This could be one of the closest year's yet as O'Hara chases a fourth consecutive title. And at least three guys have a shot a Brendan Benner's PCL record.
Tim O'Neil winning the PTFCA indoor 3000 championship in March, 2003.
This fall, the PCL league record at Belmont Plateau is going down! That's the word among many observers of Philadelphia Catholic League Boys cross country who think this year's individual race could be the most interesting and talent-filled in many years.
Former Footlocker finalist Brendan Benner (Bonner), set the bar at 16:04 with his brisk 1992 tour of the famed 3.1 course. There are three or more runners who could realistically break 16 minutes this year.
Steve Hallinan, Senior, O'Hara - Hallinan won consecutive league championships as a sophomore and a junior. Only one male runner has won three consecutive PCL individual XC titles: Tom Donnelley, LaSalle, now legendary head coach at Haverford College. Hallinan, who ran his fastest Belmont race (16:13) winning PCL Champs his sophomore year, had an outstanding spring track campaign, highlighted by his leg on O'Hara's National Championship 4 x 800.
Tim O'Neill, Senior, St. Joseph's Prep - While O'Neill hasn't won a PCL XC title, he has - by far - the fastest time on Belmont of any active PCL runner (16:07.) An injury during warm-ups before last year's championships negated a showdown between O'Neill and Hallinan and the two split victories in head-to-head track match-ups. O'Neill is no slouch on the track, either - a sub-4:20 miler who is also the defending Indoor State Champion in the 3000 meters.
Mike Tilger, Senior, Archbishop Carroll - Tilger busted out last track season posting a 4:20, 9:33 double at Outdoor PCL Champs. Noted for his aggressive racing style, Tilger is the only active PCL runner who can say he beat both O'Neill and Hallinan in the same race (Outdoor 3200.) Look for a huge jump from his 7th place finish from last year.
Joe Fedorowicz, Senior, LaSalle - Fedorowicz has been quietly on the heels of Hallinan and O'Neill since they were all sophomores. Last year, Fedorowicz ran a 16:23 at Belmont during the regular season and finished 2nd only to Hallinan at Champs.
Chris Ross, Senior, LaSalle - The 4th fastest returnee to the PCL may be LaSalle's most dangerous runner after solid track outings in the 800 and Mile.
Greg Thomas, Sophomore, O'Hara - Finished 8th at PCL Champs as a frosh. Ran 9:44 and 4:29 outdoors in track. Recently beat some quality runners in finishing 2nd to Hallinan at the Viking Invitational.
Mike Callanan, Senior, O'Hara - Finished 5th at the '02 PCL Champs.
Dennis O'Conner, Senior, Ryan - Finished 10th and 11th in the last 2 PCL Champs.
Paul Matuszak, Senior, Ryan - Finished 9th in last year's PCL Champs.
Dave McGuire, Senior, Bonner - Well-rounded track performer had the 7th fastest Belmont time in the PCL last year. A member of the defending Indoor State Champion 4 x 800.
Sean McGinley, Junior, LaSalle - Finished 11th at '02 PCL Champs.
Pat O'Neil, Senior, LaSalle - The 12th fastest returnee to the PCL also is the returnee #15 in place from last year's champs.
Mark Simpson, Senior, Bonner - The 7th fastest returnee to the PCL was a medalist in the Briarwood Championship race last year.
Jack Braconnier, Senior, O'Hara - The 800-400 runner was 12th at '02 PCL Champs.par
Joe Maglio, Senior, Ryan - Finished 16th at lquote 02 PCL Champs.
David Tierney, Senior, and Mark Burgmann, Juniors, both of Roman Catholic - The two front runners for a rapidly-improving Roman squad are returnees #14 and #17 from the '02 PCL Champs.
Alex Vaeth and Pat Regan, Sophomores, both of LaSalle - As freshmen they went 1-2 in the PCL freshmen race clocking times that would have put them All Catholic in the varsity race.
Bill Salamone, Junior, Wood - Followed an excellent freshman year with a quiet sophomore year. But beat O'Hara's Callanan and Braconnier in a solid race at the recent Viking Invitational.
Dan McDevitt and Max Massaro, Sophomores, both of Bonner - After excellent freshmen seasons, the Friars think these guys are going to have big seasons.
Kevin Brown, Senior, McDevitt - Returnee #20 from the '02 PCL Champs.
A team win at the PCL XC Champs by O'Hara would give the Lions their 10th consecutive league title in cross country, indoor, and outdoor track/field. That would be a league record for consecutive wins in the three seasons. It would also give them their fourth consecutive PCL XC title which would tie the league record. So this begs the obvious question: Are the Lions going home with double digit consecutive championships or is someone going to send them home with their tail between their legs? Here's how the teams look going into the season:
O'Hara - The Lions return 5 of their 8 varsity runners from last year's championship team, most noticeably losing Vince Gravelle (3rd and 5th in the last two PCL Champs) to graduation. O'Hara comes back strong up front with Hallinan, Callanan, Thomas and Braconnier. So the search for the 5th man is on as LaSalle appears to be breathing down their necks.
LaSalle - In a great position to win the PCL this fall, LaSalle comes back strong with 6 of their top 8 from last year's champs, only losing one of their top 5 scorers: Dave Chesney (19th in '02). Fedorowicz, and Ross provide a nice 1-2 punch while McGinley and O'Neill are potent middlemen. Kyle Rodden, Vaeth, Regan and Greg Potestio give them added and experienced depth. Their ability to break-up O'Hara's front runners and O'Hara's ability to have a 5th man come though could be the storyline of the '03 team championship.
Ryan - Ryan returns 3 solid runners to the league this year in O'Conner, Matuszak, and Maglio. The graduations of Shaun Campbell (14th in '02) and Bob Burke (24th in '02) hurt the defending Northern Division Champions. If Ryan's trio can come up with top 10 finishes and they can produce some added depth, then Ryan can make a run at the league crown.
Bonner - The Friars return a good mix of veteran runners and rapidly-improving young harriers. McGuire and Simpson will be expected to handle things up front while getting support from the McDevitt brothers, Massero, senior Luke Henderson as well as sophomores Kevin Wellman and Dan Reilly. Bonner might have what it takes to finish in the top 3 teams this season.
St. Joseph's Prep - The Prep has the big gun up front - O'Neill, who will be backed up this year by senior Will Connor, senior Joe McElwee, sophomore Kevin O'Hara and sophomore Peter Grant. St. Joe's always carries large teams. Whoever can step up out of those packs will make or break the Hawklets championship chances this fall.
Improving Teams To Watch:
Roman Catholic - Roman went from 10th in 2001 to 6th in 2002. Their team numbers are growing and they bring their top 6 back again this season. Leaders Tierney and Burgmann will need to convince teammates to follow them if they wish to break into the PCL Top 5.
Carroll - With Tilger leading up front, the Patriots recruited several members from their very improved track squad to the cross country team. They could have the guys to make a serious jump this year.