Public Service Announcement

There is some great discussion going on one post down. Lots of interesting questions an discussions, but I wanted to get this up as a public service announcement.

So I’m sorry to say that despite the reasonably high quantity of posts and previews I have done in the weeks leading to the state meet, my schedule will be quite busy this weekend. The earliest I will be able to recap the state meet will be late Saturday night. I am sure that padontplay will provide excellent post-race analysis in my absence and I will do my best to have 3 race recaps finished by Sunday night. I may make a few tweets after I look at results, but then I'm gonna let everything sink in, enjoy my time with friends and family and then get back on my posting grind. By Monday I should return to my normal posting rate.

Results will be up on runhigh first and foremost. Go there around end of race time and just keep hitting refresh until they come up. It's fool proof. Also penntrack usually gets the results up on twitter.
I have created this post to provide a place to discuss the results while I am away. Please note that I am trusting you all to make polite comments. If you think there is a chance the comment is inappropriate, please post it on the playground section. I am much less likely to delete something from that post than from my main blog. I will still be checking the comments section when possible in order to police and as you guys probably realized, I will be strict.
However, I also want to take this time to thank you guys. You have done a fantastic job commenting in a polite, fair and interesting way. You’re contributions to the blog have been spectacular and you have made my job a lot easier by doing such a great job. Even those comments that have been deleted were often not too bad and probably would have been left alone if they were posted in the playground section rather than the main blog.
Overall, sorry I won’t have quite the level of analysis you have been accustomed to this weekend, but thank you very much for your contributions. I believe you guys can continue to keep the blog strong while I am away. Plus, after states we have 3 solid weeks with very little to talk about (besides what will hopefully be another exciting 2 mile at Henderson) so there will plenty of time for me to cover everything I want to talk about as it relates to the state meet.
And while I’m away, I figured I would link up a little preview for you guys of something I have been working on ….

My Final Thoughts

11 Random Windows into the Mind of etrain

First off, I’d like to let everyone know that I’m going to do my best not to jinx the guys on my fantasy team before the big day on Saturday. So if you notice all of a sudden that I am predicting Marston, Knapp, Milligan, Kolor, Morro, Gunzenhauser and Princivalle to finish in the last 7 spots of states, it’s not because I hate them. It’s because I want them to succeed. And I’m the King Midas of jinxing people. Everything I touch turns to jinx. Good luck to all the members of my squad "Views from the 7”.

Second off, I will be having a 2 hour, “ask etrain” session tonight here on the blog from 7 PM to 9 PM where I will answer any and all last minute questions you might have to the best of my knowledge. The best ways to reach me will be here on the blog, on twitter @jfetrain11 or by email at I will diligently be checking them all during that time span, then I gotta run. Pun intended.

Lastly, post up your top 25 predictions anywhere on the blog for any of the divisions and you will be entered into the prediction contest. The winner gets a "great job" from me! (and if I come up with a better prize you get that too)

Now on to my post. This will be my last official post before the state championships, so I hope you enjoy some of my final random thoughts about the state meet.

1. Are Kevin James and Ryan Gil living eerily similar lives?
 Here me out on this. Freshman year both guys are top 5 guys on up and coming teams that are set up for state title runs for the first time this century. However, both teams had disappointing finishes and barely missed a medal (Ohara ties for the championship and loses, NA loses 2nd by single digits).

The next year Gil and James each develop into studs and find themselves as leaders on national contenders. Despite that fact, both teams end up suffering the same fate as states as the year before, despite putting 3 in the top 30 and having a soph in the 20s. But after states both teams find some redemption at regionals and nationals. Although they don't have the 1-2 punch of their competitors (miles and Bernitt the north penn juniors, Reiny and Russell, the WCH juniors), they have better packs, specifically killer top 3s (Gil, Morgan, Broussard v Savage, James, Pitone) both groups are 2 seniors and a soph. Throw in the 4-5 (a junior and a senior, both underrated XC guys) and the similarities continue to be straight eerie.

Flash forward to the next year. A depleted team for both squads makes people doubt either team can content for a title. Both teams are surrounded by the mislabeled rumor that they are "chokers". Gil and James continue to prove they are studs and fight valiantly all year. At the end, both teams have surprisingly strong finishes in Hershey (NA second and close to the win, O'Hara 3rd and close to beating NA). Both Star juniors finish in the top 4 behind just 2 seniors, one who goes on to be a regional champ, the other who is an individual national qualifier who goes on to win a state title in track (miles and rad Gunz, Russell and Ross Wilson). Gil and James both qualify for nationals as well individually. Eerie right?

Well then Gil went on to run 9:03 in the 3200m in track and still didn't get the title! How often does that happen? We should probably ask Kevin James who did the same thing as a Junior.

In senior XC both guys got some title talks but had to worry about scary packs from inside their own district (Baldwin and LaSalle) who gave them serious trouble back to back weeks before states. People gave up on both guys for individual title picks and their team title potential was in serious doubt.

Here's how Gil's story ended: he took double gold against one of the best senior classes ever and a somewhat weak team year.

I'm telling you it's spooky. Let's see if this holds up one more week.

2. Tony Russell’s mark will be beaten in all three races.

I just got a feeling. Look that time is killer but Tony himself probably could have ran faster as a senior if he pushed it.

And you want to know what else? The weather was supposed to be horrible in 2012 before Russell won. It was Sandy year I believe and some people predicting the winning time would barely be sub 17! (Seriously, look at my old blog, it was supposed to be brutal slow).

This year the weather is supposed to be fantastic, and unlike Russell all three of these top guys (Abert, Hock and Griff) aren't afraid to gun it and really want that course record. And it's not like they aren't talented enough. Abert already ran 14:55 this year solo, the most impressive performance I can remember in some time. I'm thinking all three winners are 15:44 or better (not necessarily those 3 guys but that's the kinda time) and we have double digit guys sub 16. I hate to predict fast times because a lot of the time we get caught up in the hype and predict too boldly, but I honestly believe it. I think Abe finishes the day with something in the 15:37 range.

3. Did you guys happen to see the permutations of NA, OH and WCH?

Each of the last 4 year these three legendary squads have finished in the top 5 overall teams (the only 3 programs to do it all 4 years). Ironically every year they finished in a different order.

2010: N, H, O
2011: O, N, H
2012: H, O, N
2013: H, N, O

Meaning we are missing the following:

N, O, H and O, H, N. My prediction for this year was those 3 in the top 5 again with N, O, H being the order (one of our new combinations). Hmmmm

4. There is been at least one Junior state champ every year since 2010.

I always talk about senior leadership and experience and maturity and blah, blah, blah, but guess what? There has been at least one junior state champ in XC in one of the divisions every year since 2010. And you know what? There are good odds there will be another one this year (Brophy, Hockenbury, Perretta among the names). Maybe time to revisit the theory.

5. Half of the returning medalists from the last 5 years have finished worse the next year.

This is a sad fact. There have been exactly 50 underclassmen medalist between 2012 and 2008 and 25 of them didn't improve at states the next year. That's 50% on the nose. I won't speculate on who, but there were a huge number of underclassmen medalists last year (13!) meaning 6 or 7 would be expected to drop spots. Unfortunately, we already have one victim in Jeff Van Kooten.

6a. 5 in the top 50 and still losing seems impossible … but it’s happening a lot these days.

Both O'Hara and North Allegheny did it in 2012 and 2013. That's crazy. Neither of them grabbed titles. In the new class system 5 in the top 50 might just not be enough. LaSalle could end up another part of the trend this year if thing go wrong.

So ...

6b. Is three medalists the new necessary in AAA?

With the depleted race, the 4-5 seem to have become a bit less relevant. 3 medalists were on the state champ teams in 2012 and 2013. The runner ups each had 3 in the top 30. The third place teams each 3 in the top 30. Only when you get down to 4th and 5th do things start to even out a bit. So the top 3 seems to be becoming more important.

This year we will see if that holds with NA and O'Hara having excellent top 3s and, on paper, few other teams close by. WCH will be a very compelling story here as well as their top 3 (and maybe top 4) could be very strong.

(One small bonus thought, in 2 classes, D1 had exactly 8 AAA medalists for 4 straight years, the last two years have been 11 and 12. Did the class change open up the doors for even more D1 dominance or is this just a coincidence?)

7. A sophomore hasn’t won an XC state title since 2003, and before that who knows?

I'm just saying. This barely ever happens, but every once in a while a talented guy comes along and stuns the field. Maybe this is the year. I picked Skolonevich in one prediction and although I was partially trying to be interesting, I also think he is one of the most talented XC guys we have had since McNally (who ran 15:02 as a frosh). Griff Mackey is also a super soph with potential to be in the top 5 in A.

But it's the year of the Sophs! Hock and Perretta did it in track, why can't it continue to XC?

8. Bros
So I only checked for AAA (because I know those medalists without looking it up) but here are sub sibling medal winners from the last 5 years.

Sam Hibbs (3x, Josh and Dan)
Jeff Van Kooten (Scott)
Alex Izewski (Josh)
Ethan and Colin Martin (2x, each other)
Michael Beegle (Bryan)
Tom Luff (Sam)

As far as I can tell that's it. This year we have some other brother nominees (Ryan James, Todd Gunzenhauser, Gordy Barchet, Eric Kennedh) and a chance for the first pair of non twin brothers to win medals in the same meet since ... Honestly don't know, at least a decade I have to imagine.

9. When is the last time D1 hasn’t had a top 2 AAA team? How about D11 having the AAA winner? Or the PCL having a state champ?

I have predicted all those things at some point. It's possible none of them have ever happened in my life. Historic year? Or very wrong predictions?

It tends to be the second one sadly.

10. Could there be 20 AAA senior medalists?
 There were 12 last year and on average over the last 6 years (since the move to poop out) there have been 15 senior medalists. The most has been 18 (the loaded class in 2010).

This past year we had 12 junior medalists (easily the most of the last 6 years) and just 1 sophomore medalist to break it up (the lowest of the last 6 years). A 1:1 junior to senior relationship like last year is crazy. The closest was the 9:13 of 2009 (the year just before there were 18 seniors).

20 senior medalists seems crazy, but on paper it's very possible. I'm not blown away by this sophomore class, and the senior class is really, really good. 20 is within the realm of possibility.

11. Is the district 3 curse real? Or I am just being lame?

Eh, can't say for sure here. There have been AA champs from district 3 (a lot actually) and there have been girls and teams in other divisions who have gotten it done.

But still, I'm convinced it's a disadvantage. I guess I can't prove it, but this year I could get some really good evidence. York Suburban is the AA favorite, Camp Hill had a nice team with 2 front runners, and AAA is loaded. Plus Dan Green and Aaron Gebhart are studs.

The last six 6 years (i.e. since poop out) 14 D3 medalists, 16 D12 medalists (despite sending less than half the number), 32 D7 medalists and 55 D1 medalists.

D7 over double D3 and D1 almost 4x as much. Mind blowing. D3 is average roughly 2 medalists a year which means in theory one of the 3 won't get on the stand: Brehm, Gebhart, and Seiger. And that doesn't even open the door for any of the other really good runners in that district (too long of a list to discuss here).

I purposely avoided D3 guys in my fantasy draft an picked against them at almost every turn in various predictions, even though I love the D3 teams this year. Let's see if this course thing is for real.

12. Wouldn’t it just be awesome if O’Hara won the state title on a tie breaker?

I couldn't help it. I just think this is the coolest way to end this 4 long stretch of bad luck. I'm kinda rooting for it to happen.

States Week: AAA Teams Predictions

So I have been agonizing over this decision for weeks. I built an entire excel file to model the AAA state championship and scored it out completely to include the top 7 runners from all qualified teams. I’ve spent the past week constantly updating and adjusting, trying to come up with the best estimate for what is going to happen.
You got a feel for which way I was leaning in my last post where I detailed the tiers every team in which every team was currently slotted. Now you get to find out my exact predictions. I won’t discuss all the teams but I will give you the top 12 (which ends up being the top 13 because there is a tie at 12).
*12. 254- Carlisle (3)
*12. 254- Downingtown West (1)
I have both teams scoring the same amount of total points, but West edging out Carlisle on the 6th man tie breaker. Downingtown West faltered a bit at districts, but they still showed fantastic depth. The problem was they didn’t prove they had fire power behind Sappey. They matched up well with Henderson at Chesmonts and now have the chance to run with a chip on their shoulder at states. However, they are a fairly young and inexperienced team and that always makes me scared when we get to Hershey.
As for Carlisle, I believe they have a strong top 3, which is half the battle at states. Wisner has been coming on strong in recent weeks and Brehm is always a threat to win any race he enters. Carlisle peaked perfectly last year for the best finish district 3 has had at states in a long time so slotting them here may be a poor choice, but without Wisner and DeAngelo breaking into the top 40 it’s hard for me to slot them higher than here.
11. 236- State College (6)
State College has a potentially very similar team to the one they had a year ago. I think Milligan is a medalist and Feffer can be at least what their #2 was a year ago, if not in the 40s. The key will be Wing, Beyerle and Heatwole matching up against some of the other teams in this “tier 3” group and coming out on top. One more guy running with Feffer would be big.
10. 231- Cumberland Valley (3)
Cumberland Valley has the potential to explode this weekend and really impress. They usually do a good job holding back at districts to get through to states. There have been some inconsistencies in their top 5 that are a little worrisome, but I expect them to have an improved race at states this weekend compared to districts. Soliman and Seeber need to have races closer to Higgins to get the job done. It was encouraging to see a big race from the freshman Schultz at districts, which gives them some flexibility at the 5 spot.
9. 230- Central Bucks West (1)
We are in a section of the meet where every point counts and even small changes in order can affect who ends up where. CBW rose from somewhere around 13th up to 8th and then back down to 9th while I was finalizing things which shows you how fragile this ordering is. The key for West will be their sophomores Iatarola and McDonald. Those guys ran fantastic races at districts and hopefully can handle their first appearance on the state course. I think Fortna and maybe Davies will have strong days, but I worry about the inexperience and the youth. Plus their spread is a little bit larger than you would think back to the 5 spot despite their incredible depth (maybe a substitution to the line-up coming this weekend?).
8. 226- Easton (11)
I’ve made no secret, I’m on the Easton bandwagon. They have two low sticks and a solid 3-4-5 that are underrated. In a front loaded meet like states, this team can jump a lot of squads that lack fire power out front. Lapsansky has a bit of pressure to perform as this is his first time running the state race with a medal and a team score on the line, but mainly they need Sherman to continue what he did at districts and Grunwald to bounce back at the 4. They are a bit inexperienced after that top 2, but they have strong big race experience with PTXC and Paul Short on the schedule. Bottom line is their front running may just be too much.
7. 219- Council Rock North (1)
CRN has been consistently on the rise and although they didn’t “wow” anyone at districts, they got the job done and got to states. Arita looks like a medalist and I think Griswold can challenge for a top 50 spot. Their 3-4-5 have been tightly bunched the last two weeks and should be bunched again at states. They need to crack the top 80 or so to have a shot at a top 5 spot. And it has to be the 3-4-5 as the 6-7 have struggled to close the gap on the scorers. My guess is they end up here at 7th, but considering what program this is they could easily surprise.
6. 208- Mt Lebanon (7)
Lebo had a rough race at WPIALs but as I have mentioned before, this is not a new occurrence. I expect a bounce back and I still have the memory of this team’s run at Pre States fresh in my mind. I’m thinking that Baun and T Gunz are both going to be in the medal hunt, giving them a strong 1-2. After that there will be some pressure on Harris, Stone and the freshman Brandenstein to step up and give these guys a strong 3-4-5. The nice thing is Lebo has shown solid depth at 6 and 7 which should give them a lift if something goes wrong at Hershey. I also think Brandenstein will excel at Hershey like he did at Pre States and a hungry Lebo team should manage to just edge out CRN.
5. 196- West Chester Henderson (1)
This is one of the more wide-open state championships in recent memory (2011 and 2009 were kind of wide open and 2010 you could argue for as well) which has prompted some to buy into the possibility of a WCH upset here at states. The key will be the 5 spot because a score anywhere above 80 basically buries your chances of getting the W or even probably top 3. I think the 5 spot makes sense for Henderson, but they can jump any of the teams behind them with a big day at 5 or if another team’s top 5 guy has an off day of their own. However, Henderson could also slip down the rankings if their top 4 isn’t on their game. Smucker, the teams stud frosh, is the wildcard, but the team would also get a big lift from Swart and/or Barchet joining Knapp in the top 30.
4. 149- LaSalle (12)
The great thing about LaSalle is their incredible depth through 7 guys. Their pieces have proven to be so interchangeable that an off day from anyone on their squad doesn’t kill their chances at victory (no other team can say that). But their gift could also be a curse. It’s simple, somebody has to step up and get into the medals. The rest will follow. The good news? They have lots of guys with the potential to do so. Probably why between my two sets of predictions I got 4 different guys into the top 50 wearing LaSalle unis.
3. 147- Conestoga (1)

I still believe this team can be quite dangerous on the right day. A big day from Cooper and this team could get 4 in the top 50. Marston is a killer front runner and Nelson might be able to grab a medal. This team is experienced after 6 of their 7 ran states last year and they have solid depth. Overall, they haven't done quite enough to prove their top 3 can out duel the top 2 teams horses, but they should be a top 3-5 team. Cooper and Murray (who didn't run here last year) will be key in determining where they end up in the title race.
2. 131- O’Hara (12)
1. 115- North Allegheny (7)

If I was a novelist here is how I would have this state championship unfold: O'Hara wins the state championship on a 6th man tie breaker. It would be some beautiful poeticness to end KJs career.

While it's not out of the question, I don't see it happening. I compared OH to 2010 NA and their state title run and I think the similarities still hold. They even had a little drama with LaSalle just like NA did with Baldwin (although James won't have to deal with injuries like Gil did). But I think ironically enough the team that defeats them is 2014 NA. 

Both teams have killer top 3s. O'Hara has a potential champ and 2 other solid medal hopes. So does North Allegheny. Those 6 will probably play each other to a draw while simultaneously separating these two teams to a step above the rest. Then it comes down to the 4-5 and, here NA has been better in recent weeks. Joe Stupak is on a roll. He has been impressive at both Tri States (brutally hilly course) and WPIALs and has a chance at cracking the top 50 overall. He will be matched up with Donovan/Pastore at the 4 spot. This is the match up that should decide things. Along with the 5 spot (Dieble and Miggz for NA against most likely the other one in the Donovan/Pastore pairing).

NA has shown more here so they get the nod. However, last year the O'Hara boys got step up days from both Pastore and Ryan James at the 4-5 spots in an unexpected turn of events that allowed them to compete for a close 3rd at states. Those guys were running in and out of the top 5 all year but stepped up when it counted. That's the thing, you never know with states.

This would be a nice win for the seniors at NA. When these freshman came in they were the next big thing in PA XC. They nearly worked their way into an upset state title their freshman year. Their sophomore year they briefly worked their way into state title talks before fading to 4th. As Juniors they were expected to keep things close with Henderson, but end up nearly being caught from behind. Now the pressure is on to squeeze out a state title with one of the best classes PA ever saw (although losing Seamus Love hurts that sentence). McGoey, probably the best NA guy since Gil, looks to repeat what Gil did his senior year and lead his team to a state gold after 3 years of disappointing finishes and near misses.

Any way you spin it, we are in for an epic state championship.

States Week: Top 10 Teams AA

The AA teams race features the biggest title favorites in York Suburban from District 3 who is coming off a dominating district win and an impressive 2nd place finish at Carlisle (the top PA finish for all divisions). However, there are a slew of teams chomping at their heels to try to steal the spotlight and end the hype surrounding York Suburban. Simultaneously, York Suburban will look to prove they are, in fact, the best team in the state, regardless of class. Ladies and gentlemen, your top 10 AA teams.
10. Bonner (12)
Bonner had a bit of a down year last season after losing senior leader Will McDermott to graduation. However, Bonner appears to have found its identity again this season, winning another district 12 championship and building behind leaders Sean Sullivan and Ryan Rasatter.  Bonner’s top 2 is very strong and I think both guys have medalist potential. Cromity has shown he can be a strong #3 and had a good run at pre states this season. If their 4-5 can continue to improve, they should crack the top 10 teams this weekend.
9. Mars (7)
Mars had a very solid showing, making it out of the difficult District 7 championship meet. All 4 qualifying teams finished pretty close together, meaning it’s a bit of a toss up where they will land at the state meet. Mrdjenovich not only has one of the toughest names in the district, but also has one of the toughest minds (i.e. he was 6th in the competitive D7 championship meet). He had a great district performance and should be a medal contender at states. I also expect Knox to bounce back at the state meet and give Mrdjenovich a running mate. Porter and Luce are solid top 3 guys and the team has solid depth through #7. They didn’t blow me away at districts, but they showed signs they can run with the best teams in the state.
8. Uniontown (7)
Another squad from the D7 mob, Uniontown is back at states and looking to continue the success they had a year ago. They snuck by Hopewell in a surprise turn for the 4th and final spot to states and they are showing improvement at the perfect time. Last year, they really impressed at states behind front runner Nate Edenfield (who ended up 1st in team scoring) and this year Carei and Klott return to carry on the legacy. This team was just three points behind Mars at Districts and I think their extra momentum and experience allows them to flip-flop with them this weekend.
7. South Fayette (7)
That’s right, 3 in a row for District 7! South Fayette was incredibly impressive last year when they finished 3rd at states behind Tunkhannock and Pottsgrove. They did it with a crew of 6 seniors. This year, they turned over their entire roster and ended up 2nd at districts, punching another ticket to states. Sophomore Aaron Pfiel burst onto the scene with a 7th place finish at districts and freshman Snodgrass was a strong #2. Sandala rounds out a strong top 3. He is the only returner from last year’s team that competed here at states. There is definitely potential for this inexperienced team to struggle here at states, but I think Sandala and this program’s impressive finish a year ago, help them avoid a big slip.
6. Knoch (7)
Yes, district 7 has won the connect four championship. Knoch is my favorite of the District 7 teams and I really like what their top 4 did at districts. Freyermuth, Grumski, Ejzak, and Carlsson were all in the top 20 finishers! They did have a bit of a drop off to #5 which is always a bit of a concern, but this top 4 is very talented. Someone from the top 4 needs to break free and lead this group into the 20-35 range, which will be difficult to do in a loaded AA state championship. With an improvement at #5, Knoch can jump quickly into the top 5 teams.
5. Mt Caramel (4)
Much like Knoch, Caramel has a very solid top 4 and then a bit of a drop off until 5. Bartos and Moser have led the charge for the Caramel Pretzels this season and both are medal threats. Fisher and Fletcher round out the impressive top 4. I give Mt. C a small edge over Knoch because they bested them at Pre States and because they placed quite well at states a year ago (Knoch did not qualify). I also think that Bartos and Moser are a bit better than Freyermuth and Grumski (both teams 1-2), although Knoch may have the edge at 3-4. It will be most likely be only a couple points difference.
4. Scranton Prep (2)
SP was one of my early picks for AA state champs. They returned a ton of key pieces from last year’s team and they had a fantastic first meet showing against Carlisle at Spiked Shoe. The team has quietly continued to be solid, running well at Paul Short and at districts against a loaded District 2 AA field. They have a squad that goes 6 deep and they have state experience. Ultimately, Scranton Prep ended up overshadowed by the terrific performance of York Suburban at Carlisle and now the resurgence of D1 powerhouse Pottsgrove and D10 powerhouse Grove City. Perry was a medalist last year for SP and he will need to be back in the medals this year if this team is going to have a shot at a podium finish. He will need to drag some teammates with him as well. Right now, I don’t think Prep has the firepower out front to compete with the top 3 teams. However, it is worth noting that with a mile to go last year, Scranton Prep could taste a state title, but it barely slipped away out of reach. The same crew is back and hungry for revenge.
3. Pottsgrove (1)
Pottsgrove has had a resurgence in recent weeks. There was talk (mainly by me) that HG Prep and Bishop Shanahan would give this team all it could handle during district week, yet Pottsgrove had a convincing win behind Lopez and Wurtz 1-2 finish. Both men are now poised to grab state medals and a pack of developing studs like Neeson and Underwood should challenge the packs of other top teams. Underwood has struggled the last two years on the state course. If he can turn things around that will be a big lift for this team. They have strong depth so they can handle an off day if it comes. Pottsgrove was state champ in 2012 and runners up in 2013 despite strong hype around other programs. This year seems like a similar story.
2. York Suburban (3)
1. Grove City (10)
Do I think York Suburban is one of the best teams in the state? Do I think they are the best team in AA? If I was dating Emma Watson would I accidentally call her Hermione at least twice a day?
The answer to all these questions is “yes”. So am I just picking an upset here to be fun and interesting? Is this another one of those etrain v. Jarrett things? Why would Emma Watson ever date you?
These are all fair questions. But I assure you, this is not just some shock value prediction, this is my honest opinion. York Suburban has run spectacular both times they competed at the Hershey course. They had an impressive win over Grove City at Foundation and they handled things some strong teams at Districts without much difficulty. Carlisle was a huge moment for them that proved to everyone that they arrived and belonged in the discussion with the best teams across all divisions, not just AA. They showed impressive depth through 6 guys in recent weeks as well. Plus Wilt and Mears are impressive front runners who both should be medalists this weekend.
However, Grove City has showed serious promise in recent weeks. This past weekend at districts Ryan Budnik, a top 10 guy from last year’s state meet, was their #5 man. Benka won the district championship against a very strong runner in Andrew Maxwell. DePew stepped up to finish 4th overall in the race and suddenly became a top 30 threat at states. That’s huge at #3. If he has another race like that and pulls Pyle along, Grove City has a killer top 4. And they have enough depth at 5-6-7 to compete with York Suburban, although I do think YS is better here. Grove City has the “nobody believes in us” thing going right now which is fantastic motivation for cross country runners. We eat that stuff up.
I think this state battle comes down to just a few points here or there. Benka and Budnik should draw even with Wilt and Mears as front runners. DePew and Pyle may be better than Oleh, Wagner, Lofties and Barley and then McConnell keeps it reasonably close between the 5s. That basically draws the two teams dead even (for the record in a tie, I think York will have the better 6th, so Grove City will likely have to win outright).
Here is what I see as the deciding factors that should swing the title:
How will Budnik bounce back? Can he reproduce his performance from last year?
How will York Suburban’s 3-4 of Oleh and Wagner (freshman and sophomore) handle the pressure of their first state championship?
How will York Suburban handle the back to back weeks at Hershey?
I was picking York Suburban up until about 20 hours ago and then I made the switch. I think this will be an incredibly exciting race and I won’t rule out the possibility that another team sneaks by these two and wins the state title, I just think it will likely come down to these two squads.
The AA squads are going to be really fun to watch this year in what should be a battle for every spot. I’m excited to see how these teams and individuals measure up to the AAA teams at Meet of Champs.
Oh, right. Nevermind.

States Week: Top 10 Teams A

The A title race is sure to be one of the most exciting team battles of the 6 races. Already teams with state title hopes like Avonworth, Sacred Heart and defending champions Saegertown have been stunned at Districts and left without a state starting box. That means this race is deep and on any given day a number of teams could run their way into the history books. Here are my predictions for the top 10 A teams.
10. Greensburg Central Catholic (7)
They have a solid front runner in Mirigliano and a decent pack behind him with some strong Senior leadership as well. This team came out of left field for me last week at Districts so it’s hard for me to get a strong read on them. However, I saw them mix it up with a pair of teams that have a realistic shot at winning a state title (and they beat two more that would have been in that same conversation) so they deserve the respect of being a top 10 team. If anything, they are under ranked here at spot 10.
9. Camp Hill (3)
The Camp Hill boys very quietly threw down a dominating performance at districts. Beheny and Leslie dominated that field and ran close to 17 flat. Considering the weather, even on a sans Poop-Out course, those time suggest medalist potential at states. They have 5 solid guys and averaged about 18 flat on the course, which puts them right in the thick of things with the top teams. Last year they struggled to bounce back from districts and Beheny got hurt, which buried their chances of finishing top 10. This year, with an extra year’s experience, the team looks poised to crack the top 10 (and they have bigger goals than that). The downside here is the fact that this is a district 3 team battling back to back weeks at Hershey. They are still relatively young (they return their entire scoring 5 for next year), although that’s not a big concern because they have strong Hershey experience. But I think those top two might have ran a little too hard at districts (they dominated the race and who knows how necessary that was) so I cautiously slot them at 9.
8. Mercyhurst Prep (10)
Mercyhurst was 5th last year at states and have arguably a better team this time around. Sebastian Curtin is likely going to finish in the top 2 or 3 team scorers and his little brother Noah Curtin has quietly become a medal threat. Their top 2 is lethal and they have a solid pack behind them that can potential surprise at states. I went back and forth on just how high to place these guys, but ultimately decided I like some other team’s depth a bit better than I liked MP’s front running. They end up here at the 8 spot.
7. Masterman (12)
Masterman is a real wildcard for me this year. They have the front runner (stud Julian Degroot-Lutzner) and they have a strong #2 in Joe Previdi. They absolutely dominated the District 12 meet, scoring in the teens for points; however, that field was not near the quality we will see this weekend at states. That’s why it’s tricky to get a read on just how good these guys are. They have pieces to produce a solid states run and they have handled this course well in recent years. They were a hard fought second to Saegertown last year, and they were third at the Pre States meet in 2014 after winning in 2013. Ultimately, I feel like this team has improved enough since that Pre State race to warrant a spot in the top 7.
6. Penns Valley (6)
Like I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for impressive pack running. Penns Valley showcased their stuff by putting 5 guys in a row at their district championship (and all 5 guys were ahead of the second best team’s #1, Jacob Schulte of Bishop McCourt). However, those 5 guys weren’t up at the front of the race, dominating a district 6 race that was missing the previous year’s champ (Central Cambria): they had no individuals crack the top 9. However, I still am very excited about this squad’s potential. Chris Colwell, a freshman, had been their #1 man the meet before districts, yet he was #4 at districts. Mothersbaugh has had some impressive performances on the Hershey course and he was their #5 at districts. Griffiths, their #6 at districts, is capable of filling in for any down performances from a member of their top 5. They need a break out run from Fuller, Colwell or Mothersbaugh to pull the pack along, but if they get it, this team will surprise a lot of people.
5. Winchester Thurston (7)
This the first of 5 teams that I feel have very realistic shots at winning a state title. I wouldn’t be surprised if Loevner or Delaney ended up in the top 10 at states. Their 1-2 punch is the best in the state. But it’s possible that neither of those guys could end up as the team’s #1. Ben Littman has had a phenomenal season and continued to impress with his top 10 finish at Districts. He gives WT their 3rd potential medalist. All three of those guys had valuable learning experiences last year at states. At #4, they will need another big day from freshman Tristan Forsythe who gave WT another top 12 guy at districts and cemented their trip to the state championships. On a great day, WT could end up with 4 guys in the top 35 finishers. You would be hard pressed to find a team that pulled that off and didn’t win a state championship, especially in A and AA. However, there is a fairly large drop off to #5 and he is just a freshman. That means their two most important pieces are freshman that have never run this course before. That scares me enough to drop them here to 5, but if the youngsters have a big day this team will be on the podium.
4. Elk Lake (2)
Elk Lake is basically Penns Valley 2.0. They have a great pack of guys with depth and no weak links. Elk Lake is a historically great program that competed for and won state championships even when they were a small school in AA. The team was a little too young and inexperienced to make a title push last season, but this squad has grown since that defeat. Like Penns Valley, they will need someone to emerge to drag their pack up the rankings; however, they have proven they can successfully accomplish this (2nd at Pre States this year without emerging freshman superstar Cody Oswald). I like Dan Bell and Hunter Bedell as sleeper medal picks and Cody Oswald is a real wildcard who their top man at districts as just a frosh. They have the depth to win a state title, they just need to secure the power up front.
3. Seneca (10)
Seneca, like basically all the top teams this year, is a fairly young squad as well, but they had an excellent learning experience when they qualified for states last year and finished 6th. Their best runners, the Meyers twins, were in excellent position at 2 miles, but faded over the last stretch. Now they are a year older and as sophomores instead of freshman I expect them to improve substantially. Phoenix Meyers has been impressive all season and Donovan took a big step when he ran to a second place finish at districts. Their top 4 were very solid at districts (all taking top 20 in a loaded D10 A field) and their 5 (freshman Nick Post) was behind a bit, but he got the job done and got Seneca a district title. The district 10 champs last year (Saegertown) went on to become state champs and had a sneaky good performance at states (in merged results they would have beat all the AA schools). I think this team has shown signs they can be a title team as well, however, 3 sophomores and a freshman in their top 5 guys is scary. If they can win a state title with this crew, we may be seeing a dynasty emerging in Seneca. Look out.
2. Sewickley Academy (7)
This was a tough call to drop Sewickley to second and the silver medals. They have been the best team in District 7 A all year with some dominating performances and an impressive district championship run. They have nice depth and a very potent top 5. On the right day their top 4 can hang close with Winchester’s which is saying something. Griffin Mackey will be in the title hunt this year and will look to give this team a low stick out front. Hansen, O’Neill, Hanlon and Clouse are the likely remaining members of the top 5 but Magee at 6 is nice insurance in a close race. Clouse and Hansen have each shown signs they can compete for medals at states. This team has a great combination of front running and depth. I expect things to be incredibly tight at the end of this race so the deciding factors could be very small details. My main concern with Sewickley is not necessarily their youth (they have plenty of Senior leadership), but their lack of state experience. They didn’t qualify for states as a team last season and they didn’t travel to Hershey for Pre States. I’d be curious to see the last time a team won a state championship after not qualifying for states as a team the previous year, it might be more common than I think. Regardless, that’s the history Sewickley will be fighting.
1. Northeast Bradford (4)
These guys won the title in 2012 and were third a year ago, meaning they are probably the greatest team in A history (which is admittedly just 2 years). They had Sam Williams and Curt Jewett in the top 10 medalists in 2012 and they had another pair of medalists in Devonshire and Garrett Smith last year. Smith is back to help lead this team with Levi Upham who was a key contributor on last year’s team and the state title team in 2012. This team put 4 in the top 10 at districts and has 2 guys that I expect to be in the medals at states. They also have 3 guys capable of contributing as a scorer in the 5-6-7 spots. This team is well coached and has experience and motivation after the heart break of missing out on medals last year. Upham knows what it takes to be a state champion and his leadership could be the x-factor in an exciting, down to the wire, state title competition.
With a bunch of great, young teams leading the charge, this could be a historically exciting state championship. And next year could be just as fun.

States Week: Jarrett v etrain AAA Predictions

Jarrett's Picks:
1. C. Abert, Easton (11)
2. K. James, OHara (12)
3. A. Marston, Conestoga (1)
4. C. Comber, Horsham (1)
5. M. McGoey, NA (7)
6. P. Power, Spring Ford (1)
7. J. Brophy, CB East (1)
8. A. Gebhart, New Oxford (3)
9. S. Webb, Pennsbury (1)
10. Z. Brehm, Carlisle (3)
11. H. Wharrey, NA (7)
12. A. Knapp, WCH (1)
13. B. Foust, Altoona (6)
14. Z. Seiger, Red Land (3)
15. K. Lapsansky, Easton (11)
16. R. James, OH (12)
17. H. Sappey, DTW (1)
18. J. Susalla, Plum (7)
19. A. Demko, Hershey (3)
20. J. Heinauer, NH (7)
21. E. Diestelow, WCE (1)
22. B. Arita, CRN (1)
23. A. Milligan, SC (6)
24. N. Henderson, McCaskey (3)
25. I. Baun, Mt Lebo (7)

26. R. Fortna, CB West (1)
27. S. Seel, NA (7)
28. E. Linderman, Canon Mac (7)
29. R. Morro, OH (12)
30. D. Quigley, Freedom (11)
31. A. Hanna, CR South (1)
32. S. Weidner, LD (3)
33. B. Delaney, MT (3)
34. J. Perlman, LM (1)
35. Q. Wasko, CV (3)
36. K. Nelson, Conestoga (1)
37. T. Gunzenhauser, Mt Lebanon (7)
38. J. Carmody, Rustin (1)
39. C. McMenamin, Souderton (1)
40. E. Goebel, LaSalle (12)
41. J. Cooper, Conestoga (1)
42. D. Digiacomo, Twin Valley (3)
43. R. Mitchell, LaSalle (12)
44. E. Graca, Fox Chapel (7)
45. D. Brady, Hempfield (3)
46. W. Sponaugle, Hersey (3)
47. G. Barchet, WCH (1)
48. I. Davies, CBW (1)
49. N. Wolk, Peters (7)
50. C. Cassell, LD (3)

So narrowing this group down to 50 was a nightmare, so many talented guys fighting for just a few top spots and lots of variables going into consideration, especially at 40+. I think this is Abert's race to lose, the only question might end up being can he run faster than Molino and Tony Russell. I'm not too frightened of the D3 curse, I think that Geb, Brehm and Seiger have proven they can do this double quite well. Probably a bit too much upperclassmen bias going on here, but experience is key.

etrain's Picks:
1. A. Marston, Conestoga (1)
2. J. Brophy, CB East (1)
3. Z. Brehm, Carlisle (3)
4. C. Abert, Easton (11)
5. K. James, OH (12)
6. S. Webb, Pennsbury (1)
7. C. Comber, HH (1)
8. J. Susalla, Plum (7)
9. A. Knapp, WCH (1)
10. Z. Seiger, Red Land (3)
11. P. Power, Spring Ford (1)
12. H. Sappey, DTW (1)
13. H. Wharrey, NA (7)
14. K. Lapsansky, Easton (11)
15. M. McGoey, NA (7)
16. A. Hanna, CR South (1)
17. A. Milligan, SC (6)
18. T. Gunzenhauser, Mt Lebo (7)
19. B. Arita, CR North (1)
20. D. Quigley, Freedom (11)
21. R. James, OH (12)
22. B. Foust, Altoona (6)
23. C. McMenamin, Souderton (1)
24. A. Gebhart, New Oxford (3)
25. K. Nelson, Conestoga (1)

26. K. Shea, LD (3)
27. M. Kolor, SV (7)
28. D. Wilkinson, Red Land (3)
29. E. Diestelow, WCE (1)
30. J. MaGuire, CR South (1)
31. S. Seel, NA (7)
32. E. Kennedy, Kiski (7)
33. R. Morro, OH (12)
34. Y. Soliman, CV (3)
35. S. Princavalle, LaSalle (12)
36. R. Fortna, CB West (1)
37. D. Eddinger, Boyertown (1)
38. W. Swart, WCH (1)
39. I. Baun, Mt Lebo (7)
40. J. Heinauer, NH (7)
41. S. Collins, NP (1)
42. N. Feffer, SC (6)
43. A. Maxwell, Kennent (1)
44. Q. Wasko, CV (3)
45. J. Piscano, St. Joe's (12)
46. P. Grant, LaSalle (12)
47. D. Stroh, Altoona (6)
48. M. Wisner, Carlisle (3)
49. H. Geiger, Parkland (11)
50. E. Linderman, Canon Mac (1)

Threw down some bold predictions here just to keep things interesting. I think this is a chance for a lot of young guns to shine. Feffer is a big sleeper, he could surprise with a top 30 finish even. I looked for guys with momentum and guys with upside. There's always a few lurking at district meets, back in the pack, that turn it on when it counts.

Abert is probably going to win, but why not have some fun and keep it interesting. Marston killed the hills here last year and was sneaky impressive at McQuaid. I could see Brehm somehow winning the whole thing. He's super talented and I'd bet he has been saving all year for this one moment.

The rest of my predictions are really just hunches. Hard to explain intuition. Even harder to explain if it ends up all wrong.

Guys we are upset to leave out ... Too many to try ....

States Week: Jarrett vs etrain AA Predictions

AA States Predictions (Jarrett Felix v. etrain11)
Jarrett’s Picks:
1. D. Hockenbury, Lake Lehman (2)
2. W. Kachman, Bedford (5)
3. D. Green, James Buchanon (3)
4. S. Smith, Towanda (4)
5. M. Kravitz, North Pocono (2)
6. A. Benka, Grove City (10)
7. K. Gonoude, Salisbury (11)
8. S. Hilverding, Waynesburg (7)
9. J. Tidball, Tunkhannock (2)
10. B. Wilt, York Suburban (3)
11. Z. Skolonevich, Quaker Valley (7)
12. K. Shinn, Wyomissing (3)
13. N. Morgan, Lakeland (2)
14. N. Smith, Ringgold (7)
15. J. Condloy, Jim Thorpe (11)
16. R. Budnik, Grove City (10)
17. D. Lopez, Pottsgrove (1)
18. B. Bickerton, South Moreland (7)
19. D. Mears, York Suburban (3)
20. J. DiContinio, Wyomissing (3)
21. Q. Amiable, Mifflinburg (4)
22. J. Toczko, Tunkhannock (2)
23. D. Filler, Gettysburg (3)
24. K. Perry, Scranton Prep (2)
25. A. Maxwell, Slippery Rock (10)
26. N. Bartos, Mt Caramel (4)
27. C. Lennon, HG Prep (1)
28. N. Mrdjenovich, Mars (7)
29. S. Sullivan, Bonner (12)
30. B. Descavisch, Central Cambria (6)
31. B. Dinger, Punxsutawney (9)
32. B. Wurtz, Pottsgrove (1)
33. J. DePew, Grove City (10)
34. R. Rasatter, Bonner (12)
35. S. Signor, East Pennsboro (3)
Hockenbury was 2nd a year ago and seems poised for his first title. He ran away with the victory at Pre States and has hammered his competition this year with his grueling pace setting. I really think Dan Green is the best hope for an upset. Hilverding, Budnik and Shinn all dramatically improved from districts to states. Kravitz and Smith each had memorable performances at Paul Short. This race is just extremely loaded at the front. If Hockenbury isn’t in top form there are 20 or so guys who can realistically win this race.
train’s Picks:
1. Z. Skolonevich, Quaker Valley (7)
2. D. Hockenbury, Lake Lehman (2)
3. J. Tidball, Tunkhannock (2)
4. J. Condloy, Jim Thorpe (11)
5. B. Wilt, York Suburban (3)
6. W. Kachman, Bedford (5)
7. K. Gonoude, Salisbury (11)
8. N. Morgan, Lakeland (2)
9. D. Green, James Buchanon (3)
10. D. Lopez, Pottsgrove (1)
11. S. Smith, Towanda (4)
12. N. Smith, Ringgold (7)
13. A. Maxwell, Slippery Rock (10)
14. K. Shinn, Wyomissing (3)
15. A. Benka, Grove City (10)
16. M. Kravitz, North Pocono (2)
17. B. Descavisch, Central Cambria (6)
18. S. Hilverding, Waynesburg (7)
19. J. Toczko, Tunkhannock (2)
20. D. Mears, York Suburban (3)
21. B. Wurtz, Pottsgrove (1)
22. S. Lanze, Indiana Area (7)
23. C. Sadvary, Coughlin (2)
24. N. Bartos, Mt Caramel (4)
25. J. McLaughlin, Holy Ghost Prep (1)
26. L. Caruso, Bradford (9)
27. J. Bucior, Jim Thorpe (1)
28. R. Budnik, Grove City (10)
29. C. Babo, Harbor Creek (10)
30. Z. White, West Allegheny (7)
31. B. Kreider, Allentown CC (11)
32. C. Stabolepsky, Schuylkill Valley (3)
33. B. Grumski, Knoch (7)
34. A. Bach, Lewisburg (4)
35. D. Mazzeriello, Somerset (5)
Upset city baby! What’s the fun of predictions if you aren’t going to make some crazy picks every once in a while? Sophomores rarely ever win state championships. But you know what happened this past spring? A sophomore won the 8, 16 and 32 at AA states! 2014 is the year of the sophomore in AA and I follow through with Skolonevich for the W. I am thinking that Hockenbury could leave himself vulnerable gunning it at a fast pace. I think so of the guys who go with him could end up crumbling a bit the second half of the race which leaves room for craziness, especially for patient runners. I really like Wilt and Tidball under that system. I’m interested to see if Shinn, Hilverding and Budnik can repeat what they did last year as well. All three had huge breakthroughs a year ago at this meet. By the way, District 2 is really loaded this year. All their individual qualifiers have legit shots at medaling and they should produce a slew of top guys. I think Knoch is a great team, they should get some top 35 guys in. Going to be a super intense team battle and those guys need every point they can grab.
Runners we were sad to leave off the list …
B. Lott, Ellwood City (7)
B. Oleh, York Suburban (3)
T. White, Northern York (3)
S. Breslin, Bishop Shanahan (1)
J. Heid, Valley View (2)
Basically all the D2 and D7 guys we didn’t mention

States Week: Jarrett vs. etrain A Predictions

A States Predictions (Jarrett Felix v. etrain11)
Jarrett’s picks:
1. G. Molino, South Williamsport (4)
2. S. Curtin, Mercyhurst Prep (10)
3. J. Degroot-Lutzner, Masterman (12)
4. B. Hackman, St. Joesph’s (6)
5. L. Raeshler, Clarion Area (9)
6. D. Perretta, Beaver Falls (7)
7. C. Trimble, South Side (7)
8. M. Murray, Dunmore (2)
9. G. Mackey, Sewickley (7)
10. D. Wilcko, Fairview (10)
11. C. DiVecchio, Burgettstown (7)
12. B. Gavitt, Hughesville (4)
13. L. Delaney, Winchester Thurston (7)
14. H. Wentz, Maplewood (10)
15. D. Cavanaugh, Coudersport (9)
16. P. Meyers, Seneca (10)
17. G. Smith, NE Bradford (4)
18. I. Wilson, North Clarion (9)
19. G. House, New Hope Solisbury (1)
20. L. Upham, NE Bradford (4)
21. B. Beheny, Camp Hill (3)
22. B. Barclay, Saegertown (10)
23. J. Previdi, Masterman (12)
24. W. Loevner, Winchester Thurston (7)
25. R. Ballou, Sacred Heart (7)
District 7 is loaded! They have a ton of medalists already on this list and I left off some quality guys as well. I’m a bit nervous about the Phoenix Meyers pick as his brother was actually faster this past weekend by a decent chunk, but I’m seeing a bounce back. Same goes for Wilcko who killed it here a year ago. I’m liking some of the seniors with solid experience on the course, which includes JDL, Curtin and of course the defending champ in Molino. I’m not sure how you can pick against what Molino has done, he’s been fantastic. Not quite ready to jump on the Perretta bandwagon, he’s had a nice season but the state course is for cross country runners and Dom P. still seems more like a track guy to me. The pace should be fast early so it will be interesting to see which top guys hang on. I like Wentz, Hackman and Raeshler for sleepers. Maplewood had a big day last year when Parsons gave Molino a challenge through 2 miles. Wentz may look to stage a similar performance.
train’s picks:
1. D. Perretta, Beaver Falls (7)
2. G. Molino, South Williamsport (4)
3. S. Curtin, Mercyhurst Prep (10)
4. C. Trimble, South Side (7)
5. D. Wilcko, Fairview (10)
6. L. Delaney, Winchester Thurston (7)
7. J. Degroot-Lutzner, Masterman (12)
8. B. Hackman, St. Joesph’s (6)
9. L. Raehsler, Clarion Area (9)
10. P. Meyers, Seneca (10)
11. G. Smith, NE Bradford (4)
12. N. Curtin, Mercyhurst Prep (10)
13. G. Mackey, Sewickley (7)
14. G. House, New Hope Solisbury (1)
15. B. Beheny, Camp Hill (3)
16. B. Barclay, Saegertown (10)
17. R. Ballou, Sacred Heart (7)
18. W. Loevner, Winchester Thurston (7)
19. M. Murray, Dunmore (2)
20. C. Colwell, Penns Valley (6)
21. I. Wilson, North Clarion (9)
22. H. Crawley, South Williamsport (4)
23. D. Meyers, Seneca (10)
24. B. Bahrey, Mahanoy (11)
25. C. Oswald, Elk Lake (2)
I’m disappointed to have to leave off guys like Hansen, Sweet, and more but it’s only a group of 25 so I have to be strict. Look I’ve made no secret that I thought Perretta had huge upside this XC season so I think it would be hypocritical of me to go upset and pick anyone not named Swaggy P. I’m thinking big things for Landin Delaney in this meet. He struggled at Coopers last year too, but delivered at states. Can’t go wrong with the D7 boys. I’m feeling big days for a couple starts waiting in the wings. I think Crawley from South Williamsport learns from watching big brother Griffin while I also see Noah Curtin having a huge day, having learned from his actual big brother Sebastian. Gotta get somebody from Elk Lake in the medal conversation! It’s probably more likely to be Bell or Bedell, but Oswald showed great promise for a frosh.
Overall we had 8 of the same top 10 guys? Was I being too conservative in my picks? I’d better go a bit more crazy or people might start to think we are the same person ….
Runners we were sad to leave off the list …
Li, Moravian Academy (11)
Bell, Elk Lake (2)
Sweet, Sayre (4)
Urban, St. Joesph’s (6)
Hansen, Sewickley (7)
Webb, Warrior Run (4)
Adams, Northern Potter (9)
Leslie, Camp Hill (3)

States Agenda

So just some announcements on the plan for the week. Today and tomorrow I will release my official predictions for states. I'm trying out a new format for this year called Jarrett Felix v. etrain (v. The fans) predictions. Jarrett's predictions will be made with a safer, more logical flair and etrain will follow his instincts and be a little crazier with his predictions. I hope you enjoy seeing both sides of my predicting process in action.

But also I want you guys to be involved. So post up a top 25 prediction attached to any post this week for the contest (probably a good idea to include some type of code name so we can praise you for your great work) and then it will be scored based on how close you are to the actual results.

For example, say I predict Galen Rupp to finish 6th, but he fades in the final straightaway and finished 18th. For Rupp I would have a score of 12. When you add up my score for all my top 25 predictions I have a total score. The lowest total score wins. For fairness I have also imposed a 40 point max. So if Rupp ends up finishing 55th, that's only 40 points instead of 49. This way one fluke performance doesn't destroy your predictions.

We also will be holding yet another states fantasy draft! I think these are really fun and hopefully lots of people will get involved. We usually do the draft through Facebook because it is easiest but we can hide all identities when posting results to the blog. Get in contact with me or Forrest if you want to be involved. We are still a couple guys short of a full league.

Lastly, I've got some other plans for this week. I may do a podcast or two but we have been having some technical difficulties of late that have been a problem. I will, however, have a fan forum later this week. That means I'll be standing by live to answer post comments, emails or tweets about the state championship and my predictions. It's an opportunity to get in some final questions and discussion. If we have a ton of people online at the same time, I'm sure we can get some really cool debates going. More details on this later.

If you have another idea for something you would like to see this week, let me know and I'll be happy to see what I can do.

Thanks, I'll be back with predictions sometime tonight.

States Week: AAA Team Preview

I'm doing a little analysis of all the teams. Put them in some ranked tiers. These are not official predictions (I'm not ready to drop those just yet, I'm not quite 6 god ready for all my drake fans) but these should give you an idea of where my thoughts are. Here are my views from the 7 ....

Tier 5 (18-20)
Hazleton (2)
McDowell (10)
Allerdice (8)

It's hard when you are a small district team and you get in a race like states, it's hard to compete. Even if you are a talent team you need big race experience. My friend from Nazareth always said the D11 kids used to struggle because they couldn't handle the big crowds of top talent. Most people went out way too fast or way too slow. That's what these guys are facing.

Hazelton is a team of mostly freshman and they haven't made states in a number of years so this is a completely inexperienced roster. That's a tough test for any squad. McDowell was here last year so they have a bit more experience, but they have a front runner who is a freshman and again that inexperience is dangerous at states. Allerdice has been competing in D7 a lot recently which gives me a bit more confidence in them. 

Tier 4 (15-17)
Parkland (11)
Canon Mac (7)
Twin Valley (3)

I really like the Parkland squad this year. It's just a loaded year. They have a nice top 3 and a deep squad through 7. If their top 3 can handle the pressure of states like they did at meets like Carlisle, they could really surprise. Geiger, Kyvelos and Newman are going to have to go after a top 50 spot to help this team make real noise and crack the next tier.

Canon Mac real impressed at WPIALs. I don't think anyone was expecting them to run quite that well and they made a big statement. My understanding is that Weese won't be competing at states because his religion doesn't allow him to run on Saturdays. That's a big blow to this teams top 5 guys. I'm a little worried that they had their best day at districts and won't be able to recapture the same magic at states. I like Linderman as a front runner and Strosko has some experience here, but they will be relying on big performances from some Sophs in the top 5. They have proven me wrong before, but my nerves slot them here.

Twin Valley is now at their second straight state meet. They have a complete 5 and a nice 6 waiting in the wings on the right day. They have senior leadership, return a top 50 guy from a year ago and have a stud in Coakley who is having a fantastic year. So why do I slot them here? I'm not sure they have the front running to beat some of these really good teams ahead of them. Plus they are a district 3 team so that means they have that whole back to back Hershey thing floating overhead.

I'll say this though, they are the most likely team to turn the tables on my tiers. If I was predicting I probably have them over Hempfield but Hempfield deserves respect as the D3 champs. Plus tier 3 was already huge ...

Loaded Tier 3, this is no particular order ...

Tier 3 (8-14)
Hempfield (3)
DT West (1)
Carlisle (3)
Easton (11)
Cumberland Valley (3)
State College (6)
CB West (1)

Ok Hempfield, I'm doubting you again. Harsh stuff here from train considering they made me look quite silly last week. I'll say this, Hempfield  was district champs back in 2010 and then the next week fell to 19th. That's a classic story for district 3 champs. It's hard to repeat the feat twice in a row on Hershey. They go deep, I like all 6 of their top guys a bunch and at the very least they return 5 of those 6 for next year. Brady, their senior leader and #1 man, should be fun to watch individually, he just missed top 50 last year. This is Yurchak's second straight year here at Hershey as well.

DT West is an interesting team. They have the potential to sneak in as a top 5 team if things break right. But I have some question marks here. I love Sappey, I think he's proven that he is consistent in big meets. But the pack behind him has struggled at the big meets. This is a young team that reminds me a lot of 2011 WCH. They are a year away from doing something special. Heck they even have the missing soph in Alsanksy like WCH with Barchet. Here's the hope for West. They ran close by that big 4 of Henderson's that everyone is excited about at Chesmonts and then have a better 5 (and their 6 and 7 are maybe the best in the state on the right day). I think Charlie Barton (the senior) and maybe Ryan Barton have big days but ultimately they miss top 10. They have redemption and motivation, but I'm worried about their youth. Next year big things. Also keep in mind this whole tier likely ends up within about 10 points of one another so anything could happen.

Carlisle seems to be peaking at the right time. Brehm and co had a big day at districts and suddenly find themselves doing their best racing at the perfect time. They were 6th a year ago at states and I think they have had least as good of a team this year. Brehm is a sleeper pick for individual champ, we saw his peak on the track. He's saved something every meet. Wisner is coming on very strong and DeAngelo is no joke at 3. Problem is I think the state field is deeper this year than last. I think Carlisle could easily end up a top 7 team again, but I worry about their depth through 4 and 5. Dyche has been sneaky good admittedly. I think I've talked myself into putting them higher in the last few minutes ... 

Easton is the sleeper of all sleepers. I love this team for this state weekend. Abert is the favorite for the state title and Lapsansky is very good. I could see him as a top 15 guy at states which means they are basically scoring 3 guys at states. They have proven themselves at PTXC and Paul Short. Plus Sherman had a fantastic race at districts. If he can find a way to around 60th, that top 3 is very formidable. Koch is younger and I don't think he's ever competed here at states, but his performance at districts shows he can rise to the moment. I also think Grunwald is going to bounce back big time. Perk Valley 2008 was 4th and they were built almost exactly like these guys. The knock is they absolutely need killer finishes from Abert and Lapsansky, a lot of pressure. If either of those two has disaster strike they can fall quite quickly. But I think this sleeper could be a nightmare for unsuspecting teams. See what I did there?

I still think CV was the best team in D3 this year. They peak for the state meet and are usually underwhelming at districts. If everything clicks this team is killer through 4 with a couple solid options at 5. The key will be Soliman. Is he the sub 16 guy from Paul Short or the guy who was farther back at Districts and Carlisle? This is still a young group behind Wasko (who has been money this year) but they are experienced, they were here a year ago and learned a lot. I believe in the program and the talent combination. 

State College was underwhelming at pre states and Carlisle. I wrote them off. I started to doubt Milligan a bit as well, even though I was high on him at the start of the summer. Well I have been forced into a change of heart in recent weeks. This team was top 5 last year and return key pieces including Milligan and Feffer. Beyerle and Wing are solid top 5 pieces and I know how to spell Heatwole now (I hope anyway). Milligan had his best race of the year at state last year. It was probably his break out performance and a big reason they stayed in the top 5 and beat out CRN. So what's not to like? Well they are built a lot like last year's SC team that got 4th. But just like Carlisle I just think it's a better year overall. I'm not sure a medalist and a few almost top 50 guys is gonna be quite enough. They can get a big boost from Heatwole, Beyerle or Wing breaking out for a top 50-60 finish. I'm high on Feffer for a big day and Milligan for a medal.

Ah CB West. I didn't even think they'd get this far a week ago but now it seems so silly to have doubted them. This team had a much better top 4 than I expected. They are young and inexperienced and all that good stuff us old people like to bring up. I'm not sure at the start of the year they had this good of a team honestly, so if the focus was more shortsighted on districts that could cost them here. It's worth noting that at Belmont, another hilly course, they ran great at Briarwood and beat out LaSalle. Have they improved as much as LaSalle? Hard to say. Does Mass have one more prime time performance left? Hard to say. I think Davies has a big day and I'm also a big believer in Fortna. Fortna could end up in the medals. And Teagan Fortna could have a nice day as well, he's had a very impress stretch run into the top 5. Honestly this team's success likely depends on their sophomores. They are super talented, but how will they handle the Hershey hills and the state pressure? Hard to say.

One final thought, Brian Iatarola? Hard to say.

Tier 2 (5-7)
CRN (1)
WCH (1)
Mt Lebo (7)

Sure CRN didn't end up wowing anyone at districts, but they still had a really nice day. That top was very solid and Arita didn't fail to deliver, even on a course that doesn't play to his strengths. They will go far if Griswold steps up into the top 50 and the pack is in that 80ish slot overall. That's very possible for a team that peaks very well at states. Remember what they did last year to flip the script on Stoga? Couldn't they do that to a team like CB West this year? The main question/concern I have for them is in their 6-7. There is a bit of a drop off there so that top 5 needs to be on their game. But there are lots of teams with that issue or worse (they don't have a quality 4 or 5). I'm trusting them to show up when it counts as they have done so many times before. 7th is an average year for these guys.

Henderson has gained a ton of momentum in the past two days. They went from "no way they can make states with that 5" to "can they win states with that top 4?" 

I can't say I'm surprised this happened (I actually predicted it in my 2014 yearly predictions from December. Go back and look, it happened. I actually got an incredible amount right considering it was 90% jokes ...)

But let's temper the excitement a bit. Despite their excellent running in recent weeks, they still have questions at 5-6-7. Only Knapp ran this course the past two years and their key 4 is just a frosh. Their top 3 is quite good, but is it as good as NA? O'Hara? And it's pretty even with Stoga when you look at it closely. 

But all that being said ... This team has a very realistic shot at top 5 teams. I think Knapp could have a really big day, maybe even sneak in the top 10. I also see Swart running clutch. I think he's in the top 40-50 at least. Barchet can be there too, although he seems a bit better on faster courses. Smucker could be like Reiny frosh year end up right around 50th. That's 4 in the top 50. And I think that Berkman (or whoever ends up their 5) could potential sneak some spots. It's a smaller meet and he won't be quite as buried as districts. If he can find a way to squeeze out top 50-60 in team scoring they have a really nice day. I trust Coach K and the West Chester Blue Devils, but I'm not expecting anything like NP 2011 from these guys. Although really at this point would it surprise us at all? RJJL thoughts?

I'm not off the Lebo bandwagon just yet kids! I'm pretty unphased by WPIALs (which I'll admit may be niave) but I think back on past Lebo teams and I feel they have all bounced back big time. I talked about this with Evan on our podcast (that didnt record properly btw, I'm really pissed off about it and very sorry to Evan) and we discussed how this team was comparable in ability to the 2011 team that was top 4 at states. That squad had a better top 3 than these guys, but this team may be better through 5,6 and 7. I'm thinking Baun and Gunz both challenge for medals and Stone has a big day. Harris and Brandenstein ran real well at pre states an even though Bryce is just a frosh he excelled on this course at Pre States. I think it will be tricky to navigate past the top D1 teams, but I haven't forgotten how this team looked at Pre States or even Tri States. I'm waving off WPIALs for better or worse. 

Tier 1b

I dont think either of these guys is taking a state title this year. I think both are just a piece or two away.

For LaSalle, this pack is amazing. A tight spread is one of my favorite things in cross country and it's why I fell in love with the 2009 LaSalle team and picked them for the win. The similarities between those two teams strikes me every day. 2009 LaSalle was 3rd so that's my best guess for 2014 LaSalle. Here's the thing, This team has rotated through their top guys so much I can't even realistically predict who finishes where at states. But I think it's a safe bet they have 5 guys between like 35-65. The way they improve on this tier is they push those 5 up to 20-50 like 2013 NA or ... 2008 LaSalle! Princavalle has been a beast on the hills this year. Mitchell had a big run at Briarwood. Goebel has shined more than once. Patrick Grant was one of my early sleepers for a top 30 finish. They have so many guys who could have a big day, the potential gets me excited. But who will be the one to do it? That's the biggest question.

As for Stoga, I don't think it's a secret that they were my midseason pick for a state title. The development of Nelson and Murray to pair with Cooper and Cruikshank made a great pack behind Marston. And Marston has taken another step forward from his 9th place finish last year. 

They have had their ups and downs since then, but I still like this teams depth. I think Nelson can end up in the medals on the right day. I expect Cooper to bounce back like he did last year for a big state meet. Marston may win the whole thing. Seriously. This team also has 7 guys who have had moments this year and they have 6 guys who got their first ever taste of states a year ago and now are back and hungry for more. They were 7th last year with an inexperienced crew facing their first big stage moment. Now all those guys are back and ready to roll.

I think I just talked myself back into picking them for state champs ... So why the doubt? They need to get the top 3 going to compete with NA and OH. Murray is the one guy who didn't compete here last year and is the one guy who this team may need most. I'm high on these guys, I think they will be tops in D1 and that's usually pretty darn good at states. Just can't quite pull the trigger on them for the W.

Tier 1a

This might be a touch too high for OH but I still believe in their squad. The first time I did a mock state meet (about two weeks ago in my somewhat complicated and extensive excel file) the results have me a tie between NA and OH. That top three for O'Hara has the potential to be really good and Kevin James could win the whole darn thing! And I don't say that about everyone ...

I'm thinking these guys place 3 in the top 30 at states with gets you in the hunt at the very least. Last year that was almost enough to beat NA, and NA was deeper through 5 last year then they are this year no doubt (5 in the top 45ish last year for NA, don't think that's happening this year for anybody, that's crazy depth).  The key for me is Donovan and Pastore. Can they do what James and Pastore did last year and finish 60thish? I think it's gonna take something like 110 points to win this year so you get a solid showing at 4-5 behind that top 3, you are right there for the state championship.

Ultimately, I got NA as the favorite. They have their own killer top 3 that should put 3 in the top 30-40. Seel has been in the top 50 each of the past two years and I think his training indicates he could be due for a huge race at states. Joe Stupak has secretly become one of the best 4s in the state and when things finish up he might be the very best 4 out of all the teams. Then NA has 2-3 guys who can step in and fill the 5 slot. I don't see a clear weakness here. You gotta hope that somebody falters out front, but those 3 seniors have been solid here and killed it last year. I think this will be Seel's 4th state meet and he had a couple pre states on this course. Kid probably sees the place in his dreams (or maybe nightmares).

Here's the only thing I will say against them. They ran pre states. And for whatever reason that seems to not work out well for teams. But O'Hara ran Pre states too. Soo upset alert?

Dramatic sigh. I'm gonna need some second opinions.