PA Top Indoor Times

As you might remember, qualifying for the indoor state championships is no longer based on hitting a standard. To qualify for the championships, you need to be in the top entries (by time within the 2015-16 season) within your event. For example, there will be 24 acceptances in the 800m. Hypothetically, let's say the 24th best time in the state right now is 2:03.86. So if states entries were today, if you had run faster than 2:03.86 and entered the 800 for states, you would be guaranteed entry. Say you are the 25th, 26th or 27th guy. You could still be accepted into the state meet if some of the runners seeded ahead of you scratch to participate in other events (maybe they are saving themselves for a relay or focusing on a different individual event). In other words, this is a moving standard and there are plenty of variables in play when trying to determine who will and won't be accepted into the state championships.

That is where your friendly neighborhood analyst comes into play. I've been doing my best to keep a running list of all the fastest marks throughout the indoor season, and I will continue to do so through the state meet. Based on my own speculation, intuition and insider sources, I will give a "projected" entry list for the state meet, guessing who will and won't enter various events. I'll also provide a full list of the top recorded times so that you as readers can make your own speculatory guesses.

If you have questions on the qualifying process, feel free to ask away in the comments section and definitely read up at, which is your best bet for qualifying info. Remember, this year teams can also enter the 4x8 and DMR and the order of events have changed (meaning the way we usually think about scratches has changed as well). Also keep in mind that things like banked track conversions and 1600m/3200m/2-mile conversions will be reflected in the list using the official PTFCA conversion factors listed on their website.

In honor of the new year, I thought I would share what my list currently looks like. Feel free to chime in on your thoughts for scratches, top performers and missing times from my list. Also, keep in mind that although this is a fun projection, it's far from guaranteed accuracy wise and there is still sooo much time between now and states that this list will, in all likelihood, look almost completely different a month from now.

But who cares about that! Let's enjoy a great December of Track and Field!

Check out the full lists on LXV+ by clicking on the link. All times listed below are Flat Track Cut-Offs,

800m: ET Cutoff - 2:04.71, 24th - 2:03.86, SQG - 2:00.72
Mile: ET Cutoff - 4:39.67, 20th - 4:37.00, SQG - 4:32.43
3,000m: ET Cutoff - 9:22.58, 12th - 9:17.88, SQG - 9:00.23
4x800m: ET Cutoff - 8:33.89, 12th - 8:33.89, SQG - 8:22.06
DMR: ET Cutoff - 11:11.29, 12th - 11:11.29, SQG - 10:49.23

More Winter Action

by Jarrett Felix

Well I'm back home in the great state of PA this week to celebrate the New Year and attend my girlfriend's sister's wedding (if you can follow that) and it feels good to be back. I just spent the past half hour listening to in depth analysis about the importance of Ish Smith to the Philadelphia 76ers offense and really reminded me how depressing it is to be a philly sports fan these days. Fortunately, there are plenty of things happening in the track world that get me a bit more amped about my hometown. So let's talk track.

Marine Corps Holiday Classic
If you read my Burdette Recap (link attached), I alluded to the fact that we could see some Abington relay action at the Armory in this meet and, in a rare moment, I actually made a decent prediction (just call me Nostraindamus). Abington won the 4x8 by an absurd 14 seconds with twitter splits reported at 1:59-1:57-2:04-2:00, totaling a US #1 8:01.01. This likely was largely a solo effort based on that margin of victory, but it also speaks to the ability of sophomore Cameron Mitchell who I believe ran that second leg for Abington. He's a super talented youngster who is a name to watch. And oh yeah, if you were concerned about that third leg (likely newcomer to this year's relay Aaron Sooknanan) they have plenty of depth ready to push him in practice and keep him dropping time. Their "B" team ran 8:18.62, which is a top 5 or so time in the state, to take 4th place overall. That's an average of about 2:04.5 per man, meaning we should have some nice innersquad rivalry on this roster. I really like that and I think that will help improve everybody on this team looking ahead.

Abington also added a 3:24.76 4x4, finishing just a step behind PA's other top notch 4x4 program, Penn Wood, who ran 3:24.73.

And hey, speaking of Penn Wood, if you check the invitational 800m results, you can see Penn Wood's own Dennis Manyeah at the top of the page, having won the race in 1:56.13. That's a new PA #1 passing Wisner's mark from Burdette just a day earlier. Manyeah was a strong relay runner for the Penn Wood teams last year (4x8 and 4x4) and ran an absolutely monster 600m to start his year. He seems like a 400m type moving up which I think gives him a lot of upside, especially indoor. Speedsters/front-runners have won most of the indoor titles. John Lewis and Haneef Hardy were 400m guys before jumping up to 800 while runners like Brad Rivera and Kyle Francis were able to win titles by just pounding the pace and running the legs out of top notch kickers.

Mike Kolor of Seneca Valley, more of a miler type it appears, added a strong 800m to his 4:18 mile, running 1:56.30 for a narrow second to Manyeah. According to our own GZ who was on site, Kolor got out a bit poorly and ran a killer final lap to battle for the lead and earn silver. Gotta imagine a Mile-800m double at indoor states is in the work for Kolor and he could be a contender at both.

Not to be out done, Tucker Desko of Pennridge, who was noticeably absent from the Burdette results, ran a blazing fast 1:56.34 to win the "Varsity" section of the 800m by an impressive 4 seconds overall. To me, this is the most impressive result of the three and suggests Desko is ready for a huge year. I still kinda feel like Tucker's best race is the mile, so I'm hoping we see him take a stab at that event. Remember he was more of a mile/2-mile type last year before jumping in to help out the 4x8 and becoming a stud in that event (1:53ish split last outdoors for the 2nd place relay).

A few other solid results came from Pennridge's Jeff Espinal (2:01.76), Emmaus's Greg Jaindl (2:04.59) and Penn Wood's Jahi Smith (2:05.04).

One of my favorite stories so far this indoor track season comes from Cheltenham High School. The school is primarily known as a sprint powerhouse and rightfully so, they have rolled through a variety of 4x4 state championships and produced multiple 3:13 4x400m squads over the last decade. But early in this winter, Cheltenham has really proven themselves on the distance side of things. Cheltenham added a 10:52 DMR to their resume at the armory to boost their solid individual performances they posted earlier this year at TFCAofGP.

Ocean Breeze
One of the best performers from the indoor mile at Burdette rolled to a very strong 9:37.13 full 2-mile in New York on Wednesday. Seth Slavin, who ran 4:38 to win one of the slower sections at Burdette, made a big statement in the 2-mile to put himself among the early state leaders. The time is probably worth under 9 minutes for 3k by most conversions and I believe the PTFCA will convert it down to 8:59, putting Slavin in a position to potentially fall into a state qualifying spot. Although, admittedly, it's early and PA already has three guys under 9 minutes for 3k when you add Kirshenbaum and Sappey.

Garnet Valley ran a solid 8:33 for 4x800m and Ahmir Gordon, prominent 800m runner from Strath Haven, ran 51.42 seconds in the open 400m for 6th overall.

XC All Decade Team: 30-11

30. Austin Pondel, Correy Area, Class of 2013
PIAA States: 3rd (15:56), 23rd (16:31)
District Ten: 1st (16:23), 2nd (17:44), 4th (16:44)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 10th (15:51), 24th (16:37)
Footlocker Nationals: 32nd (16:00)
Sharpsville Invitational: 15:32 (1st)
Austin Pondel’s senior cross country season might be one of the most underrated years of the decade. After a solid junior season that featured his first state medal and a 24th place finish at Footlocker Regionals, Austin Pondel exploded to another level. He won his first six meets, all in convincing fashion and many well under sixteen minutes. His next race, the District 10 Championships, he raced Dan Jaskowak to a draw (they raced AA and AAA together), each running the same time of 16:23 in sloppy conditions to win their respective district titles. So Pondel entered his senior year state championship undefeated and entering a fairly wide open state title race (we, or I at least, did not know just how good Tony Russell was just yet). A week after battling the brutal district conditions, Pondel ran a gutsy race, going for the win but ending up in third at 15:56. By track PRs, Pondel is the most unlikely member of the sub 16 at Hershey club, but he was a truly gutsy, powerful XC runner who was able to will himself to the historic mark. Pondel closed out his senior season by qualifying for the Footlocker Finals, one of four PA runners to qualify for Footlocker (combined with 2 teams and 1 individual from NXN) as a member of one of PA’s deepest classes of XC talent. He finished 32nd at the championships.

29. Vinny Todaro, Big Spring, Class of 2013
PIAA States: 1st AA (16:00), 26th (16:34)
District Three: 1st AA (16:35), 5th (16:37), 15th
Mid Penn: 1st (16:11), 6th (17:09)
Carlisle: 15:31 (1st)
Big Spring: 16:09 (1st), 16:33 (1st)
For those of you who have never been to this site, I have been adamant about the state’s need for a Meet of Champions and the 2012 State Championship is one of the biggest reasons why. I would have loved to see all the top dogs in this extremely deep state meet go head to head. But at least we got three amazing races out of it. PA split into three classes for the first time and a variety of runners moved around divisions. We were treated to some of the most compelling match ups in the state in each race: Rico Galassi v. Luke Jones, Tony Russell v. Brent Kennedy v. Austin Pondel and, my personal favorite, Vinny Todaro v. Brendan Shearn v. Dan Jaskowak.

Although the times were the slowest of the three championships (this race was easily the most tactical/slowest early pace), you could argue (especially pre-race) that this field may have had the three best runners in the state during that season. Shearn was the defending AA state champion and had won at Briarwood over Tony Russell in a very quick time to pair with an unthinkable 15:17 at his league meet. After finishing 2nd in AAA as a junior, Jaskowak had beaten Shearn at Foundation, went toe to toe with Austin Pondel at Districts and defeated Brent Kennedy in a thrilling (and fast) Tri States. Meanwhile, Vinny Todaro had pieced together an undefeated season, beating Kennedy and a slew of other talents (Barchet, Russell) at the Carlisle Invitational where he finished first in 15:31. The stage was set for an epic showdown.
The race went through in a (relatively) pedestrian 10:16, 20 seconds slower than the “A” leaders and 13 seconds slower than the “AAA” leaders. Then things really started to get rolling. In one of the fastest closes in the course’s history, the trio went head to head over the final mile. On the last hill, Vinny threw down the final surge he needed and broke away from Shearn to run 16 flat and win the AA state title. Unfortunately, Todaro chose not to run the Regional championships and to, instead, end his senior season undefeated. While you can’t argue with the decision, it does make you wonder what he would have been able to do considering the top notch competition he had defeated over the course of the season.
One final cool tid-bit about Todaro.  He says the motivation for his terrific senior season stemmed from a variety of near misses. He finished 26th as a junior in the AAA state meet (one spot out of the medals), 9th at indoor states (one spot from the medals) and one spot out of the finals in the 1600m outdoors. After that, he was hungrier than ever and blasted through one of the most underappreciated XC seasons of the decade.
28. Casey Comber, Hatboro Horsham, Class of 2015
PIAA States: 6th (15:48), 13th (16:22)
District One: 3rd (15:19), 9th (15:34)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 4th (15:36)
Footlocker Nationals: 20th (15:49)
Suburban One Continental: 2nd (15:12), 1st (15:41)
PTXC: 16:29 (1st), 16:46 (1st)
Centaur: 15:57 (1st)
Salesianum: 16:28 (1st), 16:43 (1st)
After Conner Quinn graduated in 2013, Hatboro Horsham was in need of a leader and a front runner. Emerging from the throng came relative unknown Casey Comber. He won the Blue Race at PTXC and added a win at Salesianum before he came charging onto the scene at Suburban One’s, beating the super talented sophomore Jake Brophy for the league title. He rounded out his Junior season with a 9th place finish at districts and a 13th place finish at states. With these marks in the books, Comber entered the 2014 Cross Country season hoping to follow in the footsteps of Conner Quinn and Sam Hibbs and grab state gold. He came out the gates strong with another win at PTXC followed by a blazing fast 15:57 on the very difficult Desales course, ahead of past champions like Weller, Dennin, Tarsnane and Quinn. After adding a 16:28 victory at Salesianum, Comber was more than ready for a rematch with rival Jake Brophy at their league championships. The battle lived up to the hype and then some as the duo raced down to the wire in a glorified one on one match up dropping 15:08-15:12 marks, Comber taking silver. The times were the fastest in Suburban One history, the first time anyone was even under 15:20 in the race (and I believe only Miles had previously even broken 15:30). A week later at Districts, Casey, Jake and Conestoga’s Andrew Marston had another epic showdown that resulted in Comber clocking a second straight sub 15:20 mark with his 3rd place finish. In Hershey, Comber ran a hard fought race and finished 6th overall, breaking 15:50 on the Hershey lay-out and coming within a second of a top 4 finish.

But what really helped define Casey’s career was his running at the Footlocker Northeast Regional. Comber finished in 4th place overall at Van Cortlandt Park, qualifying him for Footlocker Nationals. His time in the regional meet is the 6th fastest of the decade and his 4th place finish in the region is tied for the 4th best finish at the regional meet by a PA athlete this decade with Brendan Shearn. At Nationals, he proved it was not a fluke with a 20th place finish at Balboa Park, one of just six PA athletes to place in the top 20 in the meet this decade. It’s also worth noting that Comber was able to best Jake Brophy at both regionals and nationals that postseason. Those two races were the only losses to PA competition Brophy suffered since Foundation of his junior season. Otherwise, he was undefeated.

27. Reiny Barchet, West Chester Henderson, Class of 2014
PIAA States: 5th (16:04), 19th (16:25), 63rd***
District One: 6th (15:29), 3rd (15:22), 14th (16:05)***
Team (States): 1st (2), 1st (2), 2nd (4)***
Team (Districts): 1st (2), 1st (2), 1st (3)***
Nike Northeast Regionals: 20th (16:16), 2nd (15:55)
Team (Regionals): 2nd (2), 3rd (2)
Nike Nationals: 21st (17:44)*
Team (Nationals): 12th (4), 15th (1)
Ches-monts: 6th,  1st, 7th***
Carlisle: 15:57 (10th), 15:50 (3rd)
Manhattan: 12:55 (26th), 12:58 (31st)
From day one, it was clear Reiny Barchet was a unique talent. As a freshman, he finished 14th at the District One Championships (the best finish by a freshman at D1 in the decade) and helped Henderson grab the district title. He was their #4 runner the next weekend at states where the team earned silver medals. He missed his sophomore XC season where he would have been an intriguing piece to put alongside emerging star Tony Russell on Henderson’s 5th place team in the state, but he returned to action as a Junior in 2012. Henderson was in a hotly contested battle for the state title with Cardinal O’Hara throughout the year and the team knew they would need a big series of races from Barchet to match O’Hara’s firepower out front. Reiny had a bit of an up and down season, but still finished 3rd at the District championships in 15:22 and 19th at states, putting on a strong surge in the final meters to help Henderson clinch the state title by a nose. His senior season, the Henderson dynasty won yet another state title, this time in dominant fashion. Henderson also qualified for a second straight national championship with Reiny helping lead the way as the team’s #2 man throughout the season. Henderson remains the only program from PA to qualify for multiple NXN Championships.
That’s a nice resume in itself, but what makes Barchet so remarkable and dynamic for purposes of this list were the flashes of absolute brilliance we saw from him. As a junior, Reiny finished 2nd overall at the Nike Northeast Regional, just behind teammate Tony Russell in the meet. He is one of just six men in PA history to place in the top two at a regional championship and the other five are all at the very top of the all-time list. But he didn’t stop there. In sloppy conditions, Reiny battled through the Portland Meadows course, even running in the lead pack for some of the race, and finished 21st overall at Nike Nationals. It’s the highest performance for a PA junior at a national championship (either one) in the last decade and the 2nd highest overall finish at NXN for a PA runner in the meet’s history.
And don’t forget, in Reiny’s final state meet, his last chance for a top finish, he took 5th overall (better than his district performance) behind three future national qualifiers and Colin Abert. On many of the biggest stages, Reiny would break through with a memorable performance and his ability to reach this “other level” helped him climb the list to this position. “Peak Reiny” is up there with the best.
26. Andrew Marston, Conestoga, Class of 2015
PIAA States: 3rd (15:40), 9th (16:17)
District One: 2nd (15:18), 18th (15:50)
Team (States): 2nd (1), 7th (1)
Team (Districts): 1st (1), 2nd (1)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 22nd (16:16)
Nike Northeast Regionals: 36th (16:50)
Central: 16:09 (1st), 16:02 (3rd)
McQuaid: 14:31 (1st)
Manhattan: 12:33.40 (16th), 12:58 (2nd)
There was a brief gap during the 2013 cross country season where I briefly retired from my blogging position, so I essentially missed the rise of Andrew Marston as an XC success story. As a junior, Marston made a massive jump from relative unknown to state level contender (as his Conestoga team joined him). He finished 3rd in the Central league behind a top notch Kazanjian duo, 18th at districts and then a massive breakthrough in Hershey for 9th overall. But Marston was not finished after his Junior year and his Conestoga team was hungry for the state championship. Marston opened his Senior year on fire, clocking some strong shorter distance performances before unleashing a 14:31 near course record at McQuaid. After running a very quick 12:33 for 4k at Manhattan, he won his first Central League title and then battled Jake Brophy at Districts, finishing second overall. His Conestoga team ended up grabbing District gold at Lehigh as well, a remarkable victory for a smaller, lesser-known program. At States, Conestoga continued their hot streak, taking silver as a team over top program Cardinal O’Hara and Andrew led the team with a third place finish overall. Marston’s bronze winning time of 15:40 was five seconds under the previous course record and remains the fastest ever bronze medal winning time on the lay-out.
25. Max Norris, Harriton, Class of 2013
PIAA States: 4th (16:00), 32nd, 43rd
District One: 4th (15:23), 4th (15:36), 22nd (16:13)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 7th (15:48)
Footlocker Nationals: 17th (15:41)
Central League: 15:47 (1st), 16:24 (1st), 16:30 (4th)
Rose Tree: 16:10 (1st), 16:10 (1st), 16:03 (4th)
Viking: 15:31* (2nd)
Paul Short: 15:55* (2nd)
In 2009, Lower Merion Seniors Neal Berman and Ben Furcht set the central league on fire, but little did they know they were inspiring a young runner at rival Harriton High School. Max Norris always trained hard and was able to compete at a high level from his sophomore year on. He finished 22nd at Districts and cracked the top 50 at state (one of just three sophs to accomplish the feat). A year later he came blazing out of the gates, clocking 15:31 at Viking, earning runner-up honors to Dustin Wilson at Paul Short and finished things off by winning the central league title. After a 4th place finish at districts, Norris seemed like a good bet for a top 5-10 finish at the state championships in a wide open 2011 race. However, Norris had a rare off day and finished just outside the medals in 32nd place.

Although Norris entered the 2012 season as hungry as ever, he was completely absent in the early season, trying to ensure he was healthy for a long stretch run. When he finally returned to action, he won a second straight Central League title and then rolled to a second straight top 4 finish in D1, this time in a very quick 15:23. A week later, Norris matched that district performance at states, taking 4th overall just ahead of Ethan Martin at 16:00. But Norris was far from finished. With the advantage of a late start and the motivation of Furcht and Berman before him, Norris trained all the way through to the Footlocker Regionals where he finished 7th, qualifying for Footlocker Nationals. The momentum continued through to December where Norris finished 17th overall at the FL Championships. It remains the 4th best finish at FL Nationals in the decade and speaks to Norris’s peak ability when at full health.

24. Rad Gunzenhauser, Mount Lebanon, Class of 2010
PIAA States: 2nd (15:49)
District Seven: 2nd (15:43), 25th
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 5th (16:05)
Footlocker Nationals: 24th (15:47)
Tri-States: 2nd (15:50), 2nd (16:05)
Red, White and Blue: 15:24 (1st)
Carlisle: 15:27 (2nd)
Pitts CC: 15:44 (1st)
The Red, White and Blue Invitational has become an invite for breakout stars to make their case for the WPIAL throne. Nick Wolk, Matt McGoey, Colin Martin, Brent Kennedy, Zach Hebda and Dan Jaskowak all made huge breakthroughs on the course en route to dominant WPIAL seasons and top notch state finishes, but before all of those guys had their coming out parties in the west, Rad Gunzenhauser set the stage. In 2009, he won the RWB title in a very quick 15:24. At the time it was the third fastest mark since 2003, trailing only the legendary VanKooten-Zarzeczny duel of 2006. Unlike the 2006 race, however, Gunzenhauser took a commanding 12 second victory with a 17 second victory over the next closest PA competitor (Ryan Gil). Gunzenhauser also rolled to a very fast 15:44 at Pittsburgh Central Catholic before heading east for the prestigious Carlisle Invitational.  There he faced Brad Miles in a thrilling battle (I’m still a little upset I was in the race and couldn’t watch), foreshadowing some not so distance future match ups. R-Gunz ran 15:27 to finish second to Miles, the fastest silver medal performance in the decade and the course’s 4th fastest overall time.
At Coopers Lake, Rad ran into a primed and ready Ryan Gil and ended up losing both Tri-States and WPIALs despite running excellent times of 15:50 and 15:43. After being defeated quite handily at districts, it seemed that Gunzenhauser’s fast start may have left him out of gas for states. However, at the state championship, Rad ran a brilliant race, tracking Miles throughout and ending up in a sprint to the finish for the state championship. Although Miles got the better of him, Rad ran a very quick 15:49 for 2nd and smacked the previous state record of 16:09 in the process. Even after all these year’s 15:49 is still tied for a top 12 mark in the course’s history and it would have won gold in a variety of years. Rad carried the momentum from his terrific state performance through to Footlocker Regionals and Nationals where he placed 5th and 24th respectively. His 5th place finish at Footlocker Northeast is the highest finish of the decade at either regional meet for a runner from the WPIAL.

23. Chris Campbell, CR North, Class of 2011
PIAA States: 4th (15:55), 7th (16:21)
District One: 1st (15:16), 5th (15:59), 20th (15:49)
Team (States): 9th (1), 6th (4)**, 6th (4)***
Team (District): 4th (1), 3rd (1), 2nd (2), 4th (4)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 8th (15:46), 34th
Footlocker Nationals: 39th (16:01)
Suburban One National: 1st (15:40), 1st (15:50), 3rd (16:02)
Abington: 15:55 (1st)
Steel City: 15:59 (1st), 16:41 (2nd)
Council Rock North has had a variety of successful teams over the past decade, qualifying as a team for the state championships out of the state’s deepest district every single season. As a result they have had a variety of strong individual performers, including Chris Campbell. Campbell was one of the top freshmen and sophomores in the state during his first two seasons, clocking a 15:49 as a sophomore at Lehigh for top soph honors. However, he struggled on the difficult Hershey course during his first two shots at it. His junior season, he made a huge breakthrough, climbing the standings up to 7th overall and #3 returner status. Entering his senior season, Campbell was just as confident as ever, running an impressive 15:59 at the difficult Steel City Invite for Gold over Altoon’a Wade Endress and then cruising to a dominant D1 title in 15:16. At states, Campbell was right in the mix with the top group in the state final, but ended up a tight 4th. But Campbell was resilient and trained through to the Footlocker Regional meet where he was PA’s top finisher, running the fastest time at Sunken Meadow for a PA athlete this decade, even faster than regional champ Brad Miles did in 2009.

22. Brent Kennedy, Kiski Area, Class of 2014
PIAA States: 2nd (15:52)*, 7th (16:16)**
District Seven: 1st (15:59)*, 4th (17:22)**
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 9th (15:50)*
Footlocker Nationals: 34th (16:07)*
Nike Northeast Regionals:20th (16:42)**
Tri-States: 15:37 (2nd)*, 16:44 (3rd)**
Carlisle: 15:33 (2nd)*
Red, White and Blue: 15:25 (2nd), 15:27 (1st), 15:51 (6th)
Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game. They happen to even our best talents and, unfortunately, during the 2013 season we lost a chance at a brilliant rematch between Kiski’s Brent Kennedy and West Chester Henderson’s Tony Russell, who dueled to a 1-2 finish at states a year earlier (the second straight year juniors occupied the top two spots at states). But even without Kennedy’s senior season, Brent produced one of the most remarkable careers in PA history. As a sophomore, Brent finished 7th at the state championships which, if not for Josh Hoey in 2015, would have been the best finish by a sophomore at states in the decade. As a junior, Brent produced top marks at Carlisle (15:33) and Tri-States (15:37) in epic battles with some other PA all-timers, in addition to his 15:27 RWB victory. After winning the district seven championship, he entered states as one of the potential favorites in a loaded class and nearly pulled out the individual title against Tony Russell, running 15:52 for silver. Kennedy capped off his year with a Footlocker Nationals qualifying performance at VCP, making him one of just three juniors to qualify for Footlocker in the decade (joining Ryan Gil and Jake Brophy). It’s also worth noting that with Brent Kennedy leading the charge alongside runners like Richard Lednak, the Kiski team qualified for the state championships in 2011, placing 9th.
21. Ross Wilson, CR North, Class of 2014 PIAA States: 3rd (16:01), 7th (16:04), 34th District One: 2nd (15:15), 2nd (15:19), 14th (16:08) Team (States): 5th (1), 3rd (1), 6th (1), 9th (6) Team (Districts): 3rd (1), 2nd (1), 4th (1), 4th (5) Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 10th (15:41), 62nd, 51st Footlocker Nationals: 26th (15:50) Suburban One National: 1st (15:31), 1st (15:49), 3rd (16:23) Viking: 15:40 (1st) Briarwood: 15:51 (1st), 16:00 (3rd) Like Campbell before him, Ross Wilson was an ultra talented runner for the excellent CR North program. But Wilson and Campbell both came from different places. While Campbell soared out the gate as one of the district’s top frosh/sophs Wilson was the third soph to cross the line at D1 in 2011, barely ahead of the #4 soph Matt Willig. But Wilson had to become a leader on the team starting his sophomore season. While Campbell was rolling among a pack including Dan Wallace and Mike Mahoney, older and more experienced veterans, Ross was leading a group of younger up and comers, finishing as the team’s #1 runner at both districts and states. As a junior, Ross renewed his focus with a pair of teammates (James Zingarini and Mac Emery) who made this school very dangerous at states. Wilson ended up stopping basketball in the winter of his junior year, and his commitment to running showed in 2012. Ross and his teammates began their patented post season ascent just in time for a 2nd place team finish at districts and a 3rd place team finish at states, ahead of a brilliant young pack from North Allegheny. Wilson led the charge with a 2nd place finish at districts and a 7th place finish at states.

As a senior, Wilson got off to an especially fast start for a CRN runner as he rolled through Viking and Briarwood with big wins. Wilson remained relatively unchallenged, crushing the Suburban One National meet in 15:31. He took 2nd at districts behind Tony Russell for the second straight year and ended up 3rd at states behind Russell and Colin Abert. He also helped pull North to a second straight top five finish as the 5th place team in the state. At Footlocker Northeast, Wilson snuck through in the 10th spot to advance to California and help keep PA's qualifying streak alive and to give North it's third national qualifier since 2005. He took 26th at Balboa Park to finish off his career.

20. Zach Hebda, North Hills, Class of 2011
PIAA States: 3rd (15:55), 27th
District Seven: 1st (15:29), 5th (16:01)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 9th (15:47)
Footlocker Nationals: 18th (15:38)
Tri-States: 2nd (15:39), 7th (16:28)
Red, White and Blue: 15:16 (1st), 16:01 (9th)
Pitts CC: 15:48 (1st)
The North Hills monster started as just a duo. Juris Silenieks and Joe Kush became standouts within the WPIAL starting their freshmen seasons. Waiting in the wings was their classmate Zach Hebda who was a complete non-factor on the state scene is first two seasons. Even as a junior when Hebda finished 5th at WPIALs and 27th at states he was completely overshadowed by the top 15 finishes of his two teammates. But Hebda kept improving, consistently over time. After he ran a 9:17 for 3200m at states (behind both Kush and Juris once again), Zach’s confidence was at an all-time high. Then, he exploded out the gates in a terrific 15:16 to win at Red, White and Blue. The time was the 3rd fastest of the last decade plus and he defeated a variety of state medalists in the process. Hebda did not slow down as the season continued, running 15:48 for the win at Pitts CC and adding 15:39 and 15:29 times at Coopers Lake. Hebda’s 15:29 is the fastest time of the decade at Coopers Lake. With wins in his pocket against a pair of top state contenders in Ryan Gil and Wade Endress, Hebda seemed like one of the favorites for the state title along side district one champ Chris Campbell. In a barn burner finish, Hebda took 3rd at the state championships, breaking 16 minutes on the Hershey course. Although he was likely disappointed to come away without the state title, he finished 9th at the FL Regionals (second fastest mark on Sunken Meadow course for PA) and then an 18th place finish at Nationals. Hebda ran the 4th fastest time and 5th best place of the decade at Footlocker Nationals.

19. Kyle Dawson, Coatesville, Class of 2007
PIAA States: 3rd (15:17), 7th (15:54), 25th (16:41)
District One: 3rd (14:58), 4th (15:16), 11th (15:49)
Team (States): 1st (1), 4th (1), 6th (3)***
Team (Districts): 1st (1), 1st (1), 2nd (5)***
Nike Team Nationals: 8th (16:52)
Team (Nationals): 1st (1)
Ches-monts: 1st (16:00), 2nd (16:57)
Steel City: 15:54 (2nd), 16:20 (5th)
Carlisle: 15:17 (1st), 15:52 (5th)
Gettysburg: 15:58 (1st)
PA’s greatest team, the 2006 Coatesville squad, will be known for their impressive depth. Their ability to get five guys in the medals at states, five guys under 15:50 at Lehigh, under 30 points at states, etc. But with all the attention on depth, we can easily forget just how good Coatesville’s front runner, Kyle Dawson, really was. Despite this team’s incredible ability 2-5, Kyle was the team’s #1 runner in every single meet during the legendary 2006 season. He never had an off day or injury and always delivered. And that is rarer than you think. I believe only Kyle Dawson and Will Kellar for 2009’s West Chester Henderson squad were the only #1 men on a AAA state championship squads to be the #1 runner for their team at every single invitational during the season. In the other years, there was either rotations, injuries or resting that held somebody out for a race.

And all this happened while Dawson went into every race setting a suicide pace. He was never afraid to go out hard, whether it was the national championships or a regular season invite, and that led to some fast times. He was the catalyst for the three sub fifteen marks at districts in 2006, ending up with a 14:58 time of his own to show for his efforts. He also ran a 15:17 at Carlisle, winning by roughly 23 seconds in the fastest time on the course this decade.

18. Brendan Shearn, North Schuylkill, Class of 2013

PIAA States (AA): 2nd (16:04), 1st (16:15), 15th (16:58), 43rd
District Eleven (AA): 1st (16:11), 1st (16:33), 1st (16:50), 2nd (16:52)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 4th (15:45), 20th (16:27)
Footlocker Nationals: 21st (15:44)
PTXC: 16:35 (7th), 16:24 (1st)
Carlisle: 16:05* (1st)
Briarwood: 15:41 (1st)
Paul Short: 16:00* (3rd), 16:29** (4th)
Foundation: 16:27 (2nd)
Schuylkill League: 15:17 (1st), 15:39 (1st), 16:16 (1st), 17:29 (2nd)
In 2009 and 2010, the AA state champions ran times that would have made them borderline medalists in AAA. The smaller school division was largely overlooked and ignored by fans and runners alike. But Brendan Shearn changed all that. In 2011, Brendan finished 1st at PTXC, 1st at the historic Carlisle Invitational and 3rd at the Paul Short Invitational. That set the stage for a run to his first state title as he edged out Luke Jones in 16:15 (a time that would have placed him in the mix for at least a top five spot in AAA). For good measure, he added a 20th place finish at the Footlocker Northeast Regional. It was the first time in the decade a AA athlete had placed in the top 20 at the Regional championships. As a senior, he was outkicked for a state title by former AAA runner Vinny Todaro but turned around at the end of the month to finished 4th overall at the Footlocker Northeast Regional and qualify for the National Championships, where he placed 21st overall. Brendan remains the only “AA” athlete to qualify for Footlocker Nationals in the decade.
Shearn and his class of small school talent helped change the game in PA. Since Shearn won his title in 2011, there have been 7 sub 16 minute performances at Hershey in A and AA, 7 top 20 finishes from A and AA runners at regional championships and two national qualifiers from the same group. Before Shearn won that title there had been 0 such cases from 2006 through 2010. Shearn was a fierce competitor who raced almost every major invitational the state has to offer at some point or another. He won three straight district titles, three straight league titles (breaking Isaac Dunkleburger’s fabled course record) and was 2nd in both races as a frosh.
It’s also widely believed that Brendan helped popularize the phrase “PA Don’t Play” in recent years (although it's been around for a while), yelling it on the line at Footlocker Regionals and promoting it overall during his years in the sport.
17. Colin Abert, Easton, Class of 2015
PIAA States: 5th (15:47), 2nd (15:54), 12th (16:16)
District Eleven: 1st (15:43), 1st (15:43), 1st (16:21), 5th (17:12)
Team (Districts): 1st (1)
Team (States): 5th (1)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 16th (15:56), 13th (16:01), 41st (16:40)
PTXC: 15:21 (1st), 15:59 (4th)
Paul Short: 14:55 (1st), 16:17** (12th)
There are some noteworthy barriers in the history of Pennsylvania Cross Country, but for our East Coast friends there are none quite as exciting as the fifteen minute barrier at Lehigh. In the past decade just five runners have done it, three did it in the same race back in 2006, Tony Russell clocked it in 2013 and, in a slightly muddy and hot day in 2014, Colin Abert became #5. Abert won Paul Short in a time of 14:55, the third fastest time of the decade and, by far, the best mark in PA meet history. It came just a week after Abert had run 15:21 in incredibly hot weather to win the PTXC Invitational by over 30 seconds against Lake Lehman’s future state champ Dom Hockenbury. After getting a run away victory at the District 11 Championships, Abert was the favorite headed into Hershey. However, in a blazing fast race, Abert ended up a surprising fast in a very quick 15:47 time. At Regionals, despite sickness, Abert ran 15:56 for 16th overall, missing out on Footlocker in a deep race. 

Although Abert failed to win the state championship or qualify for Footlocker Nationals, he had a truly remarkable career that should not be overshadowed by the way things finished up. In three seasons, Abert finished in the top 12 at states three times, highlighted by a 2nd place finish in 2013 behind only the legendary Tony Russell and ahead of future national qualifiers Ross Wilson and Kevin James. He dropped two marks under 15:55 on the Hershey course, joining an exclusive club. He won three straight District 11 Championships, including back to back 15:43. He also finished in the top 16 at Regionals two years in a row, again adding his name to a short list of achievers. It’s also worth noting that Abert helped catapult the Easton team to new heights during his senior season. They finished 5th overall in the state, by far the best finish by a District 11 team at AAA states in the decade. Abert was  a fierce accomplished racer, not afraid to push the pace and he elevated the performances of all those around him in the process.

16. Paul Springer, Unionville, Class of 2007
PIAA States: 2nd (15:06), 10th (16:04), 23rd (16:39)
District One: 1st (14:47), 3rd (15:15), 8th (15:34)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 9th (15:31)
Footlocker Nationals: 39th (17:33)
Manhattan: 12:28.5 (1st)
Unionville’s Paul Springer has perhaps the most jaw-dropping performance of the decade thanks to the historic 2006 District One Championships. In a battle with other top 20ers Jason Weller and Kyle Dawson, Springer stormed through the Lehigh course to run a blistering course record of 14:47. No one else has cracked 14:50 and, outside of Colin Abert’s 14:55 at Paul Short, no one has been within 10 seconds of Springer’s mark since. Paul backed up those marks with absurdly fast wins at CB East and Manhattan in addition to his three state medals and three top ten finishes within district one. He also qualified for nationals in 2006, running 15:31 at Van Cortlandt Park despite the fact that he had an injured hamstring, a fact which may have played a role in 39th place finish at the national championships.
However, state gold eluded Springer after a rematch with Jason Weller led to a narrow two-second defeat. The duo raced all the way down to 15:04 and 15:06 on the old Hershey lay out, a unique one year course lay out with no real point of comparison. To me any time you hear the word “Hershey” you think “difficult” so it’s hard to think a couple guys dueling through Parkview and nearly cracking 15 minutes isn’t super impressive, but without any clear point of comparison it’s hard to say for sure where Springer’s runner-up performance ranks in the archives.

15. Jaxson Hoey, Downingtown West, Class of 2016
PIAA States: 2nd (15:40)
Independent States: 1st (16:03)**
District One: 2nd (15:13)
Team (States): 1st (1)
Team (Independents): 1st (1)**
Nike Northeast Regionals: 22nd (16:29), 12th (16:03)**
Team (Regionals): 1st (3), 5th (1)**
Team (Nationals): 17th (6)
Carlisle: 15:28 (1st), 15:53 (6th), 15:53 (9th)
Briarwood: 15:30* (1st)
Paul Short: 15:36* (5th)
Manhattan: 12:29 (9th)
Jaxson Hoey has put together an incredibly unique career. During his first three years in high school, he competed for Malvern Prep in the Independent league. While there, he clocked a pair of sub 16s at Carlisle, a top 5 finish at Paul Short and an epic 15:30 at Briarwood. He also helped Malvern Prep make a huge leap. They won an independent league title and finished 5th in the Nike Northeast Regional meet with Hoey winning the Independent State Title and finishing 12th in the Northeast Region as just a sophomore. An injury kept him out of post season action his junior year, making him unable to try and defend his independent title.

Then, in one of the most talked about moves in state history, Jaxson and his brothers (including sophomore Josh Hoey) made the move to the Downingtown West school district and catapulted that team from state to national contender. Jaxson won the Carlisle Invitational in 15:28 and dropped a 12:29 for 4k at Manhattan, both top seven marks this decade. The list of sub 12:30 men at Manhattan is short, for PA at least, includes exclusively state champions and/or national qualifiers. Jaxson also went toe to toe with Jake Brophy, one of the best in the decade, at both districts and states, coming away with a pair of well-earned silvers, pushing Brophy down to the wire.

During that same season, Hoey’s Downingtown West team was rolling. Despite a ton of talk both positive and negative, the DT West squad put together one of the best seasons in PA history, rolling to a win at Carlisle, an Eastern States win, and then, most notably, District, State and Regional championships. They are PA’s only Northeast Regional Champions in meet history.

14. Vince McNally, Conestoga Valley, Class of 2008
PIAA States: 18th (16:30), 5th (15:29), 3rd (15:37), 13th (16:27)
District Three: 1st (16:38), 1st (15:58), 4th (15:49), 5th (16:41)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 7th (15:30), 13th (15:41)
Footlocker Nationals: 27th (15:53)
Lebanon-Lancaster: 1st (15:02), 1st (15:48), 2nd (15:44), 3rd (16:14)
Steel City: 15:36 (1st), 15:55 (2nd)**
Carlisle: 15:42* (3rd)
Gettysburg: 15:20 (1st), 15:02** (2nd)
It’s an incredibly rare to see a runner end his career with four top twenty finishes at the AAA Cross Country State Championships. Perhaps even more bizarre, Vince McNally finished 13th then 3rd then 5th then 18th over that four year stretch. Such was the interesting career of Vince McNally. As a freshman, Vince jumped right into perhaps the peak years for the Lebanon Lancaster League and District 3 on the whole. The Miller twins were dominating the PA XC landscape, Craig in the midst of winning three straight state titles. But Vince never backed down from the challenge they presented, finishing an impressive 5th at Districts during his freshman season. A year later, he opened the year battling right alongside the Millers and clocking a 15:02 at Gettysburg. He fought tooth and nail with the Manheim Township duo throughout the season, taking 2nd at Lebanon Lancaster, 4th at Districts and then 3rd at the State Championships as just a sophomore. The sky seemed like the limit for this ultra-talent.

But Vince suffered with some injuries his junior season and ending up getting a late start on his XC training. He still finished 3rd at Carlisle in 15:42, but he seemed well off the pace set by Dawson, Springer and Weller in District One. At states, Chris Aldrich outdueled him to the line and McNally ended up 5th in the final standings. He did, however, rebound to finish 13th at Regionals in VCP, clocking a time of 15:41 on the course as just a junior, the 10th fastest time on the course this decade. All this came despite the fact that McNally suffered a fall early in the race.

So with a healthy year of training and a track season that included a 4:07 1600m under his belt, McNally seemed destine for a resurgence during his senior season. He came out the gates blazing fast with a 15:20 dominant win at Gettysburg followed by an unthinkable 15:36 at Steel City, 11 seconds faster than state champ Jason Weller had run, 29 seconds ahead of his closest competition (future state champ Mark Dennin) and 22 seconds faster than future Footlocker Finalist Chris Campbell. When McNally finished off his stretch with a 15:02 at Ephrata, he seemed like a runaway favorite for the state title.
But sometimes, things aren’t that simple. Rain and stormy weather pushed the District 3 Championships back to the Sunday before the state championships and sloppy conditions made for an incredibly slow meet. McNally raced through the slop to a victory, but six days later it was clear the efforts on the difficult Hershey course were affecting him during the final mile at states. After being in the lead pack through two miles, Vince fell off hard (with roughly 200m to go he was still in the top 10) and ended up just 18th in the overall standings. It was likely a confidence shaking race for McNally and the worst finish of his career at states, but he overcame it and proved just how strong a runner he was. He took 7th overall at the Footlocker Northeast Regional in 15:30 (#4 this decade) and then finished as PA’s #2 runner at Nationals in 27th overall.

13. Chris Aldrich, West Chester Henderson, Class of 2008
PIAA States: 2nd (15:59), 4th (15:29), 20th (16:24)
District One: 1st (15:02), 4th (15:19), 7th (15:42)
Team (States): 2nd (1)*, 5th (2)**
Team (Districts): 3rd (1)*, 2nd (1)**
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 5th (15:27), 40th (16:08)
Footlocker Nationals: 31st (16:02)
Ches-monts: 1st (15:41), 2nd (16:14), 6th
Manhattan: 12:38 (2nd)
Steel City: 16:19* (3rd)
Briarwood: 15:58* (1st)
Aldrich is on the short list of eight runners (this decade) who have finished in the top five at the AAA state championships in two different seasons. He ran 15:02 to win the district one championship at Lehigh (#6 this decade) and, having run 15:19 for 4th his junior season (the fastest 4th place finish in meet history) joined a list of just nine runners with a pair of sub 15:20 marks at Lehigh on their resume. Aldrich was also a top two scorer for the 2nd place team in the state in 2006 (behind only Coatesville) and the 5th place team in the state his junior and sophomore seasons. Only 15 runners from the past decade have been a top two scorer for two different top five teams at the state championships.
Although Aldrich has a nice group of fast times at courses like Belmont and Manhattan, where he has truly shined is on the biggest stage. He outdueled Vince McNally for a somewhat surprising fourth at states in 2006 and then held on valiantly to Mark Dennin’s courageous pace for 2nd at the 2007 championships. Then, in the biggest race of his season (and perhaps career), Aldrich raced to 5th in the Footlocker Northeast Regional, running a brilliant 15:27 (#3 this decade, just one tenth behind Jake Brophy). He closed out his career with a 31st place finish at the Footlocker Championships.

12. Wade Endress, Altoona, Class of 2011
PIAA States: 2nd (15:54), 20th (16:34), 14th (16:40)
District Six: 1st (15:37), 1st (16:06), 1st (17:19), 4th (17:18)
Team (Districts): 1st(1), 1st (1), 1st (1), 1st (2)
Team (States): 5th (1), 4th (2)
Nike Northeast Regionals: 5th (16:03), 9th (16:15)
Team (Regionals): 7th (1), 10th (1)
Nike Nationals: 61st (17:16)
Tri-State: 15:58 (4th)
Carlisle: 15:43 (2nd), 15:49 (6th)
Steel City: 16:20 (2nd), 16:35 (1st), 16:46 (2nd)
Slippery Rock: 16:08* (1st)
PTXC: 15:26 (1st)
You can make an argument that high school kids have a tendency to over race. We want to chase big meets and big competition, but the stress of consistent hard efforts and long travel time could be damaging long term on a season. But on the flip side, take a quick look at Wade Endress’s senior season. He raced PTXC (1st against Ed Schrom) and Carlisle (top PA runner behind Martin Hehir) and faced a slew of loaded fields. Then he traveled all the way to Coatesville to face the east coast’s best runner (Chris Campbell) at Steel City, followed by traveling out West to face three of the WPIAL’s best from North Hills (Hebda, Silenieks and Kush). He ended up losing to all four of those guys when he faced them and it seemed like he may have burned himself out with all of the top notch invitationals. However, Wade instead gained a ton of confidence and experience against these runners which he then used to his advantage at the state championships, where he finished 2nd overall to the herculean efforts of North Allegheny’s Ryan Gil. After the near miss at states, Endress qualified for Nationals at the Nike Northeast Regional, taking 5th overall in the region.

Although Wade largely gets notoriety for his excellence on the track, he was a consistent stand out in XC. And he was not just an individual runner, he helped lift the Altoona team as well with a team focus during his seasons. Altoona finished 1st in the District for all four of Wade’s seasons in high school and they finished 4th and 5th in the state championships as well. Not to mention that Wade, who twice finished in the top 10 at Nike Northeast, helped the team place 10th and 7th in the regional in his two seasons. Under his tutelage, buys like Korey Replogle and Dylan Mountain took big steps towards becoming state medalists and district contenders and even Chris Fischer, an older teammate, likely was helped a lot by Wade’s ability and confidence as Fischer surprised everyone with a 10th place finish at the 2009 state championships.

11. Jason Weller, Boyertown, Class of 2007
PIAA States: 1st (15:04), 4th (15:41), 11th (16:26)
District One: 1st (14:54), 2nd (15:12), 10th (15:48)
Footlocker Northeast Regionals: 23rd (15:52)
Pioneer: 1st (15:15), 1st (15:41), 2nd (16:10)
Steel City: 15:47 (1st), 15:48 (1st)
Centaur: 16:04 (1st)
Picture this. You are just a freshman in high school, struggling to break 19 minutes in the 5k and 5 minutes in the mile. Then a guy comes along and runs 14:47 and 8:48 for 5k and 3200m. You are amazed. To you, that kid is practically a god among men and it confuses you how that is even theoretically possible. Then, somehow, a guy comes along, with a bit more modest of PRs, and beats that guy in the two most important meets of the high school season. When you see that clutch-ness on the big stage, you can’t help but be impressed. And that is what made Jason Weller such a memorable athlete.

Let me elaborate briefly on this. In 2006, Jason Weller got off to a strong start, winning at Centaur over Isaac Dunkleburger and Steel City over Kyle Dawson in a pair of top marks. But at districts, he ran into the buzz-saw that was Paul Springer, as Paul rolled to an unthinkable 14:47 and Jason was barely able to navigate past Dawson for 2nd. Considering Springer had won the previous year’s 3200m outdoors and mile indoors, it seemed like Paul’s time to shine in Hershey. But in a grueling race to the finish, Weller outlasted Springer by just two seconds and ended up with the state title.

But it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Weller was always clutch at states. He finished 1st, 4th and 11th in three years, each time earning the top spot in his class. If you score those three years (1+4+11), that’s a total of 16. Now if we compare that number to every other runner this decade, here’s where Weller stacks up:

1. Brophy 1 + 1 + 8 = 10
2. Weller 1 + 4 + 11 = 16
3. Miles 1 + 7 + 10 = 18
4. Abert 5 + 2 + 12 = 19
5. McNally 5 + 3 + 13 = 21 (note: frosh, soph, and junior finishes)
6. Ayers 6 + 9 + 8 = 23
7. Gil 1 + 3 + 20 = 24

That’s pretty darn good company. And we can’t forget that Weller was one of the primary groomers for Mark Dennin, who ended up learning a lot from Weller’s title run and kept the trophy in the Boyertown locker room when he grabbed the 2007 state title a year later.

The only blemish on Weller’s resume is the lack of regional/national success. In Weller’s only regional championship he suffered the unfortunate fate of falling in the back woods. Unable to recover, Weller managed to finish just 23rd in 15:52, still a top 20 mark this decade for PA athletes, but not within that coveted top 20 for all-time finishes. If Weller had stayed upright and been able to follow Springer to a spot at Nats, he would have certainly been in the top 10 of this list and perhaps even cracked the top five.