Carlisle & Paul Short: Bold Predictions

It’s a big weekend of racing action with Carlisle and Paul Short on the docket. So, for fun, I figured I’d make some bold predictions about the two meets. I’ll give each race a quick preview before dropping a couple nostraindamus type bombs. Enjoy.

Carlisle Invitational
Challenge Race
PA’s reigning state champions in CR North are set to take the course at the Carlisle Invitational. This is their first trip this invite in a good number of years and should be their biggest (and deepest) invite so far. This should be an excellent chance to test their depth and showcase the strength of their full force front running. Looking to knock them off will be the same team that defeated them at Briarwood, LaSalle College High School. LaSalle also has taken some time away from Carlisle, but will return to the meet with what they hope is a splash.

Individually, Ryan Campbell and Spencer Smucker headline the field on paper. Campbell was 2nd at Briarwood behind PA #1 Rusty Kujdych, but his teammate Ethan Koza got the better of him in their last match up at home. Koza could double down on that performance with a big run here at Carlisle. Also in contention should be Morgan Cupp (15:40 on this course last year), Evan Addison and A runner Brendan Miller of Upper Dauphin.

Those names should dominate the pre-race headlines, but you can expect there to be more than one surprise on race day. Here’s my guesses for what they might be:

#1 York Suburban will be PA’s top team
A small school taking the top honors over two of the titans of AAA? It seems unlikely, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented for YS. It wasn’t that long that Suburban showcased their talent in the 2014 edition of this event and finished as PA’s #1 team ahead WC Henderson, DT West and LaSalle. This year’s team looked solid at Foundation, but I think there is more there to give. If Ohl and Raudensky can deliver strong performances out front (top 20ish), I think the pack could potentially do enough to slip by North and LaSalle in the final standings.

#2 Jack Wisner will run 15:40
It seems like every year there is a breakthrough junior who clocks a fast mark at this race. Last year it was Morgan Cupp, 2015 was Nate Henderson and 2014 was Zach Seiger. Wisner seems like the most logical pick considering his talent and his familiarity with the course. However, it would be a big improvement on his 2016 performance (16:43). Heck, even his brother Matt only ran 17:02 his senior season before going on to win Mid-Penns.

#3 The top 3 AAA D3 teams will finish within 10 points of one another
This is a big day for District 3 squads as they good their first good look at one another. The state qualifying landscape is pretty wide open, but we will see some of the best squads on display in this race (and the Champions race). I expect Carlisle to be the top dogs from D3, but I certainly wouldn’t count out Twin Valley. This race should tell us a lot about how Twin Valley’s front running handles a big invitational. Also in the mix are Mechanicsburg, Hershey and Cumberland Valley any of which could surprise as D3’s top squad if things break right.

#4 Bryce Gable will be a top 7 PA finisher
That’s right, I’ve got Bryce Gable of Dallastown having a breakthrough day. I’m not sure why exactly, but I’m just playing a hunch. Gable was a top 10 finisher at Big Spring last weekend in his first breakthrough onto the top scene. That could mean a couple different things. Maybe he is just getting his feet wet at the top of the field or perhaps he’s not yet ready for this caliber of an invite. We will find out this weekend. Some bonus sleepers for a breakthrough include Jake Underwood of Wilson, Brendan Knepper of Mechanicsburg, and Vincent Twomey of LaSalle.

#5 A freshman will run under 16:20
It’s been a big year for freshman and I think it will continue. 16:20 is a tall order for a frosh (fastest in 2015 was 17:20, fastest in 2016 was 16:45), but I’ve got my eye on Mifflin County’s Brayden Harris as a potential game changer. He was 3rd at Big Valley and has been quiet since, but I think he’s got the talent to do big things in this race.

Although this race is usually considered the “B” race of the event, the Champions race is absolutely stacked. Lower Dauphin and Manheim Township, two of the top teams from Ben Blosser, will face off against one another in a thrilling battle of elite D3 talent. Jared Giannascoli and Mark Walsh make a formidable 1-2 punch for LD, but will certainly have their hands full against Evan Dorenkamp and Ian Miller. Also in the mix should be Warwick’s Noah Martin, Daniel Boone’s sleeper Zach Murray and Juniata’s all-star sophomore Garrett Baublitz. Baublitz was a winner here last year in the freshman race.

A couple x-factors in this race could be Grove City and Central Cambria. It’s been a while since we have seen Grove City at this meet, but if they bring their A squad they can sweep the team and individual golds. Jonah Powell is an animal and he is fresh off a big victory at Sharpsville. I just moved his Grove City squad into the #1 spot on my AA rankings. Meanwhile AA #10 Central Cambria is another sleeper team to watch. They have a terrific young core on the rise. St Joesph’s is a top A squad, led by Carter Kauffman, who would like to make a dent in the team standings despite their small school status.

More sleepers who didn’t make it into my bold predictions include the big three of Lancaster Mennonite, David Merkey, Milton Hershey, Caeden Smith of East Pennsboro and Andrew Foster of Ephrata.

#1 Oxford will be a top 3 PA team
Oxford has become the darlings of my blog recently as they continue to surprise. This is definitely the toughest test they have had thus far, but I’m banking on them rising to the occasion. Even if they don’t come through, I think this is a great learning opportunity for this young team.

#2 The winner of this race will be sub 16
It’s possible this race could be just as fast as the first race. Giannascoli has something to prove as a returning state medalist. Jonah Powell is on fire thus far and Evan Dorenkamp may have the finishing wheels to topple all of these guys when all is said and done.

#3 Vince May will be a top 5 PA finisher
Remember this kid’s name. The Bedford freshman has been fantastic thus far in 2017 and I think he could follow in the footsteps of former Bedford great Will Kachman as a factor on the state scene from Day 1 in his high school career.

Paul Short Invitational
Brown Race
DT West makes the switch over from Carlisle to Paul Short this season and gets rewarded with a match up against a loaded district one field. Boyertown, the reigning foundation champions and PA’s top PTXC squad, are looking to solidify their place atop the PA landscape with another victory. Bishop Shanahan, the Abington Invite winners, could play spoilers here. Josh Hoey is an individual title threat, but the Shanahan boys have played their cards pretty close to the vest so far. What will they unleash on this course?

Spring Ford, Owen J Roberts and WC East are among the other top D1 squads trying to break into the state qualifying conversation.

But there are not just D1 teams to be preoccupied with. Hempfield, a powerhouse from this race historically, is back to try and claim the title. They were PA’s top team last year, but finished 7 points back of out of state Centerville. GFS of the Independent league lost champion Nick Dahl, but returns a strong core that is looking to prove they are still the ones to beat outside the PIAA. Zach Goldberg and Colin Riley were the 2-3 on the 11th place team last year. Dallas, the two time defending AA state champions, are also in this field and looking to bring some attention to the small schools.

Individually, Rusty Kujdych is back and ready to roll. Having finished as PA’s top dog at three straight major invites, the Neshaminy senior will go for 4 in a row at this meet. He is the top returner, having run 15:25 last fall. That mark was even better than McDonogh School miler Dalton Hengst, an early pick to make it to Footlocker. Hengst lives in PA but goes to school outside the Keystone.

Liam Conway of Owen J Roberts is also a sub 15:40 returner who is very familiar with this course. Watch for his kick at the end of the race. Speaking of kicks, Wyomissing senior Joe Cullen is expected to make his debut at Paul Short. The field is absolutely loaded at the top, but I don’t want to spoil things just yet. Let’s talk bold predictions.

#1 A senior will not be PA’s top runner at Paul Short
Although Kujdych is the favorite, I’m predicting that a young gun is able to knock off the Neshaminy senior. And it can’t be Josh Hoey of Bishop Shanahan (although the 1:49 runner is very capable of maybe even sub 15) as he’s a senior as well. That leaves a group that includes Wallenpaupack junior Tyler Wirth (2nd PA at PTXC), Phoenixville sophomore Carlos Shultz (just won at CRN) and Cocalico’s junior Evan Kreider (winner at Big Spring). I’m thinking one of these guys will shock the world at Paul Short this weekend and seize on tired legs for Rusty to surprise us on race day.

#2 Spring Ford will be PA’s top team
Yes, I’ve got the Rams taking care of business this weekend. I think they showed a lot of promise at Hershey, even if it was a tough loss. I think they showed great depth and, assuming some of their guys can bounce back from off days in Hershey, I project they will have just enough to slip by their D1 rivals. They’ve had solid days each of the past two years at this meet and I think this year’s team is actually better than those squads. Watch for Jacob McKenna to potentially join the sub 16 club this weekend.

#3 There will be 30 runners sub 16 minutes in this field
Last year, there were 21. There were 12 in 2015 and 20 in 2014. So 30 would be pretty unprecedented. However, weather permitting, I think this race is going to be very fast. The winner may end up sub 15 minutes or close to it which should pull a lot of guys along to fast times. We’ve already mentioned a ton of big names and haven’t even extended the list to include the DT West boys, Dallas’s big 4, Ozgar of Easton, Alex Ermold of Governor Mifflin, Christian Groff of Hempfield or Tyler Leeser of Milton (big time sleeper). There’s even more I am leaving out for the sake of space. Throw in the out of staters who come here to run fast and I think we have a chance to get to that magic # of 30.

#4 Wyomissing will top Dallas as PA’s #1 small school squad
We haven’t seen Wyomissing race yet so this could be a bold prediction, but I think this is going to be a big season for Wyomissing. I’m predicting Cullen leads the way with a fast finish and the team files in behind him well enough to take care of business. They’ve been saving up for this race and I think they deliver.

#5 Kyle Burke will break 15:45
Here’s my deep sleeper for this race. Burke was second to Ethan Bernstein in his opener (another sleeper with sub 16 potential), but I think his 4:20 mile ability will really help him on this course. I see him as having a Matt Kravitz esque run similar to Matt’s junior season when he ran 15:39 and placed 7th overall. Both D2 guys, both great speed, both a little off the radar.

White Race
The White Race won’t have quite the same firepower as the Brown, but it will feature some Top 50 talent. Andrew Healey of Holy Cross and Jack Miller of Jenkintown will rekindle their battle from Foundation and look to take the top spot in this field. Healey was 17th in this race last year and Miller was 10th. Miller will also be looking for gold in the team race. His Jenkintown squad may be the one to beat from PA as they are coming off a strong showing out at Hershey.

Other contenders include William Tennent and Sean Rahill, Zack Forney of Ridley, Cameron Junk of Upper Perk and Pope John Paul. The best individual may end up being Peter Borger of Malvern Prep. The senior is looking to post the top mark among Independent runners from the two races.

#1 Tyler Holcomb will be individual champ
The Williamsport senior won’t be a big name in this field, but I think he’s a sleeper pick. His district is loaded, especially after we saw Frank Cunningham put his name in the ring at Foundation. Throw in Wirth, Johnson, Burke and Uhranowsky (who all may end up near 16 minutes in the Brown race) and Holcomb will have to show up on race day.

#2 Nazareth will be PA’s top team
I looked up and down the list of entries and couldn’t pick a team that I really liked so I went with Nazareth. They impressed me in their opener and I think, although they are a deep sleeper, they could turn a few heads in this race. Wanted to give this squad a shout out.

#3 Jarnail Dhillon will take a top 5 spot

Dhillon is a monster 800 guy who has taken big steps forward in XC. Upper Darby gets slept on a lot, but they develop some high caliber guys. Dhillon has mixed it up well so far in the Central League and I think he will surprise at this event.

2017 XC Team Rankings: AAA Week Four

Team Rankings: AAA Schools
Honorable Mention: Twin Valley (District 3)

10. North Allegheny (District 7)
Early Season MVP: Dan McGoey
McGoey was pretty darn good for a typical freshman. He finished in the top 50 at states which is rare to see from such a young runner. Now, he’s poised to be a top 5 guy in the state and is allowing NA to race 4 on 5, a luxury they didn’t have last time.

Biggest Strength: On The Verge Of Greatness
I’m starting to see the pieces come together for the Tigers. They always seem to have their best for the end of the season so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this team make a run to the top 7 of the state. Stephen Nalepa (sophomore) seems to be a name on the rise. I’m interested to see how he develops down the stretch.

Keep An Eye On: Who Will Step Up?
Part of what has made NA great over the years is the fact that they’ve had some true gamers in the locker room. Jacob Stupak comes to mind as guy who always had a little something extra for the postseason. He and Migliozzi were incredible in 2015, the year after the Tigers graduated their top 3 from a state champion team. I think one or more of the seniors on this team (mainly Phillips and Robinson who were varsity last weekend) could really transform this team with an inspiring run and push the Tigers back into the Top 5 discussion.

9. Butler (District 7)
Early Season MVP: Doug Kostelonsky
Coming into this season, Butler returned 4 big pieces from a state qualifying effort last year. They needed somebody to come in and fill the hole at the #5 spot. So far, it looks like Doug Kostelonsky is ready to take on the spot. I believe this is his first XC season and he’s rolling so far. Could just be hitting his stride after the opening few meets.

Biggest Strength: Momentum
I feel like this team has a lot of positive momentum. Yes, they were probably hoping for a better showing at Boardman, but this team is still confident. They picked up a big league win against NA, they have the confidence that comes with peaking at the right time a year earlier and they have a #1 runner who inspires others to be great in Noah Beveridge. There’s just an energy around this team that makes me think they can make a run.

Keep An Eye On: Big Race Experience
Last year, Butler ran awesome at WPIALs after a relatively tame schedule. This year they will need a repeat as, so far, they skipped out on RWB and Foundation. I think the coaching staff over at Butler knows what they are doing better than me, but it will be interesting to see how many opportunities they take to race the state’s best teams prior to districts and states.

8. Bishop Shanahan (District 1)
Early Season MVP: Jon McGrory
McGrory was perhaps the least proven XC standout from Shanahan’s core 5 entering the year, but he quickly put doubts to rest with a quality run at the Abington Invitational. He seems poised to pick up where he left off last spring after a terrific track season.

Biggest Strength: Potential
So much potential here. They could have the state champ in Josh Hoey. Jonah Hoey is an x-factor who seems to have made nice strides in year 2 of his XC training. Jack Ettien is a proven gamer who was a top 50 guy in AA as just a freshman. Logan Yoquinto can run 1:55 for 800 meters. And they cruised to their first invite win. There’s a lot to like here on paper.

Keep An Eye On: Question Marks
So far Shanahan has only raced one invite. They looked good there and showed their horses are all off to a good start. That being said, we haven’t seen them race since and it’s unclear when they will set off at a major invite (Paul Short?). I just want to see them race another top 10-15 team in the state before I move them too far up the rankings.

7. Spring Ford (District 1)
Early Season MVP: Jacob McKenna
Spring Ford has been great the past two seasons, but the strength of the team has been pack running. The pack is back in 2017, but McKenna has also emerged as an elite front runner. I don’t believe they had a top 30 finisher either of the past two seasons at districts. If McKenna can be a top 20 guy as he is projected to be (maybe even top 10) it will make it a lot easier to post a state qualifying score at districts.

Biggest Strength: 7 Deep
Even when two strong runners had an off day, Spring Ford barely missed a beat. The Rams took 4th, just 5 points back of Lebo and 18 back of Boyertown at Foundation and got a huge day out for their freshman John Zawislak. Any of their top 7 guys can be their #2 it appears after Zawislak’s run and that makes them tough, especially on the tough courses. Interestingly, Spring Ford was actually leading at the half way split of the gold race so if they can just hold on a little longer they could be in the state championship conversation.

Keep An Eye On: 6-6-6
It has to be said, the devlish 6-6-6 is in play for this squad. The trio of Ainscoe-Smith-McKenna know all too well that Spring Ford has been 6th the past two years at districts and this season has the potential to be the same. I’ve got them listed as my #4 team right now, but there are a lot of powers looming behind them. Let’s see if they handle the pressure and rise to the occasion at districts.

6. LaSalle (District 12)
Early Season MVP: Ethan Maher
Maher is a returner from last year’s state qualifying squad, but Twomey and Evan Addison have gotten most of the preseason attention. Maher has quietly been a consistent force in the varsity line up and got off to a great start in 2017. He rounds out a potent looking big three for the Explorers and will be needed to keep things close against the other dynamic top 3s in the state.

Biggest Strength: The Army
What can we say? This team goes 10, 12, 15 deep year after year. They’ve got horses, they’ve got confidence in the training and they produce results. There’s a reason this team has placed in the top 5 of the past two state championships despite having no runners in the top 40 overall.

Keep An Eye On: Haven’t We Seen This Before?
Last year, LaSalle looked like a potential title threat. A year earlier, they had seven guys who could break 17 at Hershey. In 2014, they even knocked off O’Hara with a brilliant display of pack running to win the District title. However, LaSalle has still not managed to leave states with a set of medals since 2008, their first year in the PIAA. Hard to imagine that with all their success, they have struggled to have that big breakthrough. Let’s see if they can change that narrative in 2017.

5. DT West (District 1)
Early Season MVP: Evan Kaiser
Rollins got the hype from yours truly going into the season, but maybe the guy to watch should have been Kaiser. We haven’t seen him in a 5k yet, but he looks poised to go low 16s in his first big invite.

Biggest Strength: Confidence
I think this program is now officially a big deal. They were emerging in past years, but they’ve gotten to the point where they are throwing out B squads in invitationals and still competing for the win. They have so many weapons to pull from and they have a great next man up mentality. It’s hard to imagine this team not getting back to states once again despite the fact that they lost basically their entire varsity squad from 2016.

Keep An Eye On: Only Five Guys Actually Count
We talk a lot about their depth, but they will need the front running to get the job done. Last year, they took 3rd in the state, but they had a top 20 and top 30 finisher on the roster with two more guys near the top 50. Do they have that this year? Because even if they could put 15 guys in front of most team’s #5 runners, it doesn’t mean much in any marquee invitational or championship meet. I’m excited to see this team authentically attack a race so we can see just what they’ve got in store.

4. Boyertown (District 1)
Early Season MVP: Josh Endy
Boyertown had a state qualifier last year in Dominic Derafelo. But if they wanted to make the leap as a team he would need some company. Enter Josh Endy. Josh was a solid track runner in 2017, but has blossomed into an all-star in XC and joined Derafelo as a front running presence this team can rely on. Endy sets the tone for the success of the Bears.

Biggest Strength: Best Pack In The State
Hard to believe it, but I think Boyertown actually has the best 1-5 pack in the entire state. If you told me I’d be saying that before the season started, I’d have said you were crazy. But this team is consistent and solid across the board. Todd Barton and Justin Smyth were awesome at Foundation and Kollin Miller is no joke of a #6. They don’t have the same front running as some of the other team’s but nobody had a better #5 at Foundation. That’s legit.

Keep An Eye On: What is Their Ceiling?
Boyertown hasn’t been quite at this level before. They are making a jump from 14th and 25th the past two seasons in District One to now trying to win a state championship. Although we’ve seen some teams make a one year jump like this (Conestoga in 2013, CB West in 2014), I don’t think we’ve seen a team like this. When’s the last time a team went from outside the top 10 in D1 to district champs? How about state champs?

3. Mount Lebanon (District 7)
Early Season MVP: Alex Brokaw
Lebo’s big 3 are doing quality work, but Brokaw is the piece that will help them get over the top. We knew about most of Lebo’s top guys from last season, but Brokaw didn’t even make my Lebo cheat sheet that I put out at the beginning of the year.

Biggest Strength: 10 Deep
I’m a big believer in depth. You can obviously win state titles with just 5 guys, but I think it’s a lot easier when you have a crowded backfield. I think the best teams have 5-6-7-8 guys that are all crowded together, fighting hard to just keep their spot on varsity. Well how about 5-6-7-8-9-10+? That should bring out a lot of quality performance in this pack.

Keep An Eye On: Coopers Lake
Look, it’s been said a million times, but I’ll say it again. Lebo and WPIALs have not gotten along recently. But that doesn’t mean this team can’t buck the trend. They’ve had to listen to all that talk for months, some of them years, and this could be the season they turn it around. All they have to do is survive districts and I believe they will be a factor at states. Hopefully, Foundation takes some pressure off this squad because I haven’t given up on them yet.

2. CR North (District 1)
Early Season MVP: Ethan Koza
Koza was the #5 man on CRN’s championship team a year ago. When his teammates were clicking under the 15:50 barrier and battling for medals, Koza was hanging back just a little bit, picking up his own impressive performances, but still in the shadow. During track season, Koza did his fair share of shadow running as well, despite showcasing incredible range across a variety of disciplines. So far in 2017, this has been his time to shine.

Biggest Strength: May Have 4 Top 30 Guys
North had 4 top 30 guys last year at states (4 in the top 26) which was incredible. We’ve rarely ever seen depth that strong. With a top 4 that dominate, they won the title by 42 points over Carlisle, meaning their #5 runner could have finished in about 121st place instead of 43rd and they still would have come home champions. That just goes to show you, if they have 4 guys that good again, it’s going to take a heck of a day to beat them.

Keep An Eye On: Inconsistency
North needs to have that kind of day. They’ve had a few hiccups, a few missing runners and fallen victim to surprise upsides. We will see if that is a theme for 2017 or if this squad is ready to repeat.

1. Seneca Valley (District 1)
Early Season MVP: Connor Volk-Klas
The Mars transfer solidified the Seneca Valley attack. He adapted quickly to the training and stormed through his first two invites as a legit medal threat in AAA. Seneca Valley could get three on the medal stand, a result they will need if they want to compete with the high powered front running of CRN and to bury the pack heavy teams behind them.

Biggest Strength: Sneaky Well Coached
We’ve talked plenty about Henderson, DT West, CR North, North Allegheny, State College, Carlisle and many more (I listed a ton to hopefully not offend anyone, but probably still did) as programs that we just expect to churn out top 10 teams every year. Well, maybe it’s time to start looking at Seneca Valley. I think they honestly had the best coached program of any team in PA during 2016-2017. They took a young core of relative unknowns and turned them into a 7:46 4x8, a 4th place XC team and WPIAL champs. I believe that they will not only keep this strong pack going, but also solidify the 6-7 spot as they look toward districts and states.

Keep An Eye On: Looking To Next Year

Their top 4 guys from Foundation were all juniors. Last year they had two of the best 3 sophomores in the state in AAA. At Foundation, they had the top 3 overall juniors in the race. It’s hard for this team to not think “Well, this year we are good, but next year we could be amazing!” Sometimes the young guns don’t have the same backs against the wall attitude as the seniors. It will be to guys like Dixon and Bellack to keep everyone focused.  

2017 XC Team Rankings: Class AA Week Four

Team Rankings: AA Schools
Honorable Mention: Warrior Run

10. Central Cambria (District 6)
Early Season MVP: Ike Haycisak
If Central Cambria wants to make a leap from 16th (last year) into the top 10, they will need guys like Ike to continue to impress. He wasn’t on last year’s state finals squad, but showcased some of his skills in the Red Devils first season invite.

Biggest Strength: Depth
This is a pretty deep squad filled with a variety of young talent. That should keep everyone motivated, hungry and disciplined.

Keep An Eye On: The Team’s Identity
It’s going to sound silly, but I think teams run better when they have an identity. Some are a pack team, some rely on their front running and just need the 4-5 to bring things home. I’m not sure what CC’s identity is just yet. Once I figure it out, I’ll have a better feel for their state finish.

9. Wyomissing (District 3)
Early Season MVP: Matt Driben

Biggest Strength: Secretiveness
I haven’t seen any big results from this squad just yet. I was super high on them in the preseason, but they are playing their cards close to the vest so far. They should be fresh and no one will have a good scouting report on them just yet.

Keep An Eye On: If They Run A Race
Wyomissing is still a school right?

8. Holy Redeemer (District 2)
Early Season MVP: Bryce Zapusek
The team’s #1 runner has been reliable in the team’s major invites. He is picking up right where he left off last year as the team’s #1 runner at states.

Biggest Strength: Lots Of Choices For A Step-Up Star
This team has a 2-6 that I really like. Any of those guys could become the #2 runner on the right day. That means if this squad clicks at the right time (not unprecedented for this historically strong program) they could really surprise at states.

Keep An Eye On: Who Rises To The Occasion
We’ve seen flashes, but who will actually carry the mantle on race day? Zapusek was the team’s #1 by over a minute in Hershey. There are guys who can run with him, but who will be ready to step up and accept the challenge?

7. New Castle (District 7)
Early Season MVP: LeShawn Huff
There was a lot of high expectations for Huff after he won the WPIAL 1600 title last year, but he has risen to the challenge. Huff has become a top 50 list caliber performer after being a relative unknown last season on the state stage.

Biggest Strength: Improved Front Running
At last year’s WPIAL championship, New Castle missed out on a state championship birth by just 1 point. That was, at least in part, due to the fact that they had no top 15 finishers in the meet while South Fayette (who out tie breakered them) had two guys in the top 5 (WPIAL champs Greensburg Salem had 4 in the top 16). This year they have Huff, they have a more seasoned Litrenta (their #1 at WPIALs last year as a frosh) and they have some freshmen stand outs emerging as well.

Keep An Eye On: Those Emerging Freshmen
Jonah Miller and Zac Gibson (huge race at Sharpsville) will be interesting top 5 pieces this season. I think this team, on paper, has the most complete roster through five looking ahead to WPIALs, but that can change in a blink if the freshmen aren’t quite ready for the big stage.

6. Greensburg Salem (District 7)
Early Season MVP: Dylan Binda
Greensburg Salem graduated Frankie King from their big 3 a year ago and needed someone to fill the shoes alongside Brown and Cameron Binda. Dylan Binda has answered the call impressively through his opening races of the 2017 XC season.

Biggest Strength: Excellent Top 3
Readers of the blog have probably heard my top 3 theory before. I’m a believer that the best formula for a successful XC squad is to have a dynamic top 3. You can succeed with other formulas of course, but the first thing I usually look at is a school’s top 3 runners. Greensburg Salem may have the best top 3 in all of AA.

Keep An Eye On: GS’s State Championship Demons
Greensburg Salem wasn’t a big time program even a few years ago. But now they have a WPIAL championship and a 7:51 4x800 to brag about. However, on the state championship scene this squad has had some heartbreak. How will they seek out redemption as their big 3 hit their junior seasons?

5. Indiana Area (District 7)
Early Season MVP: Evan Weaver
With many of these teams, we often dwell on the young up and coming talent, but for Indiana Area one of their most important pieces is a senior. Evan Weaver has given Indiana consistent varsity scoring and a senior leader to hold down the fort as they make a push for states.

Biggest Strength: Overachieving
I feel like the word “overachieving” sounds like it’s negative, but really it’s a big compliment. Indiana Area wasn’t at the forefront of the preseason WPIAL discussion. Their top returner, Rocco Fanella, hasn’t raced yet this season, and one of their most important pieces, Kendall Brenan, is a sophomore still finding himself on the big stage. But this team has consistently improved, including a big leap from Julian Yerger this weekend at Foundation. Keep in mind, Indiana Area was just 10 points back of York Suburban at half way.

Keep An Eye On: The WPIAL’s Depth
Like the AAA landscape, there are only 3 spots up for grabs and multiple deserving teams. New Castle, Greensburg Salem and South Fayette are among the squads trying to knock Indiana from their perch at the top. And now that they finished as the top dogs at Foundation, they will have a big target on their back the rest of the way.

4. Harbor Creek (District 10)
Early Sesaon MVP: Nate Dougan
Dougan has really stepped up to start his senior season. Harbor Creek knew they would need to improve their depth to stay competitive and Dougan is among a core of 3-4-5-6-7 guys that have really made great strides thus far in September. Guys like Dougan, not their returning state medalists, will determine HC’s success in 2017.

Biggest Strength: Absurd Front Running
They’ve got 3 returning state medalists. What more is there really to say? Has any team after brought back three state medalists in the same season? With two of them entering just their junior seasons? Babo-Weber-Stravaggi is a nightmare for the rest of the state.

Keep An Eye On: Health
There has been more than one time this year where HC has been missing a key piece or two. Since they rely on those big three, having Babo and Stravaggi MIA in their last meet isn’t the best sign. However, it is a good opportunity for some of the other guys to get experience running as a scorer. It’s a different type of attitude when you know every guy you pass means something.

3. Dallas (District 2)
Early Season MVP: Adam Borton
From the beginning, Borton has been a key part of the Dallas dynasty. It was his clutch run in 2015 that might have swung the title toward the Cowboys. In 2016, he overcame an up and down season to throw down another top finish and swing another title. Now this year, Borton looks to be in top form and ready for that first state medal.

Biggest Strength: Monster Top 4
We talked a lot about the big 3 for HC and GS, but how about Dallas’s top 4? They could very realistically have 4 state medalists this year in Zardecki, Rome, Borton and Wyandt. They should have at least two for the first during this dynasty run.

Keep An Eye On: The Hot Seat At The Top
It’s hard to stay on top for this long. Three straight titles? That’s very rare in any classification in recent years. Is the pressure going to be too much in 2017?

2. York Suburban (District 3)
Early Season MVP: Andrew Paskey
York Suburban returned a nice core, but Paskey would be needed to round out the top 5. As has been the case the past two seasons, the AA state title bout should be very close again. Every point will count and that’s why the development of a guy like Paskey in the 4-5 spot is huge.

Biggest Strength: They’re Always Good
It sounds silly, but this York Suburban team will seemingly never be stopped. They won the state title in 2014 with a terrific team. Then, they lost their top guy and still competed tooth and nail for the title. Then, they lost their top guy and still competed tooth and nail for the title. Yes, that happened twice in a row. This year, they’re actually returning the most they ever have heading into a title run. Look out.

Keep An Eye On: The Foundation Curse
York Suburban went to Carlisle in 2014 when they won the state title, but in 2015 and 2016 they went over to Hershey for the Foundation Invite. They won each of those editions of the meet, but they ended up losing both state title runs in November when they came back. 2017 brought another foundation gold, but will it be Silver for YS next time they take to the hills?

1. Grove City (District 10)
Early Season MVP: Luke Owrey
As Grove City tries to claw back to the top of the state rankings, Owrey has been a consistent scorer for this team. He really hasn’t had a bad race all season and is a reliable piece behind their front-runner Jonah Powell.

Biggest Strength: Best Top 5
I think this past weekend Grove City proved they are the most complete team at this point in time. They had some younger guys step up and they rolled against a solid field at Sharpsville. No one has wowed me yet in this classification, but Grove City came the closest with their most recent win.

Keep An Eye On: Recent History
Grove City has always seemed to be in the state title talk, but they are still searching for that elusive victory. Since the first AA state championship of the three classification system in 2012, Grove City has been within striking distance of gold. Could 2017 finally be the year they pull out a victory?

2017 XC Team Raknings: A Classification Week Four

Team Rankings: A Schools
Honorable Mention: York Catholic

10. St Joesph’s (District 6)
Early Season MVP: Carter Kauffman
The sophomore has become a breakout star, leading the team across the line at all meets this year including an excellent top 10 finish at the Foundation Invitational.

Biggest Strength: Youthful Team On The Rise
Yes, youth can be a concern, but youth can also be a benefit. This is an exciting group of sophomores (their top four finishers from Foundation) who have the chance to get this program back to states for the first time in a while. It can be great motivation to be running with your young teammates and trying to build a dynasty.

Keep An Eye On: Youthful Team Under Pressure
Yes, youth can be a benefit, but it can also be a concern. Four sophomores at the top of your lineup doesn’t always end in success right away. There’s a reason at least half of the top 50 guys from states are typically seniors.

9. Seneca (District 10)
Early Season MVP: Brock Smith
Smith is another sophomore who has stepped into a leadership role. Brock’s performance was particularly important as Seneca graduated their top 3 runners from last year’s 3rd place squad and those guys were all-time kinda talents. It’s nice to see another youngster carry on their mantle and inspire his teammates.

Biggest Strength: Week to Week Improvement
I feel like Seneca made a nice jump from Race One to Race Two. Race Three wasn’t quite as spectacular, but it was solid. They need to be clicking through five guys to knock off some of the front running squads in front of them. Jake Schneider and Rob Stepnowski have experience from the state championship and understand how to peak in November. Step was 56th at last year’s state meet and is an x-factor for this team in October.

Keep An Eye On: Depth, Particularly Nick Post
Like I said, this team will need to be the best through five guys if they want to knock off North East and Cochranton (among others) in District 10. One of the key pieces could be Nick Post who raced (well) at McDowell, but hasn’t been seen since. Hopefully, he is healthy and can return to the top 5 soon.

8. Cochranton (District 10)
Early Season MVP: Jac Coakley
Cochranton had a star last year in Noah Bernarding, but Coakley has stepped up to get within striking distance of the sophomore. After not making states last year, Coakley is a medal threat in 2017.

Biggest Strength: Battle Tested
Cochranton has already been in a slew of close team battles. They’ve faced top squads like Shenango, North East and Seneca and seem to fight well against them every time. I like the resiliency of this squad.

Keep An Eye On: A Deep District
Not only are there a lot of good teams in District 10, there are a lot of good runners. That means you really need all of your top 5 runners to be sharp so no one gets buried deep in the pack and drags down the team score.

7. North East (District 10)
Early Season MVP: Zane Courtwright
Courtwright has stepped up in his sophomore season becoming a reliable #2 behind breakout star Josh Lewis.

Biggest Strength: Big Breakthroughs
This team wasn’t amazing last year, placing 4th in D10 and finishing 63 points out of state qualifying. They only returned two top five runners from that team while the schools around them returned much more. But North East has had big breakthroughs. After having 0 state qualifiers individually last year, they have two guys who could get in even if the team falters.

Keep An Eye On: Lack of Experience
Like I said, this team had 0 state qualifiers last year. Their top two guys are a junior and a sophomore who don’t quite know their way around Hershey. There will be big pressure on these guys at both districts and states. Can they handle it and come through?

6. Riverview (District 7)
Early Season MVP: Ben Barnes
Riverview’s #1 runner has been fantastic this season, even picking up an individual win against AAA medal hopeful Christian Fitch in his first invite of the season. Barnes sets the tone for this team with his low stick ability.

Biggest Strength: Team Still Coming Together
Riverview was missing a few varsity performers in meet #1 and had a big talent in the freshman race in meet #2. That means this full varsity squad likely hasn’t shaped up into its peak form.

Keep An Eye On: Team Still Coming Together
Like I said, we still don’t know what the varsity squad is. It will be nice to see them in a couple races with a consistent group so that they can gain confidence and comfort in their roles. That being said, this isn’t a big concern as the Riverview boys have been to the big dance before and know what it takes to get out of the WPIAL.

5. Jenkintown (District 1)
Early Season MVP: Jack Miller
Jenkintown’s #1 guy was good last year, but he has been phenomenal thus far in 2017. He’s proven that he could be a top 3 guy in the A state championship race and that should give Jenkintown a lot of confidence.

Biggest Strength: Two Returning Medalsits
Jenkintown brings back two guys who have done it before. Along with Miller they have Josh Jackson who knows what it takes to peak and run the hills well in Hershey. Out of the top teams, no one else brings back two runners of this caliber.

Keep An Eye On: A Game Changer In the Back Half
This team is already good. Now it is about becoming great. To do that, they are going to need to find a game changer in the back half of their line up. Maybe that guy is freshman Luke Miller or maybe it’s junior Danny Westcott who didn’t race at Foundation, but somebody has to have a breakthrough if they are going to join the top 4 elite squads. That’s just what it will take in this loaded year.

4. Montrose (District 2)
Early Season MVP: Eric Bixby
A newcomer to the varsity season, Bixby was excellent as a scorer on Montrose’s Cliff Robbins championship team.

Biggest Strength: 6 Deep
Not many schools can say they go six deep in the A classification, but this school is legitimately that good through 6 runners. I’m confident anyone can step up and be a capable scorer on state championship Saturday. Not sure the other teams are as comfortable with each of their varsity runners.

Keep An Eye On: The Next Time They Race
They’ve only had one major appearance this year and, while it was great, it’s just one appearance. I need to see more if I’m going to properly rate them. Last year, I had Montrose a little too high on my big board as I thought they were state title threats. This year, I don’t want to put unfair pressure on them.

3. Elk County Catholic (District 9)
Early Season MVP: Jacob Carnovale
To stay competitive at the top of this deep state title race, you need to have 5 legit cross country runners. Carnovale has emerged from completely off my radar into an instant, steadily improving contributor so far this season.

Biggest Strength: Emerging Front Runner
I think Ben Hoffman is going to have a big season. This sophomore was their #2 runner last year and nearly a state medalist. Now he’s significantly better in year #2 of his high school career. He won’t led Winchester Thurston get far ahead and he should put a gap on Montrose and Penns Valley.

Keep An Eye On: A #2 Stepping Up
If you look at the top 2 teams on this ranking (and most rankings) they’ve got a dynamite big 3. I think ECC has the potential to get there as well. I just need to see a little more from Wortman and Logan Hoffman. At least one of those guys needs to get on the state medal stand.

2. Winchester Thurston (District 7)
Early Season MVP: Scott Routledge
This sophomore was outside the scorers last year at states, but he’s come on like a rocket in his second XC season. He’s the big reason why Winchester Thurston has a legit shot at a repeat.

Biggest Strength: Championship Pedigree
This team won the state title in 2016 and 2014. Their #1 man, Tristan Forsythe, was a scorer on both of those teams. Gordon Pollock also has two golds from the two state meets. Four of their top six guys from last year’s gold medal winning team are back. They should feel confident, even after a tough loss against Penns Valley. Even in 2015, when WT didn’t win the title, they still overcame an injury and finished just nine points out of 2nd place and 17 out of 1st.

Keep An Eye On: Two Frosh, Two Soph On Varsity
This is a really young core outside of Forsythe and Pollock and that always leaves the door open for an upset. However, I think the championship pedigree trumps that a bit. They can rely on their young guns because they have a system in place that has allowed them to excel in the past. Soph Sean Heintzleman will be the x-factor this season.

1. Penns Valley (District 6)
Early Season MVP: Sam Gray
While the freshmen sensations on this roster will get a lot of well-deserved publicity, Gray has been one of the most important contributors through the team’s first three major invites. The senior has been excellent as a reliable 4/5. He was easily the best #4 at Foundation’s White Race.

Biggest Strength: No Weakness In The Top 5
That top 5 is insane. Bierly may be their #5 runner and I thought coming into the year he had a legit shot at a state medal. This team is great. Not just great for a A team. Great in general. As pointed out in the comments, they would have been 5th in merged scoring with the best spread of any of the top 5 teams.

Keep An Eye On: Two Top Five Freshmen

This will be the story line all year. Elk County Catholic had two scorers who were freshman last year and those guys came up clutch under the lime light so success is possible with the young guns. However, it is at least worth mentioning as Penns Valley relies heavily on Colton Sands and Brendan Colwell for points. If either of those guys have an off day at states, they will need seniors Haden Stamm and Charlie Romig to be ready to rise to the occasion.

2017 XC Top 50 Rankings: Week Four

This was a tricky week in the Top 50 rankings. It would be a heck of a lot easier if I split these up by classification as I could just compare head to head results. But this weekend, we saw results from three different races at the same location. How the heck are we supposed to compare that? Typically, I give the benefit of the doubt to the smaller school guys. Most of the time, a smaller school race isn’t as deep as the bigger school races and that means it will be a bit harder to run a fast time. But a lot of times also comes from the pace and Isaac Davis in AA set a blazing fast pace for his competitors to follow. So there was a lot to think about.

Some of my near misses that I feel deserve a shout out include Anthony Harper of Bonner (4th at Foundation in AA race, returning state medalist), Ian Miller (sub 17 at Foundation, 14th in the Gold Race) and Sam Gatti (runner up at Sharpsville).

Miller’s result may end up being big for D3’s long term prospects on this list. Miller was 12th at Big Spring, but took 14th in Hershey. Hard to say how much of that was Miller having a better day in his second race and how much of that was the level of competition at both meets. My guess is somewhere in between. Regardless, excellent day for Miller and nice team building opportunity for Manheim Township as they had to roll through the course without their #1 runner in Dorenkamp.

50. Josh Endy, Sr Boyertown (1 AAA)
Endy gets the nod here over a few names that bested him because he has now produced top results in two marquee invitationals. He was one of the top PA athletes at PTXC and now doubles back with a sub 17 run at Foundation, finishing in 16th in the Gold race, just 2 seconds away from taking 13th.  Plus, you have to give Endy some bonus points. His team’s success thus far makes his long term prospects better. He’s got extra push in practice, extra motivation in races and a lot of confidence in the training program. Shout out to Endy, one of the breakout stars of September 2017.

49. Cameron Binda, Jr Greensburg Salem (7 AA)
48. Christian Fitch, So Fox Chapel (7 AAA)
47. Alex Ermold, Jr Governor Mifflin (3 AAA)

46. Colin Cramer, Sr Southern Lehigh (11 AAA)
Cramer opened up his season with a solid 4th place showing at Northampton, but really turned a corner with his 8th place finish in the Gold Race at Foundation. Although his Southern Lehigh teams to be dealing with injuries (they are missing a lot of their key returners from last year’s state qualifying team), Cramer has only improved through the opening month. I think Cramer is the kind of runner who will peak at the right time. This may just be the beginning of his rise.

45. Michael Samson, Sr CB West (1 AAA)

44. Garrett Baublitz, So Juniata (6 A)
Babulitz moving to A would be an interesting shake up atop the XC standings. He’s a dangerous finisher who just had his best ever performance on the state course. He’s definitely a wildcard in this race and could potentially surprise down the stretch. With these younger talents, every month ends up being valuable.

43. Mark Brown, Jr Greensburg Salem (7 AA)
42. Ethan Hermann, Sr Allderdice (8 AAA)
41. Tavonne Davis, Sr Allderdice (8 AAA)
40. Jacob McKenna, Sr Spring Ford (1 AAA)
39. Jeffrey Love, Jr George School (Independent)
38. Peter Borger, Sr Malvern Prep (Independent)
37. Bryce Ohl, Sr York Suburban
36. Evan Dorenkamp, Jr Manheim Township (3 AAA)
35. Elias Lindgren, Sr Episcopal (Independent)
34. Jack Miller, Jr Jenkintown (1 A)
33. Jared Giannascoli, Sr Lower Dauphin (3 AAA)
32. Jake Underwood, Sr Wilson (3 AAA)
31. Ryan Stravaggi, Jr Harbor Creek (10 AA)
30. Czar Tarr, Sr Chartiers Valley (7 AAA)

29. Andrew Healey, So Holy Cross (2 A)
I was on this kid’s bandwagon entering the season, but after about a month got distracted by other bandwagons. I think his 16:44 and 2nd place finish (within striking distance of Forsythe) is quite impressive. I’m not saying he’s going to beat Tristan at season’s end (that would be one heck of an upset for the sophomore), but he’s at least got a chance to keep it interesting if he continues to improve like this. Healey, Baublitz and Elk County Catholic’s Ben Hoffman may be 3 top 5 guys in A. They are all sophomores.

28. Brendan Miller, Sr Upper Dauphin (3 A)
27. Tyler Leeser, Sr Milton (4 AA)
26. Seth Ketler, Jr Seneca Valley (7 AAA)
25. Evan Addison, Sr LaSalle (12 AAA)
24. Jack Wisner, Jr Carlisle (3 AAA)

23. Ben Hoyer, Sr Wissahickon (1 AAA)
Hoyer was the big star of Foundation, breaking out with a 5th place finish and a 16:32 time. He was just a few seconds away from being 3rd ahead of stars like Etter and Conway. You don’t want to overreact to any one result, but it’s important to note Hoyer had excelled in meets prior to this as well. He’d only been beaten by Josh Hoey prior to this weekend where he knocked off a slew of top 50 guys.

22. Evan Kreider, Jr Cocalico (3 AAA)
21. Quinn Serfass, Sr Loyalsock (4 AA)
20. Jack Zardecki, Sr Dallas (2 AA)
19. Joe Cullen, Sr Wyomissing (3 AA)
18. Sam Owori, Jr Seneca Valley (7 AAA)
17. Jonah Powell, Jr Grove City (10 AA)
16. Ethan Koza, Sr CR North (1 AAA)
15. Tyler Wirth, Jr Wallenpaupack (2 AAA)
14. Morgan Cupp, Sr Mechanicsburg (3 AAA)
13. Mitchell Etter, Sr State College (6 AAA)
12. Sam Snodgrass, Sr South Fayette (7 AA)

11. Carlos Shultz, So Phoenixville (1 AAA)
Yes, he’s at a new school, but Carlos Shultz is still running as well as ever. The Phoenixville sophomore knocked off a talented group including two of the state’s top returners in Campbell and Cupp at the CRN Invite. As mentioned in the recap, he was probably the best freshman we’ve seen come through the PIAA since Jake Brophy. Brophy was 8th in the state as a soph and state record holder by his junior season. Amazingly, I still don’t have Shultz ranked as my #1 sophomore in the state. That could be an interesting showdown when the time comes.

10. Avery Lederer, Sr Penncrest (1 AAA)
9. Liam Conway, Sr Owen J Roberts (1 AAA)
8. Josh Hoey, Sr Bishop Shanahan (1 AAA)
7. Spencer Smucker, Sr Henderson (1 AAA)
6. Ryan Campbell, Sr CR North (1 AAA)

5. Dan McGoey, So North Allegheny (7 AAA)
You don’t want to overreact too much to any one result and moving McGoey up 7 spots ahead of Snodgrass (who he was dead even with at RWB) may be a bit of a reach. That being said, I’ve got a feeling about this kid doing something big. He’s already one of the most impressive NA guys in history, regardless of age. His sophomore times put him in a league with only WPIAL all-stars like Brent Kennedy (who was 7th at states as a sophomore). Plus there’s something about the North Allegheny singlet that makes me afraid to doubt him. There’s been a sophomore in the top 3 at states for AAA each of the past two seasons. Why not make it three?

4. Tristan Forsythe, Sr Winchester Thurston (7 A)

3. Isaac Davis, Sr Jersey Shore (4 AA)
Davis made a big statement with his victory this past weekend. He ran 16:01 and was much faster than not just his direct competition (which included two of his top competitors in a title run this season in Ohl and Snodgrass), but also A and AAA champions Forsythe and Kujdych. That time was blazing quick on this course and he earned it by gunning out the first half of the race at a suicidal 7:43. Now the only question for Davis is if I can hold this form and actually improve on it through to states. Last year a lot of the top finishers from Foundation couldn’t keep their form through the state championship (or at least they couldn’t drop a lot of time from their September marks to November). In 2015, Foundation individual champs went on to sweep the state championships. In 2016, Foundation champs were shut out in November.

2. Noah Beveridge, Sr Butler (7 AAA)
1. Rusty Kujdych, Sr Neshaminy (1 AAA)
Nothing new to say here. Kujdych gets another big win against the best field of the weekend. His #1 spot is safe. Paul Short could be an interesting race for him (assuming he’s going back and not resting up). With good weather, he could be near 15 flat. I believe he was in the 15:20s or so last season and he’s only gotten better since his junior season.

Other Meets? What Other Meets?

Sharpsville Invitational
Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but there were other big meets this weekend. And no, it wasn’t just the CRN Invite. Out west at Buhl Park, we saw a flurry of top flight harriers take to the course to try and put together a strong performance at a marquee invite. The results were certainly interesting. In the team race, Grove City ran away from everybody making a big statement win. They had 5 guys in the top 25 overall finishers including the individual champion Jonah Powell (rolled to a 16:07 for victory). Two sophomores had big days in JoeJoe Somora and Toby Jones as GC’s usual #2 was their #5 despite still clocking an excellent race for himself. As usual, this team finds themselves piecing together a title contender at the right time. However, they’ve been shut out in Hershey the past few years, including missing the state meet all together in 2016. Realistically, this squad could win the state title, but could also be watching the state meet on PCN and wondering why they don’t have etrain announce since he does such a great British accent.

For some other top teams, it appears they might have had some DNFs or at least DNSs that cost them a lot of ground. Harbor Creek did not have Christian Babo or Ryan Stravaggi in the finishing shoot this weekend. I don’t believe Babo raced last time out either, but Stravaggi was excellent in his most recent performance, a big win at the home invite. Not having these two in the line-up ended up dramatically swinging this team’s results. They’ll need at least one guy back to have a good shot at states out of D10 and likely need both back if they want to keep their district crown.

New Castle, one of my favorite sleepers, ended up third in the standings as their usual #1 and Top 50 ranked LeShawn Huff was absent from the proceedings. Even without Huff, New Castle put together a great performance, taking 4th in the standings and second among AA teams behind only Grove City. They had a deep top 6 and got a great race from sophomore Anthony Litrenta as well.

Cochranton was one of the big results as well. I’ve harped on this team on more than one occasion, but it’s for good reason. They are consistently improving and look like potential D10 champions this year. If they do that, they belong in the top 10 teams at states. Perhaps even higher than that considering the success of teams like Seneca and Mercyhurst Prep in recent years. Jac Coakley is having an excellent season and that 1-2 punch for the Cs is dangerous. Their #4 was probably the big key to getting them the #1 spot of A teams. Stephen Clulow delivered on that spot with a top 85 finish.

Lastly, shout out to Norwin. This squad took 2nd overall in the standings with 120 points. They edged out Pittsburgh Central Catholic, a consistently strong program, and had a 34 second spread. That’s best in the field. And by the way, their top five included a freshman and four sophomores with that frosh (Alex Jubert) taking 12th overall. Norwin also did not have Matt O’Neill, a top 40ish guy in last year’s Footlocker Northeast Regional. If O’Neill can get back in the line-up and be healthy, Norwin could be a real dark horse in the WPIAL. Just not sure how much they can put a dent in the top heavy league.

Individually, as mentioned, Jonah Powell took the gold. That’s become the kind of performance we expect from this star junior who would have been interesting to see at Foundation (although Isaac Davis was going to be real tough to beat). Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Central Catholic took #2 and #4 overall with Sam Gatti (who won his first invite last week) and Max Steffey doing the honors. A really strong showing by Steffey who is a strong runner that could maybe be a top 50 guy by season’s end. Matt Busche of Franklin Regional was 3rd in perhaps his best race of the season thus far. Don’t count out this guy as he has 1:55 chops and was just outside the top 50 at states in AAA last year. Also turning heads was A runner, Jonas Jason who posted a big 8th place finish. He was #2 in A behind only Lakeview standout Zach Tingley.

Avery Lederer with a big win here in 15:54. It looks like some of Penncrest teams were missing in action, but Lederer still showed up and blasted to victory by over a minute. Always a consistent performer, Lederer sometimes gets overshadowed at the front of the PA rankings, but you can bet he will be near the front of the big races in October and November.

Oxford took advantage of the missing pieces of Penncrest’s line up and used a tight spread to take down the title. They had places 3 through 6 in the final standings and added a #5 at 12th. That top five is all underclassmen with 2 juniors, 2 sophs and a frosh. Oxford! Big season for them already, but still time to prove themselves even more. Oxford was 49th in last year’s District One Championships, beating just 6 other teams.

Unionville looked to make a statement in Delaware and showcased a strong top 5 en route to the victory. We already knew about Conway and Walker, but a few other young guns from Unionville stepped up including freshman Ethan McIntyre, who took 10th overall. They defeated Henderson (without Smucker) and DT West (without many of their top guys) and should build some confidence as they head into October. I’m still not convinced these guys are state contenders just yet. That being said, I’m very interested to see what Conway and Walker do in the stretch run. They have been solid so far this year, but their talent suggests there is even more there. Remember, Conway was the top sophomore in D1 last year and Walker run under 9:30 for 3200 as a freshman.

I think Henderson has an uphill battle for states at this point, but you never know. It’s hard to doubt this team given everything that’s happened in the past. But I feel like it would be more fun to say that there is no way that Henderson is making states so that I can perpetuate my reputation in the Henderson locker room as disliking their team. So yeah, Henderson won’t make states. Don’t @ me.

Council Rock Invitational
Although we’d heard buzz before, this big invite makes it pretty official. Carlos Shultz is now at Phoenixville High School. And boy did Phoenixville pick up a weapon. Shultz rolled to a big time victory over a stacked field that included top runners like Ryan Campbell and Morgan Cupp. Shultz, who just last year was under 16 minutes as a freshman on Lehigh’s course (first since Jake Brophy) broke through with his first marquee invitational performance of the season. Dan Mcgoey opened up the season looking like the star of the class of 2020, but Shultz had an answer ready at this invite.

Ethan Koza of CRN continues to roll as he picked up a 3rd place finish behind Shultz and Mechanicsburg senior Morgan Cupp. Koza was the top runner on CRN’s team after being just a few seconds away from the same honor at Briarwood. Koza’s development into a star is a big lift for North as they already have two returning medalists including a top 10 finisher from last year’s state meet. People seem a little concerned about CRN, but I thought this was a pretty strong performance. They posted 4 guys in the top 10 in a solid field and their #5 had a nice day in sophomore John Davis. I don’t think North’s quite as strong as last year’s team, but they won’t need to be to win this year’s title (they also won last year’s title by a comfortable final margin).

That being said, as of right now the title race is still pretty close across the board. We haven’t seen much from DT West. Maybe they can be state contenders. Seneca Valley and Mount Lebanon have both shown flashes of superiority. Boyertown is a super pleasant surprise so far. I’m definitely enjoying this battle so far.

While North obviously highlighted the team competition, there were others to take note of. CB West has qualified for the last two state championships out of District One and has another solid team this eyar. Michael Samson is having an excellent campaign thus far and showed his talent with a 5th place individual finish. Brian Baker and Ben Bunch both have great track skills that are clearly translating to the trails. The top 3 was very strong this weekend, but the back half of the varsity will need to improve if they are going to survive the loaded D1 landscape. They’ve surpassed my expectations every year at districts so it’s hard to count them out at this stage.

In the D3 conversation, Twin Valley and Mechanicsburg both put their cards on the table as potential state qualifiers. For Mechancisburg, their strength is a dynamite top 3. Cupp was 2nd while Knepper and Vigliano were 9th and 12th. At their best, the 2-3 punch has the potential to run in the 16:20s on the right course. Shay Rounsville was back in the lineup for Mechanicsburg as well, bolstering the back half of the squad alongside sophomore Enoch Marzano. I haven’t been blown away by the D3 teams this year so Mechancisburg definitely has a shot at another state birth. I like this team’s potential a lot.

Twin Valley, however, has to be thinking not just about states, but about a district title. I think really only Carlisle has looked as good as this squad. TV is improving their front running with each race as Dylan Servis continues to gain confidence. That top 4 is really strong, placing 4 in the top 17 overall. This weekend, they got a nice lift from Nick Manidis as the sophomore stepped up and kept things reasonably close between the team’s #4 and 5. That’s one of the key spots and the young Manidis seems like he is finding his groove. Trey Hill should continue to push for a scoring spot as well, hopefully bringing out the best of both runners. I think they will find the 5 for a state spot, but I think the biggest thing for this team is actually continuing to develop their front running and getting that top 4 farther up the field. That, I think, is really this team’s x-factor in a big race.