Well my readers, I’m back from vacation and ready to recap the action! I’m still catching up on the comments since I didn’t have much phone access, but seems like there was some nice discussion and interesting tidbits from the readership. Let’s jump right in and hit the big moments from the weekend. I’ll be recapping the meets in alphabetical order. However, I’ll be saving RWB and potentially PTXC for tomorrow as those are a little bigger and I have more to say about them. Or maybe I just hate the WPIAL as many people suspect. You will have to call that one for yourself.
An updated Top 50 and a first look at the updated team rankings for each classification is coming later this week as well. Should be a fun time.
After a summer of buzz, the Bishop Shanahan XC team returned to the trails to start their quest for a deep state run. Meet #1 was a success as Shanahan took down a solid field at the Abington Invite in convincing fashion, scoring 51 points to WC East’s 85 and CR South’s 88. All the key pieces were there for Shanahan as Josh Hoey took 1st and sophomore Jonah Hoey took 4th. Jonathan McGrory, who made nice strides during this past track season, took 9th place overall to give the Shanahan three top 10 finishers. It’s a good start, but there are still some unanswered questions. I’m very interested to see Josh Hoey take on some of the other top names in the state and see what he has got.
Personally, I was more interested in seeing West Chester East and CR South. These were two teams who were somewhat buried in district results last year, but had a nice core of returners coming back. WC East sophomore Josh Lewin continued to roll after an excellent freshman campaign. He took third in this race in 16:25, a time that would have won this race in 2015. Another sophomore, Domenic Moser, also was a top 10 finisher for WC East. That’s a big improvement on his times from a season earlier. I didn’t see Harrison Mazurek in the results for them, but assuming he is back and healthy, that’s another piece that would help shrink the gap between East and Shanahan.
CR South was 24th at districts last year, but they return 4 sub 17 guys from Lehigh. None of those 4 were 12th place finisher Gavin Ricchini who added a nice amount of depth to CRS as they battled hard for 3rd in this race. It looks like South was also without Ian Welborn and Andrew Zawodniak, two of those four sub 17 men from last year. Those are two guys who could maybe factor in to the mix as well.
Individually, Ben Hoyer of Wissahickon picked up a silver medal with a 16:24 performance for the Trojans. He just barely edged out Lewin who is a top 50 from my preseason list. Hoyer’s performance catapults him not only into the state qualifying mix, but also into the top 50 discussion. Also with a nice run was Josh Coleman of Abington. The senior has run some super quick 800 times for the 4x8 relay, but now bolsters his XC resume with a 16:50 opener in 2017.
21st place finisher Burtin Carbino is a name worth mentioning as well. The junior is form HG Prep and the tops in the AA class for this invite. HG Prep is trying to make it back to back years in the state championships, but have a tough battle looming with Pope John Paul. Carbino and his individual potential could factor into this event.
A few of the opening weekend’s top small individuals returned to the course at West Middlesex for the Big Red Invite. It was a big day for New Castle, the WPIAL AA squad, who rolled through this meet out front by taking four of the top 15 spots. As a result, they scored 51 points and took the title by 83. LeShawn Huff got the invitational win with George Eggleston and Anthony Litrenta also placing in the top 10. This should be a confidence booster to New Castle who didn’t end up racing some of their big competition for a state qualifying spot head to head, but certainly sent a message to the competition.
North East ended up putting together a second straight strong performance in the team standings. Josh Lewis took a big scalp in District opponent Zac Tingley, finishing in 2nd overall just a few seconds behind Huff. Lewis suddenly finds himself in the discussion for a top 10 finish at the A state championship with a win over the consistently strong Tingley (as well as Cochranton’s talented sophomore Noah Bernarding who was 4th).
Also of note, freshman Cole Frazier of Hickory continues to find success. He placed 5th overall in this race in a time of 17:10 and beat out some strong names. Also cracking the top 20 was freshman Elijah Mamula of Cambridge Springs. Cambridge Springs qualified two runners for states last year out of D10 A, including district champ Connor Walsh and then freshman Alec Bidwell.
Sometimes, guys who have big success on the track don’t translate it to the trails, particularly on hilly courses. But Liam Conway, one of the biggest stars from this past spring track season, seems pretty unconcerned about those types of people after a 15:59 runaway victory on the challenging DeSales course. Conway defeated his next closest competitor by 37 seconds and his next closest District One competitor by 46.
Of course, we knew Conway was pretty good at XC (although he doesn’t have a state medal yet, he’s produced a top 30 finish as a soph). What was more impressive was the Owen J Roberts team behind him. The OJR boys posted 78 points and came up just 2 short of the title. If they could put a bit more of a dent in that 2:10 spread 1-5, they would have been very impressive. Andrew Malstrom took 6th overall for OJR and provided a second low stick. Malstrom was on my sleeper list out of D1 early in the season after a monster track season and I gave the OJR guys some love in the District One cheat sheet. They’ve still got an up hill battle to get into state qualifying contention, but I’m definitely taking notice of today’s performance.
The team champions in this one came from District 11, but it may not have been the team you thought. Stroudsburg grabbed the title with 5 top 25 guys and 67 second spread. This team was awesome at Paul Short last year the point where they were my sleeper pick to pull an upset at districts. In the end, that team ended up being Southern Lehigh, but the Stroudsburg boys had undeniable potential. To start 2017, they are showing flashes again as Matt Bodon posted a top 5 finish in the field and Zachary Landvik-Larsen posted a huge 8th place run. I’d love to see these guys get some redemption at districts.
Admittedly, they are going to have their hands full as lots of talented individuals are developing in this group. With Seth Slavin gone, it appears for the first time in a while like the individual district title is up for grabs. While Bodon looked excellent in 5th, it was actually two Parkland boys who stole the show. Juniors Riley Williamson and Nicholas Bower finished 2nd and 4th respectively in this field. Parkland appeared to be missing Sam Morgan, a low 4:20s guy who was a top 5 finisher in D11 last fall. Assuming he is healthy and returns to the line, they become a much more formidable team with a dynamite top 3. If history can tell us anything, it’s that Parkland will be in the mix for a state qualifying spot. There’s room to grow with sophomores at the 3-4-5 spots of this weekend’s race.
A few other notes from this one. Twin Valley had a strong showing with 4 guys within about 17 seconds of one another. Sophomore Griffin Schlegel led the way in 10th. I really liked TV’s potential to pack it up and make waves in District 3. It’s not always the most effective strategy (front runners are hugely important), but for Twin Valley it’s been effective. They utilized it perfectly to make states in 2013 and 2014 (and came very close to doing it again in 2016). This season, they are an early pick of mine to advance out of District 3.
North Penn had 3 top 12 runners in this field, including Brendan O’Toole at 3rd overall. The Knights didn’t have the 4-5 to seal the deal at this meet, but they could be looming somewhere on the roster. No Grace, Cataldi or Santiago. Noah Demis looks like he could have a big year as the sophomore was 12th in the field at 17:17 in what may have been his first ever varsity invitational performance.
It’s always tricky to read too much into races that aren’t 5ks. It gets even messier when you are trying to sort through 2 mile races run in four different sections. But, naturally, I’m a professional so I will persevere.
DT West had a strong showing in this meet. They took 2nd in the team competition which is an interesting one (4 races, one per each class), but not practical for my means as a ranker. But if you take a look through the results and do some makeshift combining of times, DT West comes out looking strong. Evan Kaiser was the only PA runner to crack 10 minutes while his teammate Tyler Rollins was right behind in 10 flat. DT West also posted sub 10:30 times from 5 other athletes, including a sophomore in Ryan Straub. So, as we kind of already knew, DT West has a nice bit of depth going for them.
Unionville’s young pieces handled themselves well on this stage as well. James Conway ran 10:06, tying him with Aidan Sauer for the 3rd best mark of the day, but doing it in a slightly slower race. Cole Walker was 3rd in his sophomore second with a time of 10:13 and freshman Ethan McIntyre added to the mix with one of the best marks in his class at 10:43. Jack Mangan posted a 10:20, meaning Unionville has a nice core. A #5 runner steps up and this team will be fun to watch.
GFS runners Zach Goldberg and Colin Riley posted two of the stronger performances we have seen thus far from independent league athletes. Goldberg was the fastest of the day in his league with a 10:11 while Riley ran 10:31.
Harry Groves Spiked Shoe
The boys from State College unleashed their full varsity squad at this meet and did not disappoint. The multiple time district champions posted a strong 65 points against last year’s state runner-ups from Carlisle and the Big Valley champs from Penns Valley who were 2nd and 3rd respectively. I was pretty impressed with SC’s run as I thought they would be good, but not quite this good in their opener.
Leading the way for the Little Lions was Mitchell Etter who, once again, I thought would be good but not this good. Etter dropped a big time 15:51 for the victory and was PA’s top dog by 25 seconds. For some prospective, Griffin Molino, the two time state champ and national qualifier, ran 15:43 on this course in 2014 while Nick Feffer, who placed 11th in the state last year, was the 2016 champ in this race with a 16:11. Helping bolster the SC pack was Owen Isham (top 50 finisher as just a sophomore) and Erik Boethius who is apparently a transfer from Sweden. Freshman Bennett Norton, who had a nice showing in his opening invite at Big Valley, also slipped into the top 25 scorers and was SC’s #5 performer.
I thought Carlisle would be able to bounce back from the loss of their top three guys, but I was expecting this team to look so deep. Jack Wisner led the way with a 4th place finish, but he was someone that we knew was strong. The Herd got 6 other top 35 finishers including a scoring five that all placed in the top 25 overall. Drew Barefield and Cade Rush, two more apparent transfers, jumped into the fold with sub 17 performances. I recognized Rush right away from his Waynesburg days (he was an excellent runner there and turned out to be a valuable piece in 5k #1), but didn’t recognize Barefield (who was 11th!). Of course, I’m just going off the comment section so maybe I’m wrong about the transfer thing in general. Regardless, these guys will be super valuable for a well-coached Carlisle squad. Casey Padgett, a sophomore who showed big upside with a sub 13 run at Enos, was the team’s #4 and I think has the potential to grow with more 5k experience. This Carlisle team is going to be fun to watch this year and is probably the early favorite to defend their district title out of D3.
I’m still buying up stock in Penns Valley. Although they were 3rd this weekend, they were still the top small school. I personally believe they ran better last weekend and they still posted just 101 points in a deep invitational. Chris Colwell had an excellent performance in 6th, placing tops of all A runners and Sam Gray had a nice run, but I think Bierly and Brendan Colwell can still be even better than they were today. Put Brendan up near Chris and this team is fighting with Carlisle for the silvers. Winchester Thurston had a solid opener, but I think Penns Valley can give them a real problem at states. They will need to lean on two talented freshman which can be a gamble in Hershey, but this a really strong top 5 that hasn’t even all clicked at the same time just yet.
Let’s talk individuals. Etter took the victory as mentioned, but PA’s #2 runner was AA standout Quinn Serfass. The Loyalsock runner finished 3rd overall in 16:16 and ahead of Jack Wisner. Serfass is part of a loaded contigent of AA runners with a realistic shot at the state championship and he made a nice statement here. For Wisner, this is one of his strongest 5k performances (16:19 may even be a PR), so a great run from him here as well. Owen Isham surprised me a bit as well with his 16:20. He’s clearly had a great summer and seems to be a gamer on the trails. I’d expect all those guys to be in or around the top 50 this coming week.
A few other names of note include Brett Pope of Bellefonte. He was sub 16 minutes at Lock Haven last weekend, mixing it up with the General McLane 1-2 punch and now backs it up with a top 10 finish in this invite. The Loyalsock 2-3 punch of Ryan Sullivan and Alejandro Quintana each placed in the top 20 and helped carry this small D4 school into the top group of teams. Quintana is just a sophomore. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but I don’t remember seeing the Loyalsock team clicking this early in past years. I feel like they are usually solid at districts, but certainly don’t remember reading their name at the top of results in September. Seeing Sullivan looking great and Quintana joining him is a great sign for a team that will want to be in the state qualifying mix out of what is sure to be a fun championship in Bloomsburg. Finally, a shout out to Zach Murray of Daniel Boone. He placed 7th overall in this field running a time of 16:38. Definitely a performance that caught my eye.
Matt Carroll of Palmyra picked up a nice win at this meet in 16:35. The sophomore defeated a pair of juniors in Ethan Knoebel of Southern Columbia and Evan Campbell of Oxford. Palmyra ran out of AAA last year which made it tough to get any state qualifiers in the best district of 2016 XC. Maybe Carroll can change that this season.
Oxford picked up a surprise team title by 1 point over Central York. Historically, Oxford hasn’t exactly been a powerhouse in D1, but this squad had three top 10 finishers and got the W. Their big 3 were a junior, a sophomore and a freshman as well. Maybe this is another program on the rise. Hopefully they get the chance to shine a little bit this season within their deep district.
The season opener for Pre-Season title favorite’s CR North was not exactly what some readers may have expected. Upper Dublin ended up pulling out the win in Large School competition over North. Of course, CRN was missing two very important pieces in Ryan Campbell and Ethan Koza (arguably their two best runners and two top 50 guys in the rankings). Put those guys into the mix and it’s likely a different story. Obviously, from a CRN perspective I’m not reading too much into it, but this is a nice result for Upper Dublin. My alma mater hasn’t been up in the top 10 mix in districts for a bit, but they showed off a nice pack at this meet. Ben Brugger led the way with a fantastic 15:54 run on this course, finishing one spot ahead of state medalist Sam Early.
Jenkintown rolled through the small school division with just 28 points. Jack Miller, a state medalist, was second overall in 15:40. His fellow medalist Josh Jackson was 3rd in small schools and the team had a nice level of depth even after the #5 guy. Jenkintown is a team with a ton of potential in the A final standings. They showed a great top 3 and nice depth in this meet and they bested their top competition, Chris Dock, with relative ease. However, that could be a different story if Dock gets back district champ Tim Kennel and improves the back half of their varsity in the next race.
Individually, junior Jeffrey Love rolled to the victory in an impressive time of 15:35. The George School athlete has been quite underrated on this site thus far (as pointed out by one of our readers) after a terrific sophomore campaign in the independent league last fall. Love is actually the #1 returner from the independent league and yet he didn’t make the top 50 rankings. A 15:35 and a victory against Jack Miller and the CRN boys should get him onto that elusive list.
Kevin Ehrgott of CRN was also a big surprise in this race. He ended up as North’s #1 runner and dropped a 15:44 in the process. For reference, 2014 state medalist Brian Arita of North ran 16:15 at this meet (for the win) back in 2014. On the flip side, Bensalem’s Brad Rivera and Kyle Francis ran 15:35 and 15:41 at this meet in 2011 and neither were in the medal mix by season’s end.
All the same, Ehrgott stepping up and challenging (beating) Early in this meet is a good sign for the defending state champs. Seems to me they will four guys with medal potential by season’s end for the second straight year. Then it will just be about finding that 5th man needed to win the title. Seems like a few guys, including varsity returner Matt Mullen, are interested in making that happen.