Ultimate Fan Challenge: Another Question!

So I think this might be a fun one. Here's the question: rank the etrain staff from fastest to slowest by mile/1600 PR. The staff is the following (alphabetically)

Blake Behney
Sean Collins
Jarrett Felix
Alex Fox
Caleb Gatchell
Evan Hatton
Paul Hayes
Dylan Jaklitsch
Garrett Zatlin

Now here's the catch. Your responses will be graded subjectively. We are looking for answers with some explanation/justification for your choices. Points will be awarded for accuracy, creativity and logic. 

Everyone who responds gets at least one point. ClaigxClaig leads with 8 points and Don't Sleep has moved into second place with 2 points after winning the third challenge. Still lots of time for a comeback! 

The Weekend Review: Michigan Puts 3 Sub-Four; Ches & Gilbert Throw Down Killer 3K's

By: Garrett Zatlin

As my semester gets busier and busier, I'll only be able to focus on the main meets of the weekend. However, I have made sure to include any PA Alumni that may have popped up in the results.

John Thomas Terrier Invitational*
A lot of attention from the 800 will be focused on the Arkansas Invitational this weekend. However, the boys up north had a solid weekend of their own after putting five guys under 1:50. They were led by Northeastern's Paul Duffey who continues to impress me. He was able to narrowly get a win over Dage Minors (Franklin Pierce), Trevor Guerrera (Sacred Heart), and Brennan Munley (Michigan). All four ran 1:48. Julius Mutekanga (New Balance) ran 1:49th for 5th.

I'm really liking where Duffey is at in terms of his fitness. He is getting solid wins and running faster each weekend of racing. By the time late February rolls around, don't be surprised to see him as a national qualifying candidate.

Liam O'Connell, Junior, Boston University: 1:56.47 (51st)

It was (arguably) the best event of the week around the nation! Four men dipped under the 4 minute barrier in a very exciting race. Syracuse's Adam Palamer took the lead at the half-way point and never looked back as he eventually clocked a NCAA leading time of 3:57. He looked very strong and held his position pretty well. Could he be the DMR piece that makes 'Cuse a threat at NCAA's?

Maybe the most exciting thing that happened (especially for PA fans) was seeing Ned Willig and his two Michigan teammates run sub-four minutes for the first time ever! Willig stayed on the back of Palamer for the whole race and made him work for the win. With 200 to go, you could tell that Willig was going to go under. To make things even better, teammates Will Sheeran and Connor Mora also dipped under four minutes after charging hard down the home straightaway. When the results flashed on the board, Willig had run 3:58.09 while Sheeran and Mora ran 3:59.15 and 3:59.36 respectively.

The top 16 times for each event will automatically qualify for indoor NCAA's (before scratches). According to data on TFRRS, no one has ever run as fast as Willig's 3:58.09 and NOT been among the top 16 times. Based off of past history, Willig should be able to qualify for NCAA's (especially when you consider the number of runners that may scratch the event).

But we also have to keep in mind that Michigan may go all-in for the DMR at NCAA's. They've been experimenting with their order and Willig would almost definitely be a part of that. Now, with Sheeran and Mora also under four minutes, the likelihood of Michigan running a stacked DMR is growing with each week.

Fun fact: Both Willig and Sheeran transferred from Brown to Michigan and are now sub-four minute milers.

Carrick "Rock" Fortna, Freshman, Rhode Island: 4:20.32 (61st)
Liam O'Connell, Junior, Boston University: DNF

Julian Oakley (Providence) got the win with a very solid time 7:54. However, he was running unattached. The next man in was Aaron Baumgarten (Michigan) who ran 7:57. He held off the Syracuse duo of Iliass Aouani (7:57) and Colin Bennie (7:58). During the past few indoor seasons, it has taken roughly 7:52/53 to make NCAA's. Obviously, those times probably wont be quick enough to be in the top 16. However, these are very nice starts and I'm sure that these three will have the opportunity to run faster later on in the season.

The next collegiate in was freshman Paul Luevano of Boston U. Somehow, this Boston U program just keeps getting faster and faster with more young talent.

Scott Mason, Sophomore, Connecticut College: 8:39.48 (47th)

Sacred Heart's Connor Rog was the top collegiate with a time of 14:21. He beat out freshman Joe Dragon (Syracuse) who ran a time of 14:24.

Kevin James, Sophomore, Syracuse: 14:48.44 (21st)

Razorback Invitational
This may be the only event that was as deep as the John Thomas mile and it was certainly just as entertaining. In a field stacked with elite 800 runners, Florida's Andres Arroyo showed no fear as he led the race from nearly start to finish. He gutted out a great time of 1:47 to get the win.

Wake Forrest's Robert Heppenstall closed hard on Arroyo, but came up just short of catching him. Heppenstall, along with Carlton Orange (Arkansas), both ran 1:47. USC's Robert Ford ran 1:48.09 for 4th while LSU's Blair Henderson ran 1:49.00 for 5th.

The final runner under 1:50 was Texas A&M freshman Devin Dixon who ran 1:49.66. Dixon actually ran that time out of heat 4 (which he won). Somehow, the Aggies just continue to get deeper at the middle distances.

So close, yet so far. Mississippi's Sean Tobin went after another mile performance this past weekend only to come up short of the 4 minute barrier again. He ran 4:000.09 to get the win. Jack Bruce (Arkansas) ran 4:02 to place 2nd.

In total, 10 men ran under 4:10 in this race.

In a field that was crowded with long-distance powerhouses like Oklahoma State and Arkansas, Mississippi's MJ Erb came up big and shut them down by running a 7:54 to get the win by over 10 seconds! Not only is that an incredibly fast time, but to be so far ahead of the rest of the field is pretty telling of his fitness level.

I said earlier that 7:52/53 has historically been the cut-off time to make NCAA's in the 3000. If that holds true, then Erb will be just outside of qualifying. He could, however, make it in if others ahead of him decide to scratch.

Oklahoma State's Josh Thompson and Craig Nowak rounded out the top three running 8:04 and 8:05.

It was an absolute battle between Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, and LSU as all three teams dipped under 9:40. The Cowboys got the win with a time 9:33, but Ole Miss was close by with a 9:34. Each program was anchored by their top milers (Josh Thompson and Sean Tobin). LSU took bronze as they ran 9:36.

Will 9:33 and 9:34 be fast enough to make NCAA's? Probably not, but you have to imagine that both of these programs will pursue a faster performance in February.

Columbia East-West Challenge*
Arturo Sotomayor (UCLA) got the first individual win of his collegiate career after running a time of 1:49.60.

Mike Kolor, Freshman, Harvard: 1:53.80 (9th)

I'm keeping my eye on Penn's Chris Hatler this season. He was a very consistent miler last season and we're starting to see him develop some speed this year after dropping a very quick 2:23 to get a win.

While Hatler may have earned the win, the Columbia duo of Rob Napolitano and Sam Ritz deserve some credit for pushing him (and themselves) to a fast time. Napolitano and Ritz each ran 2:24 for second and third.

Oregon's Tim Gorman was the top collegiate with a time of 4:01, but most of the attention was on his freshmen teammates: Austin Tamagno and Jack Yearian. Tamagno finished with a time of 4:02 while Yearian ran 4:04.

The future is bright for the Oregon Ducks, but they may have to begin worrying about Blake Haney who ran 4:09 for 11th overall. Haney failed to make NCAA's last spring and had a lackluster cross country season where he only competed in two meets. He is an All-American miler so you hope that someone like him can rebound.

Edward Cheserek may not have won the NCAA XC title, but he is still the King after dropping a 7:46 to easily shake off pro's like Kyle Merber, Johnny Gregorek, and Ford Palmer. As he enters his senior year, it's hard not to think about how good he'll be when he becomes a professional and enters a training program like NOP.

Aside from Cheserek and the pro's, Tanner Anderson ran a great race and placed 5th overall with a time of 8:02.

Ross Wilson, Junior, Penn: 8:14.54 (11th)
Dominic DeLuca, Junior, Cornell: 8:21.63 (17th)
Lyle Wistar, Senior, Penn: 8:35.86 (25th)
Brenden Shearn, Senior, Penn: 8:45.59 (26th)

Everyone who follows the sport of football has heard about a theoretical game where the Cleveland Browns play the Alabama Crimson Tide. Could a college team ever knock out professionals?

We may never know the answer for football, but on the track we found out that it was in fact possible. The Oregon men threw down a blazing 9:30 to beat out Hoka One One's DMR of 9:35. That's what happens when you have Cheserek on your side.

Penn State National*
---There were a lot of PA Alumni in here and simply too many to mention. Click on the meet name to see the full results---

Much of the attention coming into this race was on PSU alum Robby Creese (the favorite to win). So when Stanford's Jack Keelan hung on Creese's shoulder for the entire race and out sprinted him in the final 50 meters, it definitely came as surprise.

Keelan's time of 3:59.62 was a SEVEN second PR! That's an incredible amount of time of drop for any miler at this level.

Creese settled for 2nd with a 3:59 as well while Eric Holt (Binghampton) placed 3rd with a 4:06. Colin Abert (PSU) was 4th with a time of 4:07.

Tim McGowan (Penn State) continues to find his groove and get a win out of the fast section with a time of 8:11. He was followed by PA alum and true freshman Nick Wolk (Pittsburgh) who ran an impressive time of 8:15 to place 2nd.

It was a tightly contested race with all four legs making the race entertaining. Eventually, it came down to Georgetown's Scott Carpenter having the better kick to finish the race. The Hoya's finished with a time of 9:33 while Middle Tennessee State and Stanford were close behind in 9:34.

The Stanford DMR ran 9:34 with Issac Cortes and Jack Keelan. Imagine what they could have done with Fisher and McGorty.

In 4th was Penn State who put up a respectable 9:40 with Dom Perreta splitting a strong 2:55 on the lead-off leg. It may not be the best performance ever, but keep in mind that everyone on this relay was a sophomore (and Perreta is a freshman). In another year or two, this team will be scary good.

UW Invitational
What may have been the most hyped-up race of the weekend turned out to be a bit disappointing when looking at the times. Justyn Knight flew all the way out to Washington looking to get a fast time under his belt for his season debut. Unfortunately, the pace went out pretty slow and it was up to Knight to take the pace. After being followed by Wheating and Kidder, Knight found an extra gear necessary to breakaway and get the win. He crossed the line clearly disappointed.

The time was underwhelming. Knight, Kidder, and Wheating all ended the race with a time of 3:59. It is highly unlikely that Knight will qualify for NCAA's with that time. Luckily, there is still plenty of time left in the season for him to run something faster. Still, I can understand why he was upset about flying across the entire country only to not get a fast enough time.

Colby Gilbert my goodness! The Washington Husky took down a small contingent of professionals to finish with a blistering fast time of 7:45. A combination of gutsy running and a big kick was enough for him to get the win and an NCAA leading time. I think we all knew that Gilbert was fast, but I certainly wasn't expecting this from him. Whatever issues he had during cross country must be gone.

Another surprising result was seeing Clayton Young (BYU) run a massive PR of 7:49! Young had a breakout cross country season this past fall and it seems as if he is carrying that momentum onto the track.

But there were more impressive collegiate performances behind Young. Freshman Thomas Ratcliffe (Stanford) ran an outstanding 7:53, but was entered as unattached. I imagine Coach Milt will be doing the same thing they did with Fisher and redshirting Ratcliffe for the winter.

Other collegiates under 8 minutes include Gonzaga's Troy Fraley (7:58) and BYU's Rory Linkletter (7:58) and Jonathan Harper (7:59). This is Fraley's second 3000m this season. Although he's running well, he'll have have to find a race where he drops a lot more time. At this rate, he won't make NCAA's.

The Weekend Recap Part II: Even More Etrain

Part II …

Ocean Breeze
As I alluded to yesterday, this was one heck of a meet for PA. From top to bottom the Vanians represented to the fullest, got some big wins and rewrote the state rankings.

This was especially true in the 800 meters. PA had a total of 12 sub 2 minute performances with 17 guys under 2:01. Pennsbury by themselves had 5 guys at 2:03.0 or faster. In the Varsity Red section, a PA runner won Heat 2 (Luke Everidge), Heat 3 (Cam Christopher), Heat 4 (Marc Motter), Heat 5 (Jake McFadden), and Heat 6 (Sean Brown). We didn’t pull out the victory in the fast heat, but Owen J Robert’s runner Liam Conway did place third overall in a very quick 1:57.44 to help the cause.

Some of the big takeaways for me personally? One heck of a race from Everidge, Christopher and Motter. They won their heats in 1:57 type times and suddenly became household names in the event. Everidge has great speed and has dabbled in both the 4 and the 8 in the past. Christopher ran 1:56 last spring and comes from a strong mid-distance program. And Motter, after some solid sub 2 minute splits last spring, has looked fantastic this year, developing into the leader for a very capable CB East distance contingent.

I really liked what I saw from Pennsbury. The 4x8 is going to be a thrilling race this season at states. You have the powerhouses like State College, Abington and CB West who have all won on the big stage before. You have the super powers of Carlisle and GFS, but it’s unclear what each of those school’s relay plan is at this time. And then you have Pennsbury who had 1:57-2:01-2:01-2:02-2:03 for five runners in the open this weekend. Jed Scratchard has come out of nowhere (to me at least) to become a stud in the 8/Mile. Javier Linares was seeded as Pennsbury’s #5 runner, but he ended up being their #2 when all was said and done as he really rose to the challenge on this fast track.

Michael Clark from Methacton had a fantastic breakthrough race to drop to 2:00.13. He was hovering in the 2:04-2:05 range for most of the season if I remember correctly, but he popped one at the right time on race day. Also keep in mind that Pennridge stand out Austin Howell is back and racing for the first time. The always dangerous Rams now have two guys with open races under 2 minutes at 800.

For those of you keeping score at home, PA also had the winners in Heat 1, Heat 2, Heat 3 and Heat 4 of the White section of the 800 meters (we also won Heat 6). Andrew Crosby ran 2:02.65 for the overall victory, Stephen Kraus followed up a blazing fast 600 with a 2:02.71 victory and Downingtown East got victories from both Dylan McEvoy and Evan Dewey in 2:02.9 and 2:03.2.

See 6 paragraphs in the book and I’ve only covered the 800? In case you were wondering, this is why I had to make the split to 2 different recap sections. Let’s jump to the mile now. PA went to work in this event as well as we had plenty more Heat winners in the Red Section. PA took Heat 1 (Evan Addison), Heat 2 (Matt Eissler), Heat 3 (Ryan James) and Heat 5 (Patrick James). Those were the 4 fastest heat winners of the day. We also had the Heat 6 winner (Bryan Keller)

Evan Addison of LaSalle pulled out a fantastic overall victory surprising for the gold in 4:19.25. That’s a strong indoor PR for Evan and moves him into a small club of sub 4:20 guys this indoor season. He’s in elite company with the likes of Affolder, Hoey and Dahl. He’s now run 4:19 and 8:46 this year making him one of the most dangerous anchors in the DMR. If LaSalle loads it up fresh, they could give a real scare to tired teams. Projected 1200 man Brendan Price dropped an awesome 4:25.55 to finish 6th overall and 2nd in his heat.

The PCL was in full force as Cardinal O’Hara, a team that knows a thing or two about the DMR, had 3 sub 4:30 milers and 2 heat winners. Ryan James ran a very strong 4:24 while Patrick threw down a monster 4:29. Gavin Inglis closed out the group with 4:26.

Haverford’s James Abrahams did an awesome job, running 4:23.62 for 3rd overall. Pennridge’s super sophomore Matt Eissler, who has already run 1:56 this year, dropped a 4:25.75 for a heat victory. He looks fantastic so far for Pennridge and could be a sleeper contender to pull an upset in that open 800. Just to reiterate, he is only a sophomore. Liam Conway added a 4:26.11 for 9th overall on the double from his big 1:57 run in the 800.

In total, PA had 11 sub 4:30 performers in the Red section with another 8 under 4:34, including two runners from HG Prep and two runners from West Chester Henderson.

In the White section, PA added a few more top times. Sam Early won his heat with a 4:34.18 which was good for 2nd in the section. Early won by roughly 5 seconds. Watch out for this kid in the right heat. I think he’s won both of his major mile runs by big margins. He also has sub 2 speed from a year ago. Teddy Neckowicz of Lower Merion and Quinn O’Neill of LaSalle ran 4:34 and 4:35 respectively to highlight big days for both schools. O’Neill’s teammate, Vincent Twomey, won the freshman section of the mile by over 6 seconds with a 4:37.99 while, not to be out done, Lower Merion’s Charlie Herrman won the sophomore section in 4:37.01 (just ahead of LaSalle’s Matt Zilligen! What a web!).

In the invitational two mile, PA churned out some likely state qualifying performances. The leader of the pack was Seth Slavin of Pleasant Valley. He took 3rd overall with a new PR of 9:28.05. That’s an awesome time, converting down to 8:50.05 for the sake of the PTFCA rankings, but worth sub 8:50 by many metrics. It adds to a long list of impressive 3200/2 Miles that Slavin has dropped since the beginning of the year. Keep in mind, he is a returning state medalist from last indoors and, if Nate Henderson doesn’t run, would be the top returner from 2016.

Cheltenham’s Will Griffen, master of the indoor 2 mile from a year ago, cranked it up a notch with a very quick 9:30.41. Griffen, who was on my sleepers for this year, picked up a couple strong scalps as he defeated top 10 state finisher Ryan Campbell (9:31.23 which I think is a PR indoors or out) and sub 15:40 runner Matt D’Aquila (9:35). All of these times will convert to sub 9 minutes for 3k and under the SQG. However, it’s worth noting that all three runners could be on DMR teams that could potentially make them scratch the event to fresh. From the sounds of things in The Commit (shameless plug), it seems that is at least what Lower Merion and Matt D’Aquila have in mind.

In the non-invite section of the event, freshman Carlos Shultz put together his own fantastic two mile. The Conestoga runner dropped a 9:37.64, which also converts to under 9 minutes. After one of the best XC seasons from a freshman in recent history, Shultz is showing no signs of slowing down on the track. He’s right there among the state leaders in the grueling 2 mile distance and may be the fastest indoor freshman PA has ever had (I have no idea who it is in all honesty).

Stephen Paul of LaSalle (9:50), Will Schulz of CB East (9:51) and Peter Borger of Malvern Prep (9:52) all ran excellent races as well to help give PA 6 of the top 9 2 mile spots in the Red Section.

In relay news, Pennridge and CB East ended up as the #2 and #3 PA 4x4 schools in the meet behind only Glenn Mills. The schools dueled to the line, both running 3:27. I was particularly impressed with CB East’s time. Not a traditional 4x4 powerhouse, East is off to an excellent start in the speed category in 2017. Motter, Shahideh and Brophy (all listed for the 4x4) are also 4x8 guys so seeing this kind of speed in action is a great sign.

Speaking of the 4x8, DT East dipped under the SQG in the event with an 8:17.57. The balanced squad really excelled in the individual 800 and still found a way to double up and produce an excellent time. In addition, a doubling group of Cheltenham runners (8:18) and Wissahickon runners (8:22) posted marks that currently slate them in the 16 man roster for states. Definitely keep an eye on this Wissahickon squad down the stretch. I feel like they are starting to put things together. Cam Christopher is obviously a stud, but sophomore Justin Ryan (2:04 open this weekend) and steadily improving Matt Maiale (4:44 to win his section of the mile by 8 seconds) are on fire lately and could be the difference makers they need to make a run.

Susquehanna Classic
State College is really starting to round into playoff form. The defending 4x8 state champs ran 8:10 to defeat Cumberland Valley (8:21) in a flat track duel. This result came shortly after the Little Lions posted open results with all four relay runners at 2:03 or faster. One of the important developments for SC is the return of their lead-off man from a year ago, Owen Wing. After a solid opening 800 performance last week, Wing ran a key leg on the 4x8 and then doubled back in 4:35.92 to win the mile over a slew of strong competitors. He could really be the x-factor in an SC repeat.

SC also had a 2-4 finish in the open 800 from their doubling legs. Nick and Joey Feffer ran 1:58 and 2:02 respectively. Cumberland Valley, the 2012 Outdoor State Champs in the 4x8, look very strong as well. After their 8:21 performance, their top two 800 runners in Josh Higgins and Yahya Soliman both placed well in the 800. They were 5th and 3rd in 2:03.54 and 2:02.11.

That open 800 was won by a fresh Sam Affolder of Carlisle. The sophomore went toe to toe with multi time state medalist Nick Feffer in his signature event and rolled to a 1:56.32 victory almost a full two seconds ahead of 2nd place. This makes the Affolder brothers 1st and 3rd in the state by seed time for states in the 800. Noah will make his mile debut alongside Sam at the Millrose Games. Josh Hoey will also be in that race for PA. It’s up in the air what all three gentlemen will chase at states, but they could certainly be factors in either the mile or the 800 as all 3 are top 4 in each event.

A few other notable performances included a couple of XC rivals. Morgan Cupp and Isaac Kole were very familiar with each other during this past fall and both left this meet with strong season bests. For Cupp, he ran a 4:36.50 to finish 3rd in the mile. Meanwhile, Kole dropped a 9:07 victory in the 3k, pulling out a roughly 13 second win over Western Wayne’s Jacob Pasake. Kole was also featured on Carlisle’s runner-up 4x4. State College got the win by a second in 3:33.

Boston Indoor Grand Prix
First, it’s important for me to mention that GFS runner Nick Dahl had an awesome race. He dropped a 4:14.68 mile to take 3rd overall in the stacked field. This comes about a week after his 8:30.62 3k officially made him one of our best indoor 15 lappers in state history. Dahl was just two seconds behind 4-flat miler DJ Principe, ran a big indoor PR and made him one of the best pre-state milers we’ve seen.  He deserves some credit for a fantastic performance yet again.

But admittedly, Josh Hoey stole the spotlight from him in a big way. The junior ran a 4:09.26 to defeat a 4 flat miler and heavy favorite in senior DJ Principe. The seemingly invincible Principe led from the tape and, after a fast, busy start to his season, got his first real challenge from a higher school as Josh hung tough in the pack before putting on the signature Hoey kick from 250 out and storming to the victory. Josh closed down the final 800 meters in 2:02.2.

The time of 4:09.26 is the second fastest mark in PA indoor history, ranking only behind Sam Ritz’s New Balance Indoor National performance. It also moves Josh into the top 10 or so milers in PA history. He passes recent stand outs Domenic Perretta, Reiny Barchet, Jaxson Hoey, Tony Russell, and Zach Brehm. It also marks the second major inter-state mile that Hoey has won. He won the Penn Relays mile last year as a sophomore, pulling off a signature upset victory as a sophomore. Now as a junior he wins this meet. A win at Millrose would give him a 3-peat that I suspect no PA runner has ever pulled off. Especially before they even entered their Senior season.

But what Hoey doesn’t have to date is a state championship. Josh was 3rd twice and 2nd once as a sophomore. This year, he would arguably be the favorite in the mile, but Noah Affolder would definitely be a lot to handle (the two will face off head to head for the first time since cross at Millrose). However, it appears from a post-race interview that Hoey may opt for only the 800 at states rather than the mile. His PR in that event (indoors or out) is 1:54.11 from last April, but he’s already run 1:54.50 this winter (plus that 4:09) so there’s reason to think he can go a lot faster.

Hoey is also on a top flight 4x4, potentially a 4x2 and, if Bishop Shanahan ends up putting together the pieces, could be a member of a talented DMR.

Guys, The Two Part Recaps Are Back!

By Jarrett Felix

Gotta say Pennsylvanians, this was one heck of a weekend. The PA contingent represented the state to the fullest with excellent performances both in and out of state. Obviously, we had a ridiculous 1-3 finish up in Boston, but in New York PA was unbelievable as well. There were so many heat winners and section winners across the board and our awesome depth was on full display. Back home on flat tracks, fast times were dropping as well. Through all the efforts, the state rankings were completely rewritten. It looks incredibly likely (to me at least) that it will take at least 1:59.5 banked to make states in the 800, by far the quickest year in the 3-year implementation of the maximums.

Basically, I’m trying to say two things here. #1 – I’m proud of you guys. You killed it. #2 – This recap will have to be a two parter. There are too many props I would like to give out to squeeze it into one reasonably sized post. If you wanted to spent a half hour reading a post, then you would just go read the running diaries (which by the way has its ownwebsite now)! It’s recap time! Let’s do this thing!

Franklin & Marshall Invite #2
Shout out to the F&M Meet. They put on a great meet out in Lancaster and the strong group of District 3 talent showed up and put on a show. So they get the starting spot in a crowded weekend recap. In the 1600 meters, Nate Henderson of JP McCaskey dipped into his first individual indoor event of 2017. It worked out pretty darn well as Nate ran 4:20.05 to win the race by over 10 seconds. Henderson, who has raced the 3k/3200 at all the major state championships he has participated in, has underrated speed. Remember, he split a 1:53 last spring and also soloed a very fast 4:14ish for 1600. Henderson also doubled back to post a 2 flat in the 800 for 5th overall. I’m excited to see how Nate approaches this indoor season. He gets a late start thanks to his Footlocker appearance and, historically speaking, a national appearance often makes guys put their focus in the mile over the 3k. He’s also got a sleeper DMR team that could may sneak in to the state picture if Nate drops something big. Stay tuned to see what he’s got to give.

PA’s second best finisher in the 1600 also had a strong double. That was Kamil Jihad who ran 4:32 before adding a seasonal best 800 victory in 1:58. As of now, Jihad still sits outside the top 10 in the state for this event thanks to the madness at Ocean Breeze (we’ll get to that, but probably tomorrow), but even on the double nobody can beat these guy. He’s still undefeated at 6 or 800. He defeated Austin Padmore who ran a big season best to dip under 2 minutes for the first time. Padmore, who has run 1:56 low in the open outdoors, joined a list of 15 runners who improved their seed times on Saturday with marks below 2 minutes even for banked track equivalent. That’s not even counting the Sunday boys, Sam Affolder and Nick Feffer, who appear to have been well under 2 minutes (those results have not gone final as of the writing of this paragraph).

Josh Endy of Boyertown had an awesome race, dropping a 2:02 for 7th overall and first in his heat. Ephrata also had a nice showing with a pair of top 13 finishers in Shue and Morales, including a heat winner in Shue.

Did someone say Ephrata? Ok, fine I just set myself up for that transition somewhat clumsily, but it gets the job done. Zach Lefever, the 4th place finisher from XC states, rolled in his first marquee race of 2017. Lefever dropped an 8:58.30 to win the 3k over fellow state medalist Nick Norton (9:10) and Manheim Township’s talented youngster Ian Miller (9:11). Boyertown went 2 for 2 in the “that was a nice race they had there” performances as Dominic Derafelo picked up a nice seasonal best with a 9:13.27 for 4th.

Lefever, who if you remember back was the #1 District 3 finisher at outdoor states for the 3200 last year, is off to his best ever indoor start. I think he has the chance to surprise some people in the state 3k final and maybe mix it up for the victory. That race is still pretty up in the air as it doesn’t appear either Affolder will give it a try. If Henderson doesn’t run for some reason, or honestly even if he does, things could be wild. It is worth noting however, that Zach may need to dip down a little faster in the coming weeks to keep his state spot. He is currently 11th on the rankings I have in front of me (6th if you count my current projected scratches) but his time is about a second slower than what the cut off ended up being in 2016 (faster than the 2015 cut off though).

Guys, I gotta tell you one last thing. Boyertown had one more “hey I like what you did there” race! They dropped an 8:28 in the 4x8 (with some doubling pieces maybe?) to take the silvers. That moves them ahead of DT West with the conversion and slips them into the state qualifying picture. I think they will be #17 at week’s end as Cumberland Valley may have knocked them out. But don’t sleep on Boyertown. I think they may pop one more strong DMR before this season is said and done.

TSTCA Meet #3
Eat your heart out District One! We have another meet to recap outside of the Philadelphia Area! The TSTCA has finally gotten a little lucky with weather and they’ve managed to already post 3 different meets before February! Shout out to the TSTCA. The extra meets should really help the western schools get the reps they need for states and could lead to a couple surprise performances (maybe a surprise winner?) when PSU hits.

The big match up of the day came in the 800 meters. Ryan Thrush of Brookville went head to head with Nick Wagner of Penn Trafford. Both guys have run 1:56 this year and moved into the state title discussion. Thrush got the best of Wagner in this match up, running 1:58 to defeat Wagner’s 2 flat. That’s a big win for Thrush (who has PRs of 48 and 1:52 I feel compelled to mention) and further solidifies his case for a state title in the event. It looks like Hoey will run the event (maybe fresh?) so that could be an up hill battle, but I’d very interested to watch a fresh Thrush duel with a fresh Hoey.

Winchester Thurston’s Tristan Forsythe held his own in the battle, grabbing 3rd in the 800 with a 2:02. Forsythe has also run a top 5 time in the state for the mile this year. Elias Zajicek continues to be a consistent 800 performer in his own right, running 2:03 for 4th just ahead of Seneca Valley stand out Sam Owori. Jake Schneider of Seneca got the win in heat 4, running 2:07. Put him together with the Myers twins and you might have a pretty nice DMR/4x8. Keep your eyes peeled.

Owori was apparently on the double in that 800 performance as the Seneca Valley sophomore just finished a thrilling mile battle. The top 6 runners were all at 4:34 or better with Owori running 4:32.36 and defeating Eric Kennedy, the outdoor state medalist, but one hundredth of a second. But that was the battle for second. Sam Snodgrass of South Fayette got some revenge this weekend on Owori and dropped a season best of 4:28.80 to move into a potential state qualifying position in the mile. His teammate, Aaron Pfeil, ran 4:33. The two together combined for one of the best 1-2 punches in the state this past fall and were both top 10 performers in the AA state championship. Speaking of XC, A state champ Noah Curtin ran what might have been his first meet of the season for Mercyhurst, dropping a 4:40 and taking 9th.

Ben Littman won the gold in the 3k dropping a 9:20. He bested Seneca Valley’s Seth Ketler (9:26) and Norwin’s Matt O’Neill 9:26. O’Neill may have been on double duty after a sub 4:40 mile performance. State medalist Amadou Diallo was also under 9:30.

Indiana Area dropped an 8:30 to win the 4x8. They’ve done a really nice job with the relays and seem to be putting a lot of focus into dropping a nice time. Hopefully they get the chance for some competition at one of the big championship meets (North Allegheny? Seneca?) and maybe they can dip under 8:20. Meanwhile, if you were wondering where Butler top 50 XC finishers Noah Beveridge and Brett Brady were during all the individual festivities, they were busy with the gold medal DMR. Butler dropped an 11:03.46. Seems like we could see them take another shot at this relay down the stretch. Keep in mind schools like Seneca Valley (sub 11), Winchester Thurston (lots of pieces, great time last year), South Fayette (Snodgrass-Pfeil) and more could run awesome DMRs if they get after it. Hopefully we see a loaded one down the stretch like the 4x8. We’ll see where the West wants to focus.

TFCAofGP Meet #7
Division I
Alright east coast fans, you can stop protesting against me and tune in. I’ve moved on to the Philly Area meet of the week. We were back at Glenn Mills for another exciting meet. In the 800, sophomore Collin Ochs continues to prove himself as a name you gotta know for 2017 and beyond. The youngster ran a 2:03.23 to defeat a couple 4x8 phenomes in Cameron Mitchell (2:03.60) from Abington and Dennis Manyeah (2:05.46) of Penn Wood. Ochs and teammate Evan Kutney make up a dynamite 1-2 start for a potential 4x8 in the future at South.

Souderton’s Joe Breen continues to have a fantastic season. He easily ran away with the mile title, running 4:37 to defeat Upper Dublin’s Ben Brugger and CR South’s Gavin Ricchini (they both ran 4:49). Like I’ve said before, you may not know Breen’s name because of his proximity to Connor McMenamin, but he’s a monster. He’s had a couple nice performances and could potentially pop something quick at the end of the season (similar to McMenamin last year honestly) and make a run at a SQG.

Evan Hutton of William Tennent picked up a season best in the 3k with a 9:17.37. CR South posted another top 3 finish (Ian Welborn was 3rd) and LaSalle apparently still has good dudes left who didn’t go to Ocean Breeze. Greg Galbreath ran 9:28 for second in the 3k and his teammates left with DMR golds. Neshaminy was the 4x8 winners in 8:39.

Division II
I’m running out of nice things to say about Rustin’s Brandon Hontz, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Hontz dropped a big time 4:33 to win the mile over a formidable opponent in Peter Cooke (4:40) but a solid margin. For Hontz it’s yet another big win in a smaller meet setting. He’s just a consistent performer. No matter where he shows up, you know he is going to run hard and put up a good time. I’m rooting for him and hoping that maybe that Rustin squad can snag a DMR spot before all is said and done.

Bishop Shanahan’s Josh Hoey wasn’t the only gold medal winner this weekend. How about Jonathan McGrory’s season? He’s quietly doing an awesome job representing the team and he posted a 9:26 for gold in this one. It’s probably too early to be talking XC, but I will mention that McGrory, Yoquinto, both Hoeys and Jack Ettien are all going to be around next year as well. Just saying, if they decide to pursue it, it could be interesting.

In a good old fashion West Chester duel, East beat Rustin 11:32-11:34. Ches-mont competitors Great Valley were 3rd in 11:49. Gotta imagine that was a fun one for all involved. Maybe not the fastest times, but sometimes the rivalries and the competitive fires make up for that stuff. Congrats to East for sneaking out the win.

CSU Run at the Rec #2
Apparently there have been two of these? I’m not sure I ever discussed #1 so my apologies. But #2 had some real good stuff. North Pocono took 1-2 in the 800 finish as Randy Bocan and David Hanes ran 2;05 and 2:06 to get the victories. Hanes also ran an 8:59 for 3k to get the runaway gold. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that’s actually faster than teammate Matt Kravitz ran last indoor season. For those who don’t remember (it was a bit of a shocker), Kravitz won the outdoor state title in the 3200. Just throwing that out there.

That’s all for now. Ocean Breeze, Susquehanna and New Balance Grand Prix to come tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Oh and one more quick thing. If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out “The Commit”, a group of posts that our own Garrett Zatlin has been working hard on. He interviewed Nick Dahl a little ways back about Yale and now is talking to a Division 3 man (shout out D3) in Matt D’Aquila who is headed to Middlebury next fall. Both kids clearly are super smart, dedicate runners and great teammates! Any school would be lucky to have them.

The Commit: Matt D'Aquila

By: Garrett Zatlin

The next runner in "The Commit" series is Lower Merion senior Matt D'Aquila! Matt is one of the top long-distance runners in the state who has made great improvements over the past few seasons.  We can't thank Matt enough for his time and we hope you guys enjoy!
Garrett: Before we begin talking about college, I would like to take a step back and look at your past cross country season. You had an outstanding fall where you placed 5th individually in District 1 and then medaled at States by placing 20th. What did you do in your training to get yourself to that next level of fitness?

Matt D'Aquila: Starting summer practices with the team in late June, I knew I needed to start off slowly if I were to run my best in October and November. To peak at the right time, I focused on building a base in the summer and worrying about workouts when training camp came around. Moreover, getting into the pool was essential, and I thank my coach for facilitating this. Without the extra pounding, I was able to amass an extra 90 to 120 minutes of supplemental cardio a week. It was also very important that my co-captains and I held 4 voluntary practices a week throughout June and July to make sure guys were keeping up with their miles. These practices were great for building team unity and camaraderie, which defines what LMXC is all about.

G: Staying with cross country, there was a lot of debate surrounding which teams would make it out of District 1 (and Lower Merion was in that discussion). What was the mindset for you and your teammates as you toed the line at districts? What was the reaction from you and your teammates when you found out that you guys had made it to states as a team?

MD: Making States as a team had been on our minds since the 2015 XC District meet where we tied for 12th as a team. So naturally we had established this as a top goal going into the season; and let’s just say it was a goal we were all dead set on accomplishing. At Districts this past year, the V-squad was all ready to have the races of our lives and finish with “no regrets.” We were to stick with the race plan we had been following all season. This was to go out smart and get into the passing lane in the 2nd and 3rd miles of the race. At the finish, we knew we had left it all out on the course. In the dreadful minutes that came between the finish and hearing about our placement, Ethan Boyer, one of our more spirited Varsity guys eagerly checked Penntrack non-stop for the results. When he announced that we got 4th in the District it was surreal; all of our hard work had finally paid off at the most pivotal meet of our careers.

G: Let’s move away from cross country and talk about last year’s indoor track season. Last winter you put together a string of solid 3k’s and eventually ended up with a PR of 9:00.00. Unfortunately, that was a few spots off from indoor state qualifying. In the end, only 13 runners ran the 3k at states*. Do you think the PTFCA should consider expanding the number of state entries for the 3k field? If so, by how many?

*The entry cutoff for the 3000 metes is 12 runners. However, both Henry Sappey and Seth Slavin tied for the 12th spot with the same exact time.

MD: Yes. The 3k is a race that can accommodate more runners than other, shorter races. Since every year PA sees a large number of State qualifiers in this event, it’s doesn’t really make sense that there’d be a qualifying time that keeps out top runners unless they rank in the top 12 in PA. We could definitely see an expansion to allow for up to 20 3k qualifiers, the same number as the mile, all the while doing away with the time standard altogether.

G: Later that spring, you were able to run 9:21 at the District 1 championships and earn the final spot to Shippensburg. Did missing out on the 3k during indoors provide any extra motivation in the spring?

MD: While it was definitely disappointing missing out on the Indoor State Meet last year, I took some down time in my training so that I could refocus my attention immediately to spring track. The end of my indoor season certainly motivated me to do even better in the spring. Even though the spring track season would be sort of touch- and- go due to nagging shin pain, I stuck it out and made sure I’d get to Shippensburg. By the time the District meet rolled along, I knew that I had done the training and would be able to finally drop below the 9:30 mark in the 3200m race. Little did I know; I’d be the last qualifier in a time 10 seconds faster than the SQS. I think it’s pretty crazy that 12 guys hit the standard very convincingly and yet District 1 is only allowed 8 total qualifiers. Perhaps this fact peeves me more than the state qualification set up for the indoor 3k!

G: What can we expect from you and your teammates for the rest of the current winter season?

MD: The LM squad is really using its XC momentum to accomplish some pretty big relay goals this winter. Our top priority right now is to qualify a DMR and 4x8 relay to States. I plan running in both of those relays as we try to dip under the SQS in these two, always competitive events. Our individual events have currently taken a back seat. I think the team’s depth is our most pivotal asset right now. We have a lot of good mid distance guys, who were not top 7 XC guys, being trained by LM alum Neal Berman. This should help us with the faster legs of our relays. The ultimate goal is to secure as many medals as possible at States, so we will focus on the events that will be the most likely to get us to that goal.

G: Now that we have that covered, let’s move to your college decision. Where will you be continuing your academic and athletic career? Have you declared your major?

MD: I will be attending Middlebury College in Vermont this fall and running XC, indoor and outdoor track. While I have not yet declared a major I plan on studying International Relations and French. 

G: What were some of the other schools that you were considering? What made Middlebury stand out from the rest?

MD: This past Fall I took overnight visits to Wesleyan, Tufts, Brown, Dartmouth and Middlebury. What stood out most to me at Middlebury was the strong team culture and the academic balance. All of the schools I visited were terrific, but I just knew deep down that Middlebury was special. The fact that I will have the ability to craft an interesting double major and be encouraged to take rigorous courses in the humanities all really appealed to me. There is a lot of opportunity to go far both academically and athletically. At Middlebury, on the athletic side of things, there’s an awesome team environment, great coaches, phenomenal running trails and a state of the art indoor track facility (all of which made a difference as I was making my college decision). Furthermore, I was really leaning towards the NESCAC (The New England Small College Athletic Conference) schools from the get-go since the member institutions (Middlebury included) all have stellar academic and athletic programs. NESCAC is always competitive in track and XC nationally in D3 and I would really feel comfortable competing against similar schools to Middlebury.

G: What was the hardest part about going through the college selection process?

MD: There are so many great academic institutions that also have fantastic track/XC programs, let alone in the liberal arts realm, so culling a list was challenging. For any runners out there starting to look at colleges, I recommend filling out “recruiting forms” on schools’ XC webpages. I probably did this for over 10 schools to start out, which was very helpful with getting in contact with coaches and learning more about the running programs. While this sometimes prompts correspondence from coaches, there are instances where it’s necessary to keep updating the recruiting forms with new PRs and standardized test scores. Admittedly, these forms were a little time consuming although they were definitely helpful in getting noticed by coaches.

G: I noticed that Lower Merion alum Jon Perlman is on the Middlebury roster. Did the Lower Merion connection with Perlman influence your decision at all?

MD: The NESCAC schools were already on my radar, and I have known for a long time about Middlebury’s stellar French program. Although Jon represents well what it means to be a Middlebury student-athlete, this fact didn’t influence my final college decision. He did however host me on my recruiting visit and gave me good insight into the track/XC program. I could easily relate to how Jon has transitioned to the college level having been part of the same high school program. I definitely look forward for us to be teammates again.

G: Have you talked to the coach at all about what your future training might look like? What kind of changes can you expect in terms of mileage?

MD: One thing that I really liked about the Middlebury program was the individualized training plan that would help me transition into my freshman year. Since the men’s XC and distance squad is capped at just 25, coaches Wilkerson and Schilit have time to focus on each of their runners individually, based on where they’ve come from in high school training. My high school program’s mileage is in the 40 to 50-mile a week range. Since I am not yet accustomed to a high-mileage program, I anticipate getting a summer training plan that will steadily allow me to increase my mileage. I wouldn’t be surprised if, by my senior year in college, my weekly mileage is doubled.

G: Despite an undergraduate enrollment of just 2500 students, the Middlebury program has displayed some respectable depth and has even made appearances in the Division 3 NCAA championships. Did this mix of strong athletics at a smaller school appeal to you?

MD: Absolutely! I found that a small school with fantastic athletic facilities like Middlebury’s were two very key components in my decision. I was blown away on my visit by the quality of the indoor track facility, along with the pool, weight room, and team locker room. Additionally, the fact that Middlebury is in a rural environment with an abundance of trails and mountains in every direction, means that I will have plenty of places to train. Contrasting this with my current running environment at Lower Merion High (which is in a dense area, with few soft surface running routes), being in a rural area should lend itself well to higher mileage and better, more consistent training.

G: What goals do you have for your collegiate career? What is the legacy you would like to establish while at Middlebury?

MD: Middlebury has been consistent lately in making the NCAA XC National Championship, and I want to do whatever I can to continue this momentum and further improve the team. My dream goal is to be on a national champion XC team by my senior year. On the track, I hope to run the 3k, 5k and 10k. Individually I would love to see how far I can get within the NESCAC and maybe even becoming a D3 All-American. My main focus, by the end of my career, is to do whatever I can to contribute to the success of the Middlebury men’s program.

G: Any shoutouts?

MD: I’d like to give a huge shoutout to my coaches at Lower Merion! Coaches David Van Houten (DVH) and Meg Capewell have encouraged my growth from an out-of-shape freshman to a senior team captain. Both have influenced me as a runner and as a person in different yet profound ways. I appreciate that they saw potential in me, and have displayed a commitment to the LM running program and the sport of running that can only be described as inspirational. Also, a quick shoutout to Neal Berman (LM ’09) who has been an awesome role-model and coach since he came onboard in 2016. We did a lot of summer running together and I’m extremely grateful for all of his encouragement along the way. Finally, shoutout to the senior varsity runners: fellow co-captains Teddy Neckowicz and Evan Hassman, along with David Vonderheide and Ethan Boyer. The team wouldn’t be what it is today without these guys’ leadership and hard work.