2017 Penn Relays Preview: Distance Medley Relay

The Distance Medley Relay. Some people think that it's the best event in track and field. Other people are wrong. 

At the Penn Relays, Pennsylvania had come to play in the 4,000 meter relay. A long time ago, back when was I was a freshman, the boys from Coatesville rolled to a first place wheel. A year later, GFS won. Then Upper Dublin. In 2011, CB South almost won. LaSalle won in 2013. Henderson won in 2014. Basically, if you ignore all the years that we didn't win, PA has won the DMR every year since 2007! How about that for a stat!

But in all seriousness, the fact that we haven't won in two years seems kind of odd to me. And perhaps it seemed odd to the coaches out there as well because we ended up with 5 different teams in the COA this year. Yes that's 5 as in 5 times as many as we had last year.

Leading the way is PA's greatest DMR ever, the boys from Carlisle. Well, sort of. You may have heard this from a number of sources (my personal favorite is always your mom who reads the blog to make sure no one is saying anything mean about her son and then kind decides she likes it and now she is like way too knowledgeable about the state landscape for your liking), Noah Affolder is injured and, barring one of the greatest diversions in diversion history, will not be competing at the Penn Relays. How about that for a run on sentence. If you're new here, that's kind of what I do. That and type-os. 

So the Herd will be scrambling up their pieces and trying to make a run at the title even without their 4:04 anchor leg. And guess what? They can still do it. Now I'd be lying if I said I thought it would be easy. You likely have to have a couple guys transition to new positions in the line up, including Isaac Kole likely becoming a critical 1200 meter leg. That's kind of the key spot as the 1200 isn't exactly a race you do 3x a week like a 4x4 or a chocolate milk mile. But Kole certainly has the tools, having run 1:57, 4:18 and placed in the top 15 at states during XC (and top 35 in the northeast region if memory serves). 

Of course Jack Wisner, the super soph who missed out on the opportunity to run on the record setting relay indoors, is an x-factor here as well. He ran the 1200 leg for Carlisle as a freshman while Isaac ran the 800 and his now graduated brother Matt took up anchor duties. Jack split in the 1:57 ball park at indoor states for the near record setting 4x800 and has great speed. I see him as their 800 guy but he's got the skills to fit into different spots.

But really will make this team go is Sam Affolder. Sam will be a one and done in the PA farm system like Lonzo Ball of UCLA. But like Ball, you could make a good argument he's the best dude in this field. He's already run sub 4:10 for a full mile and has routinely finished at the top of PA fields. I think this could be a coming out party for Sam and his chance to finally be the hero after running in the large shadow of Noah.

All that being said, I'm nervous for the Herd. I actually think PA's best squad at the Penn Relays will be the boys from GFS. Now, I've been high on these guys more than once before, but this year's team just seems owed a break. They've run terrific for 3 straight years but have been unable to get that elusive state gold. After being one of the first teams to miss out on the COA for the 4x8 last year, they are little extra experienced and a little extra hungry. They've got national level experience both indoors and out. And, perhaps most importantly, they have a dude named Nick Dahl. Dahl's last 3 major anchor appearances on fresh DMRs were 4:10, 4:08 and 4:08. 

But Dahl's mates are doing well in their own righty. Jonnie Plass has ascended to a 1:54.20 800, finishing right behind Dahl at the Warrior Invite. Plass can be a little excitable at times, but he's matured enough as a runner to warrant anchor position in the team's marquee 4x8 appearances in 2017. In a chasing role at leg 3, he could drop a sick mark.

The key will be the 1200 leg. Colin Riley is fresh off a 1:57 open PR and an indoor states split in the 1:56 range. He's got a lot of 1200 experience from 2017 and he's pretty solid at the event. However, just like I remarked for the 4x8, the lead off legs at Penn prove to be critical in crowded fields. Riley can't get too buried here or his two game changing back legs will be weaving through bodies all day.

As mentioned earlier, we've got a total of 5 teams in this final so we will not only see two of the top 3 teams from this past indoor nationals, but also 3 of the greatest distance programs in our state's recent history: CR North, LaSalle and O'Hara.

Let's start with O'Hara. An experienced team, O'Hara competed in this event a year ago and posted a terrific mark thanks in large part to great positioning from their 1200 man Rob Morro. Morro is gone (and running very quick at Nova these days), but Gavin Inglis has shown flashes of Morro's prowess this year. Inglis is a fearless guy who wasn't afraid to chase after Sam Affolder at indoor states and likely won't be afraid to do the same at Penn Relays. Ryan James is on anchor duty for the second straight year and, given his performances to date, seems like a candidate for a sub 4:20 anchor carry. O'Hara is a long shot to crack the top 3-5 in this race, but that's also where the boys have done some of their best running in the past. When no one is expecting it. I feel like I phrased that terribly but I think you get my point.

For extra motivation on race day, O'Hara will go head to head with the LaSalle boys. Although LaSalle is a former DMR champ, they've been in the 4x8 the last two seasons where they failed to qualify for the COA. Those runs have helped the team gain some experience from their key legs: Evan Addison and Brendan Price. Addison is officially in the elite crop after his big run at indoor states and could potentially post a memorable 4:14 type carry when he gets the baton. Those kind of anchor legs can move you pretty far up the standings in a race like this. 

LaSalle recently ran 7:56 for 4x8, defeating a strong indoor state medal winning CB East team by nearly 10 seconds. They look sharp right now. Let's see how they've grown from their performance a year ago.

Possible wild card here is 400 runner Pete Nelson. He's one of the better 400 guys in this field I bet (although I only know the PA guys to be fair) and could give the team a little extra boost to help Costinis get out of traffic.

Speaking of 400 legs, CRN has a pretty good one. Mike Welde ran 48.77 on the indoor oval at PSU which was good enough for all state honors in the event. So he's really fast. I wouldn't be surprised if, between him and Keller, North gets the baton to their 800 runner ahead of all other PA squads (and perhaps all other squads in general).

I remember back in 2011 (yes, it's that part of the post where Etrain goes into reminiscing and story telling) the squad from CB South stunned a lot of people by breaking 10:20 and finishing a tight second to powerhouse CBA in the DMR. South dropped a ton of time off their seed and set themselves up from the gun with a strong leg from professional 1200 meter runner Joey Waddington and a nice 400 leg. I can't help but think of that team when I look at CRN. Except CRN is more talented.

The reigning XC State Champs have a 1:55 type 800 runner to trot out on lead off in Bryan Keller. He led off the 4x8 for North a year ago and both Penn and States and crushed it against top tier talent to hand off in the front of the pack. He is also a state medalist in XC with great strength. Seems like a natural 1200 runner who, after taking a few stabs at it through indoors and outdoors, may finally have it down.

Sam Early is also an XC state medalist with sub 2 speed. He's got monster range, excelling at the 3k through the 800 already his spring. It's technically possible he's the 1200 leg and he'd probably be pretty darn good as well. Wherever they slot him, he's shown he has the versatility to excel.

Lastly, they've got Ryan Campbell. The 6th place finisher from XC was pretty solid indoors, but has taken it up a notch in the spring. He ran a meet record for 5k at Kiwanis and added a 3200 victory over district champ Rusty Kujdych. That's all great, but this strength runner still needs to prove he has the raw speed for a killer mile time. In order for CRN to crack the top 3-5 teams (a reasonable goal in my mind), Campbell will probably have to get under 4:20. And by a decent amount. But if he pops off a huge time (4:14.9 was his brother's fastest open time as a junior and Ry has been spookily mirroring him as of late) CRN could maybe stun people with a top 2 finish.

All that being said, I think the match up to watch is really GFS vs Carlisle. Isaac Kole's 4:18 recently reminds me that Carlisle will not go quietly, even without their best runner. I can't wait to see what the line up card looks like for Carlisle as it's possible that any of their 3 distance runners could be on the 1200 leg. Wouldn't it be wild to see if Sam Affolder could just crush everyone by enough on the lead off to give them enough of a lead that nobody could catch an on his game Kole? The answer to that question is yes, but I don't think we will see that game played. Even though Kole has experience running by himself with a lead from all those DMRs, I still think you want your best guy on the anchor just in case. Chasing just seems easier.

So really, I wonder who would you take straight up between Dahl and Affolder? I think the line up cards are reasonably comparable and the guys could get the stick about the same time.

I give a slight edge to Dahl, but every second will count for him as he tries to fend off a talented sophomore who very few guys have had answers for in 2017.

I predict:
2 Carlisle

Then CRN, LaSalle and O'Hara in the 5-10 range.

Let's hear your thoughts! Relay predictions are all posted up so now it's just time for the racing.

2017 Penn Relays 4x800 Preview

To give you a quick overview, the process for qualifying for the Championship of America is pretty straightforward: run one of the 12 fastest times and you are in. Heats don’t really matter except in the sense that your heat determines what level of competition you have and what level of crowdedness you are dealing with. The qualifying heats are run Friday morning with the finals on Saturday.

PA has had solid success qualifying teams for the Championship of America. We handle the cold (and typically windy) mornings fairly solid and usually send a couple teams through. Here’s a look at our recent qualifiers:

2016 – State College (4th), CB West (11th)
2015 – Pennsbury (4th), CB West (7th), CB East (12th)
2014 – State College (6th), Pennridge (10th)
2013 – Cumberland Valley (4th), Bensalem (5th)
2012 – Pennridge (10th), Chambersburg (12th)

So recently, we’ve got about two a year. In each of the past five seasons, we’ve qualified the indoor state champ in the 4x8 and then a hodgepodge of others. Chambersburg, Cumberland Valley, Pennridge (2014), and CB East were all out of the 4x8 picture indoors and then turned on the jets at the right time for outdoors.

This year our top two teams from the indoor 4x8 are in the DMR, meaning we’ve got no “locks” to qualify for the championships. However, I’m still feeling optimistic about PA’s chances of getting 2-3 teams into the final. The dream would be to send 4 for the first time since we took a quartet in 2011 (and the two years prior).

There is no guaranteed winning formula to advance, but I look at a couple things when I consider potential qualifying relays. First, you need to have some experience. I remember when I ran in the Penn Relays once (humble brag) and I ran terrible (humble insult). They kept us in the waiting area for way longer than I thought, after we rushed to get in there because we were running late. Couldn’t really stretch and mentally was out of it before even hitting the oval.

Second, you need to have a good lead off leg. This part is extremely critical. Our lead off leg was solid, running around 2:01-2:02 that season, but he was out in 58ish and was in dead last. Now we weren’t expecting to do much (we were only there because Sam Ellison carried us with a 1:53 split), but if we were a team trying to make noise it would have been pretty brutal to try and have to come all the way back from the dead and pass a ton of quality teams (the heats are pretty packed out there). The comeback has been done (Henderson survived a 2:05 lead off in 2010 thanks to splits of 1:57-1:55-1:52 behind him), but it’s really tricky. Especially in the large school races.

I think the best formula is to get out front and stay there. It’s easier said than done, of course, but teams that can do this well should be fun to watch on race day.

Now, let’s preview the teams.

Small Schools, Section 1
Bishop Shanahan – 8:00.16
The BS boys surprised a lot of people when their 4x8 won the slow section at indoor states and ran a blistering time of 8 flat. Without their best runner. Now they will try to one up that achievement as reigning Penn Relays Mile Champion Josh Hoey rests up for his individual event. But the BS boys won’t be without a Hoey in the line up. Freshman Jonah Hoey will try and help advance his team to the finals after a breakthrough 1:57 clocking at the Warrior Invite. Pair him with Logan Yoquinto (1:55 split at indoor nationals), and you have two guys who can get you under 8 with a decent supporting cast. It’s also worth noting that Yoquinto is the lone returner from a BS squad that was 3rd in their small school section a year ago.

The key to a Shanahan COA birth will likely be Keegan Hughes. The 400 meter runner split a 48.29 on last year’s 4x4 squad here at Penn Relays and the latest intel says he’s going to be trying to move up to help round out this relay. If he can piece together a strong second lap and keep a consistent presence at the front of the race, this relay becomes pretty dangerous.

Prediction: This team has surprised me before and may surprise me again, but I think there is a bit too much pressure on a freshman and a 400 runner to give me confidence this team will advance to the COA. They should contend well in this heat, however, if Hughes can keep his split near 2 flat.

Small Schools, Section 2
Seneca – 7:49.05
Yes, ladies and gentleman, the boys from Seneca are already running faster than they did last year when they torched the AA state championship 4x8. This squad returns all 4 members from that squad (and may have even upgraded one of the spots). Last outdoors, the team’s top 3 legs had splits of 1:56, 1:56.0 and 1:53. The 4th leg was 2:04 (solid for sure) so if they have a guy at 2 flat these days, you are looking at 7:46. But even if they can just duplicate their 7:49 performance, they shouldn’t have much trouble qualifying for the finals.

I really like the idea of Phoenix Myers in the lead off spot. He doesn’t have any Penn Relays experience, but he’s raced some big meets at the Armory and should be reasonably comfortable on this stage. He’s been one of the best guys in his classification of the state since his freshman season and can run 1:56 on a relay. That should set them up well. They also have Adam Hanes (great 400 speed, the 1:56.0 split from last spring) who could step into that role and be decent or run a big carry in the back half of the relay to set up their anchor. Keep it close and Donovan’s resume says he brings this one home.

Prediction: Now nothing is guaranteed, especially for a small school traveling all the way across the state to Philly, but I think the Seneca boys will be this year’s PA “hodgepodge” qualifier for the COA.

Penn Wood – 8:05.45
Penn Wood made the COA a year ago, so they’ve got some experience on this stage. Plus, I like the way they typically try and race. Dennis Manyeah has been the team’s go to lead off leg for the past three seasons as they have made their meteoric rise to state elite in the 3200 relay. Manyeah has a 1:53 PR and his really clicking at the right time, having run 1:55 and 49 from scratch this spring. I think he could hand off the baton in his first place on his leg and set up the team for a sleeper run.

Prediction: I think they need to drop too much time to make the COA. At least one of their back legs is going to have to take a leap and become a sub 2 leg to get Penn Wood to the next level, but I think this could be a team that we look back on after Friday ends and say “Wow, they really did a nice job”.

Large Schools, Section 1
State College – 7:51.31
The boys from SC were likely hoping for a little more in the 4x8 this past indoor season, as they finished 4th at states the year after their indoor and outdoor title sweep. However, the Little Lions still ran a blistering 7:51 time and, perhaps more importantly, doubled back to put together a terrific 10:22 in the DMR. That speaks to this team’s heart and resiliency.

State College has plenty of strong pieces. They already have clocked up times of 1:55, 1:58, 1:58 and 2 flat this outdoor season. Assuming Owen Wing is manning the first leg, he has experience in that role from his Penn Relays trip a year ago. Wing has split in the 1:56ish range and ran 1:58 on the double this past weekend off a 4:21 1600. The key will be to keep things close for anchor Nick Feffer. Feffer is running in his third straight Penn Relays and has the ability to run 1:52-1:53 type split when he is on. After a couple hard fought silvers at Shippensburg, he may even have a little extra spark to get his team over the hump.

Prediciton: I’ve got these guys getting in as well. I’m banking on a big split from Nick Feffer, but Joey Feffer may just as important of an x-factor. He and Chris Diperna are Penn rookies who will need to deliver quality splits to make things reasonable for their anchor.

Pennsbury – 7:57.11
The boys from Pennsbury are a team I’ve been very high on all season. For starters, they’ve got Eric Kersten. He was the lead off leg for Pennsbury’s 2015 COA qualifying squad as a sophomore and delivered a high quality lead off leg under pressure. They’ve also got Jed Scratchard, who ran 1:57.60 during the indoor season. But their newest x-factor has been Aidan Sauer, a guy with a familiar last name and a 1:58.96 season best. By PR, those front 3 legs are all well under 2 minutes and considering the team has had a couple others hovering near 2 flat this year (Javier Linares, Dan Mink), there’s no reason to think this team can’t pop off a low 7:50s performance on the right day.

Prediciton: I have this squad on the outside looking in for a COA appearance. They ran well at indoor states, but their best time is actually from the Millrose Games. This squad will have to prove their clutch factor is where it needs to be to survive the grueling qualifying round.

CB East – 8:00.59
There’s a lot to like when it comes to CB East. For starters, this is their 4th straight season in the 4x8 at Penn Relays, meaning they have been gaining consistent, valuable experience. Second: they’ve got talent. On their roster right now is a 1:56, 1:57 and 1:57 crop of talent. Ata Shahideh is a PR vet with sub 50 second quarter speed. Marc Motter has been fantastic this year and has the ability to pop off a huge time. I think he likely will handle lead off duties and the guy is very strong in that role. Meanwhile, sophomore David Endres has been rapidly ascending. He put together a fantastic 1:57.97 open PR, but also has dropped some sub 2 relay carries that inspire confidence. Although Endres is just a sophomore, I’ve really got confidence in his ability to shine on this stage.

The x-factor here will be leg #4. CB East can perhaps advance with a leg in the 2 flat to 2:02 kinda range, but, assuming weather is reasonable, I don’t think you can survive with much slower than that. Let’s see what (and who) CB East has ready to step into that role.

Prediction: I think these guys will be out as well. Of course, I picked against them in the past and they proved me wrong. A huge day from Motter would go a long way.

Large Schools, Section 2
CB West – 7;51.22
CB West has made the COA finals two seasons in a row. If they get a 3rd, that will put them up there with PA’s all-time great programs. Jake Claricurzio has been on the teams that advanced each of the past two seasons. Since then, Jake has become a 1:53 guy, first in a split at outdoor states, and now with an open time to win the Knights Invitaitonal. He alone could carry CB West to a time in the low 7:50s assuming an average day from his teammates.

And Claricurzio doesn’t exactly have average teammates. Brian Baker ran a 1:56.04 at the Knights Invitational as well, after already splitting 1:57 at indoor states. Teagan Fortna, who didn’t even run on the team’s 3rd place indoor squad, ran 1:57.78 at the Knights Invite and then, finally, sophomore Luke Fehrman ran 1:59.19. Fehrman ran 1:57 at indoor states as well.

So by personal best that’s a 1:53, 1:56.0, 1:57 and 1:57 from this crew. Puts you in the 7:45ish range on a perfect day. Can any other team in the state boast something comparable to that?

Prediction: This is my team to watch for this race. I think they will be our top squad on Day 1 and Day 2. Unfortunately, that probably means I just jinxed them.

North Penn – 7:59.49
It’s kind of like clockwork now for the North Penn boys. This 4x8 dynasty churned out a sub 8 time at the Jim Kelly Invite and punched their ticket to states. They’ve also already clocked 3:22 in the 4x4 for good measure. Dan Santiago, who had a fantastic race at Penn Relays last year, has already clocked an open time of 1:56 and could be the next big thing for a program that has developed more 1:54 guys than I have blog posts (well … blog posts this month perhaps).

Prediction: I like the team. I respect the program. But I don’t think these guys will get in. I’m much more interested to see how their pieces are developing for a long term look at what they could do come outdoor states. That’s where I think they will be most dangerous.

Abington – 8:00.72
So I’m split on this one. One the one hand, Abington has put together an excellent season so far individually. Josh Coleman, Orion Frazier and Cameron Mitchell are all easily under 2 minutes by season best, including a 1:57.76 from Coleman. Cam Mitchell has run some monster legs in some very important meets, including two trips already to the Penn Relays. Aaron Sooknanan has run 49.71 for 400 meters and has won a ton of golds in that event. I’m pretty sure he dabbles in the 800 as well (Abington tends to develop their 400 guys to do both and Sooknanan fits that bill).

But we are still waiting for our first sub 8 relay from the Galloping Ghosts in 2017. They have run 8:01 outdoors (in a winning effort I believe) and 8 flat indoors. They will, in all likelihood, need to crush the 8 minute barrier to have any sort of shot at the COA. Can they cut that much time off their season best? On paper, certainly. But races aren’t run on paper.

Prediction: Plot twist, I think Abington gets in! This is completely a hunch, but I’m playing it. Look, Abington has been a bit up and down dating back to last season when they heroically pulled out a silver at outdoor states thanks in large part to a 1:51 anchor leg from Broadus (who has since graduated). This is a really solid program, they have some Penn Relays experience and they have a ton of talent just waiting for the opportunity to shine. It’s far from a guarantee, but I think the ghosts gallop to Saturday as one of the last teams in the final.

CR South – 8:05.12
The boys from CR South barely squeaked their way into the Penn Relays this season, running a season best of 8:05.12 for one of the final large school spots available. But don’t get it twisted, the CRS boys can move. They have a ton of 400 meter speed at their disposal (3:22 indoor 4x4) and they’ve got a top tier runner in Evan Kutney (1:57.22 indoor nationals split). The question becomes, can they get 1 or 2 other guys under 8 minutes? If so, they become an interesting sleeper pick.

Prediction: These guys are a real long shot for the finals so my gut says they won’t advance past Day 1. That being said, this is a great team who can’t be underestimated. I’m hoping they put up a good fight and out run their seed.

TheRealTrain: Lay Off Time

As you may have heard by now, ESPN has been suffering recently and the sports empire has had to make some major cuts to the staff. Things ain’t looking good over there. They got rid of Trent Dilfer for goodness sakes! Who is supposed to share Dilfer Dimes with us now!

Unfortunately, much like the world famous network, TheRealTrain blog has also been hit hard in the subscriber column. Investors have pulled out as salary costs continue to rise and profits continue to decline. So, naturally, just like ESPN, cuts would have to be made at TheRealTrain.

The rumor mill was swirling early this morning surrounding Garrett Zatlin. In recent weeks, the star NCAA commentator has branched off into his own site, The Stride Report, and created a nice alternative route to success should his parent company decide to let him go. Although reports are claiming that Zatlin will have a “reduced role” going forward (much like Ryen Russillo at ESPN), it seems that his job is safe for now.

An investigation revealed Mr. Caleb Gatchell was potentially on the chopping block. The 1500 meter stand out’s firing would have been particularly back breaking given that he has some big events on the horizon that will require considerable financial investment. But Gatchell too is safe after getting the blog some nice little publicity via the Flotrack twitter account.

In the end, the focus of the company ended up on the two guys at the top of the payroll: Jarrett Felix and etrain11.

“It’s hard to justify paying both of those guys for essentially doing the same role,” says RealTrain management, “We honestly found ourselves asking each other: ‘What’s the difference between these two guys?’”

So who was going to go? Fans took to twitter and helped get #SaveHaven trending on the site. That doesn’t have anything to do with this, but it’s the closest we have ever come to even remotely getting something trending so why not mention it?

“Etrain definitely has the star factor,” a source close to the information revealed, “But with the star appeal also comes the start attitude. He can be tough to work with sometimes. Felix, on the other hand, is a bet less rash. A bit more measured. He seems like a cool dude not gonna lie.”

To clarify the source was definitely not Jarrett Felix.

At 4:02 this afternoon, it was revealed that Jarrett Felix was the odd man out. He will receive a severance package of $42 for his work (equivalent to a 382% pay increase), but otherwise is left to fend for himself in the wild of the freelance bloggersphere.

“I’d be lying if I said it was easy,” Management said in a surprisingly candid post-firing interview, “But we couldn’t afford to lose etrain. I mean, the site is called TheRealTrain for goodness sakes.”

“Right now we just need to make sure this doesn’t go to his head,” says a fellow writer who chose to remain nameless, “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he makes a post in third person about himself or some other self-absorbed kind of write up like that. But hey, it’s working for him.”

Only time will tell if this fellow writer is right or not. But one thing is for certain: this is etrain’s turf now. Let’s hope he can stay on track. 

OK, I Made It Through All The Recaps For This Week

Shippensburg Invitational
Yes, this warrants a good old fashioned subsections within the meet style recap. I’m assuming that the order for this one is the same as the state championship so if I’m wrong I apologize now.

We start with the 3200. Sam Affolder of Carlisle rolled to a 9:25 and the gold in a strong showing for his first time on the future state track. Amazing that a 9:25 performance from a sophomore seems like he was just taking it easy and trying to get the win, but that’s kinda how it somehow feels.

The big performance that caught my attention was that of Mitchell Etter. Etter ran a 9:27 for State College and finished not far behind Affolder and ahead of a host of other talented dudes including XC state medalists like Zardecki, Cassel and Norton. 9:27 is in the same league as guys like Alex Milligan and Will Cather ran at this meet in recent years which is pretty legit company for an SC kid. The guy flashed some talent in XC but an injury kept him out of the important stuff. Now the talent is resurfacing and you gotta wonder if he’s just scratching the surface of this one.

In total, 12 guys cracked 10 minutes including 3 guys from Lower Dauphin. The last of those 3 was another in the talented distance class of 2020, Mark Walsh. The fastest of those 3 was 4th place finisher Kyler Shea who clocked 9:35. Shea has been a monster in XC but hasn’t managed to leave a state meet with a medal. He has a ton of talent and I’m hoping he puts it together to get on the podium. He’s got excellent training partners for strength and speed this spring.

Yes, that was a subtle set up for a transition! Good catch! The Lower Dauphin 4x8 didn’t take down the gold this past weekend, but they did run an 8:00.18 and mix it up with the likes of Carlisle (7:59 FTW) and Cumberland Valley (8:04). The win for Carlisle came in the middle of a very busy schedule for a team hoping for district and state titles and again seems like just enough to claim gold. So the story here is 2nd place as Lower Dauphin tries to emerge as a contender in the 3200 relay. District 3 will have lots of quality teams involved, but LD did qualify for states a year ago and has a similar group of studs manning the baton for the repeat attempt.

The 1600 was an epic finish as Carlisle’s Isaac Kole helped the Herd grab yet another gold. I don’t know for sure, but Kole may have been doubling off the 4x8 (he’s not listed though) which would make this win even more impressive. But as it stands, Kole outduels speedster and Mid Penn rival Nick Feffer of SC to the line with both guys running new PRs of 4:18. This is just another reminder that Kole has been underrated big time this year. He has been buried a bit behind the Affolders, but the kid was top 15 in states for XC, soloed a quality 800 leg on a pair of record setting DMRs and now is a 4:18 1600 guy who finds himself as a medal contender in the event. Looks like a more than capable 1200 leg at the Penn Relays as Carlisle likely reshuffles the deck for a run at a wheel.

How about Tyler Wirth from Wallenpaupack? 4:19.04! Where did this guy come from? The sophomore ran 4:50 indoors and now opens up in 4:19 outdoors? Wow, that’s pretty wild. Keep an eye out for this kid as he may be the next surprise superstar of the outdoor state championships.

Ultimately this field ended up looking pretty deep as well with Patrick Jacobson, Owen Wing and Morgan Cupp all running under the SQS and I believe all PRing. Jacobson becomes the 4th different Dallastown runner to clock 4:20 or faster in the 1600 over the past decade, putting the school on an exclusive list.

And finally we have the 800 meters. Derin Klick of Lebanon, who ran 1:53 at states a year ago, handed Nick Feffer his second silver medal of the day as he outdueled the SC senior 1:56.22 to 1:56.82. These are two of the top returners from outdoor states a year ago so it’s no surprise they rose to the top of this field. However, this has to be a big confidence booster for Klick who, although qualifying for states indoors, was a mid pack type guy. Considering his speed boost he put in down the stretch last year, expect the time to fall off this kid pretty easily down the stretch.

Behind Feffer, the rest of State College’s 4x8 posted marks that should make the team feel good about their COA odds. Owen Wing ran 1:58 on the double, Joey Feffer clocked 1:58 and Chris DiPerna closed things out with a 2 flat. Those times right there add up to easily sub 8 minutes and could dip down even further with a running start. SC made the COA in both 2014 and 2016 and is riding a streak of 3 straight seasons at 7:41 or faster and an outdoor state medal streak that dates back to 2012.

Lower Dauphin had 3 guys at 2:01 or faster, none of which were XC state medalist Jared Giannascoli who might be their best leg. That being said, none of their guys cracked 2 minutes in the open 8. If they want to make the leap, they will need a superstar to develop, but the fact that they have no weak links is not something to undervalue.

By the way, Yahya Soliman on his third race of the day runs 1:58.19? That’s pretty quick. Very talented kid in a system that knows a thing or two about developing 800 guys. Stay tuned.

Tristan Forsythe looks ready for the Penn Relays mile. He ran away with the 3200 title at this meet, running 9:38 to defeat Jacob Shulte, an indoor state qualifier in the mile. Forsythe also finished second in the 800 with a time of 2:02.

Trinity has historically been a powerhouse of the 3200 relay in AA. They look like they could have another crop of medal contenders after their 8:23 victory over their fellow D3 squad, Camp Hill (8:28).

I’m not sure, have we have discussed the talented class of 2020 yet this post? Oh shoot, we have? Well, dang. The class is so talented that a 1600 victory out of frosh Garrett Baublitz (4:27) isn’t even the first freshman performance measured. Keep in mind, for AA, 4:27 in April is a very respectable time. This freshman is a realistic medal contender and, if he can get down to say 4:19, he could be top 4 in the state. It’s possible folks. Don’t sleep on runner-up Morgan Morrison going forward either.

CB West Relays
The LaSalle boys look ready to roll, picking up a strong win in the 4x800 behind a 7:56.99 time. They defeated indoor state medalists CB East and DMR rivals CR North who ran 8:04 and 8:08 respectively. I don’t know the specifics, but if someone has the time and interest to look it up, I wonder how many seasons in a row LaSalle has put together a sub 8 4x8. Maybe not consecutively, but they must have a ton of sub 8s in their history, always churning over a new crop of studs.

The boys from Pennsbury won the other signature distance event, the DMR, with a time of 10:44. That was enough to outlast CR South and host CB West (who each broke 11 minutes). Pennsbury is a really interesting team as we look ahead to the Penn Relays. With the emergence of Sauer in recent weeks, Pennsbury has 3 sub pieces to boast about and a couple guys who can step in at the 4 spot and make noise. But PA’s top school from the COA in 2015 needs to prove they have the clutch factor needed to rise to the occasion in Philly.

CB West won the other big relays with wins in the SMR, 4x4, 4x2 and 4x1600. As I’ve already alluded to, they are my #1 pick for the 4x8 COA. They made it the past two season and have at least 5 guys who could crack 2 minutes on race day. But they also have a ton of depth in the longer distances, something they have really cultivated in recent years. Most notably, Brian Mass, a state qualifier in 2016, but also guys like Ben Bunch.

That 3:30 in the SMR is pretty quick (meet record I believe) and likely featured a big carry from someone like Claricurzio (Quakertown and CR South were the next two behind in 3:33 and 3:34). Interested to know if Delisle, fresh off a big 1600 PR the night before, was involved in this one as well. Claricurzio and Delisle are kinda budding rivals right now as juniors who are state title contenders in the two lapper.

Blue Jay Invitational
The Ephrata boys 4x8 is really starting to come together. It’s wild to think that this weekend three of the top flight 4x8s in the entire state were Seneca, Greensburg Salem and Ephrata. Not sure most people who read this thing have even heard of those schools and here they are dropping sick times. Ephrata ran 7:56 for their first sub 8 and a nearly 12 second victory over Manheim Township (who ran a very respectable in their own right 8:08). Tyler Shue and Alex Morales went 1-3 in the open 800 as well, running 2 flat and 2:02. Zach Lefever, the team’s most accomplished individual performer, will run the Penn Relays 3k this Friday night.

Great Valley Relays
Lower Merion, one of PA’s top DMRs in a very deep 2017 season, ran away with the DMR title in 10:41 to defeat very game challenges from Episcopal Academy (10:53) and home team Great Valley (10:59). Episcopal was active in this one, also running 8:06.90 to win the 4x8 gold. Really nice pair of relays from an Independent school that we will likely forget about once the action really heats up in the PIAA. Gotta give credit while we can.

Spring Ford also had a strong showing in the 4x8, running under 8:10. It gets swallowed up among all the amazing 4x8s in District One, but that’s a strong time. There’s usually a team that sneaks into the district final after flying under the radar in the early season. Could be Spring Ford. Could be a number of other teams thanks to the whole “swallowed up in amazing 4x8s” thing I mentioned earlier. But, hey, it could be Spring Ford.

Peter Cooke from Radnor is a talented 800 runner who has shown the potential to be up with guys like Delisle, Claricurzio and Conway (i.e. the guys rolling right now in D1). He had a solid double, winning the 1600 and coming within 0.06 of Kamil Jihad who, I think, was fresh in the 800. The times weren’t mind blowing, but I like the way the kid is racing. 

Weekend Alumni Report / Other Notable Names I've Missed / I Need A Better Title

By: Garrett Zatlin

Ernie Pitone, Senior, Widener
This guy currently has the NCAA #1 time with a HUGE 14:08 5k personal best! That's a school record and a time that could put him in the discussion to be a title contender.

John Lewis, Sophomore, Clemson
I mentioned last week that Lewis would need to break the 1:48 barrier if he wants to be in the discussion for national championship qualifying. Sure enough, he did just that at LSU this past weekend where he ran a killer time of 1:47.95 (NCAA #25) to place third overall.

Sam Ritz, Sophomore, Columbia
This guy is one of the more underrated PA alum at the division one level. He's following the footsteps of experienced miler Rob Napolitano and it's beginning to pay off after running a personal best time of 3:45 this past weekend.

I said it in my last article and I'll say it again...anything can happen in the 1500 at Regionals. If that race gets too tactical, Ritz could easily snag a spot to the Big Dance.

Dom Perretta, Freshman, Penn State
This kid just does not quit! After running a strong PR of 3:46 last weekend, Perretta came back to place 5th in an absolutely LOADED 800 field at the Virginia Challenge. His time (and PR) of 1:47.29 currently puts him at 13th in the nation!

Scott Mason, Junior, Connecticut College
The Lehigh transfer is beginning to find great success at the division three level after running a personal best time of 14:47 two weekends ago. That time currently places him at 36th in the NCAA.

Mason also threw down a personal best time of 9:17 steeplechase this past weekend at Larry Ellis which is an NCAA #12 time.

Jaryd Flank, Senior, Muhlenberg
In just his second race of the season, Flank ticked off a solid time of 9:10 to place himself at NCAA #3 among division three steeplechasers. Keep an eye out for this guy as the season progresses.

Addison Monroe, Junior, Lock Haven
In just two races this season, Monroe has two big personal bests of 14:34 (NCAA #34) and 29:44 (NCAA #13). This guy is at the top of his game and is one of the better long-distance PA alum we have.

Ryan Thompson, Senior, Slippery Rock
Two weekends ago, we saw Ryan Thompson throw down a lethal 3:46 (NCAA #10) at the Bison Outdoor Classic. Thompson stepped up this past indoor season and is showing that he is not some one-season wonder. Hopefully, we'll get to see Thompson and fellow PA alum Caleb Gatchell (NCAA #18 1500) match up before the end of the regular season.

Matt McGoey, Sophomore, Pittsburgh
What a season Matt McGoey is having! It took a year for the Pitt Panther to adjust to collegiate competition, but he has really come into his own with personal best times of 3:47.99 (1500), 14:22 (5k), and 9:05 (3kSt.) this season! He is becoming much more consistent and beginning to really take advantage of his fitness.

Ned Willig, Senior, Michigan
At Mnt. SAC, we saw Ned take the lead and control the pace against a field that was capable of running much faster. Ned finished with a solid 3:45, but left knowing that he could have run faster. At Jesse Owens, he wouldn't have the luxury of an elite 1500 field to push the pace. Willig got the win, but had to settle for yet another 3:45.

Willig is clearly fit and in great shape. He just needs to find the right race to run fast. Until then, I imagine he'll shift his focus to the 800 and attempt to run a fast time in that event.

A Lotta Weekend Recap: And This Is Just Friday!

by Jarrett Felix

Butler Invitational
Well, we’ve been speculating for weeks, but now we finally got to see it. Brookville’s Ryan Thrush, the defending AA 400 meter state champion, gave his first honest, fresh effort in the 800 meters in the 2017 spring season. And it worked out pretty well. Thrush stopped the clock at 1:50.89, a nearly 2 second PR, and put himself in the top 20 or so in the entire history of Pennsylvania two lappers. Only Elias Graca, Sam Bair and Domenic Perretta rank ahead of him from outside the District One/Independent league list. Only Graca and Shaler’s Bair ran their best time of the season prior to May, which means Thrush is probably not done running fast. Perhaps a jaw dropping time like this will make him reconsider the 400-800 double and he will go after Perretta’s state meet record (that is only a year old by the way).

Also running very quick in this field was Isaiah Bailey of Penn Hills (1:55.49) and Matt Busche of Franklin Regional (1:55.69). Bailey is a pretty established 800 guy, but Busche wasn’t on my radar as a medal contender until this one. He also likely had a big split on the 7:59 4x800 that FR ran earlier in the day, making his time that much more impressive.

If it wasn’t for Thrush thrashing the record books, Quaker Valley’s Zach Skolnekovich would like have stolen the show. Another AA competitor to watch this spring, Skolnekovich rolled to a 4:16 in the 1600 and a 9:18 in the 3200, winning double gold. The 1600 was a shiny new PR and he defeated a loaded field to get it. Noah Beveridge and Sam Owori both ran under 4:20 for the first time as 10 total runners cracked 4:30. Owori’s teammate, Seth Ketler, was 5th and ran 4:24 to give Seneca Valley two sophomores right around the state qualifying standard before the calendar flips to May.

In the 3200, Skolnekovich won by nearly 20 seconds, defeating Casey Conboy of Baldwin (9:36) and Cameron Binda of Greensburg Salem (9:37). Amadou Diallo of Allerdice and Matt O’Neill of Norwin were also under 9:40 with Trey Razanauskus of Seneca Valley close behind at 9:40.04. A total of 15 runners busted under 10 minutes in this one. Skol is clearly in monster shape and ready to show down in what will likely be an epic rematch against Bumgarner at the AA state championship. With Noah Affolder out of the picture, it’s arguably that Skolnekovich is the best long distance guy PA has to offer as the mid-distance stand outs grab headlines early. Meanwhile, the AAA state qualifying picture is cloudy at best right now. The 3200 crop is shaping up nicely despite the fact that the WPIAL graduated the 2nd through 5th place finishers at states from a year ago.

And, oh by the way, AA isn’t done nabbing the introductory sentences of this meet recap. The boys of Seneca, who just last year dominated the outdoor 4x800 among small schools, rolled to an even faster time than they finished the year in 2016. Seneca ran 7:49.05 to defeat a very game Greensburg Salem squad who ran a massive best of 7:51.29. I would love to see the splits turned in by both of these teams. These kind of marks are no joke prior to Penn Relays. If Seneca can get some decent competition at states, they could make a push for a meet record. And heck, they’ve got a real chance to make noise at the Penn Relays, where they will come in as arguably PA’s best hope at a COA appearance (although I think I’d bet on CB West first if I had to).

Greensburg Salem now becomes a favorite for the WPIAL title and a contender for the state title in AAA. These kids, who were AA during XC, are moving up to face the big boys with a balanced attack that includes a strong 1-2 punch in Frankie King and Dylan Binda along with strength guys like Mark Brown and Cameron Binda. With the emergence of GS, District 7 looks really fun this year. North Allegheny returns all 4 guys from a state medal winning squad a year ago, Franklin Regional is already sub 8 minutes, the boys from Seneca Valley are looking incredibly formidable and you can never underestimate a program like Mount Lebanon who already has a sub 2 in the books for 2017. Maybe throw South Fayette in there as well and you are looking at one of the deepest WPIAL 3200 relay fields in recent memory.

Warrior Invitational
Remember that time I picked against Nate Henderson for the upcoming Penn Relays 3k? Well, maybe I should have waited a few extra hours to post up that one. Nate toed the line at WC Henderson ready to attack his 4:14 personal best and executed to the tune of 4:11.13. That mark not only blasted his old PR, but it also helped him defeat indoor state runner-up Liam Conway of Owen J Roberts, who ran a new PR himself in 4:13.45. Henderson (the runner, not the team), is already the favorite to win the outdoor 3200 at states after his indoor performance, but now he makes an interesting statement about his speed. Could he try the 3200-1600 double at states?

Also dropping big times were Hudson Delisle (the 1:54 800 runner now adds a 4:18 PR to his resume), Liam Galligan (building back up toward the remarkable fitness he showed last spring with a 4:19) and Ryan Barton (always a contender, runs 4:21 and adds to an impressively long list of SQS topping marks). 12 guys broke 4:28 in this one.

After losing out to Henderson in the 16, Conway didn’t have to wait long for a chance at redemption. Going up against a fresh 1-2 punch from Germantown Friends in Nick Dahl and Jonnie Plass, Conway picked up the victory 1:53.74 to a pair of 1:54s. That was his second PR of the day. Remember, Conway medaled in both the 1600 and the 800 this past indoors and has made the double seem routine in the past couple months. Makes it interesting to think what he could do in a fresh effort at 800 meters. Would he better off pursuing that event at states than the 16? I think not, but maybe something to consider depending on what Josh Hoey aims for in the coming weeks.

For Dahl and Plass a 1:54.08-1:54.20 finish is spectacular. That’s PRs for both men and it sets them up great for Penn. Their teammate Colin Riley also added a strong mark with a 1:57.44. Those three will make up the GFS DMR squad that is hoping to bring the wheel back to Pennsylvania at the Penn Relays. The back half of this relay is going to be monster with Plass and Dahl looking really fit. I like this squad, especially considering they should be extra hungry after a pair of silvers indoors.

Jarnail Dhillon of Upper Darby and Austin Maxwell of Kennett both ran well in this race with times of 1:56.10 and 1:57.39 respectively. I remember Dhillon flashed some serious wheels indoors, but 1:56.10 is flying. For Maxwell, he could be dangerous in either the 800 or the 1600 down the stretch. The guy has a lot of talent.

Speaking of Hoeys (if you skipped two paragraphs this will make sense), Jonah Hoey announced to everyone that he is also a name to watch this spring. The freshman ran 1:57.86 to win his section of the 800 meters. Keep in mind Shanahan is entered in the 4x800 at Penn Relays and now has Jonah at 1:57 and Logan Yoquinto at 1:55 from indoors. Those two will be key pieces alongside 400 runner Keegan Hughes who is expected to move up. Even without Josh, this team has an outside shot at the COA. With Josh, maybe they could make a run at a state title outdoors. We will see if it seems in the cards, but my guess is individual events will be most important for a team looking to score as many points as possible.

Speaking of stud freshman, how about the match up in the 3200? Cole Walker of Unionville turned heads with a monster 9:40.44 to win the deuce over Tyler Rollins and fellow freshman phenome Carlos Shultz. Shultz was the top freshman during XC, breaking 16 minutes and placing in the top 30 at states, but Walker managed to barely edge him out in a really fun field. In total 12 runners bested the 10 minute barrier in this one, including 3 guys from DT West, 2 from Conestoga and 2 from Owen J Roberts.

By the way Cole Walker combined with perhaps the district’s best sophomore during XC, James Conway, makes Unionville a fun watch looking ahead to the fall. And, yeah, it’s only April, but we can have fun can’t we?

ASD Invite
Out in District 11 country, the ASD Invite took place just a few steps from my old stomping grounds at Muhlenberg. One of the brightest stars of the night was actually outside of the district as Connor McMenamin of Souderton raced to a new spring track personal best in 9:23.73. That mark was good enough to defeat a strong field of 6 sub 10 minute runners, including a pair of juniors from Southern Lehigh at 9:39 (shout to Southern Lehigh) and two Pleasant Valley boys not named Slavin.

The other big winner was Parkland. The D11 powerhouse won the 4x800 with a time of 8:09 and also picked up 1600 gold behind reigning district champ Sam Morgan. Junior Jacob Ringer and sophomore Riley Williamson ran 2 flat and 2:01 in the 800 for 2nd and 4th. Keep in mind, Morgan is a junior as well, so this core could build up into a contender by next spring.

Jack Armstrong
Although we unfortunately didn’t get to see this one through all the way to the end, the Jack Armstrong Invite was still a great event. In the 1600, Sean Brown picked up where he left off indoors and dropped a very nice 4:20.58 to win the event by nearly 4 seconds. Second place, dropping a nice PR after his unreal kick a week ago, was CRN’s Ethan Koza in 4:24. Koza is, it appears, the odd man out for the CRN DMR. So that should show you how good that team could be in Philly.

Lock Haven
If you’ve made it to this part of the post, I know you are a die-hard fan so I’m going to reward you with some small school nuggets that will really help you look cool at the next party you attend. First off all, do you remember Brenden Miller? Well, you should. The District 3 A champ during XC rolled to two big marks at Lock Haven, one in the steeple (6:40 for the win) and the other in the 3200 (9:40.83 for a tight 2nd). Honestly, this kid was the biggest surprise of district week for me and I think he has the chance to surprise some people again down the stretch of the season.

That 3200 was won by Quinn Serfass of Loyalsock, another big name to watch, by less than 2 tenths of a second. Casey Ellis of NE Bradford (XC State Medalist) and Isaac Davis of Jersey Shore (I hope by now you’ve heard of him) were also under 10 minutes in this one.

But now for your trivia question of the day. Who is the top returner from the AA 1600 at states last spring? My guess would have been Tristan Forsythe of Winchester Thurston, but the correct answer is actually Hunter Crawley of South Williamsport. Crawley was a top 10 guy in cross two seasons ago and then a top flight medalist in the 1600 last spring. However, his XC season didn’t end the way he had hoped and, like a lot of small schoolers, Crawley was quiet during indoors. But Hunter crawled back into the spotlight at this meet with a 4:26.09 for a big victory over Serfass (over 6 seconds).

East Stroudsburg
Abington Heights has really thrown down some under the radar marks in the past two track seasons. Their 1-2 punch of Kyle Burke and Dan Uhranowsky helped get this school to states during XC and is off to a hot start on the outdoor oval. Burke and Uhranowsky took 1-2 in the 1600, both dipping under 4:30 and Burke also added a 9:41 for 3200. They aren’t mind blowingly fast, but they are the kinda times that ought to get you on people’s radar. Don’t forget, a year ago Matt Kravitz won the 3200 state title to rep District 2 in AAA.

Twin Valley Invitational

Manheim Central surprised a lot of people this fall when they qualified for states out of a deep District 3. Don’t let them sneak up on you again! Cole Sunderland dropped a very strong double gold to get his spring going with wins in the 1600 (4:26) and 800 (1:59). Sunderland was a state finalist last year in the two lapper and has run 1:55.

The Commit: Dave Whitfield

By: Garrett Zatlin

Dave Whitfield took some time to talk about his college decision in another article of The Commit series! Take a look at our conversation below...

Garrett Zatlin: Before we talk about your college commitment, let’s chat about some of your recent performances. During the winter season, you actually played hockey while running track, right? Talk a little bit about trying to balance those two during your junior and senior years.

Dave Whitfield: Yeah, I did play hockey and track during the winter. My junior year, I played for my high school and also a club team. It was very hard trying to fit all that in with indoor plus school work. Typically, I had club hockey practice 2 times during the week, after my track practice (daily). Then on Saturday, I would have meets at Lehigh in the morning followed by a high school game at night. On Sunday, I usually got a longer run in before my second club hockey game of the weekend; also followed by a high school practice at night. This whole entire process was very tiring and time consuming, but it was 2 sports that I loved to play. After I ran 1:53 my junior season, I cut back on the ice time by only playing for my high school this year. This helped me focus on getting the proper rest while getting more base work in.

GZ: 2016 was your breakout year where you ran 1:53 to PR by 2.5 seconds and win the District 12 title. Did you know that you had that kind of speed in you? What did a time and win like that do to your confidence?

DW: That exact race was probably one of the best days of my life. It opened so many opportunities in my life that I am very grateful for. After my sophomore season splitting 1:58 at districts, I had a goal set in my mind. I definitely wanted to go 1:54 by my junior season, and sub 1:51 by senior season. I had no clue that I was going to run that fast at districts, but I knew a pr was coming. I always tend to run really well at districts. That race was a huge confidence booster and indicator that I can run with the top guys in the state.

GZ: You had a really nice season opener at Neshaminy where you ran 1:56. Are you happy with where your fitness is right now?

DW: I am pretty happy with my first 800 of the season. I was expecting right around a 1:56 or lower for the first open 800.

GZ: According to MileSplit, you’re the 3rd fastest returner in the 800 from last season. What are your expectations for the rest of outdoor in 2017? Do you feel like there is any pressure on you to perform at a high level?

DW: It's very humbling coming back as one of the top 800 runners in the state. I don’t really want to dwell too much on last years time because it's a new season. I feel like there is a little bit of pressure keeping up with the top of the state and continuing to drop hot times. However, when I step on the line, all the anxiety goes away and it’s just about having fun at that point. Getting sub 1:51 and sub 49 for the 400 would be ideal this season. Also, I must get a state medal!!! I’ve been way too close to receiving one and it's so aggravating, so hopefully I’ll get one this year.

GZ: Now that our high school discussion is over, let’s get into what we are really here for. Where have you committed to go after high school? Have you declared your major yet?

DW: I just committed to Virginia Tech not too long ago and planning on majoring in Statistics!

GZ: What other universities did you look at? What made Virginia Tech standout?

DW: I've talked to a lot of universities but the few that stood out were Miami (FL), Boise State, and Pitt. Virginia Tech really stood out to me because of the people on campus. When I took a visit down there, everyone was very welcoming, friendly, and it just felt like home. I love the campus itself and the rich school tradition it exemplifies throughout everything they do. The person that stood out to me the most was Ben Fleming, a kid already committed to Tech in my recruiting class. He welcomed me in and showed me all around campus. I got the true, sincere feeling of Blacksburg within a weekend span.

GZ: Have you discussed with the coach what your training will be like? Was there a certain training philosophy mentioned that resonated with you?

DW: As a middle distance guy, I won’t just be training with the cross guys but I’ll actually be racing at all the home meets next year. I won’t be running varsity but I’m really excited to get the base and endurance early on for the track seasons. I’m gonna be more generated to run the 800/1500 than anything, which I’m also very excited about. With all the great training in the fall, my open 800 will be better than ever.

GZ: You’ll be entering a program that just won the indoor ACC championships and has all five of their sub-1:50 guys returning for next year. Tell us your thoughts on being able to compete and train with such an elite mid-distance group.

DW: This opportunity to run and train with the best is a blessing in itself. I never thought I would be running at this level, ever! The thought of it seems pretty crazy but I’m going to be ready to give it my all. I’m going to try my very best to stick with them and hopefully fill their shoes one day.

GZ: What are you most looking forward to about training and competing at the next level? Is there anyone you are excited to compete against?

DW: I’m looking forward to traveling to all the different universities for meets next year. I’m definitely excited to get that needed base work in early on in training. Endurance is the number one thing I tend to struggle with during workouts and races. If I can get that attribute down, who knows what kind of runner I can be in the near future. 

I am really excited to race some of the big name PA Alumni that I tend to look up to even to this day. Guys like Kevin James, Matt Wisner, Dom Perretta, Justin Jones, and John Lewis are runners that I’ve learned from just by watching them race at high level meets. I am also very excited to race against one of my good friends/rival, Steve Mcclellan, next year. Every time we race it’s always a positive outcome for both of us.

GZ: What is the impact you want to leave throughout your collegiate racing career?

DW: Hopefully, I can be on the hot 4x8 and DMR at some point in my collegiate career. Also, I hope to be one of the best 800 guys to come out of Virginia Tech.

GZ: What advice do you have for current juniors that are going through the college recruiting process right now?

DW: Definitely, do not wait for coaches to contact you. There are so many runners in high school, college coaches don't get a chance to reach out to everyone unless you're one of the top in your event. Try to email the college of your choice as soon as possible. The earlier, the better. Another tip is to try to be as versatile as possible with the events that you run. It will definitely help you out in your college process. In my 4 years I’ve only been geared toward 1 event. If you have the opportunity to try new events, don't be scared to experiment.

GZ: What is one thing we need to know about you?

DW: If I’m not running, sleeping, or reading Etrain, I’m always low key playing PS4. So, without a doubt add me on PSN if you want to see how I get down after track hours. (Dwhitty07)

GZ: Twitter plug?

DW: Follow your finest Bonner boy @King_Dave57. If you have any general questions about track or anything, do not be scared to message me. Im literally on twitter 24/7.

GZ: Any shout outs?

DW: Shoutout to my wonderful coaches at Bonner, especially Coach Kevin Kee and Greg Thomas. Another shoutout to Ryan Rastatter, Sean Sullivan, Ethan Cook, Tony Harper, and Alaina Johnson for pushing me throughout my 4 years of high school. One last shoutout to my future Brokies next year at VT. Go Hokies !

Penn Relays Individual Preview

By Jarrett Felix

Does absence really make the heart grow fonder? Eh, maybe in certain circumstances, but in this case I'd imagine absence just made the heart wonder what etrain's opinions were about the Jim Kelly Invitational. Well, unfortunately, your hearts will likely continue to wonder as I'll be skipping weekend recaps this week and jumping right to the Penn Relays preview. Inevitably some recappy topics will crack the preview as many of these teams/individuals were busy in the days leading up to the release of Franklin Field's final featured foursomes. How bout that for some alliteration? How's your heart feel now?

All hearts aside, let's jump right into things here by discussing PA's entries in the Penn Relays Individual events. 

A year ago, sophomore Josh Hoey stunned the PR crowd, defeating a stacked field to win the individual mile title in 4:11. Considering that 1) Hoey wasn't even if the fastest Hoey on paper entering the race, 2) had a PR some 6 seconds slower than his final time, and 3) kid was still just a sophomore it was pretty wild to see Josh leave with the title in a classic 250 to go style kick.

This year Hoey comes in under much different circumstances. He's not sneaking up on anybody as the defending champion and #1 seed. He's already run 4:08 for the mile meaning, if he did drop a 6 second PR again he'd be the state record holder in the mile. Josh is also now a state champion, a 1:51 800 runner and a Boston Mile Champ over 4 flat man DJ Principe. 

Hoey's win a year ago as a 10th grader put him in rare company. If you remember back a kid by the name of Drew Hunter won the Penn 3k as a sophomore before going on to become mile and DMR champ in the next two years. If Hoey picks up a win, he becomes a rare two time underclassmen winner. In addition, the only two time individual Penn Relay champ I know from the PA circuit is the now often mentioned Paul Vandegrift, who won a pair of 1500 championships in his day. Hoey could match Vandegrift's mark with a year to spare with a gold.

There's technically a chance we see Hoey doubling on PR Friday. Bishop Shanahan is qualified for the 4x800 trials and, considering they ran 8 flat without him, they could definitely push 7:50 with him, which would likely mean a spot in the Championship of America. However, they ran 8 flat without him so they can be competitive, have a good experience, and still let Josh roll off fresh legs and get after his title defense. That feels much more likely to me.

PA's other top entrant is Tristan Forsythe of Winchester Thurston. The small school competitor is now officially on the large school radar after he medaled for the 5th consecutive season at indoor states. Forsythe matched his career best with a 3rd place mark indoors, running 4:16.53 behind super hero Noah Affolder and the meteor that was Liam Conway at PSU. That mark put Tristan in the driver's seat for the AA state title in the 1600, a gold that would be first individual medal in that all important color. A big step toward gaining momentum for that moment should be the Penn Relays mile. By now, Forsythe has compiled a good amount of experience on the big stage. He's run the Nike XC Regional meet (and done well), he's run the Millrose Mile (and PRed) and he's led or fought for the lead in multiple state championships. Dude can handle this stage and could maybe produce a new PR for himself around 4:15. 

Forsythe has raced sparingly in the past few months (I don't think I've seen any outdoor marks from him), but he seems to show up ready to roll for the big meets so I'm not too concerned about his health or fitness.

Just like Hoey, Forsythe is only a junior. Not bad to have two juniors vying for a top spot in one of the east coast's most prestigious meets. These two are special talents that I hope can produce some strong performances on race day.

PA will be well represented in Philly's seven and a half lap affair on Friday night. Leading the way is Nate Henderson, the reigning indoor state champion at this same distance and PA's top finisher from this exact same race a year ago. As a junior, Henderson ran a strong race, outlasting multi time state champs Jake Brophy and Dominic Hockenbury en route to a very quick 8:24.08 and bronze medal.

Nate's got a realistic shot to win this thing. Although he hasn't popped off the 4:14/1:53 type marks he did this time last year, he's still run excellent times and, just importantly, has gained poise and confidence as a senior. He's been on stages this big before including Footlocker's championship in the fall. 

I think Henderson will be pretty focused on the long haul in 2017, hoping to defend his title outdoors, and that could take a little spark away from his performance relative to a year ago (when Penn was perhaps his best mark of the spring).

If he does falter, a familiar foe with be following formidably in his footsteps. Zach Lefever of Ephrata has spent a good amount of time in Henderson's direct shadow over the past few seasons. That's not a bad place to be as Lefever has racked up a hodgepodge of district and state medals in that time, including a 4th place finish in XC and a 3rd place performance at indoor states. 

Although Lefever isn't a Penn Relays vet, I like the kids clutch factor. He grabbed an outdoor state medal in hot conditions last spring and was the top D3 runner in the process. He reminds me a bit of how Henderson looked heading into Penn Relays a year ago. A strong runner, on a gradual ascent who ran a strong 3k PR at indoor states. Lefever hasn't necessarily showcased the raw foot speed that a time in the 8:20s would seemingly need, but he has done a nice job on the blossoming Ephrata 4x8 in spots. I wouldn't rule him out as a sleeper for a top 3 spot in this race.

Arguably the best of our 3k crop so far this spring has been Connor McMenamin of Souderton. The senior was right next to Lefever at the past two state championships and has continued to improve through outdoors. He ran a 1:56 on the double in a dual meet, won some hotly contested 1600s (including a 4:19 victory over Liam Galligan and Owen Ritz) and showed impressive speed. He has a state medal in the mile from the 2016 indoor season, something none of his PA compatriots in this field can boast. Plus, McMenamin has run a killer 3200 within the past 6 months, as he ran under 9:20 at the WC Henderson 3200 in November as a tune up for the Regional Championships (where he was top 20). Connor has all the tools for a breakthrough on race day.

If you are looking for a motivated runner, hard not to take a good look at Ben Bumgarner. An unfortunate fall at the indoor state championships has likely been weighing on Ben's mind for the past months as he has plotted a chance for revenge. Well the AA XC state champ will have his best shot against 4 of the top 5 finishers in the event from indoors at Penn Relays. Bumgarner wants to prove he belongs in with this top tier and, considering he was sub 9:20 for 3200 during the indoor season, he has the skills to do it. His best mark from the 2017 indoor season, converted down to 3k, puts him right there in the ballpark with anyone else in PA this indoor season (with the exception of the alien Noah Affolder who's 2 mile time entered as a 3k might have still been good enough to get him in this field). Bumgarner has flashed considerable mile ability before as well (could have qualified for states a year ago both indoors and out). Plus, he wants to make a statement for the AA boys in PA as the small schoolers have been overshadowed by the big boys before on this stage.

Lastly, we have Seth Slavin of Pleasant Valley. The senior has medaled at indoor states each of the past two seasons and has been the star of District 11 since the Easton boys stepped aside. He's lowered his best in the 1600 in addition to assaulting his 3k and 2 mile bests on the indoor oval. Perhaps surprisingly, Slavin is the first District 11 runner to qualify for the PR 3k in a long time, even though guys like Colin Abert and Kevin Lapsansky have been state medalists in the 3200 (and Abert ran 8:56 ...). I think Slavin has, in the past, sat back early and picked off runners late. That strategy could be particularly effective in a field that is jolted up with energy under the big stadium lights of Franklin Field. 

Alright, I guess I'll give you guys a little prediction action since I haven't posted in a while. Here's my guesses:

Hoey wins the mile for a second straight year. Something in the 4:10 range seems appropriate. I anticipate a fast early pace but you never know. Gotta watch for Brandon McGorty on a kick or PA resident, MD high schooler Dalton Hengst.

I think McMenamin ends up the top PA guy in the 3k in a tight group around 3-5 overall. I feel like this race is ripe for a surprise PA victory (Penn Relays 3k has historically been kind to us hometown kids), but I'm not ready to pull the trigger with anybody. If we do get a double victory in both individual events, I gotta imagine that is pretty unprecedented (considering Hoey was our first mile champ since Spooner won when half of you were in diapers). 

And we have interesting sleeper title threats in the 4x8 plus arguably the favorite in the DMR. Could we get a sweep? PA wins everything? Guys, I think it's technically possible. Like in the same way it's technically possible that Pitch Perfect is the best film this century. Some people think it's true, but those people might be a little delusional.

Yep, it's good to be back.