PA will be sending two to the finals tomorrow in the 4x8 COA: State College and CB West. State College was the top qualifier, winning a very fast prelim in 7:47.78 and West, from the same heat, will enter as the 5th seed thanks to a 7:49.00. Heat 3 produced 4 of the top 5 qualifiers overall.
In the just missing category, GFS finished as PA's third team in 7:55 (16th overall, 12 go to finals) and North Penn became the surprise team of the day with a 7:56 run for 17th overall. CR North and Bishop Shanahan rounded out the sub 8 schools with 7:57 and 7:59 times respectively.
7:53.43 was the 12th qualifier overall.
Again, I haven't seen any official splits or anything, I'm just going off what I watched on the track, but here are some of my takeaways.
In heat 1, Shanahan ran a real nice race to take 3rd overall in their small school section. Kolimago ran a very strong lead off leg to help get the team in a great spot and the rest of their legs held on well, including some nice finishing kicks from their final legs.
In heat 2, Penn Wood was the state's early leader with Manyeah going out hard early. But GFS would real them back in as Grayson Hepp really got moving the last 200 of his race. I'm not sure what the first 600 was, but he closed like a madman off the last curve. Ultimately, GFS was one pack away from the final as the team's that placed in front of them ran 7:53 and barely snuck in. But Dahl split a strong 1:55 anchor leg and did make up some ground on the anchor to move the team within striking distance.
Heat 3, as mentioned, where was our qualifiers came from. CB West's Carter Zerweck and Jake Claricurzio ran some fantastic early legs. Claricurzio was battling for the lead throughout his carry and holding his own among the big guns. It was a clear pack of 5 at halfway and I was nervous not everybody would get in.
After a strong 3rd like by Degleris of SC and a great 3rd leg from West's runner (not sure by face who it was) both teams were in the mix, but at the back of the lead pack. Luckily Milligan and Fortna are two of the strongest anchors in the business. Milligan ran an extremely poised anchor and split an easy looking 1:54 that had to be one of the faster splits of the day. Fortna, meanwhile, looked like he might fall off the pace, but rallied hard core with a gutsy finish to keep things close and, ultimately, clinch a second straight spot in the finals for West.
In Heat 4, North Penn and CRN set the tone early with fantastic lead off legs. I think Keller lead off for North and, after his 1:56 run at Abington, he was ready for this moment and handed off at the front. North Penn also got a huge lift from their lead off (I think it may have been Dante Watson, but not sure). The two schools hung valiantly at the front throughout their relay and, although neither team was quite in the mix at the very front of the race, they ran ultra competitive races and really impressed me. Both schools have a ton of forward momentum.
Worth noting, I didn't see Brophy run the team's 1st, 3rd or 4th legs so unless he ran second (possible considering that's where I think he ran last year?) he will be fresh for 3k. I'd suggest looking at the results page to confirm this though.
Overall, I'd say it was a nice start for PA and I'm excited for our two finalists tomorrow. Both schools will be forces to reckon with in the final.