All My Friends Are Runners: The Blue Streak

Chapter 2: The Blue Streak

Looking back on it, I was quite spoiled during my high school years. I joined Upper Dublin’s team right as we started to hit a historical peak. The guys broke every distance related school record on the books and I had front row seats to one of the greatest triples in state meet history. But it came at a cost: I missed the four-year term of one of PA’s all-time greats. Craig Miller.

As a freshman, Craig came streaking onto the scene at Manheim Township, finishing an astounding 5th at the state championship meet[1]. But he didn’t stop there. In May of 2003, Miller went to Shippensburg to compete in the 1600m at the state championship and dropped a 4:14.26 bombshell: the fastest such mark by a freshman in the history of the United States. He finished a hard fought third, after leading up to the final straightaway. It marked an over 40 second drop from the year before as his best 8th grade time had been just 4:57[2].

Craig’s confidence only grew when he became a sophomore. During the next cross country season, he went toe to toe with district rival Brian Fuller from Cumberland Valley all season long. The duo finished within a second of each other on multiple occasions, including some memorable duels at Carlisle and Gettysburg. Heading into states, Brian seemed to have Craig’s number, edging him out at the previous year’s state meet, Carlisle, and the District meet where Fuller edged Miller 16:05.70 to 16:06.42.

But the duo of Fuller and Miller would have their hands full at the 2003 Cross Country State Championships. Ian Gottesfield, the defending state champion from West Chester Henderson (also defending champs), and his teammate, Greg Williams, had been dominate all season, including a 1-2 finish at the district championships[3]. They would also be battling Ian Fitzgerald, the 8:30 3k man runner from North Hills, who had hopes of individual and team gold at Hershey.

It was a very hot day for a state championship, so things were reasonably conservative on the course. Craig Miller sat 5th at the mile, Ian Fitzgerald in 3rd and Greg Williams was in 15th. Brian Fuller was sitting in 29th and Ian Gottesfield was all the way back in 43rd. In fact, the defending team champions of Henderson were buried back at 10th in the team standings a mile into the race.

Yet it was quickly revealed that everything was going according to plan for the Warriors, as Gottesfield and Williams surged to the front by the 2-mile mark and looked to hammer things, hoping to put the competition away. Craig Miller sat just off Williams in 3rd with Fitzgerald right behind him. As Gottesfield and Williams continued to hammer, they opened up a bit of a gap on the field: only Miller was hanging around. It looked like everything was set for a 1-2 finish by the Henderson boys with 400m to go, when suddenly disaster struck.

Greg Williams, who had suffered from dehydration and sickness at the previous year’s state championships, started to feel the oppressive heat again on the final, long straight away. Gottesfield, confused and looking for his teammate, was struck dumb by a burst of speed from the sophomore, Craig Miller, who sprinted away for his first state title.

According to a post-race interview by Gottesfield, the plan was for the Henderson boys to pull away and for Williams to take the win. Gottesfield said he couldn’t imagine racing his training partner and teammate and, seeing how he had won the previous year, he would let Greg take the title this year. But it wasn’t meant to be and Greg fell back to 15th place overall during the concluding stretch of the race.

Although Henderson captured a second straight team title and placed 3 men in the top 15 overall, this race will always be remembered as the first of many state titles for Craig Miller. He is the last male sophomore to win a cross country state championship in any class.     
As just a sophomore, Craig was now a PA legend. He had set a national record, defeated the defending state champion in Cross Country and grabbed two top five finishes at states before the half way point of his sophomore year. His resume was already impressive enough to throw his name in a conversation with some of PA’s best ever, but he was still just getting started. That spring, Craig won the District 3 titles in the 800 and 1600 meters, running 4:14.59 and 1:53.95 to set a pair of district records. Then at the state meet, focusing on just the 1600, he dropped his personal best down to 4 minutes and 9.33 seconds, breaking the meet record and winning by over 5 seconds thanks to a 2:01 final 800 meters. Emboldened by this breakthrough, the sophomore extended his season through to the National Championships in North Carolina. There, Craig ran 4:06.76, just seven tenths of a second away from the sophomore class record. He finished 3rd in the nation in PA’s third fastest mile of all time.

Considering that he had posted some of the best ever times for his age in his first two seasons, the sky appeared to be the limit for Craig Miller. So when his junior season began, he found himself racing with a little extra weight on his shoulders: the weight of expectation. He rolled through his junior XC season, picking up some big wins and another state title. He even qualified for his first Footlocker Championships, placing 8th in the Northeast Region. But Jeff Weiss was the top PA finisher at the Northeast Regional, beating out the golden boy Miller[4].

During the next spring, Craig again laid waste to the state landscape. At districts, he one-upped his previous victories with a sweep of the distance events: the 800, 1600 and 3200. He set a meet record in the 32 and the 16, setting the stage for what everyone expected to be another state meet record in a week’s time.

On race day, Craig shot out of the gate with history on his mind. His opening 400 meters was 59 seconds. On his second lap, he didn’t back away from the brisk pace and hit the line at 2 minutes even. Sub four was on the tips of everyone’s lips as he continued to press on, well ahead of the field. At 1200 he had slipped, as was customary for the third lap, but he was still running strong at 3:02.1. Surely his record was gone, but would Paul Vandegrift’s state record of 4:03 also be under fire?

It wasn’t meant to be as Miller faded incredibly hard on the last lap. In fact, he barely managed to hold off the field that came charging after him on the finishing straightaway. When he crossed the line, his time was 4:11.98, over two seconds slower than his record time a year earlier. Miller knew soloing such a fast time would be tricky and hoped his state meet run would prepare him for a possible national championship. However, when he returned to North Carolina, Miller came up short of the title and even his own PR, running 4:07.19 and finishing with the silver behind Jeff See[5].

All of a sudden, there was just one year left for Miller to chase history. Maybe he felt it too as Craig really ramped up his game entering his senior season. He started things off with a 14:56 at the Gettysburg Invitational, putting the rest of the country on notice. From there, he was dominant en route to a third straight state title on the trails. He looked poised for something memorable as training began for the 2005 Footlocker Northeast Regionals and, most likely, the Footlocker Championships. But a few weeks before the qualifying meet, Miller suffered a collapsed lung during a workout. The condition would force him to shut down his fall season, keeping him out of his last Footlocker Regional opportunity.

After ending his cross country career on a sour note, Craig decided to run indoor track for the first time in his high school career. Slowly, he built back up to full training, working diligently and carefully to return to form. He ran and swam throughout the winter before running at the PSU Invitational in the 3,000 meters with hopes of qualifying for the indoor state meet. With much anticipation surrounding his return, Miller clocked an 8:38.65 to easily qualify for states and set up a shot at the indoor state record.

A little while later, Miller took to the start line at his first indoor state championship. He was up against meet record holder and defending champion Jake Walker of Ellwood City. But Miller was unconcerned. He took the pace out hard, going through in 65, 2:11 and 4:26 for the first significant splits. He managed to hold fairly close to that pace throughout, ultimately powering home with a 31 second final lap to stop the clock at an unthinkable 8:22.65.

The time not only smashed the meet record, but also set fire to the old state all-time record of 8:30.4, formerly held by Chris Dugan of Southmoreland. Jake Walker dipped under that record as well, clocking an 8:30.35, but he was still nearly 8 seconds behind Craig. So, one more time, everyone began to think about the potential of Craig Miller.

And one more time, the weight of the PA universe weighed him down. Craig suffered a bone bruise in his left foot in April and he had to shut things down, ending his prep career after an impressive early season 4:13. His final high school PR in the mile would come from his sophomore season.

Craig went on to run for the University of Wisconsin, where he had an incredibly successful career that included 8 All-American Honors and a school record in the familiar indoor 3,000. As a professional, he ran 3:35.48 for 1500m, 3:56.41 for the mile and 7:49.05 for 3,000 meters.

Ironically, the last Miller twin to win a state title in Pennsylvania was Brad. The “other” Miller had always been incredibly talented and had posted plenty of respectable marks in his own right. But he couldn’t quite deliver on the big stage, suffering from a variety of disappointments at the state meet. Maybe part of the problem was that he was running in his brother’s shadow so often.

So when Craig suffered his injury, it was exciting to see Brad rise to the occasion. He ran 1:53.2 for 800m and 9:09 for 3200m at the Lebanon Lancaster Championship Meet, bettering Craig’s personal best. Then won the 32 and the 16 at the district championships before focusing on just the 16 for states[6]. With a time of 4:16.65, he was the favorite for the victory, but Max Brown of North Allegheny was right there with him on paper. Could Brad keep the state title in the family?

The answer was simply and emphatically yes. He dropped a 4:10.43 to easily best the field by over five seconds and even gave his brother’s state record a tiny bit of a scare. Poetically, he did it by wearing his brother’s spikes.

[1] Unfathomably impressive, no frosh has been higher than 24th since 2004 and only recently did sophomores start popping up in the top 5
[2] What’s amazing is that Brad Miller, Craig’s twin, was right there for most of the ride as a freshman. He finished an impressive 11th at the state championships in the fall and had beaten Craig earlier in the spring, edging him 4:29 to 4:30. Brad ended up suffering an injury that held him out of the spring stretch run and Craig took over. You wonder what history could have been like ….
[3] 1-2 at District One has only happened once during my time (2006-2016): Brad Miles and Sam Bernitt did it in 2009. Close calls include Ben Furcht and Neal Berman (1-3) and Tony Russell and Reiny Barchet (1-3). Spoiler alert: Nobody has pulled off the 1-2 at states this millennium.
[4] To be fair, I’m leaving out that Miller got revenge at Nationals, beating Weiss, and was one of the top 3 underclassmen in the Nation out in California. He was 15th overall, which is still one of PA’s best finishes and the best we’ve seen by a junior in recent years. But that doesn’t fit the narrative I was trying to portray very well. So I left it in a bullet point most people will probably ignore.
[5] Remember that sophomore class record Miller was chasing? At the time, that belonged to Jeff See. The See-Miller rivalry continued post high school as both runners went to Big 10 schools and, ultimately, became professional milers.
[6] Brad strongly considered racing the 3200 meters at states instead of the 16, but Paul Springer’s blazing fast time at districts scared him off. Springer went on to run 9:01 and scare the long standing meet record while Brad, well, you’ll see in a couple sentences.

The Regional Recap

By Jarrett Felix

Footlocker Northeast

When the Affolder boys arrived at Carlisle High School, most understood the state was receiving a pair of transformative talents. But did anyone predict that they would be quite this good? Let me break it down. First, there’s the obvious fact that the Affolders run fast. This season, Noah dropped PA course records left and right, most notably a 14:47 at the Carlisle Invitational. But these fast performances also brought out the best in their competition. District 3, who had struggled at the state meet prior to this season, took the first 4 spots overall and a record number of medalists overall. At regionals, PA sent a total of 5 runners to nationals (4 of which attend PA high schools) and had 11 top 25 finishes! That’s unprecedented stuff. And I probably don’t even need to mention the fact that Carlisle High School finished 2nd in the state with two of the most improved finishers in a year over year comparison on the Hershey hills in their corner in Isaac Kole (30th at Regionals) and Jack Wisner.

Noah and Sam Affolder put the exclamation point on this run with a 1-2 finish at the Footlocker Regional Championship. Noah was the defending champion and, once again, was able to cruise away from the field for an easy victory. He actually ran slower than he did a year ago without someone like Jake Brophy or Connor Lundy there to give chase. The big test for him will come at Nationals as he chases PA’s best finish in Footlocker History and a National Championship.

As for Sam, he made some serious history this weekend. I don’t believe PA has ever had a sophomore qualify for Footlocker Nationals. In the past 11 years, we haven’t even had a sophomore who has cracked the top 20 in the region. But Sam Affolder not only qualified, he also finished 2nd overall in the region. Sam joins Mark Dennin (2nd), Brad Miles (1st), Jake Brophy (2nd) and his brother Noah (1st) on the short list of Footlocker Regional top finishers over the past 11 seasons. Those other four guys were all state champions. Having a two-time regional champion living in the same house as you may have been helpful for this extra month of training.

Our other PA qualifiers were incredibly well deserved as state silver medalists Zach Skolnekovich (8th) and Nate Henderson (9th) both qualified for the Footlocker Finals in San Diego. Dalton Hengst (5th) is a PA resident but runs in the state of Maryland. He was the state’s 5th qualifier and clinched a blowout win for PA at the regional meet. If you count Hengst and Phillip Wood (PA resident, NJ school) than PA has now had 25 Footlocker Qualifiers in the past 11 seasons. That’s an average of 2 per season prior to this year and suddenly 5 in 2016. Pretty amazing.

From the sounds of things, the PA squad really ran a smart race. They were poised and disciplined at the start and worked their way through an overeager field. Henderson mentioned in his interview post race that he learned a lot from this run a year earlier at the regional meet, showing the value of a little extra practice and experience. He’s also been recovering from some sickness. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him post a really strong mark out in San Diego. I think a fast pace could suit him and his strength running, plus a little extra recovery time from his illness will make him fresh and ready to go.

Nate bolsters an already impressive resume with this Footlocker ticket. He’s quickly climbing the PA All-Decade list from a year ago. He’s got a three-year stretch of 13th-5th-2nd at States, a sub 15 at Carlisle, Sub 16s on the new and old Hershey lay out and now a sub 15:50 Footlocker Ticket at VCP.

As for Skolnekovich, his result may have been most surprising to me of the bunch. I thought these other three had a shot at nats, but I honestly thought Zach didn’t have his head in this one. He seemed pretty down after states and had never continued his season this long before. He easily could have shut it down. However, instead of being negative, he flipped things into a positive and used it to his advantage. He trained hard, ran a smart race and ultimately came away with a ticket to San Diego. It’s an awesome story to see unfold for a super talented guy. With this result, he becomes the second AA runner to qualify for Footlocker Nats in the past 11 seasons, joining Brendan Shearn from 2012. His time of 15:47 on this course also makes him the fastest WPIAL runner on this lay out in the past 11 years. Skolnekovich’s all-decade team resume includes two state silver medals, four total medals, a sub 16 on the old Hershey lay out, 3 district titles and now a Footlocker ticket.

Counting this year, we’ve had 53 PA high schoolers who have placed in the top 20 of the Footlocker Regional over the past 11 seasons. 8 of those came this year which I believe is a record amount, edging out the 7 we had in 2010. Nick Dahl and Connor McMenamin led the way for PA’s non qualifiers with 12th and 13th place finishes. Dahl, the two-time independent league champ, posted his best ever finish at a regional meet and exercised some VCP demons with his 15:54 mark. Meanwhile, McMenamin finished under 16 minutes with a time of 15:59, joining a group of now 31 PA runners with a sub 16 mark on the course over the past 11 seasons. Both runners have had terrific seasons with a lot of breakthroughs at some big meets and represented the state admirably on race day.

From AA, David Haines and Ben Bumgarner continued the successes for their classification by finishing 16th and 17th. It was a big statement for those who doubted the strength of the AA class this year and a great way to end the careers for these two seniors. Haines finish is particularly remarkable as he was 5th at the AA state championship with a time that was just 34th fastest in merged results. But those results proved to be at least a little flawed as Haines came out better than all but 5 of the runners with faster times from Hershey at the Regional championships.

Noah Beveridge, just as he was at the state meet, finishes as the top junior for the state of Pennsylvania. He took 21st overall for the WPIAL and will be among the top 10 returners for next year’s big dance. His post season looks somewhat similar to what Nate Henderson did a year ago, finishing 5th at states in a crowded battle for 4th and then placing just outside the top 20 at regionals. Hopefully he can follow in Henderson’s footsteps with a Footlocker ticket in a year’s time. Ephrata’s Zach Lefever finished in 24th, capping off an excellent season in his own right.

It’s worth noting that even if you give New York the Affolders and Maryland gets Dalton Hengst, then PA still ends up with the best overall score. And that’s just looking at each state’s top 7. If you expand it, our state ended up throwing down some serious depth. Isaac Kole of Carlisle was 30th (that helped Carlisle rival the 9-11-13 finish of North Hills in 2010), Matt O’Neill of Norwin had a phenomenal race and finished 32nd overall (outside the top 50 at states) and then just behind was Nick Norton and Matt Scarpill. All in all, PA produced 18 of the top 45 finishers including Hengst and the Affolders, 15 without them.

Nike Cross Northeast
Our state champions from CRN were in for a tough battle at the regional championships. The race for the top two spots would definitely be tough and, ultimately, the North boys came up just a few points short of Westport and CBA who scored 132 and 122 respectively compared to North’s 168. I thought this team held on pretty well for the extra few weeks of training, especially considering they had yet to contest this regional meet. This team has proven they can peak for the most important meet of the year, states, and it’s tricky to double peak or hold a peak this far out.

I thought they ran strong as a team and maybe needed a slightly tighter spread between for 2-4, but held their own well. I thought Haas had a very strong race, finishing 25th overall. That’s not too far off the places that we saw from O’Hara and Henderson’s mid pack scorers when they made it to nationals. Ultimately, I’m sure North was hoping for a little more, but if you look at their marks from both Districts and States they are an all-time kind of team. Maybe I’ll have to do some all decade team rankings or something to sort out just how great.

Individually, there was plenty to celebrate. Although it appears he missed nationals by a slim margin, Ryan James led PA with a very impressive 8th place finish. He joins a list of just 10 PA athletes to crack the top 8 at this regional meet and also holds two top 15 finishes in this meet which had only been done previously by Tony Russell (1st-1st), Kevin James (4th-7th), Brad Miles (6th-7th), Wade Endress (5th-9th) and Reece Ayers (13th-13th). Worth noting, Miles and Ayers did it during their sophomore and junior seasons and then raced at Footlocker for their senior campaigns.

Also impressing individually was 13th place finisher Tristan Forsythe. While most of the top A runners decided to hang up their spikes, Forsythe pressed on the extra days and was rewarded with a terrific 13th place finish as just a junior at the regional championships. He will be the #3 returner for this meet next year if he chooses to stick with Nike. Also among the top returners will be CRN’s Ryan Campbell, who placed a strong 17th at the Regional championships.

In the team battle, DT West finished in 11th overall with 410 points. They got a big lift from sophomore Payton Sewall who climbed all the way to the team’s #3 spot after being a non-scorer most of the year (somewhat like Alex Knapp did for Henderson in 2012). The team, which has placed well in both the state and the region the past three seasons, will face a big test next year as they graduate four of their top five runners.

Austin Maxwell of Kennett had a strong win in the Green Open race, running 17:09 to win by 6 seconds. Berwick’s Ty Fisher took 4th overall in the same race. 

FINAL 2016 Updated Etrain Top 50 Rankings: Week 11 (11/21)

By: Garrett Zatlin

Preseason (7/29)
Week 1 (9/12)
Week 2 (9/19)
Week 3 (9/28)
Week 4 (10/3)
Week 5 (10/10)--No changes
Week 6 (10/17)
Week 7 (10/24)--No changes
Week 8 (10/31)
Week 9 (11/7)--No changes
Week 10 (11/14)
Week 11 (11/21)

·      Bold: Had a performance or important piece of news that influenced a change in the rankings
·      (#/#): First number indicates how much the individual has moved in the rankings. A plus (with green) means they have improved in the rankings. A minus (with red) means they have regressed in the rankings. The second number indicates where they were ranked the week before
·      (Wasn’t Ranked): Was not ranked the week before.
50. Michael Williams, Junior, Washington State (Wasn't Ranked)
-There were multiple guys who could've been at this spot. But after an entire season of being in and out the rankings, I thought he deserved it. Williams is, of course, worthy of the final spot since he placed 30th at nationals for his first ever All-American honor.

He wasn't always consistent in 2016 and he often left me wondering if there was more he could've done. Yet, at the end day, Williams did what was needed of him and gave his WSU teammates an ace to lean on. I'm already excited to see what he has in store for his senior season.

49. Connor Lundy, Freshman, Princeton (-1/48)
-It's easy to say that Lundy is only on here because he's a freshman. It's true that his youth is a nice bonus, but he has run very well throughout the season. He's had 3rd place finishes at HYP (tri-meet), Heps, and regionals. Pair that with his 19th place finish at Wisconsin and you can't help but be impressed with this kid. Yes, 94th at nationals is certainly sub-par. However, we even saw Jacob Choge miss expectations when he placed 40th. The fact that some of these freshman are even getting experience on the big stage is a big plus in my book.

48. Joel Hubbard, Junior, Syracuse (Wasn't Ranked)
-38th at Wisconsin wasn't exciting, but progressing from 8th (ACC's), to 10th (regionals), to 34th (nationals) is good enough for me. Syracuse may not have won, but they did very well and they can thank Hubbard for his series of clutch performances in the final string of races.

47. Benard Keter, Senior, Texas Tech (-9/38)
-After a surprise win at BIG 12's, I had high expectations for him at regionals and NCAA's. 10th in the Mountain region is fine, but 131st at nationals simply will not do. He didn't face too much strong competition throughout the regular season and when given the chance to perform at nationals, he couldn't deliver.

Although he faltered during XC, I believe Keter is in line to win the steeplechase title this spring. I feel like he is someone that will thrive much more on the track.

46. Cory Glines, Junior, NAU (-12/34)
-NAU didn't run a lot of big meets this season, but when they did, Glines was typically able to take advantage. Glines first showed promise at Wisconsin when he placed 20th overall. He would later bounce back to finish 4th at conferences and 6th at regionals. However, his NCAA performance was a bit sub-par as he ended up in 84th overall.

Glines is definitely on my radar for 2016. He'll return to NAU as an experienced senior in 2017 and will still have plenty of strong teammates surrounding him.

45. Rory Linkletter, Sophomore, BYU (Wasn't Ranked)
-Linkletter was one of the ones that snuck through the cracks and couldn't quite get in the rankings. However, a great nationals performance can do a lot for your stock and that's exactly what happened to the BYU sophomore when he placed 32nd overall this past weekend.

I missed on Linkletter despite him placing 9th at Panorama and 22nd at Wisconsin. Yet to be fair, the West Coast conference is weak and he didn't run at regionals. It makes sense why he hung around the "Just Miss" category for so long in the season.

44. Matthew Schwartzer, Rs. Senior, Indiana (+2/46)
-Just like Crist, Schwartzer was a post-season warrior who really caught fire at the right time. Back-to-back 4th place finishes at BIG 10's and Great Lakes gave him the boost he needed to get into the rankings. He was having an outstanding comeback season after having to redshirt 2015 due to injury.

But not all comeback stories can end happily. Schwartzer ran a gutsy race at nationals and finished 46th overall...6 spot away from being an All-American. The man has made four trips to the Big Dance, but simply couldn't capitalize on the opportunities.

43. Josh Thompson, Senior, Oklahoma State (Wasn't Ranked)
-Him and Michael Williams have bounced on and off the list so many times. Just when you think he has an off day, he bounces back to impress you. 3rd place finishes at the Cowboy Jamboree and Penn State national were nice resume boosters, but weren't enough to keep him in the rankings when he faded to 7th in a not-so-strong BIG 12 (individually speaking). Of course, 2nd at regionals and an All-American 36th place at NCAA's will quickly get him right back on.

42. Brent Demarest, Sophomore, Virginia (+2/44)
-Some may be concerned about a poor race at regionals (especially when it's the week before nationals). However, I was actually ok with his sub-par Southeast race. Demarest had been consistent and all season and never slipped up until then. Sure enough, he rebounded and placed a great (but heartbreaking) 42nd place at NCAA's. He may not have been an All-American, but he was doing some great work as just a sophomore.

Virginia wasn't able to do much without Wynne being active, but they found out that they have another ace in Demarest for 2017. Watch out for the Cavs next year.

41. Aaron Baumgarten, Junior, Michigan (-1/40)
-Did not run at nationals

40. Joel Reichow, Senior, South Dakota State (Wasn't Ranked)
-He was in the top 40 in the pre-season rankings, but couldn't hold his position with so many talented individuals going on and off the list. He was 26th at Wisconsin, but really began to impress me when he got to regionals where he placed 3rd overall. Once NCAA's came around, Reichow made me realize I had missed out on keeping him in the rankings when he placed 20th overall. For someone so accomplished, it's probably the best race of his career.

39. Jason Crist, Senior, Indiana (-2/37)
-He was arguably one of the best post-season runners in 2016. He went from placing 31st at Pre-Nats to finishing 3rd at BIG 10's, 6th at Great Lakes, and 38th at NCAA's. Like Schrobilgen, I would've liked to see him perform better in the regular season. Still, he had a great season and kept Indiana competitive.

Sean Tobin, Junior, Mississippi (-8/30)
-We typically think of Tobin as a miler, but he came out this season and proved that he is so much more. He was the surprise winner at Notre Dame and finished off his season with three consecutive top-10 finishes.

I was hoping that nationals would be the opportunity for Tobin to have another Notre Dame type of performance, but he placed 62nd overall which was a bit disappointing. Still, he did more than I than I thought he would this season and that's a positive in my book.

37. Jerrell Mock, Junior, Colorado State (-16/21)
-The entire Rams squad was filled with such high expectations coming into this year. Mock's teammate (Jefferson Abbey) failed to be the top runner so many thought he could be and Mock began to fade with him as the season progressed. He was still running well, but it was not what we were used to seeing.

Mock was ranked 7th at one point in the rankings, but simply couldn't keep up those kind of performances. 54th in the nation is solid, but for someone like Mock it's not the kind of performance you'd expect.

36. Joe Klecker, Rs. Freshman, Colorado (Wasn't Ranked)
-It's hard to ignore excellence and Klecker was certainly excellent in the final stretch of the season. The redshirt freshman started out his season with a win at the Rocky Mountain Shootout, but I wasn't super impressed by his 24th place finish at Pre-Nats. Once championship season started, Klecker began to find his groove with a respectable 19th place finish at PAC-12's, 3rd place at regionals (Mountain), and 28th at NCAA's. He got better as the post-season progressed which is a really good sign. With Saarel set to graduate, him and Dressel will be a killer duo up front.

35. Harry Mulenga, Senior, Florida State (-8/27)
-He was very consistent throughout most of the season. He was a top finisher at nearly every meet and constantly contended with the top names around the nation. With consistency like that, no one would've thought about him placing 82nd at NCAA's. It's unfortunate that the only sub-par race of his season came at nationals, but he certainly accomplished a lot.

34. Hassan Abdi, Junior, Oklahoma State (Wasn't Ranked)
-Even on his off days he was a beast. Abdi made his season debut at Penn State where he was 2nd to Erb. It's a loss that seems much more reasonable after Erb placed 6th at NCAA's. He would later go on to place 3rd at BIG 10's, and 4th at regionals.

Abdi didn't always face the best competition, but that didn't matter when he ended up 16th overall at nationals. Was he the best transfer/recruit of 2016? It sure seems like it...

33. Sherod Hardt, Senior, Michigan State (-1/32)
-When TJ Carey left the team, I was worried whether or not Sherod Hardt could be a respected ace in the BIG 10. I didn't love that he was 15th at Griak and 39th at Wisconsin, but those worries were quickly put to rest in the later portion of the season. 2nd at BIG 10's, 3rd at Great Lakes, and 27th at nationals. What an incredible post-season. He peaked at just the right time and came up big for his team on mulitple occasions.

32. Jack Bruce, Senior, Arkansas (+9/41)
-When the season began, I was really worried that Jack Bruce was just a one-race wonder who had a great day at nationals in 2015. Luckily, he proved me wrong with excellent performances all season. He was 12th at Pre-Nats, 4th at SEC's, 6th at regionals, and an incredible 19th at nationals (besting his 2015 finish of 23rd). 

Bruce proved that he was for real and deserves some praise for keeping Arkansas among one of the top teams in the nation.

31. Gilbert Kirui, Junior, Iona (-12/19)
-3rd place at Paul Short and 12th place at Wisconsin. He had a great regular season and stepped up for Iona when Chartt Miller was MIA. Unfortunately, 87th at NCAA's is not going to impress me, especially when Iona has held the stigma that they can't perform at nationals.

30. Tyler Day, Sophomore, NAU (+5/35)
-The best part about every new season is that we get to see new names emerge as top-tier talents. Tyler Day is one of those talents. We didn't get to see him until Wisconsin, but it was worth the wait when he placed 17th overall. Add on a 7th place finish in the Mountain region along with finishing 23rd at nationals, and Day looks like he'll be the future of NAU cross country.

29. Matthew Maton, Sophomore, Oregon (-7/22)
-It was always tough to tell just how good Maton was at certain times. 4th at Pre-Nats and 2nd at regionals makes him an elite runner. But 28th at PAC-12's and 29th at NCAA's doesn't quite fit the description of "elite". He'll be Oregon's top guy next season, but I would like to see some consistency next time around.

John Dressel, Sophomore, Colorado (-12/16)
-See Ben Saarel (#22)

27. Matthew Baxter, Rs. Junior, NAU (+22/49)
-You've to commend someone like Baxter for taking out the pace at nationals. It's the biggest stage in the nation for XC so to make such a hard move so early takes some courage. Baxter ended up taking 11th overall which makes up for his poor regionals performance where he placed 22nd. Baxter is one of four NAU individuals who have a spot in these rankings. Of those four, he is one of three that returns. Watch out for him in 2017.

26. Dillon Maggard, Junior, Utah State (+13/39)
-12th place at NCAA's! 12th! The guy who was barely cracking our top 40 had the race of his life and finished with some of the best in the nation.

While it was an outstanding finish, Maggard's full season didn't have any indication of a race like this. That's why I have kept him to 26th overall.

25. Jonah Koech, Sophomore, UTEP (-10/15)
-What an interesting season for Koech. He came in as a top 10 runner in our pre-season rankings, but he lacked the same spark he had last season. He should've won on a Notre Dame course that favored his racing style, but he ended up in 5th. He later lost to Jacob Choge at conferences.

Just when you thought he was primed for a great nationals race, he bombs it and finishes 122nd overall. It's tough to say what he was missing, but Koech seemed off his game this season.

24. Malachy Schrobilgen, Senior, Wisconsin (+2/26)
-I was concerned at the beginning of the season when Schrobilgen could still not finish a race. Luckily, his post-season finishes were impressive after he placed 5th at BIG 10's, won the title at Great Lakes, and placed 25th at nationals. He was great in the post-season, but I needed a full season for him to be in the top 20.

23. Alex Short, Rs. Senior, San Francisco (+1/24)
-Short was on the 'Just Missed' list at the beginning of the season, but as the season progressed, he gave me very little reason to keep him off the list. Short put up incredible results throughout the season including a 7th place finish at Pre-Nats, a win at West Coast conferences, a 4th place finish at regionals, and 22nd place finish at nationals to top it all off.

22. Ben Saarel, Senior, Colorado (+4/18)
-I could never really get a gage of how good Saarel and Dressel were. Their Pre-Nats performance was unexciting and left us looking for more. When the post-season rolled around, we saw Saarel have a great performance at PAC-12's, but a less impressive performance at regionals. Dressel was the opposite.

Saarel placing 21st and Dressel placing 33rd at NCAA's still leaves me unsure on just how good these two are. I still feel confident that these two were a pair of the best runners in the nation, but they lacked consistency and I couldn't always put my faith in them.

21. Yusuke Uchioshi, Junior, Boise State (+15/36)
-After an ugly 21st place finish at regionals, Uchikoshi rebounded and placed 18th overall for an excellent All-American finish. The Mountain West conference champion was very impressive this season, but the others in the top 20 were simply ranked too high.

20. Kieran Clements, Rs. Senior, Iona (-9/11)
-It was a great season for Clements as he really broke out and established himself as a low-stick while Chartt Miller was patiently waiting to make his debut. His breakout race came at Wisconsin where he placed 9th overall. He eventually followed that up with an excellent top-5 finish at Northeast regionals.

Unfortunately, Clements would place 44th at NCAA's and fall just four spots short of being an All-American. Did he deserve to be an All-American? Probably, but that's just how life goes.

19. Jacob Choge, Freshman, Mid. Tenn. State (-7/12)
-Talented? Yes. The next Cheserek? Not quite. After a season of consistent improvement and dominance, the MTSU freshman was given very big expectations as he entered his first nationals meet. He is, after all, brother of the 2016 Olympic Marathon champion. 

But pressure can get to anyone and it certainly got to this freshman who finished 40th in the nation after some predicted him to place as high as 3rd overall. In the end, he still finished his season as an All-American and got some great experience under his belt for next year.

18. Alex George, Junior, Arkansas (+11/29)
-Who would've thought that Alex George would be 15th in the nation? I was impressed by George all season as he grabbed multiple wins at meets like Beantown, Chile Pepper, and SEC's. Still, it's easy to overlooks those wins when you look at his competition. I guess it makes sense that we never really got an idea of how good this guy was until nationals rolled around.

17. Colin Bennie, Junior, Syracuse (0/17)
-He was ranked 17th in the nation coming into nationals and he finished 17th at NCAA's...looks like that was the right spot. When we compare 2016 to last year, it's clear that Bennie wasn't at the top of his game either. At meets like Wisconsin and NCAA's he was in the lead pack. However, unlike 2015, Bennie couldn't cover the moves in the last ~2k

16. Sean McGorty, Senior, Stanford (-9/7)
-McGorty entered this season as one of the NCAA's elite runners. He had one of the best resumes in the nation and had big time experience on his side. Yet, throughout the season, McGorty just never seemed at his best. The first sign of this came at Wisconsin when he was outkicked in the final straightaway and had to settle for 6th overall.

After cruising through conferences and regionals, the expectation was that he would rebound be in contention for another top-10 finish. Unfortunately, McGorty faltered off the fast pace and ended up placing 24th at nationals.

15. Luke Traynor, Senior, Tulsa (+10/25)
-I'll be honest, when he was 4th at Oklahoma State, I got very nervous about what the rest of his season was going to look like. Luckily, Traynor turned it around pretty quickly with an 11th place finish at Wisconisn and then two back-to-back wins at conferences and regionals. Follow that up with a 13th place finish at nationals and this man deserves a top-15 spot in our rankings.

14. George Parsons, Senior, NC State (-1/13)
-For some reason Parsons just can't perform well at NCAA's. It's such a shame because this is someone who I truly believe is one of the best guys in the nation. He hasn't been perfect, but he's a grinder and was a top finisher at some of the top meets in the nation. Unfortunately, he ends his NCAA XC eligibility without an All-American honor after placing 51st this past weekend.

13. MJ Erb, Senior, Mississippi (+15/28)
-4th at Notre Dame, 3rd at SEC's, and 7th at South regionals. Not exactly the kind of resume you expect the 6th place finisher at NCAA's to have. 

In 2016, Erb was having a very respectable season and was probably a little underrated. That said, NO ONE was expecting Erb to finish 6th in the nation. He hung around the top guys for most of the race and simply ran one of the gutsiest races of the weekend. In the end, Erb was one of the biggest reasons why Mississippi ended up as a podium team. 

12. Ferdinand Edman, Senior, UCLA (+8/20)
-Edman's 14th place finish at NCAA's was the first finish outside of the top 10 he's had all season. As is the general theme with so many of these top guys, he was consistent and always gave his team a low-stick to rely on. He deserves the 12th spot in our rankings. 

Scott Carpenter, Senior, Georgetown (+12/23)
-I said last week that I was worried Carpenter may have already hit his ceiling...I was (once again) wrong. Carpenter unleashed a monster performance and locked down 10th place at NCAA's. I suppose I was just being impatient to see him at nationals since his losses to Tiernan at BIG East's and Regionals were rather predictable. In reality, Carpenter didn't show signs of slowing down at any point this season.

10. Amon Terer, Senior, Campbell (-2/8)
9. Lawrence Kipkoech, Rs. Sophomore, Campbell (0/9)
-Kipkoech was 26th and Terer was 35th. This was definitely not their greatest race, but they also ended as All-Americans. I would've liked to see them in the top 20, but they did enough throughout this season in terms of racing style, consistency, and progression.

8. Nicholas Montanez, Senior, BYU (+6/14)
7. Edwin Kibichiy, Rs. Senior, Louisville (+3/10)
-These may not have been their respective finishes at NCAA's, but Kibichiy and Montanez were consistent all year and put together some incredible performances. It's hard to run well in every race you run and for these two to be as consistent as they were is worthy of a top-10 ranking.

6.  Morgan McDonald, Junior, Wisconsin (-1/5)
5. Grant Fisher, Sophomore, Stanford (+1/6)
-The only difference between these two? McDonald beat Fisher at the Wisconsin Invite and Fisher beat McDonald at NCAA's. Fisher gets the edge at the end simply because he was ahead at the bigger meet. They both had incredible seasons and both will be contending for an XC title next year.

4. Futsum Zienasellassie, Rs. Senior, NAU (0/4)
-Futsum had a terrific season and should be very satisfied with his 4th place finish (all things considered). While he was one of the top runners this season, he just didn't seem to be on the level that Ches, Knight, and Tiernan were on.

3. Edward Cheserek, Senior, Oregon (-2/3)
2. Justyn Knight, Junior, Syracuse (+1/3)
1. Patrick Tiernan, Rs. Senior, Villanova (+1/2)
-Isn't this weird? Edward Cheserek not being the top-ranked runner? I could probably find the argument to keep him as number one, but unlike so many other times, this loss was legitimate and it mattered. Like Coach Powell said, there isn't really an excuse.

On the other hand, could this have been more of a perfect set up for Tiernan? He came off the Olympics running a 13:20 5k PR, started his season at conferences, and ran a perfectly executed race to take down the arguably the greatest collegiate distance runner of all time. Pretty good 2016 if you're him.

Let's also not forget that Justyn Knight was also part of this upset madness. He ran an amazing race and pulled off his race plan just as well as Tiernan did. He came away with silver and will have 2017 as his chance to earn individual gold.
Just Missed 
-Zach Perrin, Junior, Colorado
-Thomas Ratclife, Freshman, Stanford
-Michael Ward, Junior, Bradley
-Fred Huxham, Junior, Washington
-Jacob Thomson, Rs. Junior, Kentucky
-John Whelan, Senior, Washington State
-Euan Makepeace, Freshman, Butler

Kicked Off
-Antony Kosgei, Sophomore, UTEP (Last Ranked 42nd)
-Emmanuel Rotich, Sophomore, Tulane (Last Ranked 43rd)
-James Randon, Senior, Yale (Last Ranked 45th)
-Frankline Tonui, Senior, Arkansas (Last Ranked 33rd)
-Chartt Miller, Senior, Iona (Last Ranked 31st)
-Andrew Ronoh, Sophomore, Arkansas (Last Ranked 47th)
-Frank Lara, Junior, Furman (Last Ranked 50th)

New Additions
-Hassan Abdi, Junior, Oklahoma State
-Joe Klecker, Rs. Freshman, Colorado
-Joel Reichow, Senior, South Dakota State
-Josh Thompson, Senior, Oklahoma State
-Rory Linkletter, Sophomore, BYU
-Joel Hubbard, Junior, Syracuse
-Michael Williams, Junior, Washington State

Biggest Surprise of the Week
-Patrick Tiernan, Rs. Senior, Villanova

MVP of the Week
-Patrick Tiernan, Rs. Senior, Villanova

-Naturally, the MVP of the Week goes to the champion. However, the Biggest Surprise of the Week is also going to Tiernan after pulling off what may be the greatest upset of all-time. How could you not give him both?
-There was a lot of movement in the rankings with guys in the 30's getting kicked off. For a lot of runners, I was looking for them to take advantage of one last opportunity before the season ended to prove that they deserved to be on the list. Some did just that while others failed to do anything notable.

NXN Regional Preview

Hey everyone! Nice to be back writing a brief piece for you all. I’ll just jump into it: today I will be trying to explain the NXN qualifying situation and where CR North fits into the equation. Also, just how good are other teams in the Northeast Region?

I have an excel document on all of the statistics mentioned here, so if you send me an e-mail at I will send you what I have compiled. 

There are two main ways of figuring out team rankings. The first is through flotrack’s ratings (sponsored by saucony), which is based out of the west. The second is, which is based out of New York. I really like Tully’s system of ‘speed ratings,’ because of the various factors he takes into account (there is a video with him on flotrack explaining this I would recommend researching). I will be using both of these systems throughout the post. 

How to make Nationals?
Very simply if you are top 2 in your region you automatically go to nationals. After that there are 8 “at-large” bids given out to teams who placed 3rd or 4th in their region (there are 8 regions, so some regions will get 2 at-large teams and other regions will give no at-large bids). How these at-large bids are given is always difficult to determine, but it seems that part of it is based on the flotrack rankings, which is why they will become so important. I will speak on these at-large bids and national rankings a bit later. 

PA History (2012-2015)
I want to start with a brief overview of the last few years for PA at the Nike Northeast regional meet. As you may have realized, the PA state meet is 4 weeks before the regional meet, while the New England Championships is two weeks before and the New Jersey Meet of Champions is the week before. This allows all the other teams from the Northeast to peak going into the regional meet, while PA teams are left to take a break and re-peak. This is a very difficult task for the PA runners and results are extremely variable in this meet. 2012 was by far the best year for PA consistency with each runner from WCH and O’Hara (other than Pitone) running equally as well if not much better at Regionals than they did at States. Some big improvements came from Barchet (178.7 at states to 192.4 at regionals; Knapp: 170 to 178.7; and Belfatto: 171.7 to 178). These jumps of 4-7 speed-rating points are a change of 12 to 21 seconds, which is pretty impressive. Both of these teams made nationals: O’Hara placed second and received an auto-bid, while Henderson (5 points behind) on the at-large bid. 

The next year Barchet had a much more difficult race as did Smart. Collins stepped up for Henderson as did Morro (5 points better) for O’Hara. It seems here that their 4-5 runners made some big improvements (although Waltz was Henderson’s 6th man after being 4th at states, but their depth kept them in it). In 2014 McGoey and Wharrey after killer races at the state meet lost 5 speed-rating points at regionals. Seel improved, but Stupak and Deible also struggled (lost 5.5 and 3 points respectively). NA did not end up making nationals.  Finally, last season the state champs DT West saw Sappy run basically the same race, with improvements from Josh and difficulties from Jaxson(189 at states to 179 at regionals). Ryherd and O’Neill seemed to switch places in terms of score. They ended up winning the region and heading to nationals quite handily. 

So, the larger point is that it’s going to be very, very hard to predict just how CR North will run. Who will improve? Who will have a really poor race? But before we get to these questions here is how CR North’s speed-ratings from the state meet match up with the past regional races:
2012: Total Score - 163 (4th Place). I would say they would not have gotten the auto-bid, but this was the year when O’Hara placed 5th at nationals (had 90 points at this meet), so there is a small chance the directors would have recognized how strong the region was this year, but shout out to O’Hara and Henderson for an amazing year for PA.

2013: Total Score – 145 (3rd Place: 6 points ahead of 4th). CR North in this race would have been 31 points behind the second place team and I’m not sure they would have gotten the at-large-bid because the region was a bit weaker this year out front. 

2014: Total Score – 143 (3rd Place: 41 points behind second). LaSalle (CT) had an amazing team this year and I think CR North would have gotten the at large bid behind another strong CBA team who was in second.

2015: Total Score – 121 (2nd Place: 19 Ahead of last years second). Last year was a bit of a weak year for the northeast with LaSalle and CBA graduating so many runners. DT West was probably a top 15 team in the nation and North would have gotten the auto-bid in second place behind them. 

Overall, based on their states rankings it seems like CR North is about a 3rd place team out of the Northeast region on just about any year. The question is, how do they stack up against other Northeast teams this year?

The Setting: How the Northeast Looks
This year it is pretty clear that CBA is by far and away the best team in the Northeast region and I have no doubt they will win quite handily. They have several runners who will be hovering between SR of 177 and 180 with a decent front runner in Hill and experience and depth at the backend of the squad. If they ran at PA states they would have scored 55 points placing 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, and 20th in team points. After CBA there are two other NJ teams and a squad from New England to worry about.

At the New England Championships (NEC) Staples TC had an absolutely fantastic day to take the win in 115 points. They have a strong front-runner in Ahmad (186.73 @NEC’s and 185 at Connecticut States) who matches up fairly well with Campbell (184.67 at states). Behind him they saw some great runs from their 2-5 guys:
Seiple: 177.54 @ NEC; 173.33 @ States
Landowne: 175 @ NEC; 171.67 @ States
Green: 174.43 @ NEC; 173.67 @ States
Myers: 171.20 @ NEC; 166.33 @ States

Their 5th man Myers really made the difference here taking loads of points off this team. If CR North had run in the New England Championships (NEC) with their exact rankings from the state meet then they would have scored 124 points, just 9 points shy of Staples. However, if Staples had run their rankings from the Connecticut State championships CR North would have easily handled them by about 20 points. Which Staples team will we see at Regionals? The one from NEC or States? They were clearly peaking more for NEC’s than their state meet, which shows me that they are truly gearing up for a strong regional race, and I would guess they race similar to how they ran at NEC’s.

The NJ Meet of Champions was this weekend. Before I dive in, can I just quickly say say: why don’t we have one of these yet for PA?!? Moving on: CBA was dethroned placing not second, but 3rd!

Princeton: 104 Points
Colts Neck: 106 Points
CBA: 109
CR North from states rankings 110 Points. 

This is extremely close, but what I want everyone to keep in mind is that CR North has NOT raced in 3 weeks. These teams are peaking for NJ Champs and regionals and have had 3 weeks to train to boost their times/ratings. Teams like Princton and Colts Neck have very, very strong front 3s that dwarf CR North, but Koza is the best 5th man around other than CBA. And from CBA Kilcolley and Miele ran very poorly (both have run 177’s before this season) and I would expect them to bounce back. If Princeton or Colts Neck has an inspired 5th man at regionals who moves up about 5 speed-rating points they will be an absolute lock. 

Lastly, the Massachusetts State Championships.
Wellesley: 76 Points
Lowell: 82 Points
CR North (state scores): 84 Points

Once again, we see CR North coming very tightly behind several strong teams. Lowell has a brilliant front 2, but Wellesley’s pack kept them in it (5 runners above 173). Wellesley reminds me quite a bit of CR North actually and I think they’ll have a great shot at running well because of their pack at regionals. They have not been rated by flotrack, but they are very dangerous. 

So where exactly does CR North Stand? There seem to be 7 very strong teams coming into this regional meet, and I actually think this is better depth than we have seen in the past. So rarely, however, do teams live up to their previous races when it comes to the regional meet. 
Here at CRN’s speed ratings from States and Districts, but keep in mind these are 3-4 weeks before many of these other teams speed ratings:

Campbell: 184.67 @ States; 179 @ Districts
Haas: 175 @ States; 176.33 @ Districts
Keller: 175.67 @ States; 175.67 @ Districts
Earley175 @ States; 174.33 @ Districts
Koza: 167.67 @ States; 170 @ Districts

It seems quite clear that Campbell is getting a lot better. If he is able to stay healthy during these few weeks I would bet we see a 186 out of him. Haas, Keller, and Earley are all moving around the 175 range, but it will take a 177 average from them to make nationals. Earley went out in 10:25 at states and is looking for a big breakout race. I think he gets a 178.5 speed rating to lead this group with Haas and Keller running 176.00. Koza will continue to be the most important piece for this team, however. If he does not run a 170 this team does not have a chance to make nationals no matter how strong the top 4 run (unless they are all over 178). If we see Koza run a 172 this team is almost a lock for a top 3 place

Rankings Nationally: Will there be At-Large Teams in the Northeast?

So looking through Flotrack’s rankings it seems as though the Northeast has been greatly ignored continuously this season. I have looked through all of the regional rankings and CR North would have placed 4th @ NXN Midwest (beating previously ranked #18 Salon) and behind US #3 Neququa Valley, US #24 Downers Grove, and US #14 Mahomet-Seymour. 

CR North places 2nd out of NXN Heartland (auto-bid) and would have beaten US #21 Edina by 135 points (33 behind US #7 Wayzata). 

CR North would have placed 3rd in the NXN Northwest 17 behind Summit and 33 points ahead of US #19 North Central (who will likely get an at-large bid)

CR North would have placed 2nd in the NXN Southwest. 26 points ahead of US #13 Davis and 64 ahead of US#18 Timpano; and they would have won NXN South (on a super rough day, but they would have beaten US #2 Woodlands). 

I believe there are 3 teams already with locks to get at-large bids: Mayhomet-Seymour, North Central Oregon, and Woodlands. Lyons and Timpano have decent chances of being bumped in as well, which is about 5 teams. This leaves 3 left for the Northeast, California, and New York. From what I’ve seen this year the New York boys are a bit weak so I doubt they will get an at-large team, but you can bet California will send minimally 3 teams. Cali is always deep. However, if at least 4, if not 5 teams of the 7 described above show up at regionals I think there will be two at-large bids from the Northeast, despite not getting much love on flotrack in the rankings. So far only CBA US#4, Colts Neck US #21, and Princeton US #22 are on the list, but this gives some credibility to the regions depth that hopefully will be taken into account. 

Finally, Forrest’s Northeast Rankings
1. CBA
2. Wellesley
3. Colts Neck
4. Staples TC
5. CR North
6. Princeton
7. Lowell
I am quite wary that CR North has never raced on the NXN regional course and are so used to racing as individuals at footlocker. All of these other teams were clearly gearing towards this meet all season, while it was an after thought for CR North who accomplished their season’s goal of winning states. However, if they can make the improvements I think they could have made over the past 3 weeks they will place second. Honestly if squads 2-7 all had their best day they would each be within 10-20 points. It’s one of the closest years I’ve seen from the Northeast and I think the region will send at least 3 teams if not 4, which gives further hope to CR North’s chances.