SRU Mack Cooper Invitational - Boys' Meet Preview
How The West Was Won was an acclaimed western film, shot in 1962 about a family that moves across the United States towards the Pacific Ocean (or so Wikipedia tells me), but it may as well have been about the top boys teams in western Pennsylvania this season. On Saturday, we'll get a sneak-peek at how things might turn out at the WPIAL Championships in less than two weeks. On the same Slippery Rock course that will play host to the WPIAL Championship, much of D7's best will face-off on Saturday.
PA#2 Noah Beveridge of Butler is in the midst of what's been an up-and-down senior season. It started off terrifically with a runway win at McDowell in a PR of 15:27. His team also beat North Allegheny for the first time in over a decade in a dual meet. But after that, Beveridge didn't finish at the Boardman Spartan Invitational after leading for over two miles.
But Beveridge will look to get back on track with a big performance at Mack Cooper on Saturday. He'll be the favorite on Saturday, though he can likely expect to be pushed by PA#5 Daniel McGoey of North Allegheny. McGoey is in the midst of a great sophomore campaign and we'll see how he stacks up with Beveridge.
South Fayette's Sam Snodgrass, the Red, White & Blue Classic winner, won the TSTCA crown last weekend and should be a contender on Saturday as well. The Seneca Valley duo of Sam Owori and Seth Ketler put together strong races to lead SV at Foundation. Expect those two, with teammate Connor Volk-Klos not far behind, to be in the mix in the top five.
Chartiers Valley's Czar Tarr, Fox Chapel's Christian Fitch, General McLane's Nate Price and Erik Andrzejewski, Mount Lebanon's Patrick Anderson and Peter Cosentino, Mars Area's Zachary Leachman, Peters Township's Zack Marmol are also in this deep field.
It's no secret how stacked the WPIAL is from a team perspective this season. Four teams from District 7-AAA sit in the top ten of our latest Flo50 state rankings. But the PIAA only grants three state qualifying spots to D7, meaning one of those top ten teams will be left at home.
To this point, we've seen a few of these teams square off in separate meets, but not yet have we seen all four in one meet...until Saturday. While a week a half still remains after Saturday until the district meet, it should give us a good idea of where these squads stack up heading into that meet (on the same course no less).
Mount Lebanon (PA#3) took the win at the Red, White & Blue Classic in early September, but it was Seneca Valley (PA#1) that got the advantage at the PIAA Foundation Invitational. PA#9 North Allegheny had its 15-year WPIAL title streak ended by SV last season, but NA can never be counted out, especially with a strong frontrunner in McGoey.
Meanwhile, Butler (PA#7) opened its season with a win at McDowell and finished just a few points behind NA at Boardman (OH) despite Beveridge's DNF. Many question marks loom over the WPIAL squads, but we should have some questions answered on the district course Saturday.
What can we expect? A close and heated race, that's for sure.
That's not the only good battle we can expect. The top two AA teams in the WPIAL will also square off on Saturday. New Castle, fresh off a win at the Midwestern Athletic Conference Championship on Tuesday, this team has been running well all season led by Huff and a solid pack. But Indiana Area has also looked strong, taking second at last month's PIAA Foundation Invitational.
The other AAA teams to watch out for include Fox Chapel Area, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, and Chartiers Valley. 1A stalwart Winchester Thurston looks like it will be without top runner and 1A individual favorite Tristan Forsythe, but they still have good depth and will be worth keeping an eye on. District 10's General McLane is another strong team in this field.