Oscar Voting: New Deadline

UPDATE: Due to some good advice from my fellow writers, we've decided to speed up the Etrain Oscar process. Instead of closing the voting window on July 31st, we will now be closing the voting window on July 15th. So if you want to vote in this year's Oscars, you've still got time, but you have to go quickly!

We feel this timeline will bring more excitement to the event and allow us to focus more on XC when the time comes (XC Top 50 will be coming out at the end of July).

ADDITIONAL NOTE: While the Oscars will be hosted by our own etrain11, we will also have guest presenters for all the awards. The winners will also be notified ahead of time in case they would like to make an acceptance speech during the vent. It's gonna be a legit thing people. Maybe we will do some red carpet style interviews with some nominees as well. Probably no fashion analysis however, although you can see some of our skills in the "Best Costume Design" link below.

If you want to get involved as a presenter, interviewee, etc. get in touch with us through the usual means. Email is jarrettfelix1130@gmail.com, twitter is @TheRealTrain11, the blog comments are right at the bottom of this post.

Here's the link to vote in the Etrain Oscars: http://goo.gl/forms/IPSAcLLb8OhdVEFK2
Every vote will count! To help you with your voting decision making, we will be putting up some summaries of the nominees criteria on LXV+ gradually throughout the voting window.

Here's what we've done so far:
Best Make Up and Hair Styling
Best Visual Effects
Best Documentary Feature
Best Costume Design
Best Picture
Best Original Song
Best Actor

Please try and spread the word to friends and others who you think might be interested. It's summer time which means there aren't as many viewers reading and finding out about the news. I will have an Oscar's show time to announce by the end of the weekend so be on the lookout for that announcement.

Also shameless plug for the Etrain 11 series. We've got a relatively new one up on CB East and another one in the works.

It Takes a Village
The Young and The Restless
Running Up Hill
New: The Bucks Starts Here

Olympic Trials 10k Preview

The U.S. 10k is, unfortunately, probably one of our weaker events this year. There’s certainly some talent in the race, as well as some young guys who could be primed for a breakthrough. However, if you look at the event as a whole, it’s really not that deep. In fact, the top 4 qualifying times aren’t even from this year, and none of those top 4 guys has run a track 10k this year. Sure, we’ve got guys like Galen Rupp, Ben True, Hassan Mead, and Bernard Lagat who all have major championship experience. Beyond those four though, there isn’t that much. Zeinessellassie and Jenkins have us excited about the future of American running, and they should. However, they aren’t quite ready yet. We also have Scott Fauble, Sam Chelenga, and German Fernandez, who have all showed flashes of brilliance. I wouldn’t be shocked if one of them has a breakout race and sneaks into the top three, but I certainly don’t expect to see that.

Let’s start with Lagat. He has an incredible history of showing up when it matters. Every time USA’s rolls around he’s ready to go. However, Lagat is 41, and while he looked really good running 27:49 at Payton Jordan, that’s not young. Then you throw in the fact that he didn’t finish his last race and he looks dubious at best. I realize those are strong words, especially when we’re talking about Lagat, but father time has to catch up to him eventually, and I think this is the year. I know Lagat’s outkicked him every other year, but not this time. I can’t see him top three, and he better watch his back because fourth certainly isn’t guaranteed either. 

Now, one of the guys I’m really excited to see run is Hassan Mead. This guy has been on fire for the last year, but is somehow still super underrated. He qualified for the Worlds team in the 1ok last summer, finishing 3rd at the trials in 28:16. He then went on to run the same time in Beijing, which is really impressive given how terrible the conditions were. Mead has continued to build since then running 7:38 for 3k indoors and 3:37.65 at the Hoka Mid-Distance Classic destroying some established 1500 runners like Wheating and Manzano in the process. Mead then went on to run the American leading 5k at the Nike Prefontaine Classic finishing in a very impressive 13:04. Even though he hasn’t run a 10k since World’s last year, I think Mead is coming into the trials in fantastic shape and is a borderline lock to make the team. 

Before I get to this next guy, I have a confession to make. While I am, always have been, and always will be a mid-distance runner at heart, this guy may be my favorite distance runner right now. He’s New England born and bred, just like me, and he’s one of the really good guys out there right now. He’s humble and stays out of the spotlight, but his results are anything but ordinary. By now you’ve probably guessed I’m talking about Ben True. Despite being the U.S. leader in the 1500 - which means I don’t feel as guilty calling him my favorite distance runner as I otherwise would - his better events are the 5k and 10k. Much like Mead, he’s on a roll right now, and I really like guys who come into the trials with momentum. Besides that 3:36 1500 I mentioned, he’s finished second at the B.A.A. 5k to Dejen Gebremeskel and 12th at the Nike Prefontaine Classic (2nd American) in 13:12. If I have one major concern it’s that the 10k is a little bit of unfamiliar 10k to True, even by his own admission. In an article in the Portland Press Herald written by Glenn Jordan True said, “I haven’t run many 10Ks on the track, ever, so it’s more of an unknown for me.” Now, that being said, True proved to be more than capable finishing 2nd in the 10k last year, so I think he’ll be fine. 

Another runner to keep an eye on is Diego Estrada. He was in 10th with 6 miles to go at the Marathon trials but unfortunately the heat caught up to him at that point and he didn’t finish. Since then there have been some reports that the comeback train has been a bit rough for him so it’s tough to tell what kind of shape he’s in, especially since he hasn’t run a 10k on the track. However, with that being said, he ran 29:40 at the Bolder Boulder road 10k to finish 3rd in a pretty solid field. Especially when you factor the altitude in, that’s a pretty solid time. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the fastest an American has ever run there. At the very least it’s the fastest time since 2005. Now, that was a month ago, and a lot can happen in a month, but that could just as easily be a good thing as a bad thing. Don’t forget, this is the same guy that ran 60:51 to win the USA Half Marathon championships last year. Estrada is definitely a tough read, but don’t be surprised if he comes through clutch.

The final runner to spotlight is probably pretty obvious. Galen Rupp comes into the track season fresh off a dominating performance at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. I’m not sure “fresh off” is the right way to put that, since I can’t imagine being fresh after a marathon, but that’s what we’re going to go with. There has been a bit of concern among American distance fans in the last couple weeks over Rupp’s performances so far though. He ran 13:20 to win at the Portland Track Festival, but then lost to two collegians at the StumpTown Classic. Salazar attributed this to tired legs, saying that Galen has been running 145 miles per week consistently and was coming off a hard 22 miler just five days before that race. Salazar also said that they were going to start resting Rupp now to get ready for USAs (OregonLive – Ken Goe). This should really worry everyone else in that race, since, as LetsRun pointed out, Galen and Salazar have mastered the art of peaking. Whether it was last year when he ran 4:00 at the Flotrack throwdown only to come back and place 5th at Worlds just two weeks later, or when he lost to Collis Birmingham 2 weeks before setting the American Record in the 10k, Galen is always ready when the stakes are high. And if the stakes aren’t high this weekend, I don’t know when they ever are.

Finally, there are a couple guys you should be aware of going into the race. Christo Landry has been dominating the roads with wins at the U.S. Half Marathon and 25k championships. He hasn’t done a whole lot on the track though, so we’ll have to see if he can translate road success into track success. That’s something a lot of guys have struggled with, so it will be interesting to see how he handles it. Also keep an eye on the Army WCAP teammates Leonard Korir and Shadrack Kipchirchir. They’ve quietly been steadily improving and could be ready to break out. We also have PA and fellow district III alumnus Jon Grey. He’s got one of the best post collegiate resume’s of all time for a PA distance runner so it should be fun to see where he finishes.

I guess I should probably finish with an official prediction. Call me boring, but I’m going to go with the same result as last year. However, True will scratch after making the 5k so the 4th place runner will be our 3rd 10k representative in Rio.
1st: Galen Rupp
2nd: Ben True
3rd: Hassan Mead
4th: Diego Estrada

Boris Berian is the new Nick Symmonds in More Ways than One

By Alex Fox

Over the past several years Nick Symmonds has been able to dominate headlines in the world of US track and field; he’s won US Championships in dramatic fashion, medaled at the World Championships, and has championed the causes he believes in through social media, legal battles, and using his body as a platform for speech. Most recently, Symmonds has advocated for athletes to rep the gear of their sponsor, bowing out of the US team last summer due to USATF requiring Nike apparel to be worn at all times during the team’s trip abroad. As Symmonds ages however, his relevancy in the sport has declined; his performance last summer shocked many, and he is not a favorite to make this year’s Olympic squad. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the third fastest half miler in American history retires from the sport within the next few years, especially if he fails to qualify for Rio next week. Should Symmonds retire, he will more than likely take a less active role in advocacy for athletes, if he has any role at all. Yet as Symmonds’ period as an athlete and activist winds down, a new presence has emerged: Boris Berian. 

We all know the story of Boris Berian: the former fast food employee who went from sleeping on a couch to 1:43 runner seemingly overnight. Berian’s career somewhat mirrors Symmonds, as both were classic underdog stories; Symmonds was an undersized DIII runner who dominated at OTC despite coaches overlooking him during his early life. Berian dropped out of DII Adams State before finding his groove with Big Bear Track Club. Berian’s rise to prominence is unparalleled in how quickly he went from raw talent to legitimate superstar, as he reached new heights yet again this winter with a World Indoor Championship. As runners like Symmonds and Duane Solomon reach the twilight of their career, Berian, just 23 years old, is leading the next charge of American half milers, a group that includes the incredible talents of Donovan Brazier and Clayton Murphy. The next major stage for Berian to prove himself will be the Olympic Trials. Should he make the team as he is expected to, Berian’s combination of strength and guts paired with blazing speed could make him a serious contender in Rio. If Berian is able to perform to his enormous potential in Rio, I think he could solidify himself as the next great 800 runner repping USA across his chest (and maybe break the national record chasing Rudisha). In this sense, he will be replacing Symmonds on the track as the premier 800 runner in the country. 

Nick Symmonds was more than a runner, and if he leaves the sport, his absence will be felt off the track too. Once again, enter Boris Berian. In case you missed it, Berian has been battling former sponsor Nike over his right to be represented by New Balance. Berian signed a New Balance contract which Nike had the opportunity to match. The Oregon-based sponsor did match the contract, except with several reduction clauses. Berian opted to sign with New Balance, which resulted in Nike bringing Berian to court. Berian was up to the fight, risking his eligibility at the Olympic Trials to fight for his rights. Berian ultimately defeated the giant, which will hopefully set a precedent for other track athletes to standup for themselves in contract negotiations with potential sponsors. Berian didn’t just remind me of Symmonds because he was willing to fight, but he was also outspoken. Berian broke the norm and published the contracts on Letsrun.com, engaging the entire running community with his private battle. Symmonds also uses tactics that involves fans, giving us insight to otherwise undisclosed details about the sport off the track. Berian showed a lot of gusto in standing up to Nike, especially in an Olympic year; Symmonds has displayed similar moral fortitude, as he sacrificed an opportunity to run at the World Championships (possibly for the last time) to do what he felt was best for him and the sport. Should Berian capture the title of America’s best half miler, he has shown both the strength and willingness to use that platform for advocacy, speaking out for himself and his fellow athletes, a role that is currently occupied by Nick Symmonds. If and when Symmonds falls out of the public’s eye, it could very well be the former McDonalds employee, Boris Berian, who champions the causes of US track and field athletes. 

Why is Boris Berian replacing Nick Symmonds so important to me, and why should it matter to you? This is something you may have asked yourself if you have read to this point. Well, the future of track and field depends on advocates like Symmonds and Berian to secure the rights of athletes so they will enter and remain in the sport. Boris Berian stood up to the sponsorship giant Nike and won. He proved that an athlete does not bend to the will of the sponsor. If I’m an athlete, I feel encouraged by Berian’s outcome and maybe standup for myself if I ever find myself in a similar situation. Nick Symmonds was outspoken about other issues, and brought them to the forefront of the sport. Without him or other vocal advocates, these problems would remain unsolved, and athletes would continue in their careers without a chance of remedy. Young athletes like Donovan Brazier or local legend John Lewis need to know they’ll have fair treatment in their professional careers as track athletes, or else they will look elsewhere to make a living. If track and field is ever going to be taken seriously as a sport in this country, we need not only the most talented athletes, but athletes who are happy and treated fairly. That’s why we as fans needed Nick Symmonds, should applaud his efforts, and should encourage the young and talented Boris Berian to continue to grow as a runner and a spokesperson for his peers.


I Love College: Part 1

By: Garrett Zatlin

Sadly, it's that time of the year again where we as readers and fans must say goodbye to our graduating PA seniors who have given us so much to cheer about over the past few years. Luckily, many of them are going off to college to compete at the next level. So what can we expect from them in college and their respective programs? I addressed the same question last year and decided to do it again.

Although I can't address everyone, I like having as much information as possible available to the readers. You can check out the compiled list of PA seniors college selections below! See anyone I missed? Feel free to comment below and let me know.

*Thanks to everyone who commented and kept the list updated!

2016 PA Seniors College Selections

Part 2 coming in a couple days...

Penn State: Dominic Perretta & Jaxson Hoey
The Program:  For the past few seasons, Penn State has climbed within the level with teams like Oregon and Stanford. Their mid-distance program is (arguably) the best in the nation and doesn't show any sign of slowing down with young talent constantly emerging. It's also nice to see that the McGowan brothers and Colin Abert are reestablishing PSU's presence in the longer distances.

How They Fit: Penn State is factory that consistently pumps out some of the best 800 and 1500 runners in the nation. Luckily for Perretta and Hoey, that's also the area they are best at. Perretta has such raw speed, and we've seen that at multiple state championships as he has won races from the front or in the final 100 meters. After such a strong mile race at New Balance Indoors, fans were yearning for him to hop in a fast mile and see what kind of time he could drop. Although we never got to see it, I wouldn't be surprised to see him under 4:10 multiple times next winter.

Hoey, on the other hand, reminds me a lot of Abert. They both prefer to take it hard from the gun and are still able to maintain a strong finish (a crucial ability to have especially in the 1500/mile). Plus, they both have pretty impressive range. I could see Hoey being just as effective in XC as he is in track. We've seen tremendous improvement and times from Abert this past year and I could see Hoey doing the same.

The Bottom Line: Like every freshman entering a collegiate program, Perretta and Hoey will need some molding and adjusting time. That said, these two are perfect fits for a Penn State program that will almost definitely turn these mid-distance studs into the next Colin Abert, Brannon Kidder, or Isaiah Harris.

Syracuse: Dominic Hockenbury
The Program: Everyone who follows the NCAA knew that Syracuse was a very solid program coming into the 2015 season. What they didn't know is that they would be the eventual champions of the NCAA. Syracuse developed their young talent and polished their experienced veterans to create a championship team. Little known names such as Philo Germano and Colin Bennie became the saviors of a Syracuse team that would eventually take down the Colorado Buffalos. The Syracuse distance program is tough and filled with high mileage as well as high expectations.

How They Fit: Luckily for Hockenbury, high mileage and high expectations is something that has already been a part of his running career. In an interview with milesplit, Hockenbury detailed his training which showed that he was more than capable of handling a high mileage program. Personally, I'm not a fan of high schoolers doing the mileage that Hock has been doing (85-90). I don't believe it leaves a lot of room for improvement and may cause burn-out later on their career. That said, a lot of high schoolers aren't going to a program as intensive as Syracuse, so for Hockenbury to already be comfortable at that level of training is a huge plus. It also seems that he understands the importance of cross-training and strengthening, something that is extremely undervalued. If anyone is ready for the jump it's going to be him.

The Bottom Line: There isn't a question as to whether or not Hockenbury can survive the training (he definitely can). But how much will he be able to improve? The good sign is that he seems to do better the longer the distance is. Put Hockenbury in the 8k/10k along with an elite group of training partners, and we could very well see him in Syracuse's top seven by his sophomore year.

Harvard: Mike Kolor
The Program: Unfortunately for Harvard, they are in the "Golden Age" of Heps distance running. Columbia and Penn have become nationally recognized distance programs while schools like Yale and Brown have started to produce some national contenders (like Randon and Willig). Still, Harvard has some strong talent of their own especially with Myles Marshall making a name for himself as just a freshman.

How They Fit: If I'm being honest, I didn't initially see a great fit for Kolor at Harvard's running program. I would've thought that an Ivy League program like Columbia or Penn would be a good choice for someone who is mid-distance focused (like Kolor). However, there have been a lot of positive signs as of late from Harvard, the biggest one being Myles Marshall running 1:48. Other guys like Jonas Aranda (sophomore) ran 1:50 during indoors, sophomore Gabe Montague has run 3:48 during outdoors, and freshman Kieran Tuntivate has run 2:28 for the 1000. Kolor will be entering a program that is developing a lot of young talents and that may make the transition to the collegiate scene a lot easier.

The Bottom Line: As we all know, Kolor is beyond talented. Having run 4:11 and 1:52 immediately makes him one of Harvard's top runners already. Luckily, he will be able to learn and train with Myles Marshall as well as a lot of younger guys at his talent level. The fact that he was still able to drop time towards the end of this past season gives me reason to believe that he can continue to improve and compete with some of the best Ivy League half-milers throughout his career.

Oklahoma: Tucker Desko
The Program: Historically, Oklahoma has consistently pumped out solid mid-distance talent. Top level professionals like Riley Masters and Patrick Casey are products of the Oklahoma system and are now being followed up by All-Americans Jacob Burcham and Dylan Blankenbaker. The mid-distance group has always been deep, and with Coach Dunn's ability to develop mid-distance guys into XC contributors (like Burcham), the future is bright for the Sooners .

How They Fit: Throughout 2016, Desko was one of PA's top and most consistent mid-distance runners. With PR's of 1:53 and 4:18, he will mesh well in a program that typically has their top guys running around 1:49 and 3:44 (1500). Yet, what I feel like many PA fans don't know, is that Desko actually has PR's of 8:51 (3k) and 9:32 (3200). The guy has some pretty solid range and seems to resemble Jacob Burcham who has earned All-American status in the mile and in XC. It may take a while for Desko to gather a base, but give him enough time, and he could be a major factor in XC, something that I don't think many are expecting.

Another interesting piece of info that I noticed is that Desko never ran a race shorter than a 3k until 2015. That's right, Desko has only been running the 800 and mile for just a touch over a year. Already, he has put up some incredible times and has taken down some of the biggest and best names in the state despite being so new to the shorter distances.

The Bottom Line: To think that Desko still has an entire collegiate career ahead of him to further develop his speed makes him a very intriguing recruit. Those base marks of 1:49 and 3:44 seem like very reasonable times for him to hit. I would even go as far to say that times such as 1:47 and 3:42 aren't out of the question by the time he ends his collegiate career.

Navy: Jake Brophy
The Program: During XC season, Navy has been a pretty strong force to be reckon with. Their pack running is outstanding, they had strong front runners in nearly every race, and they have won the Patriot League title 3 of the past 4 years. But when it comes to the track, the Navy distance program hasn't impressed me. The one bright spot has been their national contender, Stephen Schroeder who has led their program since Cody Rome graduated in 2012. Unfortunately, now it is Schroeder who will graduate and leave the team looking for a new front-runner. Enter Jake Brophy.

How They Fit: In many ways, Brophy and Schroeder are a lot alike. Schroeder had a huge positive impact on the Navy team from a young age and led them to multiple Patriot League titles. Meanwhile, Brophy was a state qualifier as a freshman, and led a CB East team to a state championship by his senior year.

Now, Schroeder is leaving a void that needs to be filled. Who better to do that than Brophy? His leadership experience makes him invaluable and he could even be the one to finally lead Navy to an NCAA championship. He did, after all, do the same thing with a young and inexperienced CB East team.

As for the track, it will be interesting to see how he does. Brophy has PR's that would occasionally be the fastest 3k times for the Navy depending on the season. Rarely did Navy ever have someone under 14 minutes for the 5k or 30 minutes for the 10k.

The Bottom Line: Right now, there aren't a lot of signs from the Navy program that indicate Brophy can qualify for an NCAA championship on the track. Historically, the times from individuals just aren't there (then again, Navy has never had a recruit as talented as Jake Brophy). It's when we get into cross country where I see Brophy having the most success. He is strong over the grass and has a proven ability to cruise through the exhausting hills of Hershey at meet record pace. With the strength of Navy's XC program and Brophy's proven leadership skills, I see Brophy running in their top seven as a freshman and even making NCAA's by his junior year (and bringing his team with him).

Alabama: Patrick Grant
The Program: Alabama is a difficult program to gage. In XC, they don't really make too much of a splash, but on the track they have some very underrated individuals. Antibahs Kosgei has been wrecking havoc in the longer distances like the 8k and 10k. He was even the SEC and South Region champion during XC this past fall. Yet, the real power of the Alabama program lies within their 800 runners where they have developed studs like 1:45 man Alex Amankwah (now graduated), Jacopo Lahbi (1:47 PR), and Robbie Farnham-Rose (1:49 PR).

How They Fit: Quite frankly, Grant's decision to go to Alabama really surprised me. Alabama isn't a huge name in the distance events and is pretty far south from PA (but then again, so is Oklahoma). So his decision to go there wasn't expected. Still, Grant's recent success in the mile and 800 are pretty good signs. Grant may not have the super flashy times of other top-tier D1 recruits, but he is incredibly consistent and can get wins.

It also helps that Grant is still dropping a lot of time and getting big PR's. With 800 studs Lahbi and Farnham-Rose returning for their final year of eligibility, Grant will be able to learn from the experienced national contenders and continue his rapid rate of improvement.

The Bottom Line: I honestly don't know too much about the Alabama program or it's legacy, so it's pretty difficult to say what we should expect from Grant. While the future is never clear for anyone, we should still be very excited about his potential. He'll be learning from some of best mid-distance runners in the nation while he is still refining his talent.

Out of all the recruits I'll mention throughout this post (and throughout Part 2), Patrick Grant probably has the most upside.

Lehigh: Matt Kravitz, Joe Espinal, David Fletcher, & Ryan Paradise
The Program: Lehigh University is a familiar place for plenty of runners in eastern PA. Maybe that's why we so often see our PA graduates head there. Whatever the reason is, Lehigh has been recruiting some of PA's most underrated runners for the past few years. PA alum Patrick Reilly is only a sophomore who has already found his place within the Lehigh program. He's been one of the top runners on that team. Lehigh has also been known to produce names like Ryan Mahalsky, a top collegiate runner often seen competing with guys like Tiernan and Awad in the Mid-Atlantic region. Yet, while a few individuals have prospered in the Lehigh program, the mid-distance program hasn't been as strong as it could be.

How They Fit: If we're looking at this from a cross country perspective, Matt Kravitz will be a big addition to the team. The two-mile state champion has shown that he can handle nearly any type of course, hilly or flat. He took advantage of Lehigh's Paul Short race and PR'd with a time of 15:36 this past fall. Later, Kravitz would end his XC season with a third place finish at AA states with a 15:57. Add on PR's of 4:17 and 9:08, and this kid is maybe the biggest "steal" in terms of recruiting.

As for Espinal, Fletcher, and Paradise, they will give the Mountain Hawks some much needed help at the middle distances. If we look back at last spring, Lehigh didn't have a half miler faster than 1:55. Espinal's 1:51 along with Fletcher's 1:52 speed may make them the best pair of 800 runners to be recruited this year (ok, maybe Perretta and Hoey were). Regardless, Espinal and Fletcher will be complimented by Ryan Paradise who has run a 1600 PR of 4:23 and will give a lift to a middle distance program in need of more depth.

The Bottom Line: Kravitz will now be entering a program when Patrick Reilly will be in his prime. If Kravitz can learn from the two-year Mountain Hawk and train with him, we could see Reilly and Kravitz push each other to become national qualifiers on the XC course, and/or regional qualifiers on the track.

As for Espinal and Fletcher, they will need to push each other for a bit until Lehigh can find them more support. If Lehigh is able to find other strong recruits or develop the guys they already have, then both Espinal and Fletcher could be under 1:50 at some point in their careers...something that has never been done by anyone wearing a Lehigh uniform.

We then finish with Ryan Paradise who's 4:23 PR will still make him one of the better milers on the team. His impressive range from the 400 up makes him a very versatile addition which could be useful for Lehigh in future relays. For Paradise, this may be the perfect time to be entering the Lehigh program as a miler. He may not start off as the best four-lap runner on the team, but he'll be close enough to the top guys that he will be pushed hard from the beginning of his training. Like Patrick Grant, I see of upside in him.

  • Marc Migliozzi (Akron)- I wouldn't have picked Akron as his first choice, but with Migliozzi's large jump in improvement and an experienced coach who has training Clayton Murphy, I'm sure Migliozzi will continue to progress and prosper as a Zip.
  • Brett Wolfinger (John Hopkins)- Hopkins is one of the more decent programs in D3 and Wolfinger will be an excellent addition to a group that is already filled with a slew of 1:54 guys. Strong training partners and a PR of 1:53 makes him someone who could qualify for nationals as just a freshman.
  • Todd Gunzenhauser (UNC-Charlotte)- Gunz reminds me a lot of PA alum Aaron Gebhart who actually runs for UNCC right now. Gebhart had a fantastic year at UNCC and got left out of my Zatlin Awards as a nominee for the 'PA Don't Play' Award despite running 14:27 as a freshman. The UNC-Charlotte team is low-key loaded and the amount of talent constantly around Gunz will allow him to grab big PR's. If he's as much like Gebhart as I hope he is, then we will see big things from him early on.

The Etrain 11: The Bucks Starts Here

By Jarrett Felix

When people think of Central Bucks East, they naturally jump to Jake BrophyIt’s a fair jump to make. In the past three seasons, Brophy has finished in the top 10 at XC states three times with two state titles and two footlocker championships. He has amassed three indoor state individual medals with an additional two in the relays. Plus, he added two individual and one relay medal at Shippensburg’s track. He’s arguably the best talent we’ve seen in PA this year.

But I’m sure if you asked Jake, he’d be quick to sing the praises of his teammates. This is a deep squad. One that qualified two different relays for the state championships during indoors. One that qualified for the state championships in XC out of the most difficult district in Pennsylvania. And one that put together three straight seasons with sub 8 3200m relays.

However, the story of the 2015-2016 seasons doesn’t start with any of these accomplishments. In fact, it starts with a race that occurred before many of East’s varsity stand outs were even in high school. 

In the fall of 2014, the CB East Cross Country team was preparing for the District One Championships at Lehigh. If the boys squad finished in the top 5, they would secure a spot in the state championships at Hershey, returning to a course that they had excelled at just a few weeks earlier in the Foundation Invitational. At the Suburban One Continental Championship, East had finished with 7 runners at 17:22 or faster. Their five scorers averaged just south of 16:30. It was a strong performance, but not enough to convince so called experts that they were even in the state qualifying discussion.

But the bloggers don’t decide the outcome of the races. That’s for the runners to decide. And on race day, CB East put themselves in a position to contend. They dropped their average to about 16:24 and got individual state qualifying performances from Jake Brophy and Senior, Connor Sands. Their team average was the 4th best in the race, but when the final standings were revealed, it was determined that East had missed out on the 5th qualifying spot by just 11 points to Downingtown West.

“We were pissed,” explained a source close to the team, “The seniors were especially disappointed as they were only 11 points off from DT West in 5th. Our varsity seven generally had a good day but they were hellbent on making it to Hershey that year.”

Moments of hardship in sport can stick with you. Sometimes it’s tougher to live with the defeat than to enjoy success. So a year later, CB East came back with vengeance. “We knew we had to get top five, with Jake having been especially passionate about reaching the goal.” Brophy had attended the state meet each of the previous two seasons, but this year he wanted to pack the van full of friends and teammates. It would be a hard journey with perennial powers Council Rock North and Henderson taking up two of the five spots every season. Division rivals CB West returned a stacked squad and Downingtown West addedthe Hoey brothers. In addition, contending squads Spring Ford and Owen J. Roberts looked very strong in the early season and loomed as potential state qualifying sleepers.

East needed to turn it up a notch. They had Jake at the helm to set the tone and to ensure the rest of his squad was essentially racing 4 on 5 at the big meets, but the real x-factor was a group of 14 year olds. “Remember these names” Jake Brophy said in a post state interview with TheRealTrain, “David Endres, Cade Sands, Cole Sands. You’ll hear them again.” At the Suburban One Continental Championships, the three talented freshmen each broke 17 minutes with Endres running a blazing 16:31. They threw everything they had at CB West for the league title and, although they came up short, they had a tremendous race, building confidence headed into the district championships. 

The return to Lehigh was a nerve racking experience. Overall, the conditions and race strategy made for a slower day so the times weren’t quite as quick as they had been at leagues. East had put 6 varsity runners under 17 minutes the previous week, but were now down to just 4. In addition, there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the freshmen of this team and, on the big stage for the first time, they had their fair share of struggles. As a result, the team thought they had missed out on state qualifying for a second straight season.

But when the scores were revealed, CB East had snuck into the coveted 5th spot, flipping the script on the 2014 season and punching a ticket to the state championships. Once in Hershey, they finished 8th in the state, jumping Henderson from districts and finishing just 3 points from 6thBrophy earned a second straight state gold.

Although Brophy and the freshmen were important and noteworthy pieces of the puzzle, qualifying for states would not have been possible without Josh Goetz and Will Schulz. Goetz had been the team’s #2 runner all year, racing to a 16:02 at leagues and adding a critical 21st place finish at districts. That meant he was the 3rd best #2 runner in the district behind only DT West and CB West who each went on to have multiple state medalists. Meanwhile, Will Schulz saved his best race for the most important moment. He dropped a 16:22, some 20 seconds faster than his race a week earlier in better conditions, and placed 45th overall in the district. It was a massive race for Schulz. If he ran a similar time to his mark from Suburbans (as most people in the race did), he would have finished around 70thand CB East would have missed the state championships by about 5 points.

The team placed 20 runners under 18 minutes at districts as what could be described as “a really emotional day.” 

But CB East wasn’t done making a name for themselves as a team. During the 2016 indoor track season, East dropped a 10:39 at the Lavino Relays in a race that featured three top ten times in the United States. In the various association meets at Lehigh, it felt like CB East was always in the mix in the distance relays. They had a ton of depth with Brophy and Goetz, but also mid distance stand-outs Louis Kettelberger and Marc Motter. Each week it seemed new stars emerged and the inter squad competition brought out the best in all the athletes.

“There is a good deal of competition to be included on (a relay) so that is motivation enough for most people.” One team member explained. “The indoor DMR was an especially sought after relay to be on, since we medaled almost every time we ran it. Coach Wilson gives chances for everyone to try to prove their worth and is not afraid of experimenting with the 4x800 at dual meets.”

The experimenting certainly paid off. A variety of team members boasted sub 2 minute 800 times and a relay that didn’t include Jake Brophy came within a few feet of an indoor state medal. Later in the day, the team’s DMR finished 6th in the state final with Brophy on the short double from the 3,000m (which he had won). On the team’s website, they listed 180 PRs for the winter season.

As the team transitioned to outdoors, they set their sights on continuing the successes they had found indoors. At the Kiwanis Invitational, they ran 8:01 to take the victory in the 4x8 and qualify for the Penn Relays (where they ran 8:03 in cool conditions without Brophy). At the CB West relays, East finished second in the 4x1600 and cruised to a big win in the DMR

But beyond the relays, guys were dropping big PRs left and right. Racing against North Penn, Dylan McKeever dropped 12 seconds off his 1600m PR, running 4:44.0. A week later, Russell Curtis dropped 18 seconds off his 800 by dropped to 2:09. Josh Goetz added a 4:26 1600m split and Will Schulz dropped an 11 second PR of 9:47 at the League Championships. Overall, East sent six runners to the conference finals in the 3200 including Josh Goetz, who ran a 9:32 in a loaded District One championship 3200. This balanced out a terrific mid distance squad which qualified for the state championships with a 7:55.70, placing 4th overall.

At states, East ran 7:52.98 in qualifying with fresh legs with 4sub 2 minute splits (including a 1:59.0 for freshman David Endres, a 1:59.2 from Josh Goetz and a 1:55.7 from Brophy). Then, in the state final, East added a couple more PRs as they subbed into the lineup Louis Kettelberger who ran a phenomenal 1:57.4 and lead off leg Marc Motter dropped to 1:58.5. In the span of two days, East put 5 different runners under 2 minutes in the 800.

It was unreal season that redefined expectations for the Patriots. “As a team, we went from 13 guys under 5 in the mile in 2015 to 16 at or under 4:50 in 2016, so ‘impressive’ performances have been changing in meaning.”

And the team isn’t finished. Although they will graduate important team leaders Jake Brophy, Josh Goetz and Tom Jordan, CB East has established an excellent foundation for the future. Most notably, with their unbelievable freshman class.

“I don’t know how or why we were gifted such an outstanding freshman class. They had to be one of the most talented in PA history. The top 5 freshmen all went sub-18I am very excited for the CB East XC and track future and you bet I will be watching next year!” One of the departing seniors told us. The team also returns Motter and Kettleberger (to pair with freshman Endres) from their sub 2 core as well as their breakout XC star Will Schulz. “Will is one of the XC captains next year and (his 16:22) helped solidify the feeling that East can still have success, even after the Jake Brophy era.”

Although the seniors will be graduating this season and no longer competing in East jerseys, it’s hard to downplay the critical role they played in shaping the team attitude, environment and expectations. These seniors imprinted the importance of working as a team and striving for big goals. They showed their young stars that hard work and determination canlead to results. They re-defined what it means for a performance to be “impressive”.

But it’s not all about the struggle and the grind. At its heart, the sport is about friendship and brotherhood. “We placed emphasis on our goals and encouraged (the younger runners) to stay focused but also have fun, since XC is a depressing sport without camaraderie … Everyone on the team is friendly with one another and seniors definitely don’t see themselves as superiors to underclassmen. Quite a few freshmen and sophomores had roles in the team and were imperative to its success.”

Sure on its surface, running is an individual sport. No one has to pass you the ball or hit you home. But if you dig a little deeper, you will find there is much more to the sport.

Jake Brophy is one of PA’s biggest starsWhen the WPIAL guys came on TheRealTrain blog to do their interview, Brophy was probably the most mentioned and revered figure. But last December, when we asked him where qualifying for states with his team in cross country ranked on his list of career achievements, do you remember what he said?

“Definitely at the top. After working for 4 years toward this goal, it was an amazing feeling to finally do it. After the race we actually thought we didn’t make it, but after our name was announced we got so hype.”

“That was a good day.”

2nd Annual NCAA Outdoor Zatlin Awards

By: Garrett Zatlin

It was an incredible weekend of exciting races for the men at NCAA's! Nearly every race gave the thrill that we missed last year and it was great to see that kind of energy return too Eugene.

I must also congratulate Alex Fox who won the prediction contest thanks to his strong 5k prediction. It's his first prediction contest win. You can see the prediction scoring breakdown here.

NCAA's are now over which concluded a very entertaining and discussion worthy outdoor season. At this point, we at the blog have decided to do some reflecting and award the talented runners around the nation with the 2nd Annual NCAA Outdoor Zatlin Awards.

The “Who is that?” Award (Best Breakout Runner)
Winner: Christian Sanders (La Salle)
Other Nominees: Jakob Abrahamsen (Eastern Kentucky), James Randon (Yale), Dylan Blankenbaker (Oklahoma)
Why: It was a tough decision, and maybe my PA bias is showing here, but Sanders really came out of nowhere this season. Sanders entered the season with a PR of 1:48 which is not bad by any means. In fact, it's quite unusual to have that kind of PR at the beginning of the season and end up with this award. However, Sanders went from being "just another good 800 runner" to an All-American in one of the best 800 fields the nation has ever seen. He was consistently at the top of his game which was evident when he earned his A10 title and a put together a third place showing at Larry Ellis (with Garn being the only collegiate to defeat him). Ending the season with an All-American finish and a 1:46 PR is good enough for him to get this award. 

As for the rest of the nominees, they were all pretty close. James Randon went from not being able to qualify for indoor nationals, to being an All-American with some outstanding closing speed. Abrahamsen and Blankenbaker were also impressive this spring as they developed into some of the best steeplechasers in the nation. Abrahamsen grabbed PR's of 13:52 and 8:34 while Blankenbaker closed out his season running 13:58 and 8:34 and a 4th place All-American finish. 

The 24/7 Award (Most Consistent)
Winner: Clayton Murphy (Akron)
Other Nominees: Mason Ferlic (Michigan), Izaic Yorks (Washington), Brandon McBride (Miss. State)
Why: Despite the incredible talent and consistency out of the top guys, it was Clayton Murphy who was the best of them all. Clayton Murphy consistently used a strong last lap in nearly every race he was in to get wins...a lot of them. Throughout the entire season, Murphy didn't take a single loss in all eight of the finals that he competed in. Even better? He flexed his range with wins in the 800, 1500, and 3000. It's pretty clear that he deserved this award. 

The other nominees like Ferlic and McBride never lost a race in their respective events (Ferlic in the 3kSt. and McBride in the 800). Both of them preferred taking it out hard and they did it in nearly every race without too much concern about the competition. Yorks had a very similar racing approach as well and was undefeated in the 1500 this season before entering NCAA's.

The Living Machine Award (Runner With the Best Racing Range)
Winner: Clayton Murphy (Akron)
Other Nominees: Willy Fink (Eastern Michigan), Edwin Kibichiy (Louisville), Aaron Nelson (Washington), Cale Wallace (Arkansas)
Why: It's tough to not be repetitive when you have such a talented individual like Murphy. As I mentioned above, Murphy ran the 800, 1500, and 3000 this season. Not only that, but he was able to get wins in all three of those events. Murphy will now be going to the Olympic Trial leaving fans unsure of what he will run (the 800 or 1500). It's a good problem to have if you're Murphy, but it also speaks volumes to the kind of talent he has. There are very few pro's who have the choice to pursue more than one event at OT's.

A very close second behind Murphy was Willy Fink who ran everything...literally. Fink competed in every distance event that is run at NCAA's this season. He recorded times of 1:53/3:47/8:40/13:43/29:04. That is incredible when you consider that most guys typically run just two events in a season. While he is certainly more talented in the longer distances, Fink's range is a valuable asset to the EMU Eagles.

Other than Fink, Kibichiy and Wallace showed a great combination of range as they threw together solid times in the 1500, 5000, and steeplechase. Nelson was able to do the same, but didn't run the 1500 and replaced it with the 10k. Out of Kibichiy, Fink, Wallace, and Nelson, only Kibichiy earned an All-American spot.

The Qdoba Award (Most Underrated Runner)
Winner: Josh Kerr (New Mexico)
Other Nominees: Robert Heppenstall (Wake Forest), Justin Brinkley (Stanford), Colby Gilbert (Washington)
Why: Yes, I'll admit it. When all was said and done, Josh Kerr proved me wrong. I questioned his youth, I questioned his experience, I questioned his poise, and I questioned whether or not he could even make it through rounds. Every race Kerr ran in this season he proved me wrong. Kerr proved he was more than a one race wonder by clocking 3:42 twice this season. He beat out the big names at the big meets and gained enough momentum to not only get through regionals, but to also get to the final at NCAA's. He may not have been top eight, but the kid has shown that he is the future of the New Mexico Lobos.

Others like Heppenstall and Gilbert never got enough love in their respective events. The 800 and 5000 were incredibly talented this year so it wasn't always easy to point out the guys who were still progressing and running big times. Even guys like Brinkley weren't appreciated enough despite having the 9th fastest 1500 time in the NCAA (ran 3:40) and running under 1:50 (ran 1:49). He was often forgotten with McGorty and Fisher garnering much of the attention.

The Chipotle Award (Most Overrated Runner)
Winner: Andres Arroyo (Florida)
Other Nominees: Blake Haney (Oregon), Matt McClintock (Purdue)
Why: Are you really surprised Arroyo won it? Admittedly, I do have a bit of a bias against Arroyo for reasons I'm really not even sure about. He's always run well during the season and has been known to drop big times. The man dropped a 1:45 for crying out loud! Still, he continues to not show up when it counts. Year in and year out, he's failed to have an impact (or even grab All-American) at NCAA's. But this was a new season and he had a clean slate. Unfortunately, once SEC's came around, he wasn't the 1:45 guy we had seen earlier. Arroyo fell all the way to 8th in the SEC final with a sub-par time of 1:48. He would later enter regionals and completely miss making NCAA's by finishing 15th overall. Maybe it's a coaching issue, a peaking issue, or just a nerves issue, but Arroyo can simply not show up in the post season. He could run 1:42, but if he doesn't run well at championship races, there's not too much of a point.

As for the other individuals, they just didn't live up to the hype and expectations that many people had set for them. Haney was the premier Oregon miler everyone had on their radar. However, in his five attempts at the 1500 this season, only one of them was run under 3:45 (where he ran 3:40). He failed to make it out of the prelims at PAC-12's and was not able to regain his All-American status at NCAA's. It wasn't his best season by any means. The same could be said for Matt McClintock, who struggled to return to old form as his times weren't matching up to his previous PR's. His season and collegiate career ended with him missing NCAA's despite being chosen by everyone to advance to the final.

The Comeback Kid Award (Runner That Has Best Overcome Adversity)
Winner: Donavan Brazier (Texas A&M)
Other Nominees: Brandon McBride (Miss. State), Edward Cheserek (Oregon)
Why: I was so conflicted between these three. In reality, any of them could've had this award. Yet, I had to give it to Brazier. Brazier was the man to watch this past winter season after dropping an early season time of 1:45. Unfortunately, he would pull out of indoor NCAA's with back spasms. His return to outdoors was not much better when he ran 1:51 in a dual meet against UCLA. Although plenty of questions about his health and mental fitness circulated on the forums, Brazier stayed focus and got himself qualified for regionals. Eventually, Brazier would pull off a massive upset at nationals by taking down Brandon McBride and running an NCAA record 1:43.55. It was truly a once in a lifetime race to witness. 

Then you have the arguments for Cheserek and McBride. Cheserek was looking very vulnerable after pulling out of Payton Jordan and getting out-kicked twice on his home track. Some thought that the King wouldn't even make NCAA's. Of course, as per usual, Cheserek rebounded from his injury to make nationals and retain his 5k/10k crowns in dominant fashion. So why does he not win? Because deep in your heart, you knew he was going to find a way to pull out the win...As for Brandon McBride, the man took off an entire season of winter track to focus on outdoors after a poor series of races last spring. His idea turned out to be the right call as McBride dominated every race he was in and looked nearly unstoppable. The man was undefeated heading into NCAA's before Brazier took the win from him.

No Guts No Glory Award (Gutsiest Runner)
Winner: Hector Hernandez (Texas A&M)
Other Nominees: Izaic Yorks (Washington), Brandon McBride (Miss. St.), Patrick Tiernan (Villanova), Thomas Curtin (Virginia Tech)
Why: Although Hernandez may not be as dominant as some of the other nominees are, he is by far the gutsiest. Hernandez opened up every race by taking the lead. That's not an exaggeration either. Even against McBride at SEC's, Hernandez was the first man through the 400 mark. That had to be a pretty quick opening lap especially when you remember that McBride took the 800 out in 50.xx during NCAA's. Of course, at NCAA's Hernandez led his teammate through the first 400 before eventually falling out of the qualifying spot. Hernandez has been the man to set up multiple fast races this year and he should be appreciated for that.

The other nominees like Tiernan and Curtin are one of the few guys smart enough to make a race fast enough hard from the gun rather than just leave it to Cheserek's kick. As for McBride, when you take it out in 50.xx and lead Brazier to a 1:43.55, you've got to be considered for the award.

The Juggernaut Award (Best Distance Squad)
Winner: Washington Huskies
Other Nominees: Stanford Cardinals, Oregon Ducks, Mississippi Rebels, Colorado Buffalos
Why: Finally! A season where the Oregon Ducks are not the best distance team in the nation! The Washington Huskies, however, were very underrated this season as so much of the attention to that squad was focused on Yorks and Gilbert (who were outstanding all season). In total, the Huskies sent six men to NCAA's and had men in every distance event besides the 800. I'm not sure what coach Metclaf is doing in terms of training, but whatever it is, he should keep it up. 

The rest of the teams are all pretty solid as well. At nationals, Oregon was still very solid with three guys in the 1500, Grosvenor in the 800, Leingang in the 5k, and Ches in the 5k/10k . Yet, when you look at the entire season, they weren't as impressive as they had been in the past. Stanford is another powerhouse team that did well, but didn't have quite the number of guys really mixing it up as some of the other teams did. Other teams like the Rebels and Buffs all continued to dominate their respective areas (Rebels in the mid-distances, and Buffs in the longer distances).

Pumped Up Kicks Award (Most Impressive Performance)
Winner: Donavan Brazier 1:43.55 (@ NCAA's)
Other Nominees: Clayton Murphy 3:36 (@ NCAA's), Futsum Zienisellassie 27:52 (@ Payton Jordan), Sean McGorty 13:24 (@ Payton Jordan), Mason Ferlic 8:27 (@ NCAA's)
Why: I don't think there's any question that Brazier's 1:43 was the most impressive. In fact, it was even more exhilarating when you consider that he did it on the 50th anniversary of when the record was set (by Jim Ryun). To run 1:43 as a freshman against a former champion who hadn't lost a race all season is truly remarkable. 

Had Brazier not gotten the record, I would've given this award to Murphy who showed incredible poise when he kicked down Wynne and Yorks to get his NCAA title. He timed his move perfectly and was clearly not concerned about the fast pace that was being pushed. Futsum and McGorty were essentially pulled to a fast time thanks to a loaded field at Payton Jordan. Ferlic, on the other hand, soloed his 8:27 (but then again, he soloed most of his races throughout the season).

Batman and Robin Award (Best Racing Duo)
Winner: S. McGorty/G. Fisher (Stanford)
Other Nominees: I. Yorks/C. Gilbert (Washington), D. Brazier/H. Hernandez (Texas A&M), B. Kidder/I. Harris (Penn State) 
Why: McGorty and Fisher have dominated the season from the start. They opened up the season running 3:42's against Cal and then went on to go under 13:40 for the 5k (McGorty was under 13:30). Fisher's youth and inexperience didn't rattle him when he stepped onto the track and complimented McGorty's runner-up finish with a 6th place finish of his own to earn All-American status. They were probably the most lethal combo in the nation.

Brazier and Hernandez were probably the next closest choice as they dominated every 800 race they entered. Unfortunately, a poor race from Brazier against UCLA as well as Hernandez not being able to qualify for the NCAA final puts them behind the Stanford duo. Yorks and Gilbert were always at the top of their game running some excellent times, but they weren't in the same races often enough to win the award. The same could be said for Kidder and Harris.

PA Don’t Play Award (Best Season by Pennsylvania Alumni)
Winner: Christian Sanders (LaSalle)
Other Nominees: Ned Willig (Brown), Tom Coyle (Stanford), John Lewis (Clemson), Alek Sauer (Columbia), Colin Abert (Penn State)
Why: Coming into regionals, I would've said that Willig deserved this award. Unfortunately, a sub-par regional performance didn't allow him to move onto nationals. But where one faltered, another grew stronger. At regionals, Christian Sanders was able to get a big PR 1:46 to advance to nationals. It was there that he would be the last man in to the final and go on to finish 6th place overall in 1:46 (again) to secure his All-American status. It was a truly remarkable season for Sanders who has proven that he was one of the best 800 runners in the nation. To progress like he did throughout the season and gain All-American status against the best 800 field the NCAA has ever seen is truly remarkable and worthy of this award.

Looking at the others, Willig was very impressive throughout the entire season. Two wins (one of them being at Heps) and PRing with a time of 1:47 had him set to get this award until an off-day at nationals set him back. Still, Willig would later go on to run 1:48 low at Princeton in a post-NCAA's meet. He'll be competing in Canada this weekend as he pursues the Olympic Trials 'A' standard of 1:46.5. Guys like Sauer and Lewis were very impressive as well as they dropped down to 1:48's by season end. Sauer was able to advance to the regional finals while Lewis was the first man out to miss the finals. The future is very bright for these 800 studs. Tom Coyle and freshman Colin Abert continued to dominate the 1500/mile area with Coyle running an early season 3:42 while Abert ran 3:45 which was complimented by a 14:10 5k. 

You Da Real MVP Award (Most Valuable Runner in the NCAA)
Winner: Clayton Murphy (Akron)
Other Nominees: Edward Cheserek (Oregon), Izaic Yorks (Washington), Donavan Brazier (Texas A&M), Brandon McBride (Miss. State), Mason Ferlic (Michigan), Futsum Zienisellassie (NAU), 
Why: What is there to say about Clayton Murphy that hasn't already been said? He was unstoppable (and undefeated) all track season and proved his incredible range by running times of 1:46 and 3:36 (along with a 3k win). He was able to handle every type of race and proved that he was the best tactical and strength runner in the NCAA. He was simply the best. 

Then there is Cheserek who obviously had his struggles this season by getting out-kicked twice on his home track. Still, his double gold at NCAA's does deserve to at least put him in the nominees spot. For Izaic Yorks, he was just a slightly slower Clayton Murphy. He was able to run outstanding times of 3:37 and 1:48, and he was even able to go undefeated in the 1500 until NCAA's. His ability to take out a race hard and establish his presence made him an extremely valuable piece to an already talented Washington squad. 

Guys like Brazier and McBride were beyond impressive (espiecally at NCAA's) but Brazier's slow start during the regular season and McBride's failure to lock down an NCAA title (despite running 1:44) keeps them out of the winner line. Ferlic and Futsum dominated their respective events, but never really gave the excitement that some of the other nominees gave.