4x800 Prelims at Penn

Well, it was a pretty fast first day at the Penn Relays. I'm operating via phone (and apparently the mobile version doesn't show the official splits that the computer version does) so everything I say is unofficial. But if you are in front of a computer rather than a phone, I'd suggest clicking over to pennrelaysonline.com because they are official and will have splits galore on their site. 

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.

Live at Penn Relays

You can check out live results (usually with fully automatic splits) at the following link: www.pennrelaysonline.com.

Etrain will be on site, sending out the occasional tweet, live analysis or maybe even a few interview clips so stay tuned to the blog as well as our twitter account @TheRealTrain11.

We've previewed all the action here on site and those posts can be found under the following label link: http://www.therealtrain.blogspot.com/search/label/PRatPR. Check out our previews and let us know what you think!

Also feel free to use this post as a discussion thread for the next few days events. It should be a blast and there will likely be lots to talk about.

If you are fans of the blog, fans of the show or really bored, be on the look out for the blogs own Jarrett Felix AKA etrain11. He will likely be decked out in etrain gear or Oregon gear when on site (either way it's green and yellow). During the 4x100s on Friday, he will be in the upper deck probably somewhere near section UEE watching the action. If you're interested in meeting one of the writers of the blog, talking track, or submitting questions for the next TheRoundHouse episode, feel free to say hello.

Train Hard.

The Final(s) Countdown

Yes, I know, I'm pretty far behind on my Weekend Review post. Unfortunately, I won't be able to get one up this week or next week. Finals week is fast approaching and I'm looking to kick some butt on my Econ exam. Paul will also be burying his head in the books for the next two weeks as well.

My last final is next Saturday (May 7th). After that, I'll be able to devote plenty of my time to collegiate distance running. So until then, keep watching the RoundHouse and read up on all the material that the blog is able to put out there!

Keep it real,

The Relay Predictions

By Jarrett Felix

The Penn Relays is honestly unlike any other race I’ve ever contested. I had the good fortune of competed in two events at Penn my senior season. The 4x800 prelims on Friday Morning (we barely got in and the only reason we were a barely was because of Sam Ellison) and the 4x400 on Saturday afternoon (a couple of moments before Bolt ran actually). It was an amazing experience, even though neither race went particularly well, and I’ll always remember that weekend.

Not to be too full of myself here, but I like to think that brief moment of Penn Relays revelry taught me a bit about what it takes to be successful at Penn. These are my basic takeaways that I will naturally incorporate into my predictions.

On the first day, we were nervous and excited to race the 4x8. We knew we had barely gotten in by the skin of our teeth and we knew that in a bit over our head. We were prepared for that mental game. However, we were definitely not prepared to be ushered into the waiting area with no time to warm up or throw spikes on or anything. At Penn, they cram everyone like sardines into the waiting area and it’s very tricky to time a proper warm up if you’re a rookie. Then you just stand around anxiously in a jam packed area with no room to stretch out or do strides or anything like you would typically experience at a normal invite or dual meet. Combine that with the big crowd, odd turns (lanes inside of lane 1 are weird) and the fact that you will inevitably realize that this is the Penn Relays and the pressure creeps in with slowly increasing intensity ….

I’d imagine the second time around it’s not quite as big of a deal. Even running a day later, things were a bit less nerve racking and we definitely timed our warm up routine better. So, as per usual, experience and proper preparation can go a long way in this meet.

The other “secret” I discovered back in the day came in the 4x4. Our normal lead off leg was academically ineligible at the wrong moment and left off our squad. That meant our #2 leg had to move up to the #1 leg. At Penn, it’s a waterfall start for the first leg rather than in lines. And there are a ton of teams. Our new lead off leg was definitely nervous about the crowded start, and he was kind of weak and puny so it would be easy for him to get pushed around a bit. Then, as we were waiting in the pre-race zone (for about an hour) we watched as a lead off leg (much bigger and stronger than ours) went down hard, falling directly on the rail. It was a fairly gruesome injury and, after that, I think our lead off leg was just mentally defeated. When we finally got to race, he went straight to the back and that was the end of that.

And yes, I was that lead off leg. Big softie was born a long time ago.

So the lesson? You need to have a good lead off leg who will get out and set up the squad. It can go a long way in a crowded field off a waterfall start. 4x4, 4x8 or DMR. It applies to all three this weekend.

So with those little tips in the back of my mind, let’s dive into the relay analysis. For a list of some of the best times for each of these teams (in a randomly assigned order) feel free to skip down a post.

Heat 1
Bishop Shanahan
The boys from Shanahan took big strides forward this year. They’ve now contested the last three state championships and, although they are essentially Penn Relays rookies, they do have a nice pocket of big race experience to fall back on. Kolimago has been a solid lead-off man, running in that role for a couple years, and he’s a senior who will hopefully handle the moment well. Considering these guys were sub 8 indoors, there’s little reason to doubt their ability to get back towards that time in this meet on the right day. However, they have been relatively quiet in the early spring results.

The key here is likely going to be Seamus Fromhartz, the team’s best leg a year ago, who was coming back from an injury during XC and is still building back up to peak fitness. If he can recapture his peak form from a year ago (he split 1:54) that adds a nice dimension to this relay. Logan Yoquinto, the team’s gutsy sophomore, has a big chance to shine on the big stage. Lots of sophomores have been grabbing the spotlight recently and Yoquinto could be next in line. He ran a very impressive anchor leg indoors and, conceivably, could split down around 1:56 in the right position.

Bottom Line: They will likely miss out on a trip to the COA unless they either have a breakthrough performance from one of the seniors or get a very consistent line up with no one above 2 flat.

Bonner may come up in with one of the slower seed times, but they also come in with some of the biggest upside. Sean Sullivan was an indoor state medalist at the mile and ran 1:55 last spring for 800. But Dave Whitfield might be the team's biggest weapon after his huge breakthrough mark of 1:55 at O'Hara. Very few teams can boast multiple 1:55 guys.

The pressure will be on the team's remaining two legs to step in and make a statement about the small squad's depth. If just one of them has a breakthrough day and ends up around 2 flat or under, this becomes a very intriguing under dog.

Bottom Line: They are a long shot for the COA, but they have the legs to make things very interesting on race day. Especially if Whitfield/Sullivan has a huge lead off leg to set the stage.

Heat 2
I've already gone on record predicting these guys to make the finals on our Penn Relays edition of TheRoundHouse, so I suppose I can't back out now. However, I think the lead off leg will be critical for these guys. Personally, I like the idea of Dahl leading off again like he did indoors, but I think Hepp could be pretty capable in that position as well (and he has experience leading off at Penn which can't hurt). They middle legs will have some pressure as guys who are a bit younger and less experienced in the big moment, but they handled the state landscape pretty well with a couple PR type performances. I don't think they are going to make up ground if the team is out of position, but if they get it in a good spot, I think they can hold ground nicely.

I still feel weird talking about GFS in the 4x8 instead of the DMR, but I'm really excited to see this change. It's good for Dahl and it may be good for the team as well. GFS as a program has been to Penn a number of times in the last decade, so they've got some experience as a school and, with last year's run, some experience as individuals. The pieces are here for a nice run, but they don't decide races based on my blog posts (if only).

Bottom line: This one very well might come down to Grayson Hepp, the senior leader of the squad. If he clocks a 1:54-1:55 type mark, it's hard to doubt this crew, even in a bit of an unfamiliar stage.

Penn Wood
So Penn Wood has been a bit of a mystery for me to place. I think they have a monster group of sprinters, but their 4x8 results have been a bit more inconsistent. Their best two guys, Manyeah and Seck, rarely contest the 800 (Seck is a beast at 400, Manyeah has been mostly high jumping it looks like?) and their core is a decent amount of sprint transfers. However, sprint transfers can be a beautiful think at 800 meters. You can’t teach speed.

I’m most interested to see who their 4th leg is and how fast he can run. Based on Penn Wood’s usual line up, they could be in fantastic position through the first two legs (Manyeah to Seck to x to x) which means if they have get a gutsy run out of the back legs (Jahi Smith and someone else) they could steal a spot in the COA. Who is it going to be that steps up? Todd Jackson or maybe Kenneth Johnson, another 400 guy who could move up and join the others?

Bottom Line: A legit sleeper here to make the COA if their front two legs run to their potential and the back two legs just race and ride the momentum. I want to see Manyeah/Seck run 1:54 on race day.

Heat 3
State College
The indoor state champ has made the COA finals each year for the past decade in the 4x8. I know that seems like a jinx, but it's just worth mentioning as a stat guy. SC also returns 3 guys who ran on last year's team, made the final in 2014 and, oh yeah, ran 7:45 indoors for 2nd at nationals. Add in a Millrose Games victory and this team has all the pieces.

I suppose the only concern I could have is that Owen Wing, their usual lead off man, has never raced Penn before and is, technically, their slowest 800 guy. So conceivably they could get buried off the start. However, I don't see that happening as Wing is coming off a strong 4:23 1600 PR. And, worse case scenario, they have a 1:54-1:56-1:52 threesome behind him ready to make chase.

I'm already kinda putting these guys in the finals (dangerous I know and I hope they aren't thinking like that) and I'm very excited to see how they stack up against the Jamaicans and the other national schools. Keep in mind, we haven't had a COA champ in the 4x8 in the last decade (2nd twice) and I'd love to see us get over the hump with this squad.

Bottom Line: I think this team is in the finals and finished top 3. Maybe wins. Maybe gets close to 7:40 (which I would think would win). No pressure of course.

CB West
I think State College is the clear PA favorite, but CB West seems to be the clear #2 pick. They made the finals a year ago and return 3 pieces from that team. They have 3 guys at 1:57 or faster this spring and they have a gutsy, capable anchor leg in Rock Fortna (although don't be stunned if he ends up in a different spot).

I'm interested to see if their 4th leg can step up and make them a clear team to watch not only in the prelims but also in the finals. I'm also interested to see if Carter Zerweck continues his hot streak he's on right now. Kids running great right now at just the right time.

Bottom Line: I'm a big fan of this team and, assuming no bad luck, I think they are through to the next day. However, nothing is guaranteed.

CB East
It's odd. I feel like the only talk CB East's 4x8 has gotten with respect to Penn is "how will the 4x8 affect Jake Brophy's 3k?" It's like we forget that these guys made finals in this race a year ago and were very close to doing the same thing two years ago. This is a program with serious chops.

Indoors, the team didn't run Jake Brophy or David Endres (break out sub 2 frosh) on their relay and still nearly medaled in the 4x8 before their DQ (and had 3 sub 2 legs by my watch). Brophy is still a star and even if the 8 isn't his best event, it's hard to imagine he won't deliver a huge leg if needed (if he gets the baton out of it, he may go for a jog to save for the 3k, who knows). Shahideh ran 1:56 last year a couple times and Kettleberger was a key member of the squad that made the COA last year as well.

Bottom Line: If Endres can handle the spotlight, there's not a clear weak spot on this squad (and there's actually a ton of depth). I don't have them in my COA, but they have the experience and the talent to get there without a doubt. Plus they have that extra motivation racing against their rivals from the west.

Worth noting, I definitely didn't have them in last year and, bang, they surprised me. Why can't it happen again?

Upper Dublin
Happy to see our 4x8 getting in the mix for the first time since I was wearing the Red and Gray. Just like my team, these guys snuck in during the spring, but unlike my team, they don't rely on one guy to do all the heavy lifting on the anchor. That should hopefully keep them competitive with a more balanced attack.

That being said, they will need at least one guy to step up and take on a leadership role. This team has been very good at 4x8 and 4x4 the last two years, but they haven't been great. I'm curious if they will show flashes of greatness when they arrive on this big stage.

Bottom Line: They are definitely a long shot to make the COA, but I think this will be a very valuable experience for this team/relay. Very excited to watch the Cardinals race.

Heat 4
I watched Abington fairly closely in last year's 4x8 prelims (I was standing next to their coach so it was bound to happen) and they quietly had one of the best performances of the day relative to expectations. Abington also qualified for the 4x8 COA in 2009, 2010 and 2011 (and finished 2nd overall in that final). They understand the formula, they've got some extra experience, and they've spent the past month running almost exclusively relays.

I talked about Penn Woods raw speed, but don't forget Abington's 4x8 is basically the same team that won state gold in the 4x4 (well, it's actually probably more like 50-50 but still). They've got the wheels to do damage and they ran 7:50 indoors. In retrospect, I feel silly for overlooking them on the show. They've got 3 guys with sub 2 marks open indoors (don't think anybody else in the state had that) and their last guy is down to 2 flat outdoors at the very least.

Bottom Line: I think they've got an excellent shot at being one of the top 3-4 teams in PA at this race. Sophomore Cameron Mitchell will be an important piece, but they will also need a big run from Jake Good if he ends up the lead off leg. If their lead off leg runs 1:56-1:57, I think they will be running this back on Saturday.

North Penn
Out of all the teams with historic resumes, North Penn has the best when it comes to the 3200. Although they don't have quite the same prowess in recent years, this program has absolutely dominated this event for the past few decades and was PAs only qualifiers in the 2007 and 2008 finals.

This year's team, however, is a bit of a question mark. After they left some of their sprinters off the indoor squad, there's speculation they may do something similar on Friday morning. As one of the lower seeds entering the meet, they will need all the pieces they can to compete at a high level.

That being said, I'm betting that Dante Watson and maybe another 400 type jump in and help out on the 4x8 (plenty of time to recover before the 4x4 on Saturday). I can't wait to see what kind of wheels Watson has on the relay and I hope he runs an early leg and gets after it. Also interested to see how the sophomore O'Toole rises to the occasion.

Bottoms Line: I'm not expecting a performance to rival the North Penn squads of old, but I am looking to see if this team can prove it is a school the rise this spring.

Just like Abington last year, LaSalle really impressed me in the Penn Relays prelims last year. I think it was one of the best showings by this relay in the last two years. It doesn't hurt that, like Abington, LaSalle has qualified for the COA twice in the last 7 years and they also, unlike Abington, added a Penn Relays wheel in 2013 for the DMR. So the infrastructure is there for an upset and a COA experience.

And the materials are there as well. At the Knights invitational, the LaSalle distance squad dominated, with prominent wins by Evan Addison and Patrick Grant (a huge 1:56 time). They will need to harness that momentum heading into Penn as the Explorers have arguably struggled a bit in their last couple state appearances on the track.

Bottom Line: I love this team and this program, but I can't pull the trigger on a COA birth. The key to a big day might be their order and whoever ends up being their third leg. If Grant gets the baton in a good spot, I think he will run tough, but I'm not sure he has the raw ability to hawk down the field. Of course there's a chance Addison may end up on the anchor (which would be fun). If you remember, this was the meet sophomore Tom Coyle had his first big break (splitting 1:54). Your move sophomore Evan Addison.

CR North
The Forrests have been on a monster run this year. Despite their youth, the team has peaked perfectly for the past two state championships and finished with a surprise 4x8 medal during the winter. Now, no one would be surprised if they medal outdoors, but they are still far from favorites to even finish in the top half of PA's squads this meet.

But CRN has been on fire, lifted by the hot streak of Bryan Keller, who just added a jaw dropping 1:56 gold medal win to his resume at Abington. Sam Early also cracked two minutes in the open 8, giving this team 4 (maybe 5 depending on Ryan Campbell) legit sub 2 legs. They are arguably the deepest squad we have to offer outside of reigning state champs State College.

Bottom Line: I don't have them making the final. That being said, I'm pretty surprised they haven't gotten more talk. This could be a legit dark horse team. Especially if their lead off leg, whoever it ends up being, sets the tone for the rest of the squad.

Final predictions. I've gotten more optimistic in the past couple days! I'm on board for 4 PA teams in the final: SC, CBW, GFS, Abington.

PA's only school in the DMR is a good one. As we discussed on our latest episode of TheRoundHouse, the magic number for this team seems to be 10:20. They ran 10:24 indoors with a solo anchor leg and some doublers, but they also had a near perfect race to pull off the upset. Only one of the 3 of us on the show took these guys to go sub 10:20 in this meet.

For the record, O'Hara boys, it was me so feel free to rock that etrain shirt this weekend.

Here's my case for a big day for OH. First of all, they have something to prove after their fall at indoor nationals. Second of all, this team has a pretty nice history at this meet (although not a spotless history I will admit) and has qualified in this event 5 times in the last decade (could have been 6 if they ran last year). Plus, I think their legs set up very nicely for this event. Morro is a natural 1200 guy who ran lead off on two state title teams. The Jones boys are not afraid to go out hard and keep competitive (Justin ran 1:57 last year). Ryan James will have to bottle some of that same magic he had indoors, but he should at least have some more competition out there when the baton ends up in his hands.

I could see these guys pulling a CB South 2012, putting together a solid front 3 and letting their anchor try and steal it. 2012 CB South came in with even more modest PRs (besides probably Gregor) and finished 2nd.

Bottom Line: The DMR is loaded, so even a sub 10:20 mark is going to put you in a crowded space. It's going to be tough for these guys no doubt, but if they keep their heads above water they will at least leave with some real nice PRs.

I really like the 2012 CB South comparison so feel free to look that one up.

Relays by the Numbers

Here are some numbers I found for the Penn Relays relays. Words are coming soon. Share your own numbers and thoughts as per usual!

State College – 7:45.60
Projected Line Up: Owen Wing 4:23.97/1:59.3h, Nick Feffer 4:20.66/1:59.59/1:55s, Anthony Degleris 1:59.21/1:56s, Alex Milligan 1:57.02/1:52s

Bishop Shanahan – 7:59.61
Projected Line Up: Chris Kolimago 1:59s, Seamus Breslin 2:06.1i/2:02s, Seamus Fromhartz 1:58.11/1:26.04, Logan Yoquinto 1:25.29/1:57s (Bradly Ingraham 2:04.30, Keegan Hughes 49.77)

GFS – 7:52.95
Projected Line Up: Nick Dahl 1:54.20, Jonnie Plass 1:59.18, Colin Riley 2:00s, Grayson Hepp 1:55.50 (Gordon Goldstein, Zach Goldberg, Dan Stassen)

Penn Wood – 7:58.66
Projected Line Up: Dennis Manyeah 1:56.13/1:22.08, Ndiaga Seck 48.97/1:56s, Todd Jackson 2:06.32/2:04s, Jahi Smith 2:01.42/1:27.49 (Kenneth Johnson 49.82)

North Penn – 8:00.07
Projected Line Up: Daniel Santiago 2:02.71, Dante Watson 49.88/1:59.00, Brendan O’Toole 4:25.35, Elgin Horton 2:05.23 (Tariq Banes 2:06.06, Matthew Gain 2:06.13, Nathan Baxter 2:06.95)

CR North – 8:02.05
Projected Line Up: Ben Heintz 4:25/2:01.09/1:58s, Sam Early 1:59.37, Matt Haldeman 4:29/1:59s, Bryan Keller 4:25/1:56.28 (Ryan Campbell 4:26)

Abington – 7:50.09
Projected Line Up: Jake Good 1:57.87, Cameron Mitchell 1:59.50/1:56s, Josh Coleman 2:00.49, Keion Broadus 1:59.02/1:56s (Harpeet Singh 1:58s, Aaron Sooknanan 50.56)

CB West – 7:50.03
Projected Line Up: Carter Zerweck 1:57.20, Jake Claricurzio 1:57.12, Alec Hofer 1:59s, Rock Fortna 1:56.37 (Declan McDonald 2:06.93, Teagan Fortna)

Upper Dublin – 8:05.19
Projected Line Up: Troy Green 2:02.03, George Weems 50.66, Ben Brugger 2:06.80, Riley Hannon

Bonner – 8:07.94
Projected Line Up: Sean Sullivan 4:23.57y/1:58s, Dave Whitfield 1:55.8, Anthony Harper 2:06.95/2:04s, Mike Mercanti 2:06s

CB East – 8:01.44
Projected Line Up: Matt Eisenlord 2:03, David Endres 1:59.2h, Louis Kettelberger 2:04, Jake Brophy 1:56s/1:58.71 (Ata Shahideh 51.60/2:04.18)

LaSalle – 8:00.31
Projected Line Up: Brendan Price 2:01.56, Evan Addison 4:23.94/2:01.89/1:58s, Mac Costonis 2:03.37, Patrick Grant 1:56.65

Cardinal O’Hara – 10:24.52
Projected Line Up: Rob Morro 1:58.40/4:28.34, Tamir Jones 52.69/50s, Justin Jones 2:01.05/1:58s, Ryan James 4:31.50/4:24s

Penn Relays PA Individual Predictions

by Jarrett Felix

If you like Penn Relays discussion, you may want to check out TheRoundHouse here on the blog at 9 o'clock tonight. Also be on the lookout for a Relay Prediction Post that will be coming in the (hopefully) not so distant future.

Let's get to it.

Despite lots of success in a variety of events, PA has struggled to breakthrough for the gold in the Penn Relays Mile. In the past 8 years our highest finisher is Tom Kehl of Father Judge (who placed 3rd in 2010) and we actually didn’t even have any qualifiers for the event in 2009 or 2011. However, I think this year’s crew of runners is the deepest field we have ever assembled for the event, so maybe this is our year for redemption. But which member of our pack will breakthrough for PA’s top spot?

Quite frankly, your guess is better than mine at this point as this crew is incredibly balanced. To stop speaking in generalities, let me outline the four runners who have been invited to participate in this race: Jaxson Hoey (DTW), Mike Kolor (Seneca Valley), Josh Hoey (DTW) and Nick Dahl (GFS). Two seniors, a sophomore and a junior. If you count Dahl’s 4:10 split on the DMR at the Armory for Indoor Nats, than Josh Hoey is the only runner of the foursome who hasn’t clocked a 4:10 1600 in the last 12 months (of course he was a freshman in high school for a good chunk of that 12 months so what did you expect). It will almost certainly take something in the 4:09-4:11 range to win this race (assuming things don’t get too tactical), so these guys will need to be in top form to compete for gold, but it’s not unlikely for one of these guys to drop that kind of mark considering each runner’s personal bests. When you combine all these greater than zero odds, PA has to be feeling pretty good about itself.

I can’t speak for what’s outside the state borders, but I’ll give a brief rundown of the PA boys below. For the sake of fairness, I will go from slowest mile PR to fastest.

Josh Hoey 4:17.45 @ Indoor States (4:15.71 DMR split at Nationals)
Josh may be the slowest in this field on paper, but he’s far from the slowest in actuality. In recent months, Josh Hoey has defeated the reigning mile and 3k state champions, dropped massive PRs at 400 and 800 (1:54.11), and gutted out an anchor leg against Drew Hunter. All as just a sophomore. In terms of raw talent, there have been incredibly few frosh/sophs to have achieved what Josh has in such a short period of time (recently it’s pretty much Craig Miller and that’s it). Without a freshman cross season in the PIAA, the middle Hoey has grabbed 3 individual state medals, a team gold, a team silver, an individual bronze and an individual silver. He’s run poised on the big stage including his first ever trip to Hershey, Shippensburg and PSU. This will not be his first trip to Penn, but it will be his first individual race on this stage. It’s different, certainly, but having the advantage of being here before is big at Penn.

I like the improvements he’s made in his finishing kick and I like his consistency. On the flip side, he’s going to need cut about 5 seconds off his PR to be in the mix for gold. That’s a big PR, but not an impossible one. He just cut about 3-4 seconds off his 800 best.

Nick Dahl 4:17.18 @ Millrose Games (4:10.39 DMR split at Nationals)
A year ago, Dahl was the super soph we were all talking about. After running an absurd 9:02 at Henderson, he went to nationals and ran 9:01.81 for a full two mile (the equivalent of about 8:58 for 3200) and placed 3rd. That mark put him in the top 10 runners in PA history for the event as just a 10th grader.

But despite that mark, Dahl’s speed was still a question mark. In fact, the last time the Hoeys, Kolor and Dahl were all in the same race (Meet of Champs Mile at Henderson last year), Dahl was at the back of the group, a decent bit back of Jax and Kolor. But that slowly began to change this past winter. Nick dropped an early 4:14 split at Yale, kicked his way to a spot in the Millrose Games and then dropped his epic 4:10 anchor leg on everyone. His 800 chops have also vastly improved as he split a 1:55 lead off leg at indoor states before dropping a 1:54.20 for 800 last weekend (technically Friday night, which may not be a weekend to all of you out there).

Dahl’s got monster strength and has now rounded it out with speed. That’s a dangerous combination and it makes Nick a real contender in any style of race. He’s had recent experience in a big time mile (Millrose) and although he wasn’t exactly competitive in that race (roughly 6 seconds behind Jaxson Hoey), he grew a lot from that race. Things will be a bit different this time around. He’s also been in a Penn Relays field before (DMR last year) which gives him a little extra experience. However, Dahl is the only one of these 4 runners who will compete in an individual event earlier in the day (GFS has a very competitive 4x8).

Mike Kolor - 4:12.37 @ PA Distance Festival LY
Much like Dahl, Kolor has made great progress in the speed department this year. Kolor dropped to a 1:53 PB during indoors and helped lead his SV 4x8 and 4x4 teams to state qualifying type marks. He still has the strength though (4:15 just last race, cruising to victory) and is looking strong and healthy for an extended period of training (a luxury he didn’t have last year). Kolor, like Dahl and Jax Hoey, has some big mile experience, having run the Boston Indoor Mile this past winter.

Kolor is still looking for his big win as last year was a slew of close calls. He finished alongside Jeff VanKooten at Baldwin and WPIALs, took 4th at states and then finished just a fraction behind Jaxson Hoey at the PA Distance Festival. That should add a little extra fire to his finishing kick in this race. Kolor’s never been in a Penn Relays event before and will be traveling the longest distance to get here. Only Ryan Gil has finished as the top PA individual in the mile/3k from the WPIAL the past 9 years, a trend Mike will be hoping to reverse.

Jaxson Hoey – 4:11.07 @ Millrose Games
Jaxson has competed in the Penn Relays the past two years, including this exact race as a sophomore in 2014. He ran at the Millrose Games this past winter, Outdoor Nationals and USA Junior Nats last spring and won the past two state titles in the mile/16. His PR is the best of the group and he comes in as our top seed (3rd overall). His speed was strong enough to carry him to 4th at indoor states (on the double) for the 800, but his strength was enough to finish a close 2nd at XC states on the Hershey hills. So, to summarize, he’s good at running.

Jaxson won his last race by a big time margin, but he hasn’t popped that real fast time so far this spring. His brother and Ryan Barton of DTW apparently both sit ahead of him on the state rankings for now, but that could easily change in an instant this weekend.

Order of Finish (Prediction):

I think it’s going to be incredibly close between these four and any of them could cross the line ahead of any one else. But if I have to pick (and apparently I feel like I have to), this is what I will choose.

While PA has struggled in the mile, we haven’t felt the same sort of pain in the 3k. In fact, PA has had the champion in 2008, 2009, and 2013 and had top 5 finishes in 7 of the past 9 years. The smart money, therefore, says PA should have at least one runner contending for the title. The etrain money? It says we will have three guys competing for the title.

In the 3k, PA will be represented by Jake Brophy (CB East), Dominic Hockenbury (Lake Lehman), Nate Henderson (JP McCaskey) and Jeff Kirshenbaum (Methacton). Amazingly, Kirshenbaum has run 9:19 for a full two miles (during indoor!) and still ends up overlooked in this group. This is the same kid who broke 16 at Hershey this year and somehow only finished 9th (amazing). I think Jeff is just a small tier behind these guys, but still on a really nice trajectory for an epic season. I’m hoping we get all 4 of our guys in the top 8 of this race and, although I expect Jeff to be our #4 man, I do think he has the potential to put up the kind of time that would be PA #1 in the right year.
But I think the race for top PA honors (and perhaps top everyone honors) will come down to Brophy, Hockenbury and Henderson. Brophy and Dom have been the big names for some time now. Combined, they have 7 state titles (and counting) with brilliant XC resumes and very quick 3200 PRs. Each of these competed in the 3k final last year (Brophy also competed 2 years ago) and will have that extra bit of experience that Nate will be missing on race night.

But Brophy and Hock are much less similar than they may seem on paper. Hockenbury is not known for his speed or his kick (although both are quite good, he just ran a 4:16 full mile), but he is known for being a gutsy grinder who will push the pace early and often. We saw it indoors over 5k and we could see it this outdoors at Penn in another high quality national field. Keep in mind Hock seems very similar, on paper at least, to Dominic Deluca, who ran 8:21 for 3k in 2014, one of the fastest times in PA 3k history. I honestly think this Dominic could be in line for a similar kind of breakthrough.

Meanwhile, Jake Brophy is known more for his patience and his finishing sprint. He dropped a massive final 800 to win XC states a year ago, patiently ran down the majority of the field at Penn Relays last year and then added to his legacy with his indoor states finishing kick for gold. Jake has already run a 4:15 1600 in a dual meet and split a 1:56 on the 4x8 that qualified here so we know his speed hasn’t gone anywhere since PSU. Considering his resume, this is the kind of runner PA track fans are hoping can pocket a victory, but he will have to be sharp on race day and make sure he stays close enough that he can utilize that kick effectively.

Then there is the newcomer Nathan Henderson. After a relatively quiet indoor campaign in 2015, Henderson went outdoors and dropped all the way to 9:08 for 3200. As just a sophomore. He then dominated the XC scene in District 3 before moving to indoors where he quietly produced some solid invite wins and fast times. Although his indoor state race was impressive (he finished a well-earned third behind Brophy and Hock in the 3k), the start of his spring has been absolutely jaw dropping. The biggest knock on Henderson might have been his finishing kick, but then he soloed a 4:14 for 1600 (breaking a Vince McNally meet record) and, according to twitter just this afternoon, Henderson clocked a 1:53 4x8 split for JP McCaskey (they ran 8:03). That’s one heck of a split.

I think Henderson could end up coming out of left field and surprising considering the momentum tear he is on, but I’m a little bit nervous about his inexperience on this stage and in this setting. Plus, I’d still like to see him close to last lap or two of a 32 with the top kickers. But I will say his mid race surging ability is one of the best in the field and that could keep him in contention for long enough to close it out.

Brophy is the favorite, but I’m a tiny bit worried about the 4x8 being in his legs a little bit. I’m also a little worried about a fast pace and what affect, if any, that will have on his strategy and his ability to kick. Meanwhile, Hockenbury should get the most help he’s had in a while for a fast paced long distance run. If that’s true, maybe he grinds his competitors into the ground and steals it. I really think Hock also learned a lot having run in this race last year. I bet he comes out the gates with a vastly improved time.

Prediction for finish?

But I think the top two may be decided by only a second or so and Brophy may be in 3rd out of those three with 800 or even 400 to go. It’s just hard to pick against the guy. So I won’t. 

Father Stretch My Recaps Part II

Most of the recaps are in my first recap post just below this one, but this should cover the other big meets from this weekend.

Butler Invitational
How about this for an intriguing 4x8 battle. Avonworth, who is AA for track I believe, put together a big win in the 3200 relay to make a statement about their state title potential. The squad ran 8:07.38 for the victory with Tyler Wisniewski and Kenny Azzarello leading the charge. They also have sub 50 second quarter miler Kenny Baurle on the roster. It’s a well balanced squad with nice upside. Finishing just behind them were the teams from Franklin Regional (8:07.78) and Greensburg Salem (8:08.32). AA Winchster Thurston finished 5th in 8:18.54.

In what may have been the race of the day, Mike Kolor took control and dominated the 1600. He ran 4:15.04 for a 5 second victory over recent 3200m success story Todd Gunzenhauser of Lebo who ran 4:20.43 and Eric Kennedy of Kiski who clocked 4:22.78. Kolor looks strong, fit and focused heading into the Penn Relays championship at the mile. That race is going to be a blast. Winchester Thurston’s prominent 1-2 punch of Forsythe and Loevner both cracked the top 5, running 4:23 and 4:26. Loevner also added a 9:29 3200m for good measure. That’s a pretty sick day for Will. That 3200 featured a strong field that included A XC State Champ Griffin Mackey, who was second in 9:36.

All in all, the 1600 featured 9 guys under 4:30 and 16 at 4:36 or faster. The 3200 included 8 guys under 10 minutes, including Grove City freshman Jonah Powell who ran 9:49. Lebo added a 9:43 from Ian Harris and a 4:26 from Josh Kalapos to TGunz’s 4:20 finish. That’s a pretty strong threesome that makes their 4x8 prospects long term quite interesting. The WPIAL 4x8 is still very wide open.

Speaking of the 800m, Penn Hills’s Isaiah Bailey added to his impressive list of 800 performances with a 1:56.50 at Butler. However, that wouldn’t be good enough for gold as Donovan Myers ended up coming away with the victory at 1:56.21. The AA stand out makes a huge statement about his fitness and becomes an insta contender in the AA 800. With Peretta, Fletcher and no Myers all already having run 1:56 or faster this year and guys like Morris, Kuhn and Leslie showing impressive wheels, the AA 800 is going to be a fiercely competitive race. Don’t forget guys like Joe Cullen of Wyomissing either.

Michael Bove of Fox Chapel had a very nice double with a sub 4:30-1:58 series of races at Butler. Nick Gabrielli of Kiski gave the school two sub 2 800 runners as he clocked a 1:59.05 for 4th overall.

Twin Valley
Cedar Crest’s Jesse Cruise dropped a 1:58.92 for the victory at 800, defeating Governor Mifflin’s Luke Myers. Cruise and Cedar Crest have been somewhat swept under the rug with all the fast 800s coming in and around the Philly Area, but we can’t overlook this squad who has made a couple state finals in a row and won state gold back in 2010. Nick Blandy ran 2:02.08 for 4th in this race and Matt Royer added a 4:33 for second in the 16.

That 16 was won, going away, by Phoenixville’s Sean McGinnis. McGinnis clocked a massive 4:20.08 time to win by 13 seconds. He ran 1:55 last year and showcased nice strength during cross, but putting all the pieces together is never easy. This is a big win for Sean who made a statement about his fitness after a battle with Conway last week.

Lock Haven
At the same meet that Griffin Molino ran 4:12 a few years back, Molino’s up and coming teammate Hunter Crawley dropped a 4:28.55 for the victory in the 1600. I believe this is a PR for Crawley and a real nice opener for a AA 1600 medal threat. After his top 10 finish in XC, Crawley has become a legitimate star moving out from under Griffn’s shadow and becoming a strong medal contender in the 16. I’d love to see him give the 32 a shot as well at some point this spring. Isaac Davis of Jersey Shore finished 2nd in 4:33. Davis also won the 3200 in this one, clocking a brilliant 9:44 to defeat Tyler Lesser of Milton (9:49). That’s a great time for Davis who is still just a sophomore and coming off an absolutely monster fall.

Warrior Run took gold in the 4x8 with Cassidy Hoffman anchoring in a 2:02 to round the team’s 8:20. Warrior Run is AA for track and 8:20 puts them right in the hunt early on with potential for more time to drop off looking ahead. Also shout out to the Lock Haven results for having splits built directly in. Pretty sweet.

CB West Relays
It’s one of the more guess and check type meets of the year: The CB West Relays. I don’t know the splits or who is on the relays (if you got ‘em throw ‘em up), but a good time is a good time. For example, how about that 4x1600? Think of it this way, if you run 18 flat you are averaging 4:30 per guy. LaSalle ran 17:39! That’s an average of under 4:25! That’s a fantastic result, especially in a winning effort. CB East, CR North and CB West all finished in the low 18s as well (in that order) with East pulling things out at 18:02 for second. Must have been an exciting race to watch unfold and speaks volumes about the depth of these schools in the longer distances.

Quakertown picked up the W in the sprint medley, running 3:33.89. They defeated strong showings by CB West, Penn Wood and Pennridge. CB West was the best of that pack in 3:37.11. For reference, splits of 23.0-23.0-50.0-2:00.0 add up to 3:36.0 so Q-town was running under that pace, just a day after Wolfinger and Delisle ran impressive PRs at Warrior.

But Pennridge may have had the race of the day. The Rams, who have been waiting to unleash a full force 4x8, finally showed their cards. They dropped a 7:50.82 for the runaway gold in this one, defeating CB West’s silver medal performance by 16 seconds. Pennridge has been running around 8:04-8:05 in dual meets in the 4x8 and given their resume and history, it’s clear they would have some tricks up their sleeve. But a 7:50 runaway victory is one heck of a statement. They have a lot of depth and a lot of talent on the roster. Don’t forget they returned 3 legs from a 7:40 team last year.

Penncrest dropped an 8:07 for one of their best performances of the season (somehow they always have a strong team in the 4x8) and CR South ran a strong 8:09 mark to take 5th in a strong performance as well.

CB East, who had top finishes in the 4x16 and 4x8, got their biggest win in the DMR, defeated CR South (11:06) with a 10:38 victory. That’s an impressive solo performance for East heading into Penn Relays. Apparently their star frosh David Endres recently broke 2 minutes in a dual meet and Jake Brophy ran a 4:15.8 in a dual as well (I believe he went toe to toe with Tucker Desko in the Pennridge meet?), so these guys seem to be in pretty good shape. They made the COA last year in the 4x8 and return many of the same pieces (but may not use them all) so I’m excited to see this team try and continue their hot streak.

Great Valley Relays
Continuing on with the relay portion of our show, Great Valley hosted a relay meet of its own this weekend. The boys from Glen Mills went off in their two sprint relays, posting times of 1:29 and 3:21 for a pair of big time gold medals. That 3:21 time wasn’t too far away from the 3:19.55 meet record that belonged to the legendary 2002 Glen Mills School.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Spring Ford won the 4x1600 over Boyertown, likely utilizing their young core to get the job done. They finished with a time of 18:22, which averages about 4:35 a leg. Spring Ford also finished second in the 4x8 behind Methacton 8:15 to 8:19. The SMR was a thrilling race that came down to the wire with four teams within about a second of one another. Neumann Goretti pulled out the win in 3:35, likely getting a big lift from Kamil Jihad. They defeated DT East, Bishop Shanahan and Springside. Bonner, who will compete at the Penn Relays for the 4x8, won the DMR in 10:51, defeating a sub 11 effort from Lower Merion.

Leonard Stephan Invite
While Camp Hill continued to roll at Shippensburg, Wyomissing made a quiet statement of their own. The defending state champs in the 4x8 took a top 2 spot in the 4, 8 and 16 with three different individuals. Herboto Colon earned silver in the open quarter, while sophomore Joe Cullen ran away with the 800 title in 1:57. Jack DiCintio rounded out the strong Wyomissing showing with a 4:35 victory in the 1600 over Jake Underwood of Wilson.

Adams County
The day before he took a trip to Shippensburg, Dan Filler decided to get in a little speed work, dropping a 4:32.46 to win the 1600 by four seconds over AA XC stand out Will Greene, who clocked a solid 4:36.56. Greene doubled back for gold in the 3200 at 10:08.


Noah Curtin picked up a nice 1600 victory, running 4:33 to defeat Chad Grundy and Connor Walsh. Grundy and Walsh dueled over 3200 as well, with Grundy picking up the victory 9:48-9:52. It was a very impressive meet for Grundy in my opinion. The sophomore ran 4:37 and 9:19 (3k) indoors and looks to be picking up right where he left off with a pair of strong PRs on the track and some tough runs against some of the district’s best XC guys. He will be AA this spring for track. 

So Much To Recap!

Well in the interest of time and efficiency, I've split my recaps into two sections. This is the first one and I'm typing up the second as well speak. Should be plenty to discuss heading into Penn!

Warrior Invitational
Well I’ll tell you what, PA is starting to get fast. The Warrior Invite produced a slew of fast marks Friday night including some monster runs by a few PA youngsters. Junior Nick Dahl entered the 800 over the 16 at this meet and clocked a massive PR in the half, running 1:54.20. He defeated Quakertown’s indoor state medalist Brett Wolfinger, who also had a monster race, running 1:54.85.

Obviously, props to Wolfinger who is having a terrific season indoors and out, but Dahl really impressed me with this victory. After watching his 1:55 lead off leg indoors, something like this was certainly in play, but I didn’t think he would run quite this fast. This speaks volumes about where this kid’s speed is at heading into the Penn Relays Mile where he has been amazingly overlooked behind the Hoeys and Kolor. Maybe it’s because we still think of him more as two-miler, but his range and speed have drastically improved from last year. So let’s not sleep on this guy for much longer.

GFS teammate Jonnie Plass ran 1:59.18 to dip under two minutes and Grayson Hepp ran a 50.7 in the open 400, indicating both guys will be ready for the Penn Relays 4x8 on Friday morning. Bishop Shanahan’s Logan Yoquinto won the 4th of 5 heats in 2 flat while Perkiomen Valley’s top 4 runners clocked 1:57-2:00-2:03-2:03 (adding up to about 8:05). That’s a very impressive result and puts this team in the state qualifying mix in the loaded district one. Matt Town led the way for this team in 3rd overall, running 1:57.20.

In the 1600, it was a good day to be named Liam. Liam Conway and Liam Galligan took the top 2 spots in the open 16, running 4:15 and 4:16 respectively. Conway continues to roll after his 1:54 last week with another massive breakthrough down to 4:15. Hard to believe this kid ran the 3k indoors and was a stud during XC considering his speed. He’s put together a great resume and it will be fun to see what he decides to do at districts. Meanwhile, Galligan adds a pretty big 1600 PR after his breakthrough indoor season. He’s another guy with potential to jump up to the 32 and do damage, but he’s gotten very comfortable in this event and 4:16 is very quick for April. He was a medalist indoors in the mile.

Colin Wills of Malvern Prep continues to improve at the 1600 where he moves down to 4:17.98. And Henry Sappey of DT West drops an impressive PR of 4:18.47. I believe that’s a pretty big drop of Sappey’s old best and now gives West 4 guys with PRs of 4:18 or faster. That’s pretty mind blowing. Would love to see a 4xMile out of these guys at some point, although it doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Keep in mind their 5th-6th-7th milers ran 4:28 (Ryherd), 4:32 (Bullock) and 4:34 (O’Neill) in this meet as well. What a stable of horses.

Unionville stand out Kent Hall dropped his PR down under 4:20 with his 4:19.92 and sophomore Hudson Delisle ran 4:24.02 for 10th overall. Jake Ilgenfritz of Avon Grove added a 4:24 and Joseph Cardie, Galligan’s teammate, won his section of the 16 in a strong mark of 4:27.15. Pretty darn fast day all around with 36 guys under 4:40.

In the 3200, Salesianum’s Andrew Hally ran away with the victory, however PA held it’s own behind him. Rob Moser continues to excel at this distance, finishing as the top PA runner with a 9:36 PR. Jack Carmody got a little revenge on teammate Brandon Hontz as both runners pushed each other to a 9:40 clocking. Rounding out the district qualifiers was Owen J Robert’s Abe VanHelmond who dropped a strong 9:41.

Henderson won the 4x4 in a very solid 3:25 (they have a real nice stable of sprinters this year) just edging out Perk Valley by 0.05 (I’ve already touched on PV who looks awesome so far outdoors). Meanwhile Bishop Shanahan got in a solid tune up for Penn with an 8:07 victory, defeating West Chester Rustin, who ran 8:12 for second.

Abington Jack Armstrong
In the 800, we saw an impressive win from CRN Junior Bryan Keller, who really surprised me with his 1:56.28 gold medal winning time. Keller defeated James Abrahams of Haverford (who also ran a strong 1:56) and Aaron Morris of Springfield (the AA stand out dropped to 1:57.9). Keller becomes the ace for a very strong (young) CRN squad who also watched sophomore Sam Early crack the 2 minute barrier with a 1:59.37. This team heads into PR with a ton of momentum, especially considering their milers ran 4:25 Heintz), 4:26 (Campbell) and 4:29 (Haldeman) for top 6 finishes in that event. Only Heintz is a senior from this group, Keller is the only junior and the rest are sophomores.

Although Keller’s result was a surprise to me, the stunner of the day was Owen Ritz. The latest member of the Ritz family dynasty dropped a monster time of 4:21.88 in the 1600 to PR by roughly 13 seconds and win this race running away. That is an absolutely HUGE drop to make when you are already running that fast (mid 4:30s is no joke) and suddenly Ritz becomes one of the top names in the state. Owen is still just a junior and could become the third member of the Ritz family to break 4:20 over the next few seasons. That would be one heck of a relay squad.

Will Griffen of Cheltenham, who was fresh off a very impressive and under the radar 3200, ran 4:26 to earn the bronze in this one. Shout out to Christian Troemel of Abington, the sophomore who ran 4:36 to win the second of three sections in the 1600. Upper Dublin’s Ben Brugger was just behind in 4:37.

In the 3200, Joe Maguire ran away with the race, clocking a 9:25 for gold. That’s right around Maguire’s PR depending on what his indoor 2 mile converts to, and he did it with an 18 second margin of victory over Joe Previdi of Masterman. That’s a pretty strong result for the senior who is quietly lurking as a sleeper medal contender this outdoors.

Previdi’s Masterman team ran an 8:26 4x8 for 4th and showed nice results from Manfred Thomas and Per Loufman in the open events. I’m interested to see how this team develops down the stretch to stay in medal contention yet again in the AA 4x8. That 4x8 was won by Abington who ran 7:57.17. They also added a 3:20.45 victory over Penn Wood and Upper Dublin in a hotly contested 4x4. Abington has been very relay oriented in the last couple weeks so I can’t say for sure who out of their key runners is healthy, but they seem to be rolling right now. I’m excited to watch them in both relays at Penn.

O’Hara finished 2nd in this one at 8:01 and will be PA’s lone representative in the DMR at Penn. Not sure what to make of these guys, as I drastically underrated them a few weeks back at indoor states for the DM. They have some clear talent and nice speed and I’m hoping for no falls or baton drops so we get to see this team fresh in the COA. I’ll touch more on them in my preview coming soon, but I like what I’ve seen so far.

Shippensburg – AA
The Camp Hill boys have been active so far this season. They won the 4x8 again with an impressive margin of victory and then Cooper Leslie continued to throw down victories, winning the 1600 and the 800. He seems to be mastering this triple and looks like that will be what he attempts at the state championships at the end of May. Hard to argue with his results so far. Camp Hill followed up their 4x8 win last weekend with an 8:09 victory of 18 seconds over Lewisburg (who has a nice team that I will think will continue to develop looking ahead). It was a nice statement win, even with Wyomissing lurking.

Gabriel Allgayer surprised me in that 3200, running the fastest time of the day in that event with his 9:25. It’s a classic case of the independent league guys getting overshadowed because they are not in the PIAA unfortunately. Allgayer’s 9:25 is up there with the state leaders and it came against some strong competition, mainly Bedford’s Will Kachman, who ran 9:39 for silver. Kachman also won the 2k Steeple and finished second to Leslie in the 16.

Shippensburg - AAA
With all the talk about the best runners in the state, it appears, as was pointed out to me by some of my writers, I’ve been overlooking State College’s Alex Milligan from that top tier of elites. We remember him more for his relay anchor ability and his presence as a star on SC’s high caliber 4x8, but Milligan made a huge statement about his individual ability and range on Saturday. The State College senior won the 3200m going away with a time of 9:26 and then doubled back at the 800 (a drastically different event) to defeat indoor state silver medalist Matt Wisner by over a second (Wisner, I believe, was doubling off the 4x8). That’s one heck of a double for a guy who, last year, dropped his 1600 PR to 4:17 and finished in the top 5 or so at states on the double from a massive 800 PR. So honestly, should Milligan be in the individual state title talks? And for which event?

His SC teammates were no slouches either. Nick Feffer had one of his best races of the year, winning the 1600 in 4:20.66 over Brody Beiler of Selinsgrove (4:21.17). Feffer was joined in the top 6 by teammates Owen Wing (huge run of 4:23) and Anthony Degleris (4:28). Then in the open 800, Feffer and Degleris doubled back to run 1:59 and place in the top 5, while SC’s #5 and #6 800 guys also cracked the top 10 overall after a 4x8 run earlier in the day. Throw in a 3:25 4x4 and you are looking at a pretty good day for the Little Lions, heading into Penn Relays as arguably our best shot at a Championship in the 4x8 we have had in some time.

But there were plenty of other great performances to celebrate as well. Carlisle and Cumberland Valley dueled to an 8:07-8:08 finish in the 4x8. I feel like both teams still have some room to cut time and make the district 3 championships very interesting. David Snyder from Hollidaysburg in D6 ran a 4:23 for 16 and doubled back to win the steeplechase as well. Both Kyler Shea and Zach Seiger dipped under 9:40 for 3200 behind Milligan in a race that featured 12 guys under 10 and 9 guys under 9:50 (really sick race). District 3’s 3200m championship is going to be really fun. There are a lot of guys packed together in a fairly wide open field (behind Henderson of course). One of those top names in the D3 32 is Morgan Cupp who opted for the 16 this weekend and dropped a strong 4:26. Lastly, Calvin Schneck of Whitehall had a nice breakthrough in the 800, dropping to 1:58.27 and finishing 3rd in a loaded field. 

The 2016 4x800: Could it be PA's best ever?

by Jarrett Felix

For those of you who don’t know, I consider myself something of a PA High School track historian. I keep a file of all the top marks I can find from PA’s history through some good, old fashion research. Recently, I’ve started working toward compiling a 4x8 list. This proved to be pretty tricky business and I’m still likely missing a lot of teams (especially from the Pre-PTXC era), but it gave me a sense of what some of the all-time best squads looked like.

Even if you consider only recent seasons, PA has had a number of amazing squads. We’ve had four schools under 7:40 with a slew of others under 7:45 and 7:50. The deepest year PA has likely ever seen in this event was 2009. This season, CB South set the state record with an absurd 7:33.48 mark and the next 9 teams to cross the line at states were all under 7:50. In total, adding in Abington’s Nationals performance, PA finished the year with 9 different schools clocking relay bests under 7:47. Only 2010 had more than 5 in my recorded history, but that 2010 season the state champ would have only been about 6 or 7th in the 2009 state final.

Although it sounded crazy (and if you look at the faces of my fellow writers you could see that), I went bold on Episode 3 of TheRoundHouse and said the AAA 4x800 record could be in jeopardy this season. Part of the reason I said this was, admittedly, because Paul and Evan took my two most logical responses, but the other was not necessarily because I wholeheartedly believe there is a team out there ready to crack 7:33, but I do sincerely believe that the 4x8 in PA this year is the deepest it’s been since 2009-2010. And that means we could see something historic when the competition really gets going.

Keep in mind, to run even 7:47.00, you have to average 1:56.75. And right now the top 4 times in the state probably struggle to match up with 7:33.48 (an average of 1:53.37). But it’s still early and you can see a lot of teams trending in the right direction. At the front of the pack, there is State College, who joined an elite group of teams on the indoor leader board with their 7:45.60 this winter. They packed up four guys around 4:26 in a dual meet and now they will be loading up the open 800 at Shippensburg looking to make a statement. SC returns 3 guys from their 7:41.50 performance last outdoors where they dropped roughly 14 seconds off their indoor time.

Then we have a couple familiar faces in the pole chasing positions: Abington and CB West. Both of these schools are in that elite club of sub 7:40 characters and have gotten off to hot starts this spring. Although Abington has not quite unleashed their guys in the open races in early weeks (no Broadus or Mitchell to be seen), they have dropped multiple 7:57 marks and a slew of 3:19-3:20 type 4x4s. Meanwhile, CB West got open PRs from Rock Fortna, Jake Claricurzio and Carter Zerweck in their last meet. Both of these schools return 3 from last year’s state medal winning squads.

One of the biggest surprises on the Penn Relays entry sheet was the fact that Pennridge wasn’t in the 4x8. This team returns three from a 7:40 squad last spring and added two super freshman, who of which just ran a 1:57 for 800. Tucker Desko, who ran 1:53.38 this indoors, is on fire ever since he made the slight step down in distance to join this relay. Austin Howell just ran under 49 seconds for 400 as well. Of course the Rams don’t seem too concerned with the 4x8 as things currently stand so I may be getting over excited. But I also know this program has placed teams in the top 5 at states in 2012, 2014 and 2014 (with an indoor state title in there) while producing 4 guys who have run at least 1:54 in the open 8.

If you are talking history, however, you can’t leave out North Penn. The 4x8 powerhouse has produced sub 7:47 relays in at least 12 seasons since 1980 including a 7:38.79 in 2008. Sure, North Penn hasn’t shown flashes of low 7:40s potential, but they have a slew of young talent who is rapidly ascending. If they commit to the relay and use all their pieces (particularly 400 stand out Dante Watson) they could jump in to an already crowded party.

But there’s more. CB East made the Championship of America last year and holds three time state champ Jake Brophy in their back pocket. They also have a 1:56 returner, an intriguing up and coming frosh and a slew of talented runners that nearly grabbed an indoor state medal without their most well-known star. The boys from LaSalle showed just how dominate they could be at the Knights Invitational, led by strong performances from Patrick Grant and Evan Addison. They’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to state championship trips and hold at least 3 guys with sub 2 minute 800 PRs. Penn Wood returns three of their own from last outdoor states when they toppled some heavily favored squads and ran 7:49. Their core is developing very quickly in the middle distances and there is so much speed here it’s hard to not be excited. Plus there’s Bishop Shanahan who returns 4 guys from their 7:53 a year ago, including a sophomore in Logan Yoquinto who has made impressive strides dating back to the indoor season. They were one of a slew of teams to crack 8 minutes indoors.

CR North is one of my favorite teams from this outdoor season so far. They’ve been monsters and, just last night at Abington, we saw a 1:56, a 1:59 and another 3 guys under 4:30. This team is deep, this team is young and this team is good. O’Hara just ran 8:01, Bonner has two 1:55 guys waiting in the wings and we haven’t even talked about District 3 or District 7, each of who will be in the mix when the time comes. District 3’s Cedar Crest has made the state finals each of the last two years and has a killer anchor leg in Jesse Cruise, who ran 1:55 last year as a sophomore. Plus there are the AA squads like Camp Hill and Wyomissing. Who’s to say their in district rival won’t push them soaring to new heights like the 2012 Chambersburg-Cumberland Valley duo? Can Seneca Valley drop something killer with Mike Kolor involved?

I’m going to assume DT West doesn’t even touch the 4x8 this spring. But they could certainly be a sub 7:47 team if they pursued it. Or what about the defending champions from Pennsbury? I doubt they will just go quietly into the night this spring.

And we can’t forget about the independent league. I’m not sure there has ever been an independent team that has gone under 7:47 (GFS went exactly 7:47 back in 2008), but this GFS squad isn’t your typical school. They have two 1:55 legs of their own and a stable of guys right around 2 minutes, hoping to dip under. The Tigers have a ton of speed and at Penn Relays this year we could see that speed in action.

So I’ve mentioned 19 teams in this post. Even if half of them don’t pan out, we still have an elite 10 that could go after some all-time performances. And I would be lying to myself if I thought there wasn’t a strong chance a team will emerge from the shadows and throw down some monster marks this May. It happens every year. It’s not really a matter of if, it’s a matter of who.

Sometimes, records aren’t about just one person or one team. Sometimes it’s about a group of runners. Just look at last year’s 3200m outdoors? Or the year before? Yes, Brehm and Ross Wilson were animals, but they had some of the greatest competition ever. As individuals, who knows how fast a 4x8 will run this year. But as a group? Well, now we are talking.

The quest for a top mark all starts with the Penn Relays, where PA will send a ton of talent to the line, hoping to send the most schools to the final since … well the 2009-2010-2011 seasons. Let’s get excited folks. Don’t miss the official Penn Relays previews, predictions, shows and discussion next week.

By the way, for those who care, the current cut off for my list is 7:47.00. If you run two sub-7:45 relays with the same four runners in the same year, then you don’t appear on the list twice. If you change at least one guy (like CB West 2011) you could end up on the list twice. Here’s the top 50 for my list. I’ll be amending my PA All-Time list link hopefully sometime in the near future and I will add this as a tab. Should hopefully be a cool feature. If you have splits or relay histories to add, please let me know and I will continue to expand the list!

CB South
North Penn
CB West
Upper Dublin
Conestoga Valley
West Chester Henderson
North Penn
North Penn
State College
CB West
Cardinal O'Hara
Cardinal O'Hara
State College
West Chester Henderson
State College
North Penn
North Penn
North Penn
John Harris
Cumberland Valley
North Penn
West Chester Henderson
Simon Gratz
State College
Cedar Crest
North Penn
CB East
Cumberland Valley
North Penn
JP McCaskey
CB West
North Allegheny