The final race of the day brought some of the day's best drama with a terrific race for the individual win, and a team race decided by the closest of margins.
Neshaminy's Rusty Kujdych hasn't backed down from competition all season. He said leading into Saturday's state meet that that competition would help prepare him for what he expected to be a battle on the Hershey hills.
It was exactly that.
The field went out in a big pack with the leaders not making any moves. At two miles, Kujdych and Butler's Noah Beveridge, the two pre-race favorites, opened up a gap on the field, with Bishop Shanahan's Josh Hoey looming a few strides back. Kujdych then made some space between him and Beveridge as they passed the sewage plant, heading into the back loop.
The District 1 champion had broke the District 7 champion, as Beveridge struggled up Poop Out Hill. Kujdych brought it home for the win and the state title in 15:47. Beveridge found an extra gear on the final stretch to take second in 15:57, holding off a very hard-charging pack.
North Allegheny's Daniel McGoey came across third in 15:58. The sophomore makes himself the state's top returner for next year. Mechanicsburg's Morgan Cupp was fourth in 15:58. Wallenpaupack's Tyler Wirth closed out his impressive first year of XC, placing fifth in 15:59. Seneca Valley's Seth Ketler ended up sixth in 16:00, while Hoey was seventh in 16:01 and Owen J. Roberts' Liam Conway came across eighth in 16:03.
With as close as the team race was expected to be heading into Saturday, perhaps a tie between the top two teams was only fitting.
LaSalle College and the defending AAA state champions from Council Rock North each finished with 130 point between their top five. On the sixth runner tiebreaker, LaSalle captured the win and the state title, its first in program history.
CR North had the low sticks with Ryan Campbell, Ethan Koza, and Sam Earley placing tenth, 13th, and 16th. But it was LaSalle that had the better depth, which proved to be the deciding factor on Saturday. Evan Addison placed 11th in 16:12 to lead the Explorers. Bradden Koors ran a tremendous race to take 37th in 16:39. Ethan Maher was 53rd in 16:52, immediately followed by his teammate Paul Ghantous in 54th with the same time.
LaSalle senior Sean Egan was the team's fifth runner, taking 72nd in 17:00. Vincent Twomey was the decisive sixth man, taking 82nd in 17:02. Jack Seiberlich also played a crucial role of displacer by finishing ahead of North's fifth runner.
The repeat didn't happen for CR North, but it was still a fantastic season for the District 1 runners-up. The District 1 champs from Downingtown West took third with 179 points behind state medalist Payton Sewell, who took 19th in 16:25.
Spring Ford placed fourth in the state (matching its District 1 finish) with 186 points. Jacob McKenna led the way for the Rams in 20th place. Bishop Shanahan also matched it's district finish, taking fifth with 203 points. Seneca Valley was the top WPIAL team in the field, taking sixth with 206 points.