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.
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
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.
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.