XC Top 50 Rankings: #50-41

50. Anthony Harper, Sr Bonner (12 AA)
The boys from Bonner have rolled in District 12 AA in recent years, but perhaps none of their champions improved as consistently as Harper did in 2016-2017. Harper finished 12th at the Foundation Invite in September and then, against a deeper field, took home 14th at the PIAA State Championships in crunch time. That was one spot ahead of Wyomissing’s Joe Cullen.

During indoors, Harper opened up with a 9:35 3k but then a few weeks later he was doubling 4:37 and 9:10 at PCLs. By outdoors, Harper ran 9:39 for the full 3200 distance, 4:26 for 1600 and even flashed some speed with a 2:02 800. He even picked up a victory against Souderton’s multi-time state medalist Connor McMenamin at the Haverford Invitational.

Harper has strong upside for the 2017 season, showing a lot of potential after making a big jump in his junior season. But he can’t slow up in his progression, especially after the team graduated a key training partner in Dave Whitfield (their only other sub 21 minute finisher at states this past year). He also will need to prove himself as a top 5 runner in the PCL if he wants to hold this spot on the list. In that league, he’ll get plenty of chances to battle the best.

49. Evan Dorenkamp, Jr Manheim Township (3 AAA)
Manheim Township’s talented sophomore was 25th a year ago at the District 3 Championships, punching a ticket for his first state championships. But District’s wasn’t even his fastest result as Dorenkamp actually covered the same Big Spring layout three seconds faster in early September. That got Dorenkamp on my radar, but he really came alive in the spring.

This past track season, Dorenkamp clocked a 1:58 for 800 meters and a 4:23 full mile to end the year at Henderson. He also was likely the key cog in Manheim Township’s impressive 7:57.44 4x800 clocking. That whole 4x8 is listed as returning for next season by the way.

Dorenkamp should have a nice training pocket as Manheim Township returns their 4x8 relay and a strong 3200 runner in Ian Miller who ran in the 9:40s his freshman season. I like this 1-2 punch, I like the young core and I like the potential for Dorenkamp to have a breakthrough as he makes the sophomore-junior jump. All that being said, he has to prove that his great speed improvements can translate to the tough hills he’ll have to face in the major XC championships.

49. Christian Groff, Sr Hempfield (3 AAA)
Hempfield has produced top 50 finishers at states each of the past three seasons and their team success as put this program on the map when it comes time for the top 50 rankings. Even in a down year last fall, Hempfield still qualified three individuals for the state championship including the district’s 17th place finisher Christian Groff and the state’s 19th place finisher Nick Norton.

Groff was running all season along top 50 types, including his own teammates Norton and Max Lessans. At this year’s Paul Short Invite, Groff clocked a 15:54, just ahead of Sean Rahill and Carlos Shultz. At Carlisle, Groff clocked a 16:11, just ahead of Yahya Soliman and less than ten seconds back of state medalists Jake O’Neill and Spencer Smucker.

On the track, Groff had his best season yet, running 4:26 for 1600. He also likely played a big role in the team’s 7:58 4x800 clocking that qualified them for states. Christian’s brother, Matt Groff, was a 4:16 miler and 2nd place finisher at Districts a few years back.

Groff has a lot of talent and a great training group at Hempfield. He also has a ton of experience on the Hershey course, as he has competed there each of the past three seasons. However, he’s still looking to break into the top 50 on the difficult lay out. He made great strides a year ago, but he will need to really focus up for the Hershey hills if he wants to end this season on this list.

47. Colin Cramer, Sr Southern Lehigh (11 AAA)
Southern Lehigh made a big statement this past season when they finished 2nd at the District 11 Championships, punching a surprise ticket to states ahead of Easton and Stroudsburg. Southern Lehigh did it with pack running, putting their top 5 in the top 17 overall, but scoring no top 5 finishers. Southern Lehigh will return four of those five this coming fall and be hungry to not just make it back to states, but unseat the always dangerous Parkland squad from their perch atop the district.

I actually considered two Southern Lehigh guys for this spot as I was going through the rankings. Shout out to Thomas Matsumura who has qualified for states each of the past three seasons and ran 4:23 at districts this past spring. But ultimately, I opted to give Cramer the nod. Cramer was the #5 runner at districts, but turned it around and finished as the team’s #1 at states. On the track is where he really stepped things up. After just a 9:45 indoor 3k, Cramer clocked a 9:33 outdoors for 3200 and finished second at districts behind only Seth Slavin of Pleasant Valley.

Cramer still has a lot to prove as he didn’t even break 17 minutes for 5k last season in major invitationals, but Southern Lehigh also raced on some of the toughest courses PA has to offer. I’d be either he or Matsumura has a big year the upcoming fall and the Southern Lehigh team could really surprise some people.

46. Chayce Macknair, Jr Mifflin County (6 AAA)
You may not have noticed, but Mifflin County quietly emerged as a team of the future out in District 6 last year. Chayce Macknair, Seth Phillips and Chase Sheaffer, two sophomores and a freshman, all broke 17 minutes for 5k last year at Carlisle’s Invitational. Plus, they were all top 7 finishers at Districts. On the track, Macknair and Phillips both qualified for the state championships, running 4:23 and 1:55 respectively. This is a core that could make big strides in 2017-2018.

Macknair showed real distance potential all through track season. He come on very strong toward the end of XC, but blossomed on the track. His 4:23 state qualifying performance behind Owen Wing was just a piece of the puzzle. Macknair also clocked a 9:33 to win the Mid Penn 3200 over big names like Alex Tomasko, Morgan Cupp and Kyler Shea. That’s some real strength for a sophomore.

Chayce is another guy who fits the buzzword “potential”. What I saw on the track indicates this guy has the ability to compete for a AAA state medal in the fall. But potential doesn’t win races. Let’s see if he can build off the experience he picked up last year and become a serious medal contender for the first time.  

45. Owen Isham, Jr State College (6 AAA)
It’s no coincidence that Isham and Macknair are right next to one another on my rankings. These two classmates have been stalking each other for the past 12 months and this season should bring some epic rematches. At Mid Penns for XC, Isham defeated Macknair by 4 spots. At Districts, Isham finished ahead of Macknair by just one spot. Then, during the outdoor season, Macknair made a jump and bested Isham in their dual meet and the WCC meet over 3200.

But what gets Isham the marginally better spot in the rankings was his impressive finish at the State Championships this past fall. As just a sophomore, Isham put on a brilliant kick and moved all the way up to 47th overall in the state standings. That made him the #5 sophomore in the state (and #4 when you remove the transferring Sam Affolder). Finishing top 50 as a sophomore is typically a great sign. Two years ago, Ryan Campbell of CR North was 42nd at states as a sophomore and he finished 7th this past season. Now that doesn’t mean Isham is locked in for a top 10 spot next season, but it does speak to his excellence at a young age.

The other big upside here is that State College has really developed into an XC power. After a long stretch without a state medalist, the Little Lions have had medalists every year since 2013, qualified for states as a team every year, and finished 7th last year in a clutch performance. This team knows how to rise to the occasion and that will hopefully translate to Isham as he pursues a top 25 finish this fall.

44. Cole Walker, So Unionville (1 AAA)
As mentioned, there were five sophomores in the top 50 in AAA for last fall’s state championship. And that was actually on the lower side. Four out of the previous five seasons included 7 top 50 sophomores including 10 sophomore medalists. Considering how talented the freshmen were this past season, it’s not crazy to expect a breakthrough from at least one of these outstanding runners.

Unionville is a great distance program that has produced three separate state champions at 3200 and two different national qualifiers. Last year, they had the top sophomore in district one in James Conway and by the end of the spring they had arguably the best freshman. Cole Walker clocked a 9:29.77 at the district championships for 3200, under the SQS in the event. He also ran 4:29 for 1600 to help bolster his case.

Walker’s XC credentials are bit more up in the air, but training alongside a proven state qualifier in Conway should be helpful. He did run 16:39 at districts as just a freshman and place top 10 in the Oberod Invitational. The list of sub 9:30 3200 freshman is pretty short and most, if not all, of the guys who have cracked that list have ended up being special on the trails. Off the top of my head Reiny Barchet, Jake Brophy and Sam Webb are the guys who have run similar marks and all three ended being top 7 finishers at states before they hung up their spikes.

It may not happen right away for Walker as sophomores typically come on late in the season, but once he gets rolling he might be a force to be reckoned with.

43. Josh Lewin, So WC East (1 AAA)
Again, the order here is not a coincidence. While Walker was clocking a blazing 9:29 3200, league rival and fellow freshman Josh Lewin was just one spot behind in 9:31. Lewin actually was ahead of Walker in the state rankings when he ran 9:41 at Henderson’s Invite and placed 3rd overall in the 2nd section, ahead of proven XC runners like Ethan Koza and Drew Alansky.

If you take a look at Lewin’s XC credentials, they are quite strong. He ran 16:26 at Paul Short last year, taking 9th in the White Race and also 10th at Ches-monts and 63rd at Districts in 16:31. While Lewin doesn’t have a teammate quite on Conway’s level, he does have a strong group of returners that could be a sleeper squad in District One, especially if Lewin drags everyone forward by making a jump.

42. Jake Underwood, Sr Wilson (3 AAA)
Underwood has been a stand out for Wilson since his sophomore season. He placed 11th at Districts that year, running 16:19. As a junior, Underwood clocked a very quick 16:08 at the Carlisle Invitational to start off his junior season and then was second at the Berks County Championships. Things were looking great for Underwood as a potential medal contender, especially as a part of a Wilson team that has proven they can peak at the right time. However, it was senior Evan Royko, not Underwood who ended up being the top dog for Wilson in the final two meets, placing 14th at districts and then cracking the top 40 at states.

Underwood had the potential to be right along his teammate. He ran through two miles stride for stride with Royko but couldn’t quite hold on. If he was a top 50 finisher last year, he would shoot even further up this list given his resume in other aspects.

That resume includes a 9:30.92 clocking for 3200 this past spring, a time that was fast enough to punch his ticket for the state championships in this event. He also won the Berks title at 3200. The guy is improving and he’s probably very motivated after his XC season didn’t finish quite the way he wanted to. He’s not a name that we talk about much, but Underwood should be a name on everyone’s radar this fall.

41. Tyler Wirth, Jr Wallenpaupack (2 AAA)
Tyler Wirth ran 4:17, split 1:53 and qualified for a state finals in AAA, all as just a sophomore. That right there sounds like a resume that even top 10 guys can’t boast. However, there’s one probably with throwing Wirth up on a Cross Country ranking sheet. Based on his milesplit profile, he’s never run cross country before.

The talent is there for Wirth if he decides to make a move to the trails in the fall. He could be an instant contender for a district championship. Plus, he’s have a strong teammate in Thomas Johnson, who ran 16:20 at Paul Short last year. If Wirth does opt for XC, he will join a district landscape that returns the top 11 (!) finishers from last year’s championships including more than one medal contender. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

2nd Annual Etrain Oscars

Find out the results of the voting on all awards Thursday at 8 PM right here on the blog! Should be a fun one.

Full list of winners (in powerpoint form): https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-eWv1L8cVyJd2Q3MVNJU2NwSWs  

The Commit: Zach Skolnekovich

The interviews continue to roll here at Etrain! Next up in The Commit series is Zach Skolnekovich who was nice enough to take the time and answer our questions.

Be sure to look out for another interview later next week! I am also preparing the "I Love College" series once again which should be ready in the next two weeks or so. A lot more to come!

Garrett: Let’s start by talking about your senior year performances. In cross country, you were runner-up in the PIAA XC Championships (AA) and qualified for Footlocker Nationals. You later earned personal bests in the 800 and 1600/mile during the spring season which was capped off with a runner-up performance in the 3200 and a 5th place performance in the 1600 (both AA). Have you done anything differently in your training to get to this level of fitness?

Zach Skolnekovich: Yes, I increased my mileage and lowered my paces. In my freshman and sophomore years, I ran about 35-45 miles a week and six days a week. In my junior and senior years, I ran 55-65 miles a week and seven days a week. Also, I began to run faster paces during my maintenance and long runs. In addition to increasing my mileage, I lifted two days a week. 

G: You and Ben Bumgarner have often raced each other throughout your high school running careers (16 times to be exact). Is it fair to say that you two have developed a rivalry of sorts?  

ZS: Ben is a great runner, and he really burst onto the scene this past year. I am happy for him because I know all the hard work that he put in to get where he is. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was a rivalry because I never liked to characterize a matchup like that. However, I really enjoyed and looked forward to racing him because I knew that he would bring out my best and that I would bring out his, and it was very fun toeing the line with him.

G: Quaker Valley has produced some top-tier teams and individuals over the past few years. What is it about this program that has led to so much success?

ZS: Two words: Coach Noyes. Noyes takes runners who ran a 5:50 mile in 8th grade, and turns them into a sub-5 miler by their senior years. Noyes also takes runners who ran a sub-5 mile in 8th grade, and turns them into a sub 4:20 miler by their senior years. He makes you mentally tough so when it comes down to the end of a race, you can push your body to the limit. Personally, Noyes was the best coach for me. He knew my abilities, limits, and how to get the best out of me. He would challenge me and play little mental games (as I like to call them) with me so that I would run the time that he wanted. To finish my tribute to Coach Noyes, he is the reason why our program and myself were so successful because he can take any average runner/team, and lead them to great feats.          

G: Let’s transition away from high school and talk about your college decision. Where will you begin your collegiate academic and athletic career? What will you be majoring in (if you have declared)?

ZS: I will be running cross country and track at William & Mary. I plan on majoring in finance, but will probably take general business classes my first year.

G: What were some of the other schools you were looking at? How did William & Mary stand out from the others?

ZS: I officially visited Penn State, NC State, Providence, Columbia, and William & Mary. I chose W&M because it simply felt right. I left both my unofficial and official visits wanting to commit on the spot (type of feeling). I could tell that W&M was the school for me because every conversation that I had about college ending with W&M.

G: Head coach Chris Solinsky was the first American to break the 27-minute barrier in the 10k. Did his credentials and experience as a professional influence your decision at all?

ZS: Yes, I would say they influenced my decision. For me, to be able to run under a coach with his credentials and experience is an incredible opportunity. Also, since he trained and competed at the highest level, I think our training will be top notch, and I will reach my greatest potential. Lastly, I think he will prepare our team for the mental grind that comes with competing in D1 athletics since he has had experience running D1 and professionally.

G: Have you discussed with the coaching staff what your training will be like? Was there a certain training philosophy the coaching staff had that you felt would be beneficial to your development as a runner?

ZS: I discussed my training with my coaches, and just got my training schedule for cross season. Coach Solinsky believes that the summer should be used to build a solid foundation that can be worked on during the season so there aren’t any planned workouts. Instead, he wants me to focus on my long runs, and throw in 2-4 progression runs a week. I think this will benefit me because it will make me strong so I can handle the jump to the 8k and 10k.

G: Did the idea of training and racing with PA alumni Cooper Leslie (formerly of Camp Hill) entice you to join the William & Mary program?

ZS: Cooper was actually my host for my official visit which made my visit very enjoyable because we got along well since he is also from Penn. To answer the question now, yes it did because I want to train and race with teammates that I get along with.

G: What kind of legacy/impact do you want to leave when your time with W&M is done? What are some of your goals for the next four to five years?

ZS: For cross country, I want to win NCAAs as a team. I know people are reading this and thinking that this kid is crazy (which I am, I run long distance). However, our recruiting class and returning W&M runners are very strong. Also, I believe Coach Solinsky will be able to bring in some national caliber runners in the coming years. If you combine all of those factors, I can see us winning or at least coming close to winning it all in the next 3-4 years. On the track, I would really like to qualify for NCAAs and run in Eugene.

G: What is your advice to runners (or anyone for that matter) as they begin their college search?

ZS: My advice would be to keep your options open. It never hurts to have a variety of schools to choose from. Also, don’t overthink it. I know that it is easier said than done, but when the school is right, you will know it.

G: Finally, any shout outs?

ZS: Shout out to my former assistant cross country coach, John “Pacman” Yankello. He was my training partner for my junior year cross and track and senior year of cross. He paced and pushed me during many long runs and workouts. He was a major factor in my development physically and mentally, and I wouldn’t be the runner I am now without him.

The Running Diaries: Chapter Thirty Five

Chapter Thirty Five
Jimmy Springer, May 2016
Dropping to his knees, he hastily stuffed his spilled items back into his bag as his friend stormed away. Picking up the gold medal last, he tossed it angrily into the sack. As he did so, he heard a small cracking sound.
Damn it.
Diving back into the pack, he pulled out his phone, now with a freshly cracked screen. Jimmy closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. The day was spiraling quickly and he was finding it difficult to keep his composure. Then, suddenly, the object in his hand buzzed and its damaged surface sprang to life. He opened his eyes and looked down to see who was calling.
“Hello?” He answered tentatively.
Hey, Jimmy?” The voice on the other end said, with a similar note of hesitancy, “Are you still here? I’ve been looking for you.
“What do you mean by ‘here’? Are you at Shippensburg?”
Yeah, man! Did you get my texts? I’m in the stands. Top right corner.
“I wouldn’t expect you anywhere else,” Jimmy replied, his tone rising in excitement. “I’ll be right up.”
The announcer sounded again as Jimmy hung up the phone and set off at a brisk walk out from under the stadium. Chris Fuller makes the pass as we head into the exchange. Coatesville will be next, followed by Baldwin and then West Chester North!” After a few quick stairs, he spotted the man he was looking for in the corner he had described. Springer rushed forward to greet his old friend.
“Matt!” He said, arms open.
“Hey, great job out there superstar,” Matt greeted him in an embrace. “You really had me on the edge of my seat.”
“Nothing easy at states,” Jimmy replied simply, taking the spot next to him and turning to watch the track, “Speaking of which, how’s this race been going?”
“Eh, nothing too surprising … Looks like Coatesville and North Penn will be battling it out,” He gestured ahead at a pair of runners, one in black and one in blue.
“Who led off for Coatesville?” Jimmy asked, leaning forward and watching the two teams come into the second exchange. They were followed closely by a mass of teams in purple, red and white.
“Couldn’t tell ya. I barely recognize anyone anymore,” Matt responded, scanning the field, “It makes me feel quite old actually.”
Jimmy looked away from the race to inspect the runners waiting alongside the track. He recognized one of the stronger runners in black from Coatesville’s Cross Country team. “Oh crap, they’re anchoring Kyle King!” He remarked in surprise. The junior looked at Matt, but the revelation seemed to go over his head. “What happened to you, man? You used to be good at this stuff!”
“And you used to not know who Steve Prefontaine was.”
Here comes West Chester North! A huge leg from junior Will Aldrich! He’s now powering away from Coatesville and will give his team the lead as we move to the anchor leg!” They watched as a powerful close from a runner in white propelled his school to the lead. Just behind was a runner in blue as the runner in black struggled home along the final straightaway. Then, as quickly as West Chester had moved to the lead, the two anchors just behind him shot off like fireworks. “Coatesville and North Penn both out very fast on this anchor leg! It’s back to a two team race. Kyle King for the Raiders against Bernard Mirun for the Knights!
“North Penn’s got to win this, right?” Matt asked as he watched the blue runner, stalked carefully by Kyle King. “The 4x8 is, like, their thing. And Coatesville’s just an XC power. They usually don’t have the horses for mid distance.”
“I’m not sure that’s the case anymore,” Jimmy cautioned, “Coach Solares has turned these guys into super heroes.” The crowd rose as one as the two relays came off the final turn, North Penn still holding a lead and seemingly opening the gap. Then, empowered by the crowd, Kyle King turned it up to another level and sprinted forward.
“Oh my god,” Matt muttered, watching the victorious squad celebrate their victory. “What is he feeding these guys?”
“I don’t know … but I’d love to get his recipe.”

Ben Havleck, May 2016
You’re kidding, right? That’s not actually what you said …
“I mean, it was a really big upset. I just got a little excited. I think that’s perfectly natural.”
Yes, it is perfectly natural to get a little excited in that situation. But sounds like you went about it the wrong way.
Ben smirked. “Honestly, I don’t think she was really my type. She’s too tall.”
Did you ever think maybe you might be too short?
He rolled his eyes. Although his friend could not see it, he hoped his tone implied it. “Well regardless, it doesn’t matter. She wasn’t the right girl for me anyway.”
Whatever you say, champ,” Neal’s voice reverberated in his ear. “So what time am I picking you up?
Ben checked down at his watch. It was now almost five o’clock. Currently, he was riding the bus back from the PAL Track and Field State Championships at Shippensburg University to his adopted hometown of Bloomsburg. On the phone with him was Neal Simons, his coworker and friend from the local Barnes and Noble bookstore. Since Neal lived just around the corner from the station, he had offered to pick Ben up once his bus had arrived.
“Probably another hour or so,” Ben estimated, “I can text you when I start to recognize some landmarks, but for now just pencil me in for about 6 o’clock.”
Alright sweet. Did you want to grab dinner afterwards? Bryn and Jared invited us out with them.
“Maybe. I have to check something on my email first.”
Can’t you just do that on your phone right now?
“No. I’ve still got a dumb phone, remember?”
Oh, right. Well, what is it you have to check? I can do it for you right now if you want.
“It’s this application thing,” Ben hesitated for a brief second, but then decided he was comfortable enough with Neal to share.  “I applied to this internship program at Georgetown and I just want to make sure all my references went through.”
Yo, that’s awesome! I didn’t know you were applying for one of those.
“Yeah, my friend Nicole told me about it actually. During our last study session.”
Ah yes, I remember your ‘friend’ Nicole,” Neal replied playfully.
“What-we are just friends.”
Sure. And I guess I’m ‘just friends’ with Gal Gadot.”
“You don’t even know Gal Gadot,” Ben answered frustrated.
When’s the next time you’re seeing her?” Neal continued, ignoring his comment.
“I don’t know, hopefully sometime next week. We’ve got to start getting ready for finals.”
Well, you better make sure you look at all those track results tonight then-”
“-Good bye, Neal-”
Gotta get all that excitement out of your system if you know what I-” And his voice abruptly disappeared as Ben ended the call.

Jimmy Springer, cont.
“So you came.” Jimmy said simply.
“So I came.” The excitement of the relay now fully having died away, the pair sat back down and decompressed. A group of volunteers began moving hurdles onto the track. “I stuck Emily with my mom and my sister for the day. Hopefully, she’s not too pissed at me. I just didn’t want to miss you race again.”
“Well, I appreciate you coming all the way up. It means a lot.”
“Of course, bro.” He brushed a strand of stray hair off his shorts. “How many state titles is this now?”
“8,” Jimmy said sheepishly. Feeling awkward, he started stretching his arms.
“No need to feel uncomfortable about it.” Matt reached out and pull his closest limb down to its side. “Own it. There’s no shame in being the best. There’s no shame in being the worst. There’s only shame in trying to be something you’re not.”
The younger nodded, feeling marginally more at ease. “You were always big on speeches. Kinda makes me sad to know you’ll be sitting in a cube crunching finance numbers all day.”
“Well, when giving speeches starts paying as much finance does, feel free to send in my résumé. Besides, it’s a lot more interactive than you think. In fact, just yesterday …”
With the hurdles set up, the gun sounded to start the next set of races. From their top corner of the stands, Jimmy and Matt had an excellent view of the track. In between events, they talked and caught up on life. Then, once a distance race began, they set to work on analyzing it. It reminded Jimmy of his freshman year at the state championships two years earlier when the two had initially discovered this corner. Uncrowded, direct sightline. The perfect place to properly post up as fans and friends. He missed those days. They felt like a lifetime ago. Or perhaps not his life at all. Was it even possible there was a time that he was so carefree and innocent?
When they eventually reached the final distance event of the meet, the 800 meters, the weather had cooled slightly and the wind had picked up a touch. As the competitors lined up for the race, Jimmy noticed how bulky and muscular many of them looked. He imagined himself, a year smaller and lighter, lining up among these giants and smirked. To think that just twelve months earlier, he had been able to win this event was astounding to him.
“Who you got in this one?” Matt asked as the athletes jogged down to the start line. “Give me a break down.”
“OK,” Jimmy said, pointing to the athletes one by one, “That’s Andrew Mallon from CB East. He won the 800 indoors and is probably the favorite. We’ve also got Joseph Rotz from Lower Dauphin. He anchored his 4x8 all the way up to third-”
“Oh yeah! That guy came from way back! He may have split like a 1:50.”
“We’ll see how much he has left after that. Same goes for Bernard Murin of North Penn and Kyle King from Coatesville. They both anchored their 4x8s as well.”
“So who is fresh that can put some pressure on these guys?”
“Well I’m not sure anybody is going to push the pace quite like last year. Remember Lewis Hadrick?”
“Hell yeah, he used to go out sooo fast. By the way, did you see he ran 1:47 this year at NC State?”
I saw him get his ass handed to him by Lance Andrews at ACCs if that’s what you’re referring to.”
“Geez, you know the NCAA guys too?” Matt replied, sounding impressed. “How do you keep up with all this stuff?”
“I don’t know. It’s just something I do to keep busy,” Jimmy looked down at the track for a moment, the runners on the verge of beginning their race. “Although to be fair, Lance Andrews is my favorite runner right now. He’s so tactically sound. So smooth. Plus, he always seems to step up when the pressure is on.”
“Well if you like Andrews and those sort of guys, there’s this mile race in Boston this summer. It’s going to have Andrews, Murphy, Lebowitz, all those guys. You should definitely come up and watch. You can crash with me.”
“I don’t know,” Springer responded tentatively, “I’d have to talk to my parents about it. Just to make sure I get permission.”
Matt waited a beat before deciding to press the question. “How are your parents doing? They’re not-um-they’re not here, are they?”
Jimmy shook his head. “No, they’re not. My mom is too afraid of running into my dad … and my dad works so much now that he can never make it down.” He sighed. “Ironic, right?” Matt nodded his head solemnly but otherwise did not speak. “When I get home, my mom and I will watch the replay of the race on the Pennsylvania Cable Network. My dad … I don’t know, honestly. We’ll figure something out, I guess. If he cares.”
“I’m sure he does.”
The gun sounded, signaling the start of the 800 meter dash. Any retort that Jimmy may have had was lost in the excitement of the moment. Unlike the race he participated in a year earlier, the pace was relatively tame through the opening 200 meters. As a result, the athletes were packed tightly together. A runner in a red and blue singlet reluctantly took up the lead and worked to keep things honest.
“It’s slow,” Jimmy muttered under his breath as the competitors approached the first lap split. “Do you have a watch on this?”
“No,” Matt replied, “You?” Jimmy raised up a pair of bare wrists as a substitute for a response. “How do you still not own a watch?”
“Looks like 56-57,” He ignored Matt’s question, focused instead on the large scoreboard projecting the time that had elapsed in the race thus far, “This second lap is going to be mayhem.”
“The key is to measure it out,” Burke explained, rising to his feet as the crowd’s enthusiasm increased, “You can’t use up all that extra energy in the first 200 or you won’t have anything left.”
“It’s also impossible to switch gears that fast.”
As the runners careened down the backstretch, elbows and legs became tangled as each competitor felt compelled to pick up the pace as soon as possible. Although no one fell to the ground, it was tricky to build momentum. The runner in blue and red was able to stay clear, maintaining his position at the front with careful surges. Just before 200 meters, a runner in white increased his tempo, trying to rush forth and beat the leader to the turn. However, he was too late in his effort, forced to run wide and cover the extra distance.
It’s Andrew Mallon and Joseph Rotz with 200 meters to go!” The announcer boomed over the loudspeaker. The fervor around them intensified as the spectators cheered on the two top athletes. Jimmy watched keenly as the runner in red and blue, Andrew Mallon, got to the home straightaway first. Rotz hung just on his outside shoulder, ready to rally one more time and try to make the pass.
“Rotz has got him!” Jimmy yelled, his voice nearly drowned out by the tumult. He watched as, on que, the runner in white glided a step ahead, pumping his arms furiously. Then, suddenly, Matt grabbed his arm and tugged.
“Look at Coatesville!” He pointed him in the direction of a streaking black jersey. In a repeat of the finish of the 4x800 meters, Coatesville’s Kyle King flashed down the final forty, turning over quickly, no signs of tying up. Meanwhile, his nearest competitors had no response for him. With a courageous ultimate charge, he pushed through the line and crossed in first place.
“Wow,” Matt remarked simply, as fans across the bleachers reacted similarly, “That was unreal. Where did this kid come from?”
“That closing speed is unreal. I had no clue he had that in him. Just a junior too.” They sat back down in their seats, the excitement starting to dissipate.
“Is he any good at cross? Like are you gonna have to worry about him in the fall?”
“Well, actually,” Jimmy said, averting his friends gaze, “I don’t think I’m running cross country this fall.”
“Wait-really? Why not?” He could hear the shock in his friend’s voice.
“I just feel like my heads not in it,” he replied, still not looking up, “I may just need a break. Take a little time away from it. Then, hopefully, when I come back, I’ve got something to motivate me.” He chanced a glance upward to gauge Matt’s reaction. No mouth agape, just a smile.  
“OK,” he replied, the surprise removed from his tone, “Well I hope you do.”
“That’s it? You aren’t gonna, like, tell me quitters never prosper or some other dad speech like that?”
“Look, running is a brutal sport. It’s painful enough when you’re having fun.” He gestured down at the state champ Kyle King, who was currently bent over a trashcan re-familiarizing himself with his lunch.  “Can’t imagine it gets any better if you’re not.”
Jimmy contemplated King as well. He looked absolutely miserable, yet somehow incredibly happy. “Have you ever thrown up after a race before?” He asked.
“Yeah, a few times. Including a couple weeks ago actually. Coach had me do the 4x4 and then-boom. Everywhere.” He crinkled his nose.
“What was it like?”
“It was mostly water-but also some eggs. Don’t think I should have had those-”
“No, gross,” Jimmy said, shaking his head in disgusted, “I mean what did it feel like?”
“I don’t know. It just felt like puking. Haven’t you ever puked before?”
“Yeah, but never from a race.”
“Trust me, you aren’t missing much,” Matt leaned back in his position on the stands.
“You don’t think it’s, like, an effort thing?” Jimmy replied, much less at ease, “Like I haven’t been pushing myself enough?”
“I wouldn’t read too much into it. I think it’s just a tolerance thing. Some people are naturally more prone to it than others.” A group of sprinters were now organizing their starting blocks on the track. “Now can we please stop talking about vomit? I’m getting grossed out.”
“Sure,” Jimmy nodded, not completely reassured, but willing to move on. “What would you prefer?”
“So yesterday, I was in the bathroom, right? And I had just been to Chipotle-”
“You’re the worst.” 

Mark Miller, May 2016
“Mark, are you coming back home with us?”
“Yeah, one sec,” Mark waved goodbye to his family before darting back over to join his friends. The state meet had reached its conclusion, thus officially closing the last athletics season of his sophomore year. Feeling wistful, he climbed into the backseat of the car, as Tom strapped in up front and prepared to drive.
“Well that’s it. Another season in the books,” Ian remarked. Apparently sharing his sentiment, he looked out at the nearly empty Shippensburg track stadium. Only a few minutes earlier it been packed edge to edge with spectators. “You think we’ll ever be good enough to run here?”
“Maybe,” Mark said, turning his head forward as the car began its drive, “But I think we have a better chance of making it for cross country at Hershey. We should have a solid team next year.”
“Yes! I was just saying the same thing!” Ian exclaimed, hitting Tom in the arm, “Right?”
“Yeah, he was bragging to Jimmy Springer about it.” He replied nonchalantly, rubbing his right arm gingerly.
“I wasn’t bragging to him about it,” Ian replied, “Plus, he wished me good luck which was pretty cool-”
“Wait-you were being serious?” Mark asked in amazement, “You guys actually met Jimmy Springer? When?”
“Yeah, we didn’t tell you?” Tom said, his voice rising now with his own enthusiasm. “We met him in the bathroom.”
“How’d it go?”
“Um, it seemed like everything came out fine. He was just peeing-”
“No-not that. Never that. I meant what was he like?”
“Oh, right. Well, he seemed like a pretty normal guy,” Tom replied. Now stopped at a red light, he turned around to look at Mark. “I feel like he was super locked in, you know? Very focused. Probably one of those kind of runners.”
“But he wasn’t a jerk or anything? I’ve heard he’s pretty cocky.”
“No, he seemed nice enough. Maybe confident though. I could see him getting upset if someone tried to step to him or something.”
“Oh my gosh! We barely even talked to him,” Ian interjected loudly. “He’s just a fast runner. He’s not some celebrity. You guys really need to scale it back.”
“Ian … you got a selfie with him.”
After a brief spot of traffic, Tom had navigated them back onto the highway with open roads in front of them.
“Anyway,” Ian continued, “let’s get back to this cross country thing. How good do you think our team could be next year? I mean we’ve got Jayson, the Reilly Twins, Pasterano and Delaney all coming back. We lose Hilton and Garraway, but I bet most teams lose a lot more.”
“What’s Cumberland Valley bringing back?” Tom asked, carefully switching lanes, “That Hartzel kid was a junior right?”
“Yeah, and he’s pretty good. He was top 25 last year.” Mark responded, “They’ve also got that kid in our grade. I think his name is Rich something.”
“Rich Brown,” Ian said venomously. “Hate that kid. He got one of the last spots into districts this year for the two mile.”
“So Cumby will still be good, but that’s to be expected. Who are the other good schools?”
“I couldn’t even begin to tell you,” Mark said, shaking his head, “Coatesville I assume? You saw them in the 4x8 today, they were absurd.”
“That Kyle King dude is a baller. I hate him, but he’s a baller.”
“You hate everyone, Ian.”  
Mark laughed as he took out his phone. “I’ll look up last year’s state results on VaniaRunners and we can use that as a barometer.”
“Ooo good idea,” Ian said, unhooking his seat belt and climbing into the back of the car to sit alongside him.
“Seriously?” Tom asked exasperatedly as he watched his friend in the rearview mirror, “Can you at least put your seatbelt back on once you’re back there?”
“I’ll be fine. You drive too slowly for me to be in any real danger in this thing.” He caught sight of Tom’s angry glare in the mirror and hastily pulled down the strap. “Ok, there-it’s on. Happy?” He shuffled closer to his friend and leaned down to look at the screen. “Now Mark, let’s see these results.”
“Out of the top three teams from last year,” Mark read aloud so that Tom could hear, “Coatesville returns 3 out of 7-”
“Woah, King is a junior?!” Ian interjected in surprise, “Damn, was hoping he’d have graduated.”
“Bonner returns 2 out of 7,” Mark continued unperturbed, “And Horsham brings back 3 out of 7 as well.”
“But none of those guys have more than 2 top 5 guys coming back. We’ve got our whole top 5 back.”  
“True,” Mark scrolled a little further down the page, “Cumberland Valley has 4 of 7 back and then, this team from out near Pittsburgh, North Allegheny, has 5 coming back. On paper, those two schools are the biggest competition.”
“Well, we beat North Albany last year-”
“-North Allegheny-”
“Whatever their name is, it doesn’t matter. I’m not afraid of them. Honestly, I think we’re the favorites to win states next year.” As Ian finished his thought, a hush fell over all of them, the gravity and scope of this realization hitting them. “That’s awesome.”

Jimmy Springer, cont.
“Take care of yourself this summer, alright?” Matt patted him gently on the shoulder.
“No guarantees,” Jimmy replied with a smile. The final race of the championships, the 4x400 meter relay, had just concluded meaning it was time for the two former teammates to depart in separate directions.
“I’ll be back home again in August,” Matt said, starting to walk backwards toward the parking lot, “Make sure you save me a night, ok? I may have something big to show you.”
“If this is another Chipotle joke, I swear I’ll punch you in the stomach.”
“Oh, it’s much better than that,” Matt winked, “You’ll have to stay tuned.” He turned his back on Jimmy and threw up his hand. “Until next time, superstar.”
“Until next time.” Jimmy stood and watched his friend disappear among the departing spectators. Then, with a small sigh, he removed the bag from his back and unzipped it, diving in to retrieve his car keys. As he searched, he came across his phone, complete with its freshly cracked screen. He pulled it out and held it carefully in the palm of his hand, trying to assess the damage. He tapped the home screen and was pleased to see he could still read the letters on its surface.
Looking through, he saw he had a few unopened text messages and missed calls, which he assumed had all come from Matt while the two were trying to find one another. He cycled through the notifications, looking to clear the red dot that signaled a missed call. Matt Burke … Matt Burke … He stopped Dad?
Due to an important client presentation, Jimmy had not been expecting his father to get off work until into the night and yet he had a missed a call from him at 11 o’clock in the morning. Slightly concerned, Jimmy scrolled to his father’s name in his contacts and pressed call.
Hey Jim-bo,” Mr. Springer’s voice floated happily through the speaker, “How’d the race go?
“It was fine,” Jimmy said hurriedly, “Dad-what’s going on? Why aren’t you at work?” To his surprise, his father laughed.
Goodness, this is how work obsessed I’ve been, huh? You’re nervous when I’m not working all day.” He sighed deeply, not much differently than his son’s from a few moments earlier. “Everything is fine, Jimmy. Or at least, going forward it will be … I quit my job.
Sitting there miserable, stuck at work, knowing I was missing my son compete for a state championship … I just thought-why? And I realized I didn’t have an answer.
Jimmy stood in surprise, the gentle buzz of white noise in his ear. “So … what will you do?”
I’m not sure. It’s a little nerve-wracking. But all that matters is that next fall, when you’re running at Hershey for your last cross country meet, I will be there.

Jimmy felt his eyes beginning to burn. A single tear shined down his cheek. But unlike so many droplets before it, this was not shed out of sadness. With a smile, he replied excitedly, “I’ll make sure it’s a good one.”

Draft Day

Today was a good day. My dad went out and bought a Sixers hat specifically so we could wear it to the draft party we went to here in New York. Then he got really said when a bunch of young girls started walking into the bar and he took it off. Then he put it back on once he made friends with a couple random groups of dudes at the bar like an hour later. He was very happy after that. 

You see, sometimes you need to trust the process. You can't give up on the draft party when it's 6 o'clock and the draft doesn't start til 7:30. And you can't give up on the plan just because you have three centers and Jakarr Spongebob Sampson. Trust the process.

It's nice to see things looking up for the Sixers. It's also important to note a couple key facts. Some are optimistic, some are realistic, but all, in my humble opinion, are worth noting. 

  1. Pull back just a little bit Philly. I'm seeing what too many 2020-2035 NBA Champions tweets. Like what is going on there? Are you trying to sound absurd and uneducated? I mean sure, we will probably win our first title in 2020. That seems reasonable, perhaps even a little conservative. But 15 straight titles? C'mon now that seems like an unprecedented amount of success. If we get our hopes up too high, we will end up disappointed. Let's aim for 7 titles and then anything more than that is gravy.
  2. Get hype Philly. We've got 3 superstars on our squad. How many teams have this kind of talent? Should I be worried about the fact that these 3 dudes have combined for barely 30 NBA games? What about the fact that none of them have even played in an NCAA Tournament game let alone an NBA playoff game with any sort of consequences? How about the fact that all 3 of these dudes (yes, even Markelle) have injury histories that we might want to be kinda wary of? No, eff that man, draft day isn't the time to worry about those sort of things, it's the time to hang your hopes on the dreams of futures of tomorrow. Don't steal the underwear of success off my drying hangars by telling me these metaphors don't make any sense. This is our day! Suck it Knicks!
  3. Remember, we could be the Knicks. Oh goodness. That would make me so sad if I were a Knick fan. Like what do you even do with yourself? Wait for Phil to be fired and replaced with Hinkie? Haha too bad that's impossible. Wait, that is impossible right? Like it's against league rules to hire Hinkie I'm assuming. Otherwise someone obviously would have done it by now and embraced the process since it's such an unbelievable success. Do it has to be against league rules. Only logical explanation.
  4. Remember that this doesn't happen without Hinkie. I'm not really all that worried about Hinkie being under appreciated in Philly because, I mean, Xfinity Live, but still it's worth reiterating. First off all, Hinkie wiped the floor with all our good players setting the stage for that #1 pick Benny boy and our lovely stallion Joel. Plus he got us literally all the assets that led to us acquiring Fultzy. The pick swap got us from 5 to 3 (important) and then we used the Lakers and Kings picks that Hinkie acquired to jump from 3 to 1. So yes, we traded MCW and cap space for the #1 prospect in a draft that includes the legend of man that is Lonzo Ball. So that's pretty sweet. 
  5. Hey Boston, have fun sitting on all those assets. Jimmy Butler ain't coming your way. Paul George is teaming up with Lebron in a year. And if you are trying to wait out the Cavs in the East, it ain't gonna work because the Bucks are ready to take the top spot! Wait, sorry I meant the Sixers are ready to take the top spot! We're the ones with a proven MVP caliber player and playoff experience right? And now the Boston asset tree finally runs out because the Nets have their pick ba-wait you're kidding right? Dang it Billy. You bring me so much sadness.

So in conclusion, Hinkie died for our sins, 
the floor is the 8th seed, I wouldn't trade RoCo straight up for Paul George, draft and stash, where do I sign up for a picture with the trophy, guys which one of our rookies is gonna be rookie of the year next year, JJ Redick, guys which one of our rookies is gonna be rookie of the year this year,and, of course, trust the process.

Alright so we win now right? It's over, we beat the game? Cool, so I'm gonna start franchise mode over and be the Kings next. 

America's Next Top Blogger

It’s been a summer of polls, voting and random compilation posts. So it’s not surprising that I’m here to promote another one of those right now.

In the summer of 2010, I started the blog etrain11.blogspot.com and officially entered the game. Over that time period, we’ve amassed over 1 million views across a variety of platforms and now the blogsphere stretches across multiple platforms and writers. But 7 years later, we start the search to take things up another notch. I present to you: America’s Next Top Blogger.

Here’s how it works: if you love writing you should do this. OK, post done.

Fine, I’ll elaborate a little more. America’s Next Top Blogger is a writing competition to determine the best writer we can find using our limited resources of readership. The participants will create a post (or maybe posts if we determine multiple rounds are necessary) and share them here on the blog for our audience to read. Then, we have fan voting to determine some of our favorites. The winner(s) will be offered a top spot on the totem pole here at the blog as an author.

A couple rules real quick. Anybody can participate. I mean literally anybody. Grandmas out there, feel free to enter this. All you need is the following:

1.       A name or code name (doesn’t have to be as dope as etrain so don’t worry) by which we can identify you
2.       A passion for something (doesn’t have to be running or track related, could be anything)
3.       An email or twitter or some way of getting the posts from your possession to ours so we can share them on the site (maybe a comment with a google drive link would work?). As usual, we will make every effort to honor anonymity.

And that’s it! So it’s pretty simple.

I ask that anybody who plans to participate let me know by June 29th at 10 PM (AKA after the Oscars) just so I know that we have participants and this thing can actually happen. Once I have numbers, we can plan out some type of schedule or strategy to make this work. You can let me know through the usual means: comment on the blog, hit us up on twitter (@TheRealTrain11) or send an email to jarrettfelix1130@gmail.com.

Once you do that, it’s time to start working on your first post! You can write about literally anything you want, but I do have some ideas for you in case you want some.

- XC Team/Individual Rankings for the upcoming season
- State recaps for track or top returners for next year
- Talk about an aspect of track that is under covered here on the site such as field events, sprints, female events, fashion, shoes, cross training, etc.
- Post about the USA Track Championships (recap) or the upcoming world championships in London (preview)
- A cool story or experience from this past season in track. Maybe it’s nonfiction similar to the etrain11 series or maybe it’s fiction like The Running Diaries. Heck, feel free to even write a “chapter” in TRD if you really want to.
- Basketball seems to get hype here if you want to talk about that. Other professional sports talk from Philly or Pittsburgh would probably get some love as well.

I will review all posts before they go up, but as long as they are appropriate they will make it onto the site regardless of subject matter. If you want to reach out to me for advice, suggestions, peer reading, or anything else you can feel free to do that. Some advice I’d offer:

- Be creative and be inventive. Don’t be afraid to have fun with it.
- Don’t feel boxed in by the constraints of a typical blog post. If we can get pictures, audio, etc. into the post then we will do it.
- Use the resources you have around you, gets friends involved, bounce ideas off people, whatever helps get the juices flowing

Last thing, the top 3 posts from last year’s Etrain Oscars were as follows:
#3 Interviews by the Etrain Staff
#2 Bold Predictions for 2016 by Etrain11
#1 The XC All Decade Team by Jarrett Felix

What do they all have in common? Not as much as you think, honestly. Bold Predictions is mostly just jokes and silliness. The XC All Decade Team is a fact and research extravaganza mixed with rankings. The interviews were a cool idea to get a real, first-hand knowledge that isn’t always valuable and hear about interesting experiences and stories.

So yeah, that’s that. Spread this around. Tell your friends and family. And, most importantly, participate! No harm in joining and you might like it! All voting results will be private (besides the winners of course) so you can’t get embarrassed (plus if you are anonymous, no one would even know it is you) and I think it could be a lot of fun.

Any questions or comments, hit us up.

Stay summer classy,