PA Finishers at Regionals

As mentioned, it's my dad's birthday today and it was also the day of my annual Felixbowl game so I won't really have time to go in depth today. I'll post up some of the top PA performances including National qualifiers and take a look at the results so that when I get some free time I can share my thoughts and hopefully give you something interesting to read.

But for now ....
4. Kevin James 16:05.9
Qualifies for Nationals for a second straight year as an individual
Other two time individual national qualifiers in recent years: Tony Russell (technically he would have but his team qualified) and Brad Miles. That may be it for the past decade or so. Elite company for KJ.
10. Aaron Gebhart 16:20.4
Won't qualify for nationals unfortunately, but a fantastic run in the very difficult NXN race.
15. Matt McGoey 16:27.6
Top runner for North Allegheny who was PA's top team in third
17. Alex  Knapp 16:31.4
Consistently goes HAM on this course. Nice way to go out for the senior.
21. Hunter Wharrey 16:37.1
26. Ryan James 16:42.6
Top PA sophomore and #2 sophomore overall in the race
28. Scott Seel 16:43.43
Last PA guy in the top 30 finishers

PA Teams
3. NA 193
90 points out of second, and just 5 ahead of third which likely means no nats this year, but clearly PA's top team and a fantastic season.
7. Cardinal O'Hara 253

Full results available here:

Footlocker NE PA Boys
4. Casey Comber 15:36.4
5. Jake Brophy 15:37.4

Fantastic run for both guys, making nationals is no easy task. Only two PA boys to get through the obstacles Big days for Comber to breakthrough, he and Brophy are likely good friends and have a healthy conference rivalry. Jake had gotten the best of him for a while now, but Comber was able to turn the tables today. I'm intrigued to see how both stack up at nats (obviously this is much higher than I saw Comber finishing) as top 5 in the region would suggest somewhere around 20th (4 regions, top 5 from each) so we will have to see.

State titles and running well at states gets you into the all time great conversations, but getting to the top is determined by runs at regionals and nationals. Brophy still just a junior, hard to remember that at times. Top Junior in the race at 5th, highest Junior Pa has had at Footlocker regionals since who knows when. However, another senior takes top spot for PA. Maybe not a coincidence that this continues to happen every single year.

14. Paul Power 15:53.3
Thrilled by this run. Kid had a tough final mile at states, but clearly was very talented. Compared him to Cummings in the preview and he delivered today. Awesome end to a career for a very talented and hard working runner. Props.

15. Dom Hockenbury 15:53.7
16. Colin Abert 15:56.9

Really fast times, just a tough year to make it through to nats obviously. Hockenbury runs really well for a Junior, probably disappointed but he will be back with a vengeance. Abert was apparently sick leading up to this race. Regardless, top 20 at FL NE twice in a row is no joke.

28. Sam Ritz 16:11.1
PA's last runner in the top 30 and our #6 for the race

40. Sebastian Curtin 16:22.7
Round's out PA's top 7

NY barely edges out PA 52-54 in the team standings, but we bested the rest of the Region! A nice moment for the PA boys.

Joseph Angelina 8th in Junior/Senior race (4th Junior), Connor Irwin 14th (7th Junior)

Dave Sadvary top Senior for PA, 20th in race (9th Senior)

The website isn't updating for the Frosh/Soph results right now, but I know Seth Slavin represented PA with a win.

PA girls will be sending 4 (WPIAL pride): Schwartz (1st), Davidson (4th), Sheva (7th), and Potts (8th)

Results link:

Major props to all of those who represented PA. I'm really proud to talk and brag about all you have achieved this cross country season and thanks to James, Comber and Brophy we aren't done just yet!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all readers!

I have regional previews below and in honor of the holiday/NXN Regionals coming up I decided to share my favorite NXN Nationals race from my senior year of high school in 2009.

Hopefully this link works and hopefully everyone has a fantastic weekend. Good luck to all of PA at the regional meet and have a happy and healthy my Dad's Birthday.

NXN NE Preview

So after a long time of waiting, I finally managed to find a start list for the NXN Northeast Regional meet. I have to say that PA really turned out in full force for both nationals meets this year. I’m really excited about that and I think that is an excellent sign for the future. Not only are we sending the highest percentage of stars that I can remember in quite some time, we are also sending a boat load of talented, under the radar contenders who should really enjoy competing at this level. Although it probably has nothing to do with me, I have definitely been pushing the regional meets this year so I am thrilled to see this many people scheduled to be involved.
But enough of that, let’s get to the race.
The top two teams get an Auto Bid to Nats and the top five individuals not on those teams will join them. There is a chance we get a third team to Nationals, but I would wager that if a PA squad advances, it will be because they finish in the top two. Since this meet was first created in 2007, we have had only 27 top 20 finishes (Footlocker we have had a decent chunk more), so if I say someone has top 20 potential, that’s a big deal. 
As far as I can tell, here are the teams involved from PA. I’ll talk briefly about each squad and also give you the club name they will be running under so that you can recognize them in the results. If I missed someone please let me know.
Black Friars XC (AKA Malvern Prep)
This team competed here a year ago and had a strong showing, placing 5th overall. However, they will be without Jaxson and Josh Hoey this year at Regionals which puts a real dent into their national potential. Billy McDevitt, Ryan Doane and Colin Wills, the remaining members of the top five, will all be competing and I believe they should have a strong showing. McDevitt is the big name, after a killer cross country season with a slew of top 5-10 type performances. If things break right he could really surprise and he is certainly in that top 20 conversation.
Cardinal O’Hara XC Club (AKA Cardinal O’Hara)
After a disappointing state meet where they ended up off the medal stand as a team, O’Hara takes the trip to regionals for the third straight year. They have had some of their best races at this meet in the past including a national qualifying performance in 2012 and an impressive 4th place finish at this meet a year ago. Kev James qualified as an individual a year ago and returns looking to repeat that achievement. O’Hara was just 10 points from third place a year ago behind a killer top three and four of their top five from states ran this meet a year ago. Ryan James struggled here a year ago as just a freshman, but this season he has been running on an entirely different level. His brother finished 16th as a sophomore and Ryan actually placed better than Kev did at states as a sophomore. Add in the fact that Rob Morro had a killer race last year at Regionals and has only improved since then and this top three could potentially be better than a year ago. The question will be the 4-5 position, where the team has had it’s ups and downs this year. If two of the group of four of Donovan, Pastore, Nolen and Patrick James can step up and have a good day, good things could happen. Again, this is a front heavy meet talent wise so having that impressive top three should make a big difference in the final standings.
Eagle Running (AKA Bishop Shanahan)
Bishop Shanahan had the bad luck of being in District 1 A this past year and having to battle two top notch programs in Pottsgrove and Holy Ghost Prep, ultimately leaving their team out of the state championships in Hershey. This is a young team on the rise who impressed at Chesmonts behind their leaders Breslin, Kolimago, Kelly and Fromhartz. Although they are not in the national conversation, this may be a good preview of a AA state title contender in 2015.
Germantown Friends (AKA Germantown Friends)
GFS had a strong showing at the Henderson tune up meet behind a near victory from sophomore Nick Dahl and a breakthrough race from Grayson Hepp. I also think Newman is going to impress in his return the trails, he is a strong XC guy and proved it at races like Independent States and Paul Short. That top three makes this team interesting, especially with Dahl in the national conversation as an individual. At 4-5, runners like Goldstein and Schwartz have shown some potential in the early season, but have been off my radar in recent weeks. The good news for GFS fans is that this team has produced here in the past. In 2009 they pulled off a surprise trip to Nationals and in 2012 they got an individual to Nats in Sami Aziz. In 2007 Max Kaulbach was second at this meet and his team was in the nationals hunt as well, but just missed out. Nick Dahl is arguably their biggest talent since Kaulbach and may be better than Aziz was two years ago (he ran faster at the Henderson 3200m, but Aziz was more of a true XC guy). He’s only a sophomore (highest sophomore finish is 7th in 2007 then 12th in 2013), but he has serious potential.
Irish Road Track Club (AKA Conestoga)
The state runner ups and District One Champions have somehow flown under the radar all season. This team rarely gets buzz and their front runner, Andrew Marston, has quietly had one of the best seasons in recent memory. He nearly set a course record at McQuaid and, ran faster than anyone has run at the Hershey meet besides the two guys that were ahead of him. He ran 15:18 in less than ideal conditions at Lehigh (only 18 better performances dating back to 2006) and has proven he is better on the hills than the flats. Marston is without a doubt a contender for a spot to Nationals. The problem is there are only five spots and lots of good PA individuals, not to mention to the New Jersey and New England schools so he will be in for a dog fight.
As for Conestoga as a team, they were an intriguing story at states. They beat out a team that had three state medalists despite putting just one guy in the top 50 at states (Marston). Keep in mind no team has placed in the top 2 with just one top 50 finisher in at least the last decade, and likely longer. Nelson and Murray were in position to be medal threats, but couldn’t quite hold on at states. I think those guys will have better days at Regionals and really impress. However, it looks like Nick Cruickshank (who’s impressive run at states is the main reason they were second) will be out of the line-up for the regional meet (maybe a wrestler or swimmer?) and that’s a big loss. The good news is Iffert, Boccabella and Cooper have competed hard with one another on a weekly basis and that intersquad competition should help them fill the gap left by Nick Cruick. This team was secretly the deepest in the state through seven guys this past season and Theo Roberts is a solid new addition to the varsity squad.
Trail Blazers (AKA New Hope Solisbury and Delaware County Christian?)
Not exactly sure on the story here, but I believe that this is a combination of two District One A schools. I’m assuming that because they are likely both private schools and in the same township/zone they can compete as one club squad, but I’d have to look closer at the rules. In any case, this squad is signed up and they feature Greg House, the District One A champ, and Neumann and the Cammarrata’s who were his teammates on the District One Championship squad. Throw in Alexander Harvey and Michael Logie from the runner ups in Delaware County Christian and you have yourself an interesting team.
Warrior Track Club (AKA West Chester Henderson)
Henderson is another team with a killer top three: Gordy Barchet, Will Swart and Alex Knapp. These three senior leaders almost helped their team repeat as district champions at Lehigh this year. However, a key piece to that near title defense was freshman Spencer Smucker who will not be running alongside his teammates at Wappinger Falls (he’s entered in the open race, but I’m assuming he has hung up his spikes to start wrestling and will be MIA). The good news is the team has experienced bad luck like this before at states and they will finished as a top 10 team. Individually, Alex Knapp is my king sleeper for this meet. I’ve seen him carry this team in the late season in the past, including a huge run here as a sophomore that helped get his team a wild card bid to Oregon. The individual race here is absolutely stacked, but Knapp has a real chance to have a big time race, chase the top 20 and maybe sneak out one more cross country race. Behind him, this will an interesting opportunity to see what pieces Henderson has to build with for their future. They loaded up the JV race in addition to this varsity race and it looks like Andrew Weller will be upgraded to Varsity in Smucker’s place.
Wexford Flats (AKA North Allegheny)
North Allegheny finally returns to the Regional meet for the first time since 2011. Their two appearances here, 2008 and 2011, were both successes. They finished as the top PA team and beat the reigning state champions (North Penn both times ironically). This time around, however, they are the state champions and they are not coming off a disappointing states performance, but an impressive and thrilling one. The Seniors, particularly McGoey and Seel, spent a long four years chasing that elusive state gold and after some ups and downs they finally got it this past year. Do they have the hunger and fire to get a nationals bid?
The good news is, this may be the best NA team we have seen, even better than the 2008 team that surprised their way into the field at Oregon and then finished an impressive 12th at the meet (the same finish Henderson had a year ago). They are also better built for success at championship meets than they were in 2008. In 2008 they had a killer pack, but were led by sophomore Ryan Gil, who was not a game changing front runner (yet). In 2013, they will have a very capable 4-5 (Dieble and Stupak placed better than Balaban and Appman did at states in 2008), but they also have a fantastic top three that finished 4th, 8th and 26th at states. It’s one of the best 1-2 punches in state history with two guys sub 15:55. North Allegheny also had the best team average on the current state course, a faster average than the Henderson and O’Hara teams that made it Nats. Miggliozzi and Robinson had a nice depth at the 6-7 spot to give this team protection against an off day. McGoey is another name that needs to be mentioned in the individual qualifying conversation after his killer state race where he edged out Colin Abert on his way to the line and took 4th.
I’m a huge fan of this North Allegheny team as constructed, I respect their program and their previous success and I think they have all the pieces to make it to Nationals. But anything can happen at regionals and it will take a great day from all of their guys to get there. They are PA’s best shot, but will they have the passion and hunger after the long month of training after the high of winning a state title? That will be the deciding factor.
Whippets Footracing (AKA Downingtown West)
The young guns from DT West will look to prove themselves one more time at the regional meet after a thrilling run at Hershey, where they finished 4th. Besides Districts, this team has been very impressive and on the hillier, true XC courses, they have delivered. Henry Sappey has been a monster this year and is another top notch individual for PA in this absolutely loaded field. Although Sappey has been the big name, I believe the key to a successful race for the Whippets will be Ryan Barton. When he is mixing it up with the top of the field like he did at Chesmonts and States, this team has had success. His 36th place finish set the tone for the pack behind him and the boys delivered. He sets the tone again and his fellow sophomores will look to continue their success after a very long season. Farrell will be in the lineup instead of Blair, but it is an otherwise unchanged varsity from states.
Wolves Running Company (AKA St. Joseph’s)
The A District 6 Team will look to make an impact on this meet behind state medalist Brian Hackman and top individual Eli Urban. This is a small team trying to mix it up on the big stage, so they are a real wild card. Hackman has had a phenomenal season thus far and I’ll be interested to see how he runs in this loaded field.
In the open race we will see a lot of JV squads for the top teams but we also will see Club 24 Cross Country (AKA Puxsatawney) led by Bo Dinger and Eric Ingros and the Road Runners (looks like Owen J Roberts?) led by freshman sensation Liam Conway.
Teams that appear to be not be signed up that I will miss seeing:
York Suburban- There were rumblings after Carlisle that this was the best team in the state, but I guess we will never know exactly how they stack up with the top 4 AAA squads
Grove City- Very good team this year that had very bad luck at states, if things broke differently they could have ended the year as state champs. Thought they would enjoy a shot at redemption at this meet.
Winchester Thurston- The A champs had a fantastic stretch run to the season. I was quite curious how they would handle the bigger schools, but unfortunately, they are MIA.
LaSalle- This team beat O’Hara and Conestoga in the weeks leading up to the state meet. Maybe they lacked the front runner needed to be successful, but I think they were a better team than the one we saw at states. This would have been a nice chance to prove it.
CB West- Young team that ran fearless at states and nearly found themselves in the top 2-3 teams. They could be state title contenders next year and maybe even regional contenders so I would have liked to see them get extra experience.
I understand why these guys chose not to train the extra month and get a jump on the next cycle of the year, just sharing with you some thoughts.
Individually, we will see a few unattached runners competing for a top spot and maybe a trip to nationals. Here are some PA names:
Ethan Linderman, Will Hilegas, Liam Raehsler (also signed up for FL so we will see what he chooses), Garrett Butters, Aaron Gebhart, Hunter Crawley, Sam Webb
Again sorry if I missed someone, comment it below!
I will say this I checked the list not once, but twice and I didn’t find Griffin Molino on there with his teammate and new A medalist Hunter Crawley. May have just missed him, but he may have also pulled out of the meet. Hopefully he is healthy and will be ok for track if an injury has come up.
I’m pleasantly surprised to see Sam Webb make the switch from Footlocker over to NXN this year and I’m glad he will be extending his season. I think Footlocker would have probably been an easier road after seeing how loaded this group is, but Sam Webb is a really talented runner who came a few strides away from ending up 4th at states rather than 7th. The cut off guy for Nationals will probably be somewhere around Marston/McGoey/Dahl if I had to take a random guess and on the right day Webb can run with those guys and maybe beat them. He’s in the nationals conversation without a doubt.
Ethan Linderman and Aaron Gebhart will both look to bounce back from somewhat disappointing state races after fantastic district ones. Gebhart was the D3 champ and got out hard at states before fading on the hills. He had a fantastic race at this meet last year (16th overall) and is likely very motivated after Hershey. There is very serious sleeper potential here for a nationals bid, he’s sort of 2009 Jacob Kildoo like (Kildoo was 12th at FL Regionals that year after finishing in the 40s at states).
Unlike Gebhart, who I expected to see on the start lists, I’m pleasantly surprised to see Linderman on board. He had a fantastic season and was a big part of why Canon Mac was one of the biggest surprises of district week. He struggled a bit at states, finishing just outside the medals, but has the talent and motivation to really impress in what will likely be his final XC race of his high school career.
In all likelihood this will be the last weekend of racing for a ton of PA’s best runners and a variety of hard working seniors. Congratulations to the class of 2015 on a great year and let’s bring home a few more pieces of hardware before it’s all said and done.
To everyone competing at NXN NE and FL NE, I wish you good luck and remember … therealtrain.
I meant PA Don’t Play!
My bad.

Footlocker Preview Part 2

I’m quite excited to see the list of entrants we currently have signed up for the Footlocker Northeast Regional. I’m confident that we are sending at least 10 days guys to the meet with a legitimate chance to place in the top 20 and help PA compete for the regional title as a state and that makes me proud. I also think that between the preliminary entries for Footlocker and the projected entries for NXN (I haven’t seen an official list, but I’m sure it’s probably out there somewhere by now) we are sending almost everybody in my top 25-30 guys to one of the meets.
A few exceptions at this moment appear to be Sam Webb (a little surprised), Zach Brehm (not surprised, the kid is a track runner at heart), and Nate Henderson (only a sophomore). There are some other names I would have liked to have seen (Milligan, Simon Smith, Loevner, Allgayer, etc.) and they may end up in the NXN field, but some guys are just tired and need to hang it up. If you have info on these guys regional plans that I missed when scanning entries, let me know. I look forward to seeing them showcase their talents on the track.
One of the cool things that jumped out at me right away when looking at the Footlocker entrants as how many sets of teammates will be making the trip to Van Cortlandt. Hatboro Horsham and Hempfield are basically sending full squads to the meet which is great to see. In fact, Hempfield is sending so many of their key varsity guys from their district champs squad I’m a little surprised they didn’t pack up and head to NXN. However, Footlocker offers the opportunity for individual class races in addition to a champions race which may better suit some of their young guys which I’m assuming is why they ended up here.
District 11 is sending an army of guys including a bunch from Easton and Parkland. Cumberland Valley is bringing a big three with Wasko, Soliman and Higgins all on board for the long haul. Mechanicsburg is bring a slew of guys including a couple young guns worth paying attention to. Morgan Cupp, one of the top freshman in the state, and Alex Tomasko, an underrated sophomore who was one of the unfortunate just misses out of District 3, will both be participating at this meet. It’s unclear whether they will choose the championship race or the freshman and sophomore race respectively, but if they choose the class races they will be legitimate contenders for gold.
I’m a big fan of the Senior-Junior pairings that are scheduled to attend the meet. In some cases, the Senior has only a small shot at making nationals, but the Junior has big potential and so the Senior is willing to sacrifice and go the distance to help out. Big shout out to Drew Wilkinson, Connor Sands and Kyle Shinn. There is also the pair of Colin Abert and Kevin Lapsansky, with Abert trying to show his younger teammates the ropes a bit as he chases his Footlocker dream.
So now let’s get down to business. The top 7 PA guys are counted in the team scoring and, considering the year we have had, I’d love to see PA grab a regional championship. We are really deep this year and our top guns are quite good. As usual, I’ve done some number crunching that I think is worth sharing.
First off, Seniors dominate the Footlocker meets. PA’s top guy at Regionals has been a Senior each of the last eight years. Here is the break down by class of PA’s top 7 guys at the past 8 Footlocker Regional meets: 39 Seniors-15 Juniors-2 Sophomores. In other words, about a 70%-30% split between Upper Classmen and Underclassmen. If you look at the top 5 finishers from PA the numbers are even more Senior heavy: 31 seniors-9 Juniors-0 Sophomores. That’s basically 4 out of 5 on average.
That could prove to be a telling state considering the quality of PA underclassmen at this meet. Jake Brophy and Dominic Hockenbury are Juniors who each have a state championship and realistic Footlocker dreams. They are joined by Zach Seiger and Jack DiCintio as well as super soph Griffin Mackey, who nearly broke 16 at states, all of whom are poised to compete for a spot on PA’s varsity.
The top 7 PA guys have been mainly AAA runners with almost 75% of the group over the last eight seasons fitting this description. The rest is split fairly evenly between AA/A and Independent league guys. In recent years there has been a sizeable upswing in AA/A success that DiCintio, Sebastian Curtin, Mackey and others are hoping to continue.
But really as much as many will be interested to see how the sleepers do and how PA stacks up against its rival states, the real intrigue lies in the race for the top 10 spots and a place on the starting line in California. I won’t pretend that I know as much about the running going on outside PA borders (but I know Brannigan, Ostberg and Rutto will be really tough to beat), so I prefer to look at the crop of PA talent and think: are these guys nationals material?
An interesting fact that I have noticed is that there is almost a direct relationship between underclassmen in PA’s top 7 at regionals and the number of National qualifiers the following season. In other words, because we had three underclassmen in last year’s regional varsity (Abert, Hockenbury, and Marston) we should expect three national qualifiers this year. Important to realize, however, is that only 36% of underclassmen who finished in PA’s top 7 make nationals the next year. Since Marston is at NXN, at least one guy will fit that description again this season and the numbers say either Hockenbury or Abert won’t make it FL Nationals either. Also, with Hockenbury and Brophy both setting their sights on Nationals, this could mark the first time PA has sent to Juniors to Footlocker Nats in the same season in at least 9 seasons (and possibly the first time ever, I’d have to check the Spooner-Miller-Gottesfield zone).
Between both FL and NXN, 53.6% of the top 4 runners at the AAA state championships have qualified for one of the national championships at the end of November over the last 8 seasons. In four of the last five years, PA has sent at least 3 of it’s top 4 to a National championship including 4 out of 4 in 2012. This year’s top 4 was Jake Brophy, Kevin James, Andrew Marston and Matt McGoey. History says pick your favorite three from that bunch and they scheduling a plane trip out West.
Forrest made an excellent post on some names to watch from around the region and padontplay is probably the place to go to get information on these names. He currently has 4 PA guys slotted for Nationals (Abert, Brophy, Ritz, Comber). When you factor in the natural potential to overvalue PA guys, I’m thinking that I put the over-under at 3 qualifiers.
The 2014 season has reminded me a decent amount of the 2007 season. Jake Brophy is kind of like the Mark Dennin type. Dennin won the state champion in dominating fashion, destroying runners over the final mile. He also came in as an underdog behind two other guys (Chris Aldrich and Vince McNally). Dennin’s margin of victory was a mammoth 23 seconds. Brophy’s time beat the old course record by 23 seconds and his 16 second margin of victory was the largest AAA margin since Dennin.
McNally was probably the pick by most to get the W. He had gone toe to toe with PA legend Craig Miller and dropped a blazing 15:02. Abert is somewhat like the McNally of this season. Both guys were top in their class from basically their freshman year on. Both guys were 13th as Juniors at Footlocker. Both guys had uncharacteristic days at the state championships as Seniors.
Then you have Chris Aldrich, most equivalent to this year’s Kevin James. I’ve been doing a lot of Kev James to Ryan Gil comparisons recently, but maybe I should have been equating him to Aldrich. Aldrich was 20th, 4th and 2nd at his final three state championships (James was 22nd, 4th and 2nd) and was on some very good Henderson teams. His Henderson DMR won a National title when he was a Junior, but ended up losing to Coatesville, a team that they couldn’t quite sneak past and grab the XC state title from in 2006. Henderson was a historic squad with 3 medalists, but got overshadowed by one of the state’s all time best teams. Sound familiar? Aldrich also never got that individual state title or XC team title despite a ton of impressive times from his sophomore year on. It works a little bit right?
Interesting side note: McNally went to Penn State (where Abert is likely to end up) and Aldrich went to UVA to wear dark blue and orange (the colors of Syracuse where KJ has committed). You can’t make this stuff up.
The last guy is Max Kaulbach. He was a super talented runner who was often overshadowed because he was in the independent league other than the PIAA AAA title conversation. That’s Griffin Molino, the two time AA state champ.
So where am I going with this? Well Dennin ended up coming to regionals and continuing his dominance, making it to Footlockers after finishing 2nd at Regionals behind course record holder Don Cabral. Chris Aldrich and Vince McNally also qualified for Nats at the Footlocker meet, finishing 5th and 7th. Max Kaulbach would have qualified for NXN as an individual (he finished 2nd at regionals), but non-team qualifiers didn’t exist yet in 2007. So in other words all four guys either made nationals or would have made nationals. This year I’m thinking Brophy, Abert, James and Molino also all make it to Nats.
There is a chance for a letdown from Brophy, just because he had such a fantastic finish to his season it’s hard to stay hungry. I’m not he had any intention of doing Footlocker until Leagues/Districts time, but I may be wrong. He also is just a Junior in his first regional meet. However, I’m not making the same mistake twice. Brophy is super talented and was on an entirely other level from the rest of PA’s elite by season’s end. I’m leaning towards top 3 in the region for him with a chance at the W. I know Ostberg is really, really good (and he broke 12 at Manhattan, where this meet is contested), but I’m on the Jake Brophy bandwagon. I’m thinking he finishes 2nd behind a near record breaking performance by Cabral… I mean Ostberg.
(Am I getting carried away with the metaphor? Nah, I don’t think so)
I think Abert has the next best odds of qualifying. In fact, I’d probably be more surprised if Abert missed than if Brophy missed. Brophy’s potential is way higher, but Abert has the experience, redemption and talent combination to make this happen. I’d bet Footlocker has been a big goal for him all year long, and that can pay dividends.
After these two, I think we will sneak in one more PA guy at around 10th. Realistically I think only Ritz, Comber and Hockenbury have a shot. I really love some of the sleepers out there (Curtin, Green, DiCintio, Power, list goes on ….  Most of these guys are featured in my post below this) but if I’m being realistic I’ll be stunned if any of those guys make it.
Ritz and Comber were the two that Forrest picked to get in. Those are the smart, logical picks. Comber has been consistently solid all year. He was 6th at states, gave Brophy a real run at leagues (faster time than Campbell, Magaha, Tarsnane, Ross Wilson) and his consistent success makes you think he could just get in this race, stick his nose in it and steal a spot to Cali. However, I’m picking against him. I love what he has done this year (almost snagged him in Fantasy which would have made me team even better), but I don’t think he will get there. Around 12th seems reasonable.
Ritz has a ton of talent. He ran that 9:10 on the track, he beat Marston at Manhattan (you know, the course where this race is) and dominated the independent league. He has the track speed to close in a kickers fight for the final spot to Nationals. He has improved his consistency a lot this season to go along with his talent and he has been steadily improving all year long. But somehow I find myself picking against him too. I will say this, he has a sizable advantage on most PIAA guys because he did not have to peak in early November and now try and re-peak at the end of November. If we send 4, I think he’s a likely 4th, but he’s not my pick for third.
I see Dom Hockenbury pulling through for this one. Yes, I just said Juniors have struggled here, but the times are changing and sometimes you need to throw numbers out the window (goodness gracious, never thought I’d type that sentence). Face it, Juniors have won three out of the last four AAA state championships. Juniors have set the course record twice now at Hershey. Juniors have won 3 AA/A state championships in the past 4 years. A Henderson team of nearly all Juniors beat a team that finished 5th at Nationals at states. Juniors can do it people! Let the youth movement begin!
I’m a huge Hock fan. Besides a loss to Abert in peak Abert mode way back in the blazing heat of September, Hockenbury has calmly destroyed everyone he raced. No offense to everyone else, but the kid has been untested all year. We have no clue what his true potential is. Some may say this will come back to haunt him: he has not been challenged enough this year to face the struggle that is Footlocker Regionals. Heck, some years I’m the guy saying that. It’s an interesting point, but I’m not buying it here.
Dom’s goal all season has been this meet. Yeah, he wanted to win states, but that wasn’t too much of an issue. Every time I see him interviewed, he’s excited about Regionals, he loves the Van Cortlandt course, he knows he runs it well and he is focused on training for that meet above all else. That focus makes me a believer. Pencil it in: etrain is picking Dom Hockenbury and his gloves to qualify for nationals. S

Footlocker Preview Part 1

Everything I wanted to say about Footlocker was too long for one post (and probably too long for two), so this will be my “What Nobody’s Talking About” Post and the next one will be my “What Everyone’s Talking About” post. So here it is my top 11 secretly intriguing story lines for FL NE Regionals.
1. Road to Redemption
Jeff VanKooten from Pittsburgh Central Catholic had a bit of an up and down Senior XC campaign. Some bad timing for an off performance left him out of the state championship picture in 2014 after he was a medalist in 2013. VanKooten, who was an impressive 4:14 state medalist last year on the track, could have easily turned his attention to the mile, but instead he chose to continue his XC training in pursuit of a top finish for PA at the Footlocker Regional meet at Van Cortlandt Park. He’s been all but forgotten from conversation for the past month or so, but when healthy he was running even with guys like McGoey, Wharrey and Susalla who all grabbed state medals out in Hershey including two sub 16 performances by the North Allegheny boys. A hungry, motivated and well recovered VanKooten could really surprise this regionals weekend.
2. Just a Little Respect
Sebastian Curtin and Jack DiCintio both placed second in their respective divisions at the PIAA State Championships in Hershey, but most PA fans couldn’t pick these guys out of a line up. Curtin was sub 16 at Hershey and gave Molino a solid push for half the race. Curtin has been quietly dominant this season and really only Molino, a national qualifier and two time state champ, has kept him from being remembered along the same lines as Rico Galassi or even Luke Jones (both guys where top 20 at FL NE Regionals in 2012). As for DiCintio, after a bit of an up and down start to the season, he exploded in championship season. He won a league championship, nearly stole a district title and then finished second to Dominic Hockenbury, a two time state champion and one time runner up, in the AA state title race. DiCintio showed fantastic potential and, as just a Junior, we may only be scratching the surface of what he can do. Both men will look to prove that they belong in the discussion of PA elites at Regionals and bring a little respect to the small school stars.
3. Second Bananas
Much talk this week will revolve around Jake Brophy and Colin Abert and their chances of making nationals. Zach Seiger and Jack DiCintio, two talented Juniors, should at least get play in the sleeper talks. But their teammates, Connor Sands, Kevin Lapsansky, Drew Wilkinson and Kyle Shinn, will also be competing at Regionals and looking to turn heads. Lapsansky, the lone Junior of this group, has learned well from training with Abert and grabbed 18th this past year at the state championships. He will try to be a scorer or varsity member of PA’s top 7 team at Regionals.
Meanwhile, Seniors Connor Sands, Drew Wilkinson and Kyle Shinn will also look to shine. Shinn was 5th at the AA state championships, his second straight top 5 finish, proving he is a clutch performer. His best race of the season the past two years came at states. If he can continue this momentum, he will surprise a lot of people at Regionals. Drew Wilkinson was one of my sleeper medalists at states and his work with teammate Zach Seiger has benefited both runners. If Wilkinson can continue this trend, both guys may end up in PA’s varsity. Connor Sands was a top 50 guy at this past state championship in the ultra-competitive AAA race. He will be competing against many fantastic runners, but he has the talent to hold his own.
4. Sophomore Stories
Griffin Mackey nearly broke 16 minutes at the state championships in early November as just a sophomore, a feat arguably in the same league as Smucker’s AAA state medal as a freshman. Mackey ran faster than Brophy did as a sophomore and nearly faster than Brophy did this year at Pre States. That’s a great sign and an underappreciated mark (likely because he is in A). Clearly the ability is here for Mackey, but how will he handle the challenging regional race as just a sophomore? PA has not had a soph in their scoring 5 in the past 8 years, but Mackey is hoping to change that.
Another A sophomore with something to prove is Noah Curtin, younger brother of Sebastian Curtin, the aforementioned A state runner up. Noah had a fantastic stretch run, grabbing a medal at states in Hershey and finishing third at districts. He has likely been a valuable training partner for Sebastian and has one of the best mentors in the state living under the same roof. Noah will be one to check for in the results.
Another little sibling to watch is Eric Kennedy, brother to Footlocker Finalist Brent Kennedy. Eric was MIA for a lot of the middle portion of the season before turning up at Districts to drop a bomb on the field and clinch a spot to states. With the extra month or so of training, Kennedy could really surprise at Van Cortlandt.
5. D-3 Rematch
Cumberland Valley and Hempfield had a dual at the District Championships (won by Hempfield), but then Cumberland Valley took control at States with a top 10 finish. Hempfield has a slew of runners signed up to compete at Van Cortlandt and look for redemption in the post season. Duncan Brady, Justin Yurchak and Nick Norton make for a potent top three. However, CV has brought their own impressive trio with Quinn Wasko (nearly a state medalist), Yahya Soliman (sub 16 PR) and Josh Higgins (top 15 at D3). Higgins and Soliman are just sophomores as is Norton so all three could be in the class race or the championship race. Regardless, these teams will be eyeing each other up on the course with some extra motivation in store.
6. Paul Power on the Comeback Trail
I’ll spare you the overdone Power Puns. Paul is probably a bit disappointed with his states run where he finished 11th and couldn’t quite match his impressive showing at the Foundation meet where he stormed to a 15:50. However, the extra month to refuel and tweak training could work wonders for the Spring Ford Senior. Last year Chris Cummings, who won the foundation meet but finished 12th at states, had a bit of similar seasonal arc. That same Chris Cummings finished 16th at Regionals last year and was PA’s #4 finisher. If Power is PA’s #4 finisher at Regionals this year, he may need to buy a plane ticket.
7. Where Exactly is Clarion?
Two of the best runners nobody has heard of attend Clarion Area and North Clarion high school. Liam Raeshler and Isaac Wilson were both state medalists this past year in A and have had impressive seasons in the heart of PA’s ignored zone. Don’t be surprised if these guys fly past some bigger named guys and mix it up near the front.
8. District 11’s Hidden Gems
The Easton boys have stolen the headlines this year (and rightfully so), but District 11 will be showcasing some of it’s other talented runners at Regionals this year. Gabe Lamm, the top non Easton finisher from Districts, will look to end his season on a strong note with fellow state qualifying teammate Calvin Schneck. Parkland brings a strong group of runners including sophomore sensation Michael Geiger and top finisher from states the past two seasons Dan Kyvelos (a Junior). They also have a sneaky good freshman in Sam Morgan who is worth keeping an eye on. Lastly, be on the lookout for state top 50 finisher Seth Slavin from Pleasant Valley. He’s another very talented sophomore who, when things click, has scary potential.
9. Hock’s Shadow
There is a lot of talent that the greatness of Dominic Hockenbury has allowed us to forget. For starters, within his own district are a couple of super talented Juniors in Matt Kravitz and Jacob Tockzo. Both were state medalists in AA and Kravitz ran 15:39 this year at Paul Short. Tockzo was a member of state champs Tunkhannock a year ago and has back to back top 30 state finishes. In addition, we often forget about Will Kachman from Bedford. The Junior came within a couple seconds of being in Hockenbury’s shoes. First, Kachman finished third behind Hockenbury at last year’s state championships, a fantastic finish for a sophomore. Then, still a sophomore, he finished 2nd at the outdoor states 3200m in AA, again to Dom Hockenbury. Kachman had a bit of a disappointing state meet this year and couldn’t match his runner up to Hockenbury from last outdoors. However, he is a super talented runner with something to prove at Regionals. That kind of combination could make the competition wish they never had been born.
Anyone? Seriously? Has no one seen “It’s a Wonderful Life”?
10. Too Soon?
We know about some of the big names back next year, but what about next year’s crop of break out stars? Well some of those guys may be competing at Footlocker this year. Jack Carmody was 12th at Districts and Top 50 at States this year. His final three meets were quite impressive. Nick Wolk, a Junior from Peters Township, is a prime under the radar district 7 performer with potential for a break through. He was a Top 50 man at states as well. Also young guns Morgan Cupp, a frosh from Mechanicsburg, and Dan Ritz, another Ritz brother who is an 8th grader signed up to compete, both might be the next breakthrough prospects next season.
11. The Super Sleepers
Zach Seiger and Dan Green are my super sleepers for this meet. If there is going to be one guy who makes Footlocker Nats that you say, “Only crud where did that come from?”, I’ll bet on one of these two. District 3 has a long and storied tradition of putting champions on the trails and on the track, but they have been struggling a bit in XC. McNally is the last National Finalist they have had. These are two of the best in District 3. Green has never really excelled on the state course, so we may not have seen his true potential last month. Seiger was at the end of grueling back to back to back where he was giving it his all to try and get his Red Land squad to states. Both guys are really strong XC runners, this is what they do best. If everything clicks, one of these well rested D3 boys may surprise on race day.

NXN NE and other letters

Any information about participants in either regional meet is greatly appreciated by myself and likely other readers of this blog!

So I have decided I'm going to refuse to talk about indoor in any posts until after the cross country season is officially closed for PA (so hopefully not until after Foot Locker Nationals). 

So in the mean time, I will be trying to continue the XC Regional buzz during this down period in mid November.

The NXN meet has transformed over the past few years into a bona fide Footlocker Contender, now not just attracting top teams but also top individuals. In 2007 there were no non-team individual spots even available in qualifying, this was the last year the meet was called NTN.

I have gone on record already as saying I prefer NXN to Footlocker, especially if this next course keeps it's more interesting qualities but eliminates some of it's potential for absurd overly muddy conditions. I like some mud and some cross type conditions, but those 2012 results are verging on ridiculous. 

But really, all we should be concerned with right now is the regional qualifying meet at Bowdoin Park in Wappinger Falls. The problem with projecting this meet is the extra variables. At Footlocker it's a simple matter of be in the top 10, nothing else matters. However, for NXN it's not so black and white. Wade Endress got 9th in 2009 and didn't qualify, but Sami Aziz got 9th in 2012 and did. 

It is my understanding that the top 2 teams from each region automatically qualify for the national championships. However, there are also at large selections that I committee makes where additional teams from a region can be chosen. Once those teams have been decided, the top 5 individuals not on those teams qualify for nationals as well. It's the same concept as district qualifying here in PA.

Comparing results each year is also a tricky process. In 2007, because there were no individual spots available, lots of borderline cases had to choose Footlocker or risk completely missing out on a national meet. But in 2013 Griffin Molino, a member of a South Williamsport team that didn't even have 5 guys competing at their district meet, ran at NXN NE and qualified for nationals. 

So naturally, Brad Miles 7th place performance in 2007 is probably not equivalent to Kevin James's 7th place in 2013. But Max Kaulbach from GFS, who was 2nd at the first regional qualifying meet in 2007, had a fantastic performance that would likely still have qualified him for nationals in a more competitive meet. So how do we weight his performance?

As you probably know by now, I hate to use time as a means of comparison, but for the sake of reference 25th place in 2007 (PA's Zach Hoagland from North Penn) ran 17:02 while 26th place in 2013 (Henderson's Alex Knapp) ran 16:22.3.

With this in mind, let's take a look at the individual qualifiers for Nationals each year from the NX NE Regional.

2008 Brad Miles, North Penn
2009 None (Wade Endress tops at 9th)
2010 Wade Endress, Altoona
2011 None (Logan Steiner tops at 17th)
2012 Sami Aziz, GFS
2013 Griffin Molino, South Williamsport and Kevin James, O'Hara

Individually, there are only 5 spots and lots of states fighting for them. You take out a few states like NY (they have their own qualifier same day) and Virginia, but you still have New Jersey and New England producing fantastic competition. To send two individuals is very difficult.

This year, PA is potentially sending a lot of guys hunting for one of those 5 spots. Griffin Molino has said already he will be back to defend his spot from a year ago, fresh off his 2nd straight state title and near course record. Kevin James will also likely be back with O'Hara for the third straight year. I'm not currently seeing OH as a national qualifying threat (not unless the 4-5 really step it up) which may mean James is going to be in position to gobble another individual spot.

In a similar spot is Andrew Marston from Conestoga, who likely will be competing with his team. Although, I like this Stoga squad a lot, I'm not a believer that they will qualify for a nationals spot, especially if Murray and Cruickshank are out of the line up as they were at Henderson. So that puts Marston into the fray of individuals.

GFS has been to this meet 6 out of the 7 years it has existed, and I don't expect that to change. That means super soph Nick Dahl is another individual to watch. He looked good at Henderson, but this will be a different animal for him. He's a longshot, but GFS has a proven track record at this meet. If you count Kaulbach, they've had 2 individuals and 1 team at national qualifying level. 

Alex Knapp has run this course fantastically over the past two years and is a true wild card in this field. I don't expect him to crack the top 5, but he's a dangerous name. Henry Sappey could do damage as could Billy McDevitt if Malvern Prep (and DTW) decides to go. Lastly, Aaron Gebhart, who was 16th last year, is the biggest sleeper of the bunch. If he chooses to return to this meet, motivated from a disappointing state meet, he could really surprise. 

Team wise, the region has done a strong job at nationals in the past, meaning there is only potential for a few at larges to come from the northeast. Those have been critical for PA in qualifying not only teams, but individuals. Here is a list of some PA squads who have gotten to nationals:

2007- None (NP 4th and GFS 5th)
2008- NA 3rd, advances as at large (NP 6th)
2009- GFS 2nd (WCH 8th)
2010- None (Altoona 7th, WCH 14th)
2011- None (NA 6th, NP 21st)
2012- O'Hara 2nd, WCH 3rd, both advance 
2013- WCH 2nd (OH 4th)

So in total we have sent 5 teams in 7 years. Not too shabby. State champs have struggled a big at this meet. Only WCH the past two years has won states and qualified for nationals, and in 2012 they were not the top PA team, despite their qualifying spot.

Not many teams have consistently sent squads to this meet (which I have already said should change). One of the squads that has is GFS who pulled one of the biggest upsets in regional history when they qualified for nationals in 2009. Altoona send squads back to back years, allowing Wade the chance to make nats the second time around. Henderson has sent a team 4 of the last 5 years and after relatively disappointing go rounds the first two times, they have qualified for nationals the past two.

The most teams from PA to attend this meet in the same year was 6 back in 2009. 4 of the top 5 AAA teams appeared (minus NA) and so too did GFS and West Chester East. 

North Allgeheny, this year's state champs, has the best chance of any PA team I've seen of making it to nats. The problem is, it doesn't look like they are making the trip (Forrest has already gone on record saying O'Hara looks like the top dog, so I'm assuming he expects/knows NA will be home). I haven't ruled out their appearance yet (although someone can feel free to give me some info). 

I know they have not come either of the past two years despite having very strong teams nor did they come in 2010, the last time they were state champs. They may just want to retire as gold medalists. However, they did go to regionals in 2011, which I find somewhat odd, considering that team was probably one of their least likely to qualify in the past near decade. 

So what made the 2011 team worth to go? Well they were somewhat young, had a lot of strong forward momentum and they had a senior with a chance at nats (although a fairly outside one).

This team has a ton of momentum, and two very good seniors, one who should at least consider footlocker if he won't run at NXN with his teammates (Matt McGoey).

But the 2008 team, which had a few key seniors, was coming off a really heartbreaking loss at states and you could argue the 2011 NA team had similar feelings (although really the heartbreaking loss title belonged to O'Hara that year). That 2008 team was out to redeem themselves at regionals (and they did) while the 2011 team was likely out to do something similar (and they kinda did, top PA team and crushed the state champs in NP who were suffering from: we feel obligated to be here syndrome).

Meanwhile this 2014 NA team is like the 2010 NA team. After two tough years of misses, they came back and won gold with a squad of mainly seniors including one shining star. So even though NA is our best hope for a nats bid, it appears probable they will hang up their spikes.

GFS has shown potential for a great top 3, but is too unproven at 4-5 to be a legitimate contender. O'Hara and Conestoga have already been covered, both having opposite issues at 2-3 vs 4-5-6-7. We also may see DT West and WCH (although apparently no Smucker), Malvern Prep (although apparently no Hoeys) and maybe even York Suburban (Wilt came last year when he was still a Biglersville runner). I'd love to see York Suburan here just to see what they can do one more time and remind everyone how strong of a AA squad they are.

Really I also wish Grove City, Sewickely and Winchester Thurston would consider hopping in here, but this seems unlikely. We may see Mackey and Loevner though at one of the two meets. Same could be said for Benka and Budnik from GC who both had heartbreaking falls at states during their title pursuit.

Overall, it should be a really fun meet and regardless of the outcome, the extra month of training to put your reputations on the line and chase a dream and a greater goal speaks volumes about the character of the runners involved.

It's not an easy journey. It's cold and the weather, for lack of a better word, blows (I know my puns are fantastic). But ultimately, the ones who have the heart to persevere are champions.

Good luck PA.

Foot Locker Trends

Here are PA's footlocker finalists since 2006, around the time they started taking 10 from each region other than 8.

Paul Springer, 2006
Mark Dennin, 2007
Chris Aldrich, 2007
Vince McNally, 2007
Ben Furcht, 2008
Brad Miles, 2009
Rad Gunzenhauser, 2009
Ryan Gil, 2009*
Chris Campbell, 2010
Zach Hebda, 2010
Dustin Wilson, 2011
Brendan Shearn, 2012
Max Norris, 2012
Austin Pondel, 2012
Brent Kennedy, 2012*
Ross Wilson, 2013

That's a total of 16 guys over the span of 8 years, or an average of 2 guys per year headed out to San Diego. The most we have ever sent is 4 in 2012, PA's best national year maybe ever. We have not had 0 qualifiers at any point during this span, but have had just a single qualifier 4 times, 50% of the years.

We had just one qualifier last year in 2013 and we have never had back to back single qualifier years. In fact, after each of the 3 previous single qualifier years during this span, we saw at least three footlocker finalists from PA the following year.

Council Rock North is the only team to have more than one qualifier over this span of time thanks to Campbell and Wilson. No two teammates from PA have qualified in the same year although we had some very close calls in 2008 with Furcht and Berman and again in 2010 with Hebda, Juris and Kush. 

When the District One Champion has competed at Foot Locker, they have had good fortune. Springer, Aldrich, Furcht, Miles, and Campbell all made it after winning the title. Magaha did not compete at either regional meet and Russell qualified for nationals at the NXN meet back to back years. Meaning, when they have tried, District One Champions have qualified for a national meet 100% of the time.

The AAA state champion has failed to make nats in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2011. Out of the 6 times the state champion has traveled to Foot Locker they have placed in the top 10 just twice, so only 33% of the time compared to 100% for the D1 champ. Surprising stat.

Brendan Shearn in 2012 is the only AA footlocker finalist during this span and he did it during the year he didn't win a state title. Therefore, no AA state champ has made footlocker over this 8 year span. Dustin Wilson is the only Independent League runner to qualify for FL Nats. 

Out of the qualifiers, Ross Wilson, Max Norris and Rad Gunzenhauser are the only footlocker finalists who were not state or district champions during that season. Vince McNally has the lowest state finish of any Footlocker Finalist, 18th, but he was 3rd and 5th the previous two years at states. Ben Furcht, 11th, is the only Footlocker finalist who had 0 career top 5 finishes at states (everyone else had at least one finish in the top 4, although Dustin Wilson and Brendan Shearn were independent and AA respectively). 

The state title favorites since 2006 were probably:
2006- Springer (actual winner: Weller)
2007- McNally/Aldrich (Dennin)
2008- Furcht (Tarsnane)
2009- Miles (Miles)
2010- Hebda/Campbell (Gil)
2011- Magaha (Quinn)
2012- Kennedy/Savage/Russell (Russell)
2013- Russell (Russell)
2014- Abert (Brophy)

The pre states favorites, you will notice, have excellent resumes at Footlocker: 8 of the 16 Footlocker finalists were state title favorites before states. Dustin Wilson was a clear footlocker pick in 2011 and Brendan Shearn was my AA state title pick in 2012. Meaning we are probably looking at more in the relm of 10 guys with favorite status making it and no one who had favorite status for states and then competed at Footlocker missed out on nats. Again there seems to be evidence indicating that maybe Magaha should have run Regionals ...

(Interesting side note, look how many of those state title favorites actually won the title? Lots of upsets at states traditionally)

Ross Wilson in 2013 and Ryan Gil in 2009 are the only Footlocker Finalist who were on a top 5 team at states. Miles, Campbell and Kennedy were the only other runners to make footlocker that qualified for states with their team. 

Easy to say in hindsight, but i think there were few big surprises for qualifiers at Footlocker. I think I'm most surprised by Max Norris and Brent Kennedy in 2012, Norris had a strong stretch run to the season after recovering from injury, Kennedy is one of just two juniors to qualify. Pondel seems like the outlier, but he had a fantastic and underrated XC campaign in 2012. If I remember correctly he was my sleeper pick to make it to San Diego and I was all in on his stock that season. So I don't think I can count him as a surprise.

Track wise, 6 of the 16 guys on the list won state titles either the indoors or outdoors directly after their footlocker qualifying. McNally won the state title the previous year in the 16 as did Shearn in the AA 32 and Gil, who qualified as a junior in 2009, didn't win his track state title until 20011. 14 of the 16 finalists chose to focus on the 32 outdoors with only Campbell and McNally as exceptions (1600m). Austin Pondel is the only Footlocker finalist who never received a medal on the track. He and Campbell are the only ones to never break 9:20 in the 32. 12 of the 16 finished their careers with PRs better than 9:10. 8 of the 16 finished with PRs better than 4:15. McNally probably has the best open PR at 800m with a 1:55.

With all this in mind, who ya got for Footlocker 2014?

1st PA Meet of Champs (sponsored by the realtrain)

The Meet of Champions at Big Spring High School has officially come to a close and, because RunHigh is pretty speedy when it comes to getting results up, we have results for you!
For those of you that are curious, below is the top 50 individuals and the top 10 teams with the team scores noted as well. You can access the entire set of results in the excel document from google docs that should be linked at the bottom of this post. If you are having trouble accessing these results, I suggest you go to me and not to RunHigh because … well … RunHigh has no idea that I did this.
So just to establish, these results are completely based on my own opinions. I used the state race as my primary ordering criteria, considering the merged results as part of the equation, but certainly not using the times as equivalent. I also referenced district results for the various districts, important invitationals, and my own general thoughts on how each runner would do considering their end of season momentum and their ability to perform on the Big Spring course.
I originally was going to put times into these results for fun, however, I quickly realized there would be roughly 5-10 people coming through a second once we got to certain middle sections of the race and that seemed a little silly and unrealistic, so I cut out the times. Hopefully this gives you an idea for how incredibly close some of these individual and team results were in my head.
Let me know your thoughts, here are the results and the link!


Like I said, this is completely made up from my own head and merely meant to be a fun, hypothetical exercise. I don’t/didn’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings with this post and I hope that everyone can look at these results and understand that there are many interchangeable pieces at work here (I have made probably over 200 changes to the original version of this in the past week or so). No one should take this too seriously and anyone who is competing in this race at all has something to be proud of because they were selected to be in the first ever imaginary Meet of Champions.
Please share your thoughts in the comment section, I’d be curious to hear what people would change or suggest.
Also, if you have any thoughts on a real Meet of Champions that you would like to share please let me know either through the comments section or reaching out to me directly. I plan on trying to make a real one of these possible within the next couple years, but there is no chance of possibly achieving it without help and support from coaches/parents/athletes.
Maybe it will never work out, but I think it’s at least worth a shot.
As always, stay classy and keep train-ing hard.
I know, I’m hilarious.

Real Preview for the Imaginary Meet of Champions

Writing this was one of the saddest experiences of my month. Not because I hate writing previews for imaginary meets of my own creation (because, in fact, I love doing that), but instead because I can’t help but lament the fact that this meet is not actually happening. I just have a tough time ending the season knowing that we won’t have a race to decide the best 50 in the state, the best 10, and most importantly the best 1. Am I the only one who gets worked about this sort of thing? Yeah, probably. Is it that big of a deal that we won’t actually see Brophy v. Molino v. Hockenbury v. Ritz in a true state title race? For most people, the answer is probably no.
But for me the answer is an emphatic yes. Possibly with one of my fake expletives in front of it (I don’t swear, but I do use the word “frick” on a daily basis). And so I have created this mock Meet of Champions and even created this fake preview to give a chance to see what could have been. Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what would have happened. You can consider them “predictions” for the mock meet of champions that I am finalizing tomorrow night, or you can consider them “suggestions” because technically that’s what they are. I will consider all opinions, but in the end this is a dictatorship not a democracy and I’ve got the final say on everything.
So with all that said, let’s talk fake previews!
After two weeks of waiting, we will finally decide who the best in PA is. Jake Brophy is coming off a huge win at the state championships after back-to-back impressive runs at Lehigh. His dominating performance over the final 800m and his smashing of the course record make him an early favorite. However, the previous state title favorite, Colin Abert is waiting in the wings. He has something to prove after a surprise 5th place finish in the AAA championships. Abert has run 14:55, the fastest of anyone at Lehigh this year, and has beaten Griffin Molino and Dom Hockenbury head to head by an impressive margin, and those two guys have state gold hanging around their neck now.
Speaking of something to prove, Griffin Molino, Dominic Hockenbury and Sam Ritz are all state champions, but most people are probably either putting that in air quotes or throwing the word “technically” in front of it. They are each determined to leave their stamp on this meet and prove that they could have not only held their own in that incredibly deep AAA race, but maybe even have won the title. Sam Ritz made an early case a few days ago at the Henderson 3200m where he dropped a massive PR of 9:10. He always been known as more of a track guy, so we will see how he handles the hills of Big Spring. As for Molino, he barely missed Russell’s record in a reasonably solo performance at Hershey, an impressive run that was quickly overshadowed by the AAA race. As for Hockenbury, with the lone exception being PTXC, he has cruised to dominating wins at all of his meets. How will he handle the AAA competition?
With the meet at Big Spring, many runners will be seeing the course for the first time. However, Zach Seiger, Zach Brehm and Dan Green all dueled here at Mid Penns, meaning they should have a leg up on the competition. Nathan Henderson and Gabriel Allgayer also made the trip out to Big Spring for an early season invitational. Cumberland Valley won here as a team at the Mid Penn Championships and State College was a surprise second. We will see if either team can take advantage of their experience this weekend.
The battle for the top spot in each class should be extremely competitive. For the freshman, Josh Hoey looks to continue his impressive season, hoping to stay ahead of AAA medalist Spencer Smucker from Henderson as they transition back to the hills after their battle Tuesday on the track. AA state medalist Christian Babo, Morgan Cupp and Liam Conway have also been invited to try and chase top freshman honors.
The sophomores are led by AAA stud Nathan Henderson of JP McCaskey, who was the top sophomore in the AAA state meet, followed closely by O’Hara’s Ryan James. However, in the A race, Griffin Mackey ran the fastest time of the day for any soph en route to his third place overall finish. Ben Littman from Winchester Thurston was also top 10 in the A race as only a sophomore. Littman and Mackey will be relied on for team scoring as well as individual success. From the independent league, sophomore Nick Dahl will try and best the PIAA sophomores, fresh off a 9:11 3200m PR at Henderson.
In the team title race, North Allegheny comes in as the favorite thanks to their course record average at the PIAA state championships. However, Malvern Prep, the Paul Short and Briarwood champions in addition to the independent league gold medalists, will give them all they can handle. Jaxson Hoey, the team’s front runner when healthy, has said he will try and race to help his team out, but he won’t be 100%. Meanwhile, Billy McDevitt and Josh Hoey will look to help with top 25 finishes. North Allegheny has one of the best 1-2 punches of all time with two men leading the charge that were sub 16 at Hershey in McGoey and Wharrey. Stupak has emerged as a quality #4 and hopefully Dieble or Miggliozzi can help fight off the tight pack of guys around them and provide a low enough score to take the title.
AA State Champs York Suburban will be hoping to challenge the top AAA teams and prove that, despite their size, they are capable of being #1 in the state. York Suburban was the top PA team at the prestigious Carlisle Invitational and are led by AA state medalist Brady Wilt. They will need a big day from Donovan Mears and freshman Bryce Ohl to secure a top finish.
Conestoga was the runners up at the AAA state championships and, led by Andrew Marston, will hope to get some revenge on state champions North Allegheny. But over their shadow O’Hara and Henderson, two top notch programs, will look to use their powerful front running in this front loaded meet to steal a podium finish. Winchester Thurston, the smallest squad of the bunch, will also set their sights on a top finish. They had a fantastic top 5 at the A state championships and are hoping for a big day from their leader, Will Loevner as well as Senior Landin Delaney. Shaun Hay has had more time to recover from injury and should, therefore, be even more dangerous as the team’s 4.
The Meet of Champions is an excellent opportunity for redemption for a variety of teams and individuals. It also a fantastic chance to prove yourself against top tier runners and teams that small school guys have yet to have the opportunity to face. And most importantly, it is a moment to pick ONE champion of the state of Pennsylvania.
Buckle up.

Warrior Classic Half Asleep Reactions

How much can we read into a 3200m track race during cross country season? Not that much honestly, but I will say that momentum is real and there are signs and hints of potential future predictions. 

First off you have to give credit where credit is due. Sam Ritz and Nick Dahl both ran all time bests for 3200m in probably the fastest 32s in November in state history. Seriously, these marks are faster than Aziz and Russell two years ago and they beat a 9:03/4:12 guy in the process. Dahl is just a sophomore and clearly balls harder on tracks than the trails. He could be an absolute animal this indoors, maybe a sleeper for an indoor 3k title? You never know, GFS can coach em up.

But Ritz makes a big statement. He's at least in the conversation for top 3 XC guys in the state and has flown completely under the radar this year. However, I'm not going completely gaga over this. Keep in mind that he is a track stud with fantastic speed who received perfect pacing for him to have success. Secondly, take note of the guys who had big days:

Ritz, Dahl, McDevitt, Hepp (huge day, really impressed by him). Those are all guys who didn't race piaa states. They are rested, hungry to prove themselves and are still waiting for their peak. These schools can peak at nationals time, the PIAA schools can't or they risk getting the label of choker at states and miss out on a state title that they may never get a shot at again. Completely agree with Coach Kelly's comments that I basically just stole for this point.

Worth noting, O'Hara looked pretty solid. Morro had a nice day and again looks like a guy who is mentally tough enough to go the extra few weeks just like he did this meet last year. Pastore had a nice day. The James boys didn't wow me, but clearly they are good. They are a long shot for nationals, but if NA doesn't run/isn't on their game at regionals (very possible) I don't see how o'hara isn't PAs top team. I'm sorry to jinx you guys. It's my job.

Admittedly, Stoga was missing Cruickshank and Murray today which makes a difference, but I am worried about these guys going forward. It's good they did this race because it's a good chance for these guys to realize they got on the medal stand at states, but I kinda feel like luck was on their side. I'm not sure they should have beat O'Hara but that D1 magic for them to the stand. Things will still be hard the rest of the way. They can't relax and they need to get that crew closer to Marston. Good news: now that I'm starting to jump off their bandwagon, they will probably run great. I jinx everyone, this is a gift.

Josh Hoey runs 9:33 as a freshman and somehow I'm disappointed? This guy is really, really good. He had an off day at Paul Short, but throw out that meet and he had a killer season. He was probably a top 25-30 guy in the state this year as a frosh. Smucker is really good, but Hoey is probably better. These are two fantastic freshman. Really good. Fingers crossed that they keep moving forward. Dahl, Hoey, Hoey, Smucker and Brophy in recent years. These kids are just studs and I'm praying for their health.

DTWest was a bit underwhelming but based on their run at Lehigh, that's not surprising. They also missed out on the fast heat which could be good could be bad ... Hard to say not having been there. These guys excel on hills and authentic XC conditions, so we will see how regionals goes. And these guys are young! They have already exceeded my expectations, let's see if they can continue.

Keep in mind Knapp is a serious sleeper. If the guy runs at NXN you could probably get good odds on him for a nationals bid longshot bet. He has never been particularly speedy on the track but finishes within 5 ticks of Marston and James in the 32? That's good. And Knapp straight killed Wappinger two years ago.

Plus he was one of my fantasy team guys this year and I'm loyal to the boys who come through for me and make me look smarter than I am.

You can really tell which guys are track guys and which guys are XC guys. Look at the difference between Hepp and Newman. Those guys have run identical times in XC but Hepp ran blazing fast in the 32 this meet. Lyle Wistar type growth from Hepp? Scary good 1-2 punch for a DMR? I'm all in on GFS this indoors? Gotta calm down here ...

The same goes for Wills and Doane. Those guys were close all year on the trails, but they switch to the track and Wills drops a big time and runs in the 9:30s. Some guys just love the track (like me) and after months of Hills and grass and mud it's an otherworldly experience to get back on a track. I used to thrive in those races and these guys are cut from my personality mold. 

But thankfully for them and their team they are a lot faster than I was! 

Good job by all participants! Awesome to see so many PA individuals and teams trying to continue their season. I love it. 

Warrior Classic Preview

In 2012 the post season 3200m at Henderson produced two team qualifiers and one individual qualifier for the NXN championships in Oregon. In 2013 the Henderson post season XC event produced one team qualifier, one individual NXN qualifier and one individual Footlocker qualifier. So what is in store for 2014?
Malvern Prep, the independent school league champions, and Conestoga, the district one champions and state runners up, highlight the team entries for the 2014 edition of the Warrior Classic. Some other notable squads included O’Hara (3rd at states), DT West (4th), West Chester Henderson (runners up at D1) and GFS (runners up at independents). Some of these teams come to the meet looking to increase their depth, while others will look to increase their front running in a battle of competing interests.
Conestoga and DT West have shown the most depth out of arguably any team in the state in recent weeks, highlighted by strong performances at Districts and States. Stoga’s pack outlasted a strong trifecta of medalists for O’Hara while DT West jumped teams like Henderson and Easton thanks to their impressive top five depth.
This is not meant to imply either team is without firepower. Andrew Marston and Henry Sappey have proven themselves with quality top 10 finishes at states, but in order to be true national contenders, both squads will need to shrink the gap from one to two and three.
For Conestoga, this is especially true. Stoga has landed 8 guys in the fast heat of tomorrow’s Warrior Classic, but managed to fit just one guy in the top 50 finishers of November 1st’s PIAA State Championships. That means state champs and fellow national contenders North Allegheny got 4 guys in before Stoga’s #2. In fact, Stoga was the only team out of the top 6 to not have at least two top 50 finishers. PJ Murray and Killian Nelson both had strong races at Lehigh and have shown in the past they may be more comfortable on the track than on the trails. This race could provide a strong opportunity for the duo to drop some big PRs and gain confidence. Cruickshank will look to continue running with Murray and Nelson: it was his step-up performance that landed Stoga on the medal stand in Hershey.
Meanwhile, Cooper, Iffert, and Boccella have all finished in a tight bunch the past two races. Inserting McCarthy into the mix means all four guys have their regionals spot on the line at the Warrior Classic, which could provide the motivation for a breakout race to shrink the gap between 4 and 5 that has opened up a bit in recent weeks.
Downingtown West was nearly left home from the state championships, but their excellent depth saved them. Then they turned things around beautifully en route to a 4th place finish at states. The secret was likely Ryan Barton who rebounded excellently from Districts and placed in the top 40 at the state championship, giving West the strong #2 they were hoping for. Barton will join Sappey in the fast heat at the Warrior classic, looking to make another strong statement. In the slower section, DT West will showcase their pack with Charlie Barton, Bullock, O’Neill, Ryherd and Blair all among the top seeds in the heat. This is a young group of talented runners, but they have had a long season. Also, DT West ran better on the hills of Hershey than the flats of Lehigh, so a track may not suit their particular skill set. Regardless, West has a chance to continue to gain experience and prove doubters wrong on the Henderson trackTuesday night. Ryherd had two huge races the last two meets, so I’ll be very interested to see how he runs this race. I will also be interested to see if Charlie Barton can recapture some of the magic he had at the Chesmont championships.
On the flip side, O’Hara, Henderson, Malvern Prep and GFS will all hope to continue to develop the back end of their  top 7 in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough that can transform their team’s regional hopes. O’Hara had three medalists, but couldn’t overcome the strong pack of Conestoga and ended up a hard fought third. Drew Pastore will be in the fast heat Tuesday while Donovan, Tiaborelli, Nolen and Pat James will fight for a top five spot, but also a spot on the starting line at regionals. Only 3 of those 4 will get to line up in a racing singlet at the end of the month.
Henderson has a lot of momentum behind the emergence of freshman sensation Spencer Smucker, who grabbed a medal in one of the fastest state championships in history earlier this month. With a returned to full strength Gordy Barchet, who has shown good speed on the track before, Henderson could make a statement with their top four. The last three varsity members have all consistently improved from week to week so it will be interesting to see how the extra weeks of training benefit them at this meet.
Malvern Prep has Jaxson Hoey on the sidelines, hoping he can be back for regionals, but if not they will need to find a strong #5 to go behind a solid top four group. Josh Hoey is fresh off his best race of his high school career at Independents and should be fun to watch in his first really fast 3200. GFS has proven they have one of the best top 3s in the state, but we will see if they can show enough depth to threaten the other top teams in the state.
Here are some story lines I’m interested in watching play out at this meet:
Sam Ritz, the independent league champion, goes back to the track where he set his blazing fast 4:11 mile PR almost two years ago. Ritz has quietly become a Footlocker Finalist contender in recent weeks after dominating some independent league races and running very fast against Marston in Manhattan. He hits the track Tuesday night, where he should feel very comfortable, and will have a chance to showcase himself against #2 and #3 at states in Kevin James and Andrew Marston. If Ritz runs smart and composed and doesn’t try to set out at 9 flat pace from the gun (he’s seeded at 9 flat), then we could see a big breakthrough for him at this distance.
This may be the closest we get to a battle of the top freshman in the state. Josh Hoey, independent league runner up and top 10 finisher at Briarwood and Abington, will do battle with Spencer Smucker, the freshman sensation from Henderson. Smucker showed he can excel on the hills and on the trails and has a ton of momentum on his side, however, Hoey also seems to be finding himself on the trails. He ran a much stronger race at Independents than he did at Paul Short, which means he is heading in the right direction. Also worth noting, Malvern Prep has another freshman in Ryan Doane who will look to mix it up after his 16:20s performance earlier this year at Paul Short.
There will also be a battle for the title of top sophomore at this meet. Ryan James and Nick Dahl are two of the best sophomores in the state right now and both guys will be competing at this invitational with a chance to prove themselves. Dahl’s main achievement came at Outdoor Nationals last year when he rocketed off a freshman national title with a 9:15 equivalent 3200m. GFS has shown they peak well in the late season with multiple national qualifying performances in recent years and Dahl is hoping to be the next one in that group. But Ryan James has been running very strong from week to week and, unnoticed by most, placed higher at states as a sophomore than his brother did. I believe Kev ran somewhere around 9:25 at this meet when he was a sophomore, so a similar result may be in store for Ryan. That kind of time would be tough to beat for most of the guys in this field.
Alex Knapp and Henry Sappey have gone back and forth the last three weeks, as have their teams. Neither guy really strikes me as a speed demon, but both have proven they are excellent runners. Knapp had a fantastic race at the regional course two years ago as a sophomore to provide the lift Henderson needed to qualify for nationals as a team. If he recaptures some of that magic in two weeks, he could be the big surprise story of nationals weekend. And since Sappey has essentially run stride for stride with Knapp the past month, that could be good news for him as well.
I’ll also be watching Grayson Hepp and Joe Newman of GFS who are, surprisingly to me at least, in different heats this weekend. Newman and Hailemichael Geiger from Parkland are two sleepers to run fast times out of the slower heat, especially if that race gets out hard. Hepp and Newman have been side by side all year, but admittedly, Hepp has proven himself on the track quite well in the past. Was that enough to warrant a big difference in seed times for the duo? We will see, but both guys have something to prove Tuesday.
Other names that will be interesting to watch are Jack Carmody and some of the Rustin teammates, Rob Morro, Billy McDevitt and Colin Wills. I have heard that Carmody has been playing soccer at the same time as running cross, which, if true, means there is a lot more potential here, especially in a flat race or on a track. Trevor VanAckeren, a runner from Liberty in 2007, ran 15:37 for 5k and 4:15 on the track, but struggled at states in cross because he played soccer at the same time. Carmody had medal potential this past fall, and we may see that potential show up in this meet. Billy McDevitt has had a fantastic season overall, but Sam Ritz had his number the past two weekends. I will be interest to see what McDevitt, a state qualifier last year indoors in the 3k, can do in this field. Rob Morro had one of his best races of the season at this meet last year, so he may be one of those runners that adjusts well to the cold and extra weeks of training. Colin Wills ran low 4:20s last year as you are probably tired of hearing me say, but that comfort level on the track could be a big help at this meet.
Final predictions:
I think this race should get cranking with James, Marston and Ritz all unafraid to keep things quick. Phil Celona, who if I’m not mistaken is an Archbishop Ryan graduate from 2008, should be an inexperienced head in the race who can either act as a rabbit or act as a strong force to keep things fast when things get tough mid race (not sure what his plan is here). James has had so many tough seconds in big races, including states this year and last year in the mile on this track to Reiny, so I hope he exercises those demons here. Ritz has more speed, but James has more strength so I think he will be able to outlast him. Marston is a wildcard. He clearly has improved his speed from last year, but he is dealing with a couple guys who may end up sub 4:10 milers before their career is done.
When the dust settles I have the following results (high school entries only):
1. K James
2. Marston
3. Ritz
4. McDevitt
5. Sappey
6. Dahl
7. R James
8. Jo Hoey
9. Knapp
10. Morro
11. Carmody
12. G Barchet