mix it up with the packs that we thought we might see from DTWest, LaSalle, etc. Wilt and Mears had strong races out front taking 20th and 22nd (they were the #12 and 14 PA finishers). They were also the top AA finishers (in this race) edging Tidball (24th/15th). But he thing that obviously stunned me was the depth. They put 5 guys under 17 and were the top PA team and second overall. That's the thing, they had two front runners but also a killer pack.

They are the heavy favorites now for the team title and we have to consider them a top 10 team right about now.

But of course, we won't see them match up against the best teams in the state because there is no meet of champs. Sick of me bringing this up yet? Yeah I'm sick of having to talk about it!

In other news, this race was really close. Fun fact, three teams tied with exactly 241 points (14 behind York Sub's 227). PA won both tie breakers over University High with DTW taking 3rd and Henderson 4th. Think these teams have a nice rivalry going? Hmm yeah I think so.

I saw a fantastic quote on PA don't play that I'm going to steal here. "The demise of Henderson has been greatly exaggerated".

Sappey had a huge day for DT West running a mammoth 15:56 (just three seconds behind Hoey) and finishing 4th out of all PA boys, 7th overall. But the pack behind him couldn't quite pull through, nobody else was in the top 30 PA boys. Meanwhile Henderson rode big races by Barchet and Swart (23rd and 25th out of PA guys). Pair those guys with Knapp, known for doing his best racing in November (and late November really) and the quickly developing freshman Smucker (16:47 today) and this top 4 looks good. They have to sure up the 5 (I see potential there somebody like McSwain perhaps). But I think DTWest is better than what we saw today. Not that top AAA PA team isn't good ... Cuz that's a statement in it's own right.

Didn't I mention how crazy close this meet was? LaSalle scored 245, 4 points back from these two squads. Red Land scored 252. Then parkland 285, JP McCaskey 290, CV 293, Carlisle 314, SC 316. Madness.

LaSalle comes through with a 17 second spread. But their top guy (Goebel takes the honors this week, it's a new guy every race for this pack) was 26th out of PA boys. That means Henderson had 3 in before their 1. But they still were just 5 points away from being the top PA AAA team. And again they only had 6 guys finish! Second straight invite with only 6 guys finishing for a team tht has crazy depth through like 15 guys? That's something I'm keeping an eye on.

My overall gut reaction: Goodness this is a classic 2008-2009 LaSalle squad. They are crazy similar. This team will peak at Hershey without a doubt but they, unlike most of the other top teams, will relay on their #1, not their #5, to get on the medal stand.

Red Land looked quite strong behind Seiger putting his big boy pants on (15:40 for 3rd overall and 2nd PA). Red Land has looked somewhat average in dual meets this year if I'm being honest so I started to doubt them. I probably should have remembered one key fact: who cares about dual meets? Districts and states aren't dual meets, they are invitationals. And Wilkinson and Mills did a great job behind Seiger again having a quality dual meet. Wilkinson was 13th out of pa boys. That's sweet. Their 1:53 second spread (partially influenced by Seiger's huge day) is going to have to shrink going forward for them to reach their full potential, but this team is no joke.

Parkland handled Freedom 285 to 406, despite Quigley running a sweet 16:07 for 10th PA finisher. Parkland has a really nice top 3 with Geiger (one of my early season boys) Newman and Kyvelos. But Fredom will improve. They didn't show Ben Zeigler in the results (top 50 at states last year) and only had 6 finishers. That's a 75ish point spread at least in my eyes.

McCaskey? Big day. Huge day. Sophomore Nathan Henderson was the 7th PA finisher and 11th overall today. Keep in mind that's one slot ahead of Aaron Genhardt and one spot behind Jeff VanKooten. Wow. Plus they had Hopkins and Guiterrez in the top 32 PA finishers. They had a 4th under to boot but an 18:09 5th held them back from Red Land. But I love what McCaskey showed. I picked the wrong name for a sleeper from this team. I should have picked their whole squad.

I don't want to give too much away because I have a post planned for this later this week but here is something to consider.

Only 4 teams from District 3 make states. You have Carlisle, CV, Red Land, Twin Valley, Lower Dauphin, JP McCaskey and Hempfield (434 points without the guy I think is their #1). Your guess is as good as mine.

State College had another great day. They beat Altoona (missing Stroh who is injured and MIA for who knows how long). And this team ran pre states and a dual meet with Carlisle in the last 7 days. Makes their performance even better. Nice work from their top 3.

Individually it was nice to have Sean on the pod. Dominating win from Brehm and a course record. Brian Delaney jumps into the Challenge race and breaks 16. In the champions race Bryce Descavish gets 4th in 16:33 behind Dan Green's sub 16 win.

I'm very curious what we would have seen from Green if he was in the challenge race. Look Shinn is a great runner and he had a real nice 16:11 for 2nd to Green. But Green's 15:55 was 16 seconds better and his time would have been 7th in the challenge race. It's a dangerous game to compare too much across races, but Green might have been the #3 Pa guy today, ahead of Hoey (15:53 for 6th overall) if he was in the challenge.

As for Hoey, he was running by himself without his team this weekend and I imagine he just got out a little too fast (as Sean warned us could happen) and Brehm took over. For the record this was a fantastic race for Brehm. Is he back in the state tile talks now? He probably should be right?

Somewhere Colin Abert is smiling. "Always picking someone else to beat me etrain? Well I'll just do what I always do and deliver at states and be tops in my class." It's really not fair to honest Abert. He will probably throw down at Paul Short to show everyone what's up.

Nice race from Ryan Rasatter to get 3rd in the champs race in 16:26. Big day for Faust (9th PA in 16:07), Andrew Koryak (20th PA in challenge, Top A runner), and Morgan Cupp (runs 16:38 as a frosh). Also props to Manheim Central for winning the champions race. AA District 3 repping this weekend.

That's my quick hits on Carlisle. What are you guys thinking after the dust has settled?

Carlisle Preview Podcast: Sean Collins

I managed to drag Sean Collins on for my first guest on the podcast. I think he did a really great job, showing a wide variety of knowledge for a district 3 guy with some great first hand experience as a Carlisle grad.

Here is the link, let me know if it works and show sean some love for bringing his expertise on.


Remember if you want to get involved you can email me at jarrettfelix1130@gmail.com.

As usual let me know if the link is giving you issues.

Peer Pressure Post: Top Ten Teams

So with Penntrack and Forrest both putting out their own top 10 team rankings recently, I guess it's time to throw up my own. But since we have already seen this kind of post before I'll try to put a little spin on it.

Today I will be comparing my top 10 teams to past teams in recent state history, just to kind of throw out some sense of the potential for these teams looking ahead. The comparisons are far from perfect and just for fun so don't take them too seriously. And if you are looking for a quick way to check out my comparisons, runhigh has all the state results going back to around 2002 for easy access and that's what is usually use. Runhigh results are my favorite set up, I think they are basically perfect in their set up so when I host a meet of champs in 2 years I will be using runhigh.

I apologize in advance if some readers are not familiar with my small references here. I encourage you to look back and compare your teams to the ones I compare them to for yourself and give me some feedback. I'm happy to answer questions and such. I think it might be helpful to inject some history into this (they say history repeats itself after all). However, if this post is really annoying to read because of the references, just comment and say etrain this method sucks and I'll change up my approach.

Also small shout to Forrest for getting banned this week. As someone who has been banned since 2011, I can say it's not too bad. I understand why they had to ban you, competition advertising on their site? They can't really let that happen. However, stealing ideas and denying a paying customer access? Especially when Forrest has offered to write for penntrack for free anyway. But hey I guess it's a compliment that they see you as a threat. So congrats, hopefully this situation gets resolved.

So here is my top 10 in reverse order.

10. Carlisle
Comparable past equivalents: 2013 Conestoga, Ceiling: 2012 LaSalle

Carlisle makes the list here with a chance to really prove themselves this weekend at their home meet. You could argue for them higher (as they are on other rankings I've seen) but you could also argue they shouldn't even be on the list (No Pennsbury, CRN or Henderson on my list today). Carlisle is one of the many teams that fits the "strong top three now let's see what that 4-5 punch becomes". That's not a bad recipe for success (the dream situation is you end up state champs like North Penn in 2011), by there are so many teams that fit this build and I'm not sure Carlisle's quite at their caliber.

Their team as constructed reminds me a lot of last year's Conestoga team, ironically the team that they edged on tie break. I see Brehm as a top 10 guy again (Marston), DeAngelo as a borderline medalist (Sjoreen) and Wisner as a potential sneaking into the top 50 guy (Cooper). But there is also potential for this team to hit on all cylinders at states and DeAngelo can end up in the medals. Then they could easily end up in a similar boat to 2012 LaSalle. I'm real high on Brehm this year (I haven't ruled out the chance that he leaves Hershey with the Gold) and DeAngelo is rapidly climbing my big board and should be able to jump into the top 50 with a good race at their home meet. Wisner and the 4-5 punch will need to take the next step to guarantee these guys a top 10 mark in the future.

The good news is, historically the Carlisle boys run well on their home course (a captain obvious type sentence) and so this weekend has the potential to be a big statement race.

9. CB West
Past equivalent: 2012 Great Valley, Ceiling 2012 NA

So CB West is looking like a real nice squad in the early going. Keep in mind CB East was 5th at prestates, and West has handled them 2/3 times this season. Plus they tied LaSalle at Belmont in an impressive race. They have developed a nice little pack behind front runner Rock Fortna which kind of reminds me of the nice pack of 2012 Great Valley who climbed all the way to 6th at states despite not having a state medalist (Matt Willig just missed that season).

They have a nice young core, with Fortna, Brian Mass, Declan McDonald and Ian Davies all listed as underclassmen at Belmont (I say listed because those can be wrong at times and I want to cover my butt and Davies has also been listed as a senior). They round out their varsity with guys like Brian Iatarola and Andrew Baker (also listed as underclassmen).

There is potential that this pack clicks behind a front runner (Fortna v Zemet) and the young guys behind him put on a solid pack performance at states and this team could end up like 2012 NA. But really when the meets end, it's hard to think we won't be salivating over this team's future potential. Watch out DT West.

But the downside to CB West as been touched on is that they are dealing with the brutal District One. If they have an off day on the big stage at Lehigh they end up comparing to NA in just one way. Their state score will be listed as N/A.

8. Easton
Past Equivalents: 2010 Altoona, 2008 Perk Valley, Dream Equivalent: 2010 NA

Yes I just compared this year's Easton squad to the 2010 state champs. While I don't think Easton will be in the title hunt this year (heck they are in a dog fight just to get out of D11 in one piece) I do think this is district 11's best shot at a top 5 team at the state meet. They have the ultimate front runner in Colin Abert who is probably giving you 1 point in team scoring. Then you have Keven Lapsansky, 5th at PTXC and in the middle of a breakout season.

Then after those 2, they matched up very nicely with teams like CV and LD through 5 guys at PTXC and were 2nd to Severena Park. Throw them in that Hershey meet, they probably aren't far away from Lebo or NA and those are really good teams.

So the dream position is Lapsansky breaks out and grabs state hardware (Like Replogle's 25 in 2010 for Altoona) and Abert gets that out front low stick. Then the rest of the pack, completely untested on the state course, has to pull through for solid performances to round out the top 5. Perk Valley rode that recipe to 4th in 2008.

But Easton is going to have a tough time replicating any of the above teams. For starters, their district is actually looking quite formidable and their squad's excellent front running is build more for a state meet then a district 11 meet where Abert's win won't be nearly as valuable. Plus Easton is quite untested at the state course, with a decent chunk of youth. They might be more like 2009 North Penn when all is said and done.

But for now, I think most people are overlooking the potential of this squad, so they get slotted here at 8.

7. LaSalle
Past Equivalents: 2009 LaSalle

The 2009 LaSalle squad had an absurd 15 second spread and got 3rd at states. They were a really well coached team that could have potential had 7 guys within 25 seconds of each other at states if things broke right.

This LaSalle team has that kind of pack. Look no farther than the PCL meet where they took the top 7 spots at Belmont with times ranging from 16:58 (Sean Princivelle) to 17:29 (Brendan Price). That's a 31 second 1-7 spread with everybody under 17:30 at Belmont. In a glorified workout where they took the top 7 spots! They have so many different guys who can step up and contribute including Patrick Grant and Ryan Mitchell who were their #1s at earlier meets.

Plus now that the PCL has 2 teams they go from sad story to virtual lock for the state meet (no offense meant to a solid St. Joe's squad). So unlike the other squads around them, they should feel confident.

Here's the downside to this squad: somebody needs to drag that pack up towards the front. Yes Ryan Mitchell was a strong 11th at Belmont, but that means O'Hara and Malvern put 3 guys ahead of him. Plus CB West actually outpaced them at the meet with a better front runner. That can't happen if this team is going to be a top 5 team at states.

They get ranked here because I think they are bette than that Belmont race and they were missing a key finisher in their top 7 that day. Carlisle this weekend will give them a chance to prove themselves against some of the other top 12-15 teams in the state.

6. DT West
Comparative teams: 2011 Hederson, 2010 North Penn

The DT West boys are tricky to place right now. I am actually a big fan of this team and they barely got edged by Lebo in my rankings this weekend after the Foundation performance. West is young, we all know that, but young teams can still be great. 2011 Henderson and 2010 North Penn both were top 2 teams in district one and 2011 Henderson was 5th at states.

Plus it's probably worth noting that both of the squads I compared this team to won states the next year.

But for right now DT West just needs to show consistentcy. They have developed a nice front runner in Henry Sappey and have strong pieces behind him with Bullock and the Bartons among others. Their top 5 is at least comparable to Conestoga's, even if I don't think they are quite a good. And I think Conestoga has the best top 5 in the state.

The potential or DT West is outrageous at this point, I really can't project where they will finish this year with confidence. But I do know that young teams struggle at the state meet. 2012 Henderson was young, but they had 2011 to help them grow up quick. I see DT West as a top 2 team at districts, but not finishing that way at states.

I don't know if they are at Carlisle or Kiwanis this weekend, but it will be nice to see them compete over 5k again like Abington.

5. Mt Lebo
Historic Comparison: Baldwin 2009-2010

Lebo reminds me a lot of those Baldwin teams. They have a nice pack but a clear front runner with potential (Ian Baun as compared to Bobby Bishop). Baldwin usually did their best running at Coopers and struggled a bit a states. Lebo is quite the opposite, they have had a slew of quality races at Hershey.

This is a very good program that flies a bit under the radar in NA's shadow. They've got 5 guys too, that's something few teams can boast. Their 5 at prestates, Matt Stone I think has already won an invitational this year. That's crazy.

Harris has been consistently solid and Gunz rounds out the strong top 3. Their 4-5 can step into a top 3 role if necessary and that's a huge lift on the difficult state course. They are a perfect foil for NA's front running machine.

They need to keep their pack up near the medals/top 50 and out of the craziness that is places 60-120 at states and they will be in good shape to compete for a top 3 spot at states if they continue to develop like they have so far early this season.

I still see NA as the better team, but Lebo is making noise behind them, and the Tigers better pay attention.

4. North Allegheny
Comparative Teams: 2013 O'Hara, 2006 Henderson

This top 3 has the potential to be special. McGoey and Wharrey are real good and Seel is having a great season despite the fact that the name Seamus Love is getting dropped so much I thought it was February 14th. Their 4-5 at the moment are a little shaky, but like the teams I compared them too, North Allegheny is a top tier program who can develop guys into workable 4-5s.

Worth noting, check out the JV results at Foundation. Lots of NA jerseys at the front (black and yellow, black and yellow). I'm not counting them out of getting a state title and validating the top 3 theory.

That being said, you need to have that top 3 be the clear cut best top 3. That means they need to beat out Ohara out front at season's end.

3. O'Hara
Comparable Teams: 2007-2008 North Penn
O'Hara reminds me a decent chunk of these North Penn teams. They have a really nice top 3 with a stud developing into a surprising possibly top 15 guy at states in Ryan James behind Kev. Then Rob Morro has become one of the better #3 guys in the state giving them that potent top 3 that can do so much damage.

They are showing nice improvement week to week and clearly have just one goal: to win states. They have been abandoning the PCL league meets and training with an eye towards gold in Hershey. They have a killer low stick and a ton of motivation from past years hardships.

Plus they have the now well documented rises of Drew Pastore and Pat James who could fill the important Tim Stauring role for these guys as a top 50 4th man. But Nolen and Donovan are solid too and could end up really coming on strong at seasons end like so many former teammates before them have (I.e. Pastore and James last year).

I'm still not completely sold on their top 3. I know that's harsh because they have two straight prime time 2nd places, but Seel, McGoey and Wharrey have proven it on the big stage before, each finishing in the top 50 last year.

I've got them ahead of NA, but it's close. And behind Conestoga. But it's close.

Interesting side note, both these squads I feel like are better out front versions of 2011 North Penn. And 2011 North Penn won a title. The secret, NP had a sneaky good 4-5 day that day.

Also, out of all O'Haras team wouldn't it be ironic if this squad one the title? I think so at least, but they definitely don't.

2. Conestoga
Comparative Teams: 2009 Henderson, 2009 GFS, Downside: 2009 NA

High praise for this Conestoga team comparing them to a state champ and a national qualifier. Plus I ranked them ahead of two of the best three programs of the last half decade. Yes the Conestoga boys are headed into an interesting piece of history. They are looking to have their first breakthrough and grab what would be an historic state title.

Conestoga makes this upcoming state meet super intriguing. Teams like Stoga, Lebo, LaSalle, DT West and CB West will throw their packs up against the super top 3s of Carlisle, Easton, O'Hara and NA.

It's the ultimate test of my preseason top 3 theory and I couldn't have asked for a better science experiment.

But let's not get it twisted, Stoga isn't some spread monster with no front runner, they have Marston out front, a real star who was top 10 last year and is better this year. The guy currently running around 4-5 on their team was top 50 last year at states in James Fenmore Cooper. Then they add Murray, Nelson and Cruikshank to the mix and you got 5 guys who can all be top 50 in the state. That puts you right in line with Henderson 09 (Kellar out front, slew of top 50 guys with no additional medalists behind). The downside of this team is their 2-5 isn't quite as good as I think and they end up in the 40s-70s rather than 20s-50s or something like that. That's still top 2-4 teams in the state I gotta imagine.

They still don't have a 5k under their belt and really haven't tested themselves so far this season. Probably smart to lay low and peak late. But leaves some question marks in the short term about just how good that 2-5 is.

1. Malven Prep
Team comparison: 2007 GFS, Dream Ceiling: 2011-2012 Ohara

Hoey is a real stud at the top of the this squad and that front runner gives then real power. You are going to have a big spread when your top guy is beating KJ by 20 seconds. Even if your 5th man is solid.

The Malvern Prep top 3 is really strong. Josh Hoey is better than I expected and McDevitt has taken a big step. That top 3 took care of O'Hara at Belmont on their home course and then remember what that O'hara top three did at prestates.

I think Wills is going to come on, as I've discussed before. He could be a Gus McKenzie type piece at the 4 and serviceable 5 behind gets you into the nationals hunt like GFS was in 2007. GFS probably could have made nats but one of their big three, Ortiz, had an off day. There will be lots of pressure on the young Josh Hoey to deliver on the big stage.

We really won't ever know how good this team is. Even at regionals, they will likely be the only team on it's first peak, everyone else havig peaked at states.

The moral of the story as always, we need a meet of champs.

They could end up like one of the Ohara teams from years past if their top 3 continues to stay strong all year and a 4 (and 5 especially in the case of 2012 OH) come on at seasons end. It's not likely (those OH teams were both really good and it would be unfair to compare any team to them this year in my opinion) but it's a dream goal for MP because their top 3 is good enough and see some potential in their 4-5.

If a team is making it to nats this year, I think it's Malvern. They've got the pieces to do it in the early going, but it's a long road Til November and December.

Let the games continue.

Top 7 Thoughts: 9/21 Weekend

So we have a link to my PreStates podcast below and a full recap in my super thought #1 in the post below that. But I figured I would touch on some other action in my 7 thoughts of the week. As usual comments and information are appreciated.

#2 Carlisle could be just as good as Foundation
The meet is stacked with individual talent as it always is, but the team battle is also shaping up to be something special. According to Penntrack's entry sheets O'Hara is going to be in attendance at this meet. That throws them against LaSalle, DT West, Carlisle, CV, Red Land, CBW, Henderson and more. There are a ton of exciting subplots in the team race and individually guys like VanKooten, Seiger, James, Faust and Gebhardt slotted to attend. I don't want to get into too much detail because I plan on doing a mid week podcast that previews this meet (if you want to be involved please let me know ASAP, I'm looking for a guest for this week still), but I think this race could have just as much drama as Foundation did.

#3 A District 7 is going to be a brawl for states

The district is quietly loaded. Avonworth had a big time win at PreStates where they established themselves as a state title favorite. But they will have their hands full just trying to break through in their district. Selwickey returns their top 7 from a year ago led by super soph Griffin Mackey. They were 4th a year ago at Districts, missing states by just 17 points. They opened up this season winning the small race at RWB and are clearly hungry for revenge at districts. Avonworth will also have to tangle with Winchester Thurston, a top 10 team a year ago at states who is led by two of the states breakout stars last track season: Landin Delaney and Will Loevner. Pair that duo with Ben Littman (12th at districts last year as a freshman) and you have a dangerous top 3. WT returns 5 guys from last year's district championship where they were 3rd. Then lastly you can't count out Our Lady of Sacred Heart, who was second at districts last year by just 2 points. They return 5 members of that squad and finished second out of the A schools at RWB. 3/4 will get to states. Should be interesting to watch this one unfold.

#4 Paul Power
Look, there has been chatter about the Hershey course and how fast times were that day, but this shouldn't overshadow Power's performance. Here's the thing even if you don't believe it was the same course (and for the record it WAS the same course), he still bested a field that included Jake Brophy, Kevin James and Matt McGoey. So really I see no way to waive this off as not a big deal. Throw times out the window and the performance is still incredibly impressive. Throw times back in and it's historic. I'll be interested to see how fast things go at districts and states this year, that's for sure. I think 15:45 is not safe, and it will take sub 16 to win A, AA and AAA for the first time.

#5 Quiet Wins
With all the buzz around pre states (rightfully so) it was easy to overlook some other impressive wins. Jeff Van Kooten blasted a big win over Zach Skolnevich and Zack White among others. The time was 15:45, over 20 seconds faster than Skolnevich and faster than he ran on the notoriously quick RWB course. Great sign going into Carlisle. Ben Szuhaj got a big over Brian Arita (as CRN continues to show solid improvement) and established himself as another name to watch in the independent league. Brad Faust got a big win over Will Kachman as Altoona took 1-2 at their home meet (Jerrod Sunderland was second for Toona). Lastly, Casey Comber dominated another course cruising to a nearly 30 second win with 15:48. Looking forward to seeing Comber match up with the big boys sometime soon.

#6 Dual Meet Breakouts
Liam Gilligan, a freshman from Springfield Delco, had a big dual meet win in 16:41 to win by roughly 40 seconds. North Penn edged Hatboro Horsham behind a stud race from Michael Cooney who bested teammate Ryan Tung. Connor Sands from CB East was a close third behind Brophy and Fortna in a hard fought East vs West dual that West ended up pulling out. Ben Wilson and Brian Delaney also got solid wins to build on going into their meet at Carlisle this weekend.

#7 GFS looking solid
Nick Dahl dropped an impressive sub 15:30 with teammate Grayson Hepp breaking 16 behind him in 15:54 as the duo led GFS down south in NC. The GFS squad will be matched up with one of the best teams in the state, Malvern Prep, throughout the season, but it's important to remember that this squad is a great team in it's own right. They matched up solidly with LaSalle at the 3k at Belmont and they were ahead of Henderson and North Penn. They are a young team as well. As another well coached team, I think GFS will be dangerous at season's end and may turn heads as soon as Paul Short.

Well at least that's what I think ... And these ... These are my thoughts

Sunday Conversation

Hey guys so I'm still working through a decent chunk of technical difficulties as I try to get the podcast thing underway. Biggest problem right now is probably my lack of a laptop which makes things a little tricky to navigate sometimes. Anyway, I tried this out. It's a test podcast to see how people feel about it. Please let me know if the link works.

Because it ended up being longer than I thought, I'll post up some time makers in a comment to let you know how things split. But most importantly at this point, let me know if there are problems accessing this through the link below. In the future with a bit more time, I think I will make this more technically sound, but for now this is what we got.

Edit: as of 8:44 PM I am trying this new link, again let me know if this gives you access to the podcast or not


Super Thought: PreStates Madness

It was an astounding result in the Boys Gold race that capped off a fantastic day of running out at Hershey. The meet lived up to a lot of the hype and the winning times were absurdly fast.

Warning: the rest of this post will contain spoilers of the action from prestates. If you do not want to know the results, look no further.

Hockenbury and JDL (my new favorite nickname to use) winning was not anything ground breaking. Hockenbury's 16:10 win by roughly 30 seconds was spectacular, 10+ seconds faster than I anticipated and what I thought would be the performance of the day. York Suburban and Avon Grove's coming out parties were something noteworthy as well. I had plenty of material for a recap, and that was before the AAA boys dropped a bomb on Hershey.

15:50 for the winning runner. And it was quite the Powerful performance. I'm sorry I had to.

Paul Power took down the win over a star studded field in an unfathomable time for September 20th: 15:50. It smashed the meet record by 19 seconds. It also makes Power the 4th fastest man on this course ever behind only Russell (2x), Miles and Gunzenhauser. All guys who made it to national championship finals and 3 out of the 4 were regional champions.

I said before the race I said I felt the meet record would fall. I thought sub 16 was possible (but unlikely). I even thought Paul Power would have a nice breakthrough race this weekend and hoped he would have a moment after which people would be like, "hey that power kid is pretty good."

But I never imagined this. I'm still having hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Paul Power may be the favorite for state champ now. Abert is still ahead in my mind but he beat the two guys I thought had the best odds of winning states going into this weekend (James and Brophy). But I'm not going to take this moment to throw more pressure on Power. I'm going to praise him and let others praise him too. He deserves his moment of recognition.

Behind him the race was still amazingly fast. KJ gets redemption with a 15:54 (tied or 8th fastest time ever) and Jake Brophy ran a brilliant 16:01 (which would have won this meet any other year). Both those guys ran great for the second straight week and, although they are probably disappointed they didn't win, have to be pleased with where their training is.

Oh and in other news, O'Hara is for real. There was a stunning amount of doubt surrounding the O'Hara team this weekend (which I'm thinking had to be just trolling at this point) but they beat the penntrack ranked #1 in the state (and I ranked #2 behind Prep and just a smidge ahead of Conestoga) in North Allegheny. What's more impressive (to me at least) is they beat NA at it's own game. O'Hara was better through 3 guys than NA this weekend and held on through 5. Getting Drew Pastore back to form was big. That likely swung the race. And I think he will continue to improve going forward. If he can run with Morro and R James, this team is dangerous. Ryan James was huge with his 6th place finish. Just straight huge. He was right behind McGoey and Wharrey who were 4th and 5th (not a bad race by any stretch, they ran great today as well). Plus I'm not off the Pat James bandwagon at all. Sure he wasn't a top 5 guy today, but this was his first varsity performance and it came on the brutal hills of Hershey. Donovan and Nolan are no slouches, however, as 5-6 guys this go round.

NA was still solid for 3rd, 5 points back of OH and their 4-5 gained valuable experience today. They aren't finished in the title talks.

But you know who else has quietly creeped into the title talks? My Lebanon! That's right the Lebo boys were just 10 points back from O'Hara and 5 back from NA. That's awesome stuff from this packed up squad who rode a 55 second spread to 4th in the meet, one of the best spreads in the field. Ian Baun was the low stick they needed, stepping up for 9th overall. Then T Gunz, Harris, Brandenstein (a freshman) and Stone rounded out a terrific top 5. There is real potential for this squad, especially because WPIALs is no longer at Coopers Lake (a course that historically has given Lebo trouble and NA has excelled) and now is moved to a course where Lebo sweeps their early season invite fairly consistently (Cal I believe). I will say this, at states there is probably more than 6 places between Baun (16:38) and Brophy (16:01). In a front loaded race, the front runners will matter more. Baun is great, narrowing the gap between himself and the NA top two each week, but he will need to be in the medals at states for Lebo to have any shot at a title. And he may need to drag T Gunz or Harris with him. All the same, Ev Hatton is somewhere smiling about the performance of his old squadron.

Now no team beat the out of staters in Severna Park, but I think they weren't too worried about those guys this weekend, they were worrie about seeing how they stacked up against the rest of the state. But admittedly SP has now won two of our biggest invites, PTXC and PreStates. Impressive for them. Also convenient for me because I can compare across races use the SP guys as rough estimators. Abert beat SP's top guy by about 75 seconds at PTXC, Power did it by about 45 here today. Can't take that too seriously, but it's interesting to note.

Clearly the weather is great for fast times. Before today only one person had run 16:10 or faster on this course at this meet. Now there are 4 more who can say they have done it. This comes just a week after a record setting day at Briarwood. This has been great weather and great competition.

The titles are wide open for teams and individuals for AAA.

A couple other small takeaways from the meet.

#1 CB East with 5th today beating out strong squads like Lower Dauphin, State College and Twin Valley. Unfortunately, CB East still remains the biggest long shot of the bunch to make it to states in a brutal D1 field. Stoga, DTW, CB West (who just beat them in a dual meet), CR North and Pennsbury are all ranked ahead of them on my big board, and that's not even counting Henderson (ranked ahead of East on my board) and Bensalem (no longer ranked ahead, but still a dangerous squad). And don't even get me started on a team like Spring Ford (surprised for 9th today) who probably has no shot at making it to states but looks like they have the potential to be a great team. I haven't even mentioned the likes of Rustin and North Penn either.

Well at least we will see some of these great teams like CB East at the Meet of Champs. Wait what? There isn't a meet of champs? That was just a dream I had last night? President Obama didn't give me a Pulitzer Prize for my blog? Oh.

#2 Some other noteworthy performances came from Jon Perlman (7th overall in 16:30), Eric Diestelow (bounce back day in 14th), and Joe Piscano (15th from St Joes Prep). LD had a strong showing in 6th overall with Kyler Shea continuing to shine, finishing 24th as just a sophomore. Josh Smith continues to show signs of returning to full health (20th today), but no Kolor for Seneca which I'm hoping is not injury related. Nice race for Quiggle, especially given his training partners absence (18th).

#3 in the AA race, Lakeland was in there. Thought for sure they were A. Can anyone confirm? But in other AA team news, York Suburban is for real. Huge debut for Brady Wilt (2nd to Hockenbury) and teammate Donovan Mears responded for 4th. York Suburban looks like a serious title contender against Scranton Prep, who looked very strong last week. I'm also not ready to count out Grove City, who was second today despite neither Budnik or Benka cracking the top 5. This team will be there when it counts at year end. Pottsgrove is thinking the same way. They were a surprise 4th today. Throw in defending champs Tunkhannock and you got yourself an interesting game.

#4 how big is Avonworth? I thought they were AAA in track so how are they A in cross? Can anyone confirm ...

If Avonworth is a single A squad, then they may have grabbed the favorite position winning the White race over Elk Lake (my pre race pick). Elk Lake looked strong finishing 2nd with a nice pack, but will need a breakthrough medalist or two to get a state title. Bedell and Bell led the way at 17th and 18th today.

#5 Hockenbury stole the non Gold Race show with his ultimate "imagine if he had competition" type performance, but other guys showed some nice wheels out there. Beyond Wilt and Degroot-Lutzner, there was a big 2nd place in the White Race by Liam Raeshler (ran unattached at PTXC and showed nice improvement today) in 16:49, plus a solid sub 17 mark from Colten Trimble in 3rd. Andrew Koryak looked good in 4th for Vincentian Academy and Matt Murray carried some of his track momentum to the trails in 5th. Jonathan Condly had one of the biggest "who's that guy" moments of the year with his 3rd place run in the blue race for Jim Thorpe (16:47) he beat out Mears and Noah Smith from Ringold. Nate Morgan was 6th for Lakeland.

Well that's all I got on PreStates! Results are up on runhigh now! Check it out, it's great stuff.

Thought #7: Pre PreStates

So i guess I'm getting that 7th thought in after all. If you want to see my top 101, scroll down a bit and check out the two posts below.

The pre states meet at Hershey looks straight loaded honestly so since I have a little bit of time I thought I'd try and sneak in a preview.

Remember, as Mr Collins pointed out, this race will be split into 3 separate races (which you guys know drives me up a wall) and we will be comparing times from different fields. But hey we will have to deal, should still be a great meet.

The meet record is, I believe, 16:09 by Ben Furcht in 08. That was the same course as it is now, and was the first time anyone ran that version. Pretty impressive mark, that I think is probably coming down this year. Weather has been great and we have some top notch runners on the itinerary. The course record is 15:45 by Tony Russell. That mark I believe is quite safe.

So let's do this division by division preview wise and since I don't remember which color goes with which class I'm just going to call them AAA, AA and A. Sorry if I mess up what division people are in, I'm still kinda trying to keep track of that. As usual your comments and feedback are appreciated.

The top two teams from a year ago are back in Masterman an Saegertown. Masterman won this meet last fall, but Saegertown got the ultimate prize of a state championship when the teams returned. Masterman looks strong again this year led by Julian Degroot-Lutzner, one of my favorite district 12 non PCL runners of all time and one of the guys in the mix for a top 5 spot at the A state championships. JDL won this meet last year and I believe he is the favorite to win again this go round. That low stick would be big for Masterman. Beyond the defending state champs in Sargertown, Masterman will also face tough challenges from Elk Lake and Lakeland. Lakeland has the big time one-two punch of Morgan and Arzie, while Elk Lake has a pack of solid runners with Bedell favored to lead the charge this go round. Elk Lake returns basically their whole squad from a year ago when they placed 4th at this meet. I think they are one of the current A state title favorites and will be favorites at this meet. Their D2 rivals Lakeland will give them trouble if a pack develops behind Morgan and Arzie, two top 15 guys in the state a year ago who had strong track seasons to back up their credentials on the trails.

Individually, this will be a big test for Nate Morgan as he tries to become the leading chaser for Griffin Molino's title. But he will have to battle to the very end against defending champ JDL, South Side's Colten Trimble and Greg House from New Hope. Not to mention his teammate Mark Arzie and Barclay from Saegertown.

Ultimately when the dust clears I have JDL taking down a big win to follow up a nice run at Bull Dog last week. I think he is going to be the most big race ready of the bunch and the most talented, although I do expect Trimble to give him all he can handle. I see those two as the top 2 followed by Morgan and House. It's likely that someone off my radar will be in the top 5, but Arzie certainly has the talent to be upfront as well.

As for the team title I got Elk Lake with a big early season statement, taking the title in the A race at Hershey.

The boys team title is going to be quite intriguing here as well, no Tunkhannock but we do have Pottsgrove, Grove City, York Suburban and Bonner set to line up. Remember Pottsgrove quickly change gears from mid pack in AAA to AA powerhouse and with 1st and 2nd place finishes at states the last two years they are an experienced bunch trying to create a mini dynasty. Amazing stuff.

They are the favorites in my eyes to defending their meet title, but Grove City has two of the best talents in the field in Budnik and Benka to lead the way. Meanwhile Bonner will try to represent the PCL well on the small school stage behind stud front runner Ryan Rasatter who was 7th here a year ago. And then of course is the dark horse of the bunch in York Suburban. The YS boys acquired Brady Wilt in the off season and that is a huge pick up. This was already a strong squad with a recent state gold under their belt, but throw in the reigning A district champ and you got yourself a squad. I see this powerhouse of district 3 battling out with Pottsgrove for the title, but ultimately I think the Pottsgrove boys will be ready for the title and add another trophy to the case.

Lopez, the projected leader of the Pottsgrove squad, will have individual title hopes as well, but it appears for now that everyone will be taking a back seat to the defending champ Dominic Hockenbury. Hock's last big invite was disappointing by his own hard standards because Abert was able to open up such a large gap on him. But that likely means he comes into this race pissed and looking to make a statement. That's bad news for everybody else in this field. I expect Hockenbury to take this one in something pretty quick, and I don't think it will be a tight race. I'd be willing to project as fast as low 16:20s if he chooses to really go for it.

But anytime you chase a fast pace, there is potential for a mistake and that's where the other top boys in the field will step in. Benka and Budnik both grabbed state hardware last year and Benka will be chasing his third straight individual state medal in 2014. Benka came out the gates strong at RWB and seems like the choice for 2nd this weekend. I like Budnik's long term prospects, but I expect him to peak best at season's end, like he did last year. Brady Wilt is in his first big meet of the year and he is looking to represent a new jersey in 2014, a juicy subplot to this race. Wilt's ability to front run will not only transform his team's title hopes, but also it will help elevate his teammates performances. I'm excited to watch Wilt compete on Saturday. A deep sleeper in this race is Wilson's Joe Espinal. He had a break out year for Wilson last spring but tired out a bit from tons of doubling and tripling by the time he hit states. A fresher and year older Espinal will be dangerous if he finds the same success on the trails that he did on the oval.

What a great race this ought to be. I find it interesting to read what people have been saying about this match up. Most people aren't too confident about O'Hara, but I think they are a real threat in this one. I've also seen James buried in some predictions, but I expect him to contend for the title.

I think NA will win, their three appear better than Ohara's and that's where this race will be decided in my eyes, but this is a great chance to see just how good Ryan James and Rob Morro are. If they are top 10-15 in a field like this, that's an excellent sign for two developing runners. Ohara also will likely get a boost from Drew Pastore and Pat James, the JV champ a week ago. That 4-5 could swing the race if they out duel NA's 4-5.

The team getting no play (at least from what I've read) is Mt Lebo. This team has a really strong pack and I still see a breakout race in the future from T Gunz. Baun has looked great as a front runner and they appear to have the best pack of the top teams at this meet. I will be interested to see if they can manage to shorten the gap between themselves and NA.

Then there are some intriguing district match ups with Twin Valley vs Lower Dauphin and Bensalem vs CB East. Those have huge state implications long term. East and Bensalem are both squads who are hoping to crack into the very difficult top 5 at D1 and both are trying to do it with a different style. Bensalem will try to utilize a tough pack running style while CB East will ride Brophy and Sands, who had a nice tri meet against Pennridge and CB West finishing third behind Brophy and Fortna.

LD bested Red Land in a dual meet earlier this season and they have a really intriguing group of youngsters in Cassell and Shea. Weidner is developing star power as we move through the season with some impressive times already and he will provide a great low stick out front. But Twin Valley shouldn't be overlooked. They have a nice pack with the Geary boys and Diagcombo (most likely just butchered that name). He was top 50 in the state last year remember and Twin Valley wants to return to states as a team this year and LD is one of the multitude of teams they may have to beat out to get there. They are coming off a tough loss to parkland at Centaur and have greats motivation for this meet.

Lastly you have to talk about State College. They lost Cather, Adams and Golembski from last year's 4th place squad at states, but they have managed to reload behind Milligan and some promising young talent. They have a legacy to protect and some have projected them as high as 2nd in this meet. We will see how they handle the other great teams on Saturday.

Individually this race should be exciting as well. James is looking for a rebound after last week, while Brophy, who has been doing a lot of hard running, is also looking to rebound in his own way after a tough loss to Hoey. It can't be understands that Brophy runs this course quite well. He was top 30 as a freshman and top 10 as a sophomore with arguably his two best races of the season coming at states. He hasn't faded from the hills or the pressure once. That's excellent.

The NA boys McGoey and Wharrey will both face their first hilly course of the year, but Wharrey and McGoey have both excelled here before, especially at this meet, which NA torched last year. This may surprise some folks, but I'm picking Wharrey to outlast McGoey in this one. I feel a big break coming for Wharrey this week on the hills where I think he matches up better to his competition than on the fast courses.

Paul Power is a defending state medalist and sub 15:40 guy who amazingly flies under the radar on a consistent basis. This is his chance to change that. I'm not sure he can crack that top 4, but I think he will impress this weekend.

Sean Weidner will try and continue his hot streak on the grueling state course. He ran a great pre states race last year. Alex Milligan had one of his firs breakthroughs at states in cross. He will look to bounce back from Spiked Shoe where he was 8th.

Others to watch include Josh Smith, who is still recovering from injury, Eric Diestelow, looking for revenge after Bull Dog, Ethan Linderman, a top notch WPIAL runner, Jon Perlman, top 50 at states last year and in his first big meet of the year, and Jeff Kirsenbaum, the Bull Dog champ from Methacton.

In the sleeper category you have the Seneca Valley boys who are probably to good to be called sleepers at this point. Quiggle and Kolor will continue to yo-yo as a duo and try and close that gap on Linderman. Scott Seel, Ryan James and Rob Morro have big team aspirations to motivate them. Gabe Lamm from Whitehall is looking to rebound after a hard meet at DeSales, and you also have deep sleepers like Lukas Marcelis from Wissahickon and Joe Ellis from GV. Plus Alex Ramirez from Bensalem who impressed in his first meet of the season. Lastly I'm still not giving up on Dylan Eddinger from Boyertown. At some point this cross season I see a breakthrough coming.

Ultimately this is a really tough race for me to predict. This is a really talented group of guys each with a chance to pull out the W. But in the end I have to make some picks for the fans! All 3 of them!

So here we go ...
10. Perlman
9. Kirshenbaum
8. Seel
7. Linderman
6. Weidner
5. Power
4. McGoey
3. Wharrey
2. Brophy
1. James

I think less than 5 seconds separates the top 2 in this one and the winner takes down the course record. Assuming the weather in Hershey is as nice as it has been out here on Long Island.

Good luck to all at their meets this weekend!

Thought #6: 51-101

Technically didn't get to 7 thoughts this week, but with the bonus thought and a few bonus thoughts at the bottom here I hope you won't be too offended.

So as requested here is the rest of the top 101 starting from 51 down to 101. Keep in mind that things get very tricky to rank the farther down the list and things get very difficult to place in order and choose which guys are on the list. So what id love to hear from you guys in addition to the usual comments on the list is to drop some names of guys that you think deserve top 101 status so I can get them on my radar going forward.

So without further ado, here we go.

51. K. Gonoude, Salisbury
52. K. Nelson, Conestoga
53. J. DeAngelo, Carlisle (+39)
54. M. Scarpill, CB South (+57)
55. S. Smith, Towanda
56. P. Murray, Conestoga
57. L. Delaney, Winchester
58. N. Morgan, Lakeland
59. A. Sauer, Pennsbury (+27)
60. D. Stroh, Altoona

A couple things to note of this group. I expect Gonoude to be a top 50 guy by season's end (he's one of my picks for top 5 in AA) but it's early and other guys are out there doing work so my list will always try to highlight the achievements of guys out there racing and dropping times if possible. But Gonoude is very talented and I expect big things. Huge stretch from DeAngelo finishing up now. He's a legit #2 for Carlisle, who needs it right now. Penntrack's team rankings I thought were quite good, but I disagree with Carlisle at 6, not sure they are a top 10 team. But DeAngelo gives them a potent top 2 and with Wisner running well that top 3 is dangerous enough to make noise. Scarpill is one of my guys this year. I see big things for him, I've been on the bandwagon all year and I think sub 16 and top 20 at districts are in the cards here. Nate Morgan is probably too low here, he's better than this ranking but he has a chance to turn things around quickly at prestates.

(Small side note, when I say lower on the list I mean up in number like 55 is lower than 45 and 55 is higher than 65. Just to clarify because I know others use the reverse).

61. A. Milligan, SC
62. A. Hanna, CR South (+22)
63. C. Holm, Radnor
64. C. McMenamin, Souderton (NR)
65. R. Morro, O'Hara (NR)
66. J. DeGroot-Lutzner, Masterman
67. J. MaGuire, CR South (+17)
68. T. Quiggle, Seneca Valley
69. N. Cruikshank, Conestoga (NR)
70. G. Hepp, GFS

Who is Connor McMenamin for Souderton? That's what I was asking after I saw those DeSales results, he really impressed with his third place finish. He and Slavin are a couple Sophs that can fly up this list with some consistent performances like that. Intriguing situation to watch. Why did I only have one O'Hara guy in my top 101 last week? Because I'm an idiot that's why. They delivered last week and thing week at Pre States they can make a big statement against NA. I'm not saying there will be an upset, I'm just saying I expect that race to be a dog fight. I'm a big Lutzner fan, he's a good A runner and should do serious damage at that state meet. Hanna and MaGuire had very strong performances this past weekend. If they were in the championship race we might have been talking about them as top 50 guys yesterday. Great stuff by them.

71. P. Grant, LaSalle
72. B. Szuhaj, Penn Charter
73. W. Loevner, Winchester
74. R. Budnik, Grove City
75. M. Kolor, Seneca Valley (NR)
76. E. Diestelow, WC East
77. B. Wilt, York Suburban
78. R. Mitchell, LaSalle (NR)
79. Z. White, West Allegheny
80. J. Cooper, Conestoga

That's right, 5 Conestoga guys in the top 80. Possibly a little bold with that move, but without any 5ks it's hard too place these guys completely accurately. Remember Cooper was in the top 50 at states last year so if he's this team's 5 at season's end you are looking at the probable state champs. I'm hoping Loevner a speedy recovery, he had a nice start to his comeback last week. If he focuses on getting healthy he will jump the list when it matters. Really like that Heinauer, Loevner, Delaney training group. I'm high on all 3 guys. Diestelow dropped too low this week looking back on it that was an overreaction. Chris Cummings would be disappointed. For the record this LaSalle team is going to be really fun. Like really fun. They're spread is sick and if Price bounces back (he was in my top 101 last week) there spread can be in the ball park of 10 seconds by states. Yes that's not a type-o. And thankfully as I learned recently from one of you out there, LaSalle and O'Hara and our St. Joe's individuals can all be at states together this year. Sweet.

81. Q. Wasko, Cumberland Valley
82. B. Delaney, Manheim T (+7)
83. K. Shinn, Wyomissing
84. J. Connors, Wilson
85. N. Smith, Ringold
86. D. Knudsen, Mifflin
87. J. Espinal, Wilson (+3)
88. J. Piscano, St. Joe's (+8)
89. G. Allgayer, Mercersburg (NR)
90. C. Trimble, South Side

There is no downside to getting to type south side in a post about high school distance running. I hope Trimble stays on this list forever. Keep in mind Espinal Wilson is different than Connors Wilson as one is district 11 the other is D3. Also keep an eye on both as I expect both guys to be movers this year. Connors was money at season' send last year.

91. J. Smith, Avon Grove
92. K. Perry, Scranton Prep (NR)
93. J. Yurchak, Hempfield (+5)
94. D. Wilkinson, Red Land
95. E. Goebel, LaSalle (NR)
96. N. Wolk, Peters? (NR)
97. B. Mass, CB West (NR)
98. C. Wills, Malvern Prep
99. S. Bullock, DT West
100. A. Ramirez, Bensalem
101. D. Quigley, Freedom (NR)

Three different Parkland guys were in the top 101 at some point during the drafting of this and so too was Gabe Lamm. D11 is quickly making a name for itself. Seriously is this the year for D11!!

Also sorry to Lebo, you guys probably deserved another guy or two on this list. Sorry Ev.

PreStates will have the biggest effect on the rankings for next week most likely just like Briarwood was the most important meet this weekend and PTXC the weekend before that. Sorry for one that means for the small schools at the small meets.

One last fun fact. In the history of the prestates meet (AAA), no team has run prestates and then won the state meet. Looks like Conestoga is the state champ this year! (For the record I hope Ohara or NA win states so I can stop brining this coincidence up every year).

Well I think that's all the facts I wanted to squeeze in pre weekend. Comment away my friends.

Thought #5: The Top 50

Alright folks it's time for a little top 50 action. I included the latest round of dual meets in my thinking (glad to see this up on penntrack now) although dual meets have a decent amount lower pull than the invites.

Just like last week I made a top 101 but will only post the top 50 (unless someone specifically wants to see all 101). I will include how much up the list a person has jumped for comparison sake. Remember, since I ranked 101 guys last week, a NR indicates the person was not even in my top 101 last week and is now in the top 50. So quite a nice jump in other words.

As usual extra bits of info are nice to know an your opinion always matters.

50. B. Wilson, Central Dauphin
49. S. Slavin, Pleasant Valley (NR)
48. J. Kirshenbaum, Methacton (NR)
47. S. Seel, NA
46. K. Lapansky, Easton
45. R. Barton, DT West (+33)
44. M. Kravitz, North Pocono (+27)
43. R. Fortna, CB West (+22)
42. I. Baun, Mt. Lebanon (+18)
41. R. James, O'Hara (NR)

As usual there is a big chunk of movement down around the bottom of the top 50. Ryan James had a big race, this was a big step for O'Hara who have a nice contingent of James boys running well. 3 of their top 5 at season's end may have the last name James. If Ryan makes the jump this year, O'Hara has a streak of multiple state medalists that it's looking to keep in tact and I think they certainly can do it. I think I was a little low on the WPIAL guys in general last week so adding a little bit of spice to line up this week, jumping Baun and others you will see later. Kravitz had a dominating performance and is another guy who I see as a potential state medalist out of district 2. They usually have solid contenders like Jacob Fetterman who sneak up for medals. Barton joins the top 50 for West, continuing to jump the rankings. He beat all the Stoga guys not named Marston last week despite being in the sophomore race. If he develops into a strong 2, DT becomes a lot scarier. Nice win for Kirshenbaum following up a solid run at Viking. CB West is a legit team, they are state qualifying contenders without a doubt.

40. E. Linderman, Canon-Mac (+19)
39. A. Benka, Grove City
38. G. Mackey, Selwick (+6)
37. R. Tung, NP (+18)
36. J. Susalla, Plum (+6)
35. J. Perlman, Lower Merion
34. B. Faust, Altoona
33. B. Arita, CRN
32. Z. Skolnevich, QV
31. J. Heinauer, North Hills (+23)

More WPIAL in this section, jumps for these guys for consistent races and just overall, I felt I was understating these guys last week. Tung was one of the most impressive performances of the weekend that just flew under the radar. If he can go out and beat some big PA names that will cement his reputation as a medalist contender. I'm all aboard the Griffin Mackey train, I think the kid is going to be really good. He's just scratching the surface of what he can become. Heinauer is looking like a stud and North Hills has a good history of banging out stars. Big first win for him of the season. Arita looks great early as well, especially considering you know the North guys are still training at a high level. If he progress that way someone like James Zingarini used to over the last few weeks of the season, he's going to be top 20 at states in AAA at least.

30. S. Curtin, Mercyhurst Prep
29. H. Sappey, DT West
28. J. Tidball, Tunkhannock (+24)
27. E. Graca, Fox Chapel
26. S. Hilverding, Waynesburg
25. Jo. Hoey, Malvern Prep (+18)
24. S. Weidner, Lower Dauphin
23. J. VanKooten, Pitts CC
22. A. Knapp, Henderson
21. D. Green, James Buchanon (+5)

Don't get it twisted, a +5 when you are already this high is a big deal and Daniel Green looks great in the early going. Another big run, winning at Big Spring and continuing to be a AA force. Throw him in the title conversation in that division. Sappey proved he belongs in this tier of guys, great consistency out of him. Knapp is looking solid, and once he gets to post season 5ks instead of 2 miles his true XC wheels we come out. The biggest movers out of this bunch are Jack Tidball and Josh Hoey. Hoey moving farther up the list than any freshman while I've been doing his list. Huge statement for the rookie on a tough Belmont Course. I can only see him continuing to improve as the year goes on and that makes Malvern's top 3 incredibly dangerous. With Wills (a low 4:20s miler who I think will continue to improve in XC) I expect this team to develop a nice group behind them. It's still just September and they are aiming to beak at the end of November, that is ages of time. As for Tidball, he is another guy who threw his name in the AA title conversation. He beat Brehm and a slew of other solid runners and maybe Brehm wasn't going all out or whatever but a win is a win and to be the second PA guy behind only Griffin Molino is a statement race. I'm on the Tidball bandwagon for sure.

20. Z. Seiger, Red Land
19. P. Power, Spring Ford
18. N. Dahl, GFS
17. D. Perretta, Beaver
16. W. Kachman, Bedford
15. Z. Brehm, Carlisle
14. B. McDevitt, Malvern Prep (+7)
13. H. Wharrey, NA (+3)
12. A. Gebhardt, New Oxford
11. S. Ritz, GA (+1)

Alright I admit it, I'm drinking the Malvern Prep Kool Aid right now. This may be a spot or two high for McDevitt, but I placed up here out of respect for his great performance at one of the biggest meets of the week for the second straight week. Sam Ritz is quietly having a great season. He looks excellent on the Belmont Hills and could play major spoiler on a fast course like Lehigh. At Paul Short he could turn heads big time with a tough run against Albert and co. Wharrey seems like the next big thing. I can't pull the trigger for any higher right now, just because at this point in the list the talent is off the charts, but Wharrey has been running like a man this year. I'm still of the opinion he has a very realistic shot at being the top guy on NA by season's end, crazy considering how big a fan I am of his teammate Matt McGoey. George Bailey continues to excel out of Bedford Falls, just want to see him matched up against some big names. Merry Christmas you old building and loan.

For the record these It's a Wonderful Life references may never stop, I love that movie. So go see it now if you want to be in the loop.

7d. S. Webb, Pennsbury
7c. D. Hockenbury, Lake Lehman
7b. M. McGoey, NA
7a. C. Comber, Horsham (+7)

Comber with a huge jump this week, perhaps too huge, but he obliterated the times of future state champs Hibbs and Quinn. He is running great despite very little top level competition and Horsham knows how to coach them up. But really I stop to comment here because I see all 4 of these guys as nearly identical in ability. Webb won't sit at 10 for long but the other guys have been racing and killing it so they deserved some respect. But like I said literally, identical to me. Really difficult to put them in any sort of order.

6. A. Marston, Conestoga (+3)
5. K. James, O'Hara
4. J. Brophy, CB East (+2)
3. G. Molino, South Williamsport
2. C. Abert, Easton
1. J. Hoey, Malvern Prep (+3)

I documented a lot of this reasoning in Thought #1, but basically Abert had a great race but Hoey may have had an All Time race. Even before all the course measuring stuff, Hoey's time looked great, with it, that makes him look even better. If you put him anywhere near Rosa level he is up with the best the state has ever see . But we can't forget about Abert. He crushed another top 10 guy in brutal heat and conditions. He's looking like a Footlocker Finalist already. We just can't overreact to either guys performance. I thought Hoey would be better in the preseason, considering his track marks, and he backed it up here. But Abert is one of the most established XC guys in the state. If they race at Paul Short (which I believe they are supposed to) it will be a fantastic race. If Abert can hang with Hoey at Paul Short, a course where Hoey has the advantage, that will be a big statement.

Marston makes a big jump this week, out of tier 1.5 and into tier 1. It might be a bit premature with no real 5k experience, but the guy just looks driven and hungry. I almost put him ahead of KJ which is saying something.

I wanted to go Brophy at 3 honestly but decided I should let the state champ and NXN qualifier who has soloed 4:12 and is undefeated this season keep his top 3 spot. Brophy has been very good this year after a very compelling track season where his stat did not get to fully shine because he wasn't in any of those fast 2 miles that others were. Molino is a stud, but Brophy is so good it's a conversation.

Juniors have won 2 out of the last 3 state titles in AAA, and this year might make it 3 out of 4 if Brophy pulls it out. The power of age is shrinking, the freshman and sophomores are climbing this list like never before and the Juniors are becoming serious title threats across the board.

Or at least ... That's what I think. And these ... These are my thoughts.

Thought #4: North Allegheny and History (Plus a Bonus Thought)

North Allegheny might be the most consistently great team of all the squads in the state. But somehow they are also the most unpredictable. How does that make any sense you might ask? Well allow me to try my best to explain.

NA has won the WPIAL every year for the past decade or so, an unparalleled dominance for any of the major districts. And they have followed up those performances by finishing as the top district 7 team at states every year I have been following cross country (2006 and on). They have finished in the top 5 teams every year since 2007, with a state title in 2010 (the only non D1 title) runner up finishes in 09 and 13 and third place finishes in 07, 08 and 11. That's unheard of consistency in the ultra competitive AAA.

But here's what blows my mind about NA, they are always changing their identity. Losing big names doesn't phase them. All signs indicating they are not going to shine are usually wrong. But the reverse has been true as well. Some of the teams with the most hype around them fell short of their ultimate goals.

Let me explain. In 2007, the Coatesville super team was gone (or at least we all thought so) and the title was up for grabs. NA was the early season favorite, they won prestates, but that title was over taken by NP at the Carlisle invite (NA struggled hard to bounce back from their efforts at the state course. One of many examples that running the state course back to back is a disadvantage). After locking up another WPIAL title, NA was a clear favorite for 2nd at states. But alas, the NA boys couldn't get their 3-5 to come up big enough and they were stunned by Coatesville and finished 3rd. What many thought would be NA's best team of the decade came up short, and graduated their only two top 50 finishers from states who were 9th and 12th. So they were finished right? North Penn, Coatesville, Upper Dublin and Carlisle all returned a ton more and got the preseason hype.

But then NA stunned everyone by coming out the gate fast, led by a guy who ran on their JV for three years, a 5th year senior and a sophomore taking a big jump NA dominated all the big name teams at Carlisle including the defending champs in NP and one of the preseason favorites in Upper Dublin.

(NA didn't run prestates this year, worked out pretty well. You know who did? My squad of UD. I ran 20 minutes in the 5k and bombed in the JV race a week after running 18:10 at Hershey. The rest of our top guys bombed too including future mile state champ Mike Palmisano. My coach vowed never to go back to that prestates meet if we were going to be running Carlisle fast. You know, my coach the state record holder in the mile, but yeah the D3 guys are fine running that course right before states. Doesn't effect them at all.)

That NA team was really good and although they lost their front running steam, they completely changed their identity into a great pack with a tight spread. That team was so good they not only made nationals, they took 12th there.

But you know what happened at states that season? They were upset. They were bested by North Penn again and stunned by a better pack in LaSalle by 1 point for 2nd. Even this national caliber squad couldn't get on the medal stand. It was over for NA, they were chokers, they were history. They lost 3 of their top 5 and were again facing an up hill climb to just win districts.

And guess what happened? They proved everybody wrong again. They beat a very good Baldwin team at districts, turned Gil into a true blue front runner and got 2nd at states, flipping the script on a very good LaSalle team. The choking stigma was gone, this team was legit.

But beyond Gil, they didn't return too much. However, they added Logan Steiner to the squad, a valuable pick up and with Gil as the favorite for the state title, things were looking good.

Then Gil got hurt and Baldwin got good. Baldwin had a very strong pack of guys led by returning state medalist Bobby Bishop and bested a Gil-less NA team at leagues. The streak looked like it was over.

But A hobbled Gil made his way back to the line, they beat Baldwin and then Gil stunned the state by taking two golds the next weekend. NA finally got their state title.

And now we come to NA's next chance to get that state. This group of guys leading this squad now: McGoey, Wharrey and Seel, first made their debut in 2011, the year after NA won states.

They return very few guys and meanwhile Mt Lebanon had developed into state title favorites. Lebo had their way with NA all season. They crushed them at Tri States. I remember thinking there was no way the streak wouldn't end.

But what do you know NA proved me wrong again. Fate intervened with a horrible storm and NA rode the efforts of Luoco and Seel and other youngsters behind Steiner and stunned Lebo. They followed it up by beating them again at states, although their youth cost them a shot at the title.

The last two seasons the tight NA pack of their national qualifying year was back. They got hype, they performed big in some marquee races, they won more WPIAL titles and they grabbed silvers last year. But the road at states has been bumpy. In 2012 they were surprised by a fiesty top 3 and CRN. In 2013, despite a pack of 5 guys in the top 50 and 3 in the top 30, O'Hara came within a few seconds of stealing their medals.

But now in 2014 there is no more youth to throw around. Their young studs are now old stars. It has to be this year, just like in 2010 when Gil was about to graduate, it felt like it had to be that year.

And of course in classic NA fashion, they are reshaping their image once again. Now they resemble the CRN and O'Hara teams they battled with at states the last two years. They have the big time top 3 and two capable 4-5 men. It is ironic now that they have flipped the script yet again.

And don't get it twisted. This is a big 3. McGoey was a stud all last year on the track, dropping to 9:12 in the 3200m. Wharrey was a near medalist last year in his first serious varsity year. And he is even better this year. He is a perfect partner for McGoey and suddenly a top 10 guy in the state who will give McGoey all he can handle at states and districts. He may be their #1 at season's end.

Then there is Seel. He lost Love, a well documented travesty, but he still has been strong this year. Plus he is clutch at states. He is one of just 7 guys still in high school to finish in the top 50 in the state each of the last two years. The other 6? Abert, James, Brophy, Brehm, Gebhardt, and Sam Webb. Wow, that's fine company.

Don't get it twisted, NA is the favorite at states this year. Although a transfer got them their state title in 2010, I don't expect a transfer to take away their 2014 title.

Or at least that's what I think ... And these ... These are my thoughts.

(Bonus Thought: listening to that NA rise to power story did anyone else see a super strong resemblance to Ohara? Think about it ... Two years of heartbreak, the second year they made it to nationals and proved just how good they were ... Then, when they lose 3 of their top 5 and everyone counts them out and calls them chokers, they stay surprisingly relevant behind the top 5 finish of their Junior leader. The next year that Junior is a Senior, he just ran 9:03 in the spring and he is hungry after a couple close misses in his state time pursuits. He made nationals the previous year for the first time as an individual after a team stint and now is looking to lead a group of relative unknowns to a state title during his Senior year and last chance. C'mon? You can't tell me you don't see it. All that's missing is the transfer (nick smart graduates a year too early to qualify, that would have just made it spooky). Keep an eye on this elaborate metaphor.)