PTXC Blog: The Long Haul by Jayson Jackson (update Dec 6th with NXN/FL insights)

PTXC Blog: The Long Haul

Pre-Season | WK 1 Preview | WK 1 Review | WK 2 | WK 3 | WK 4 | WK 5 | WK 6 | WK 7-8 (conferences) | WK 9 (Districts) | WK 10 (States) | Post-Season (NXN and FL) |



The Long Haul-Regional Weekend

Four Things I Learned + A Little Extra
1. PA runners did more than just hold their own in NY. Here's a breakdown of Pennsylvania athletes' performances at Sunken Meadow (Foot Locker) and Bowdoin Park (Nike Cross Nationals).

Qualifiers by State
        Boys        Girls
PA     3                1
NY     1                3
NJ      2                2
CT     2                2
ME     0               2
MD     1                0
MA     1                0

If you scored the Foot Locker Northeast Regional by state, the boys win and girls finish 4th.

PA: 1,5,8,12,19=45
NJ: 2,3,13,15,20=53
CT: 4,9,14,16.23=66
NY: 7,21,22,46,49=145
MA: 10,18,40,60,63=191
MD: 6,27,41,52,54=180
ME: 11,33,65,75,125=309
NH: 17,32,67,146
RI: 66,94,95
DC: 28
VT: 116
DE: 138
NY: 1,4,9,14,23=51
NJ: 3,5,16,18,19=61
CT: 6,10,12,17,20=65
PA: 8,22,26,28,32=116
MA: 11,15,48,59,70=203
MD: 29,35,45,77,78=264
ME: 2,7,21,55
RI: 42,88,90,93
NH: 13

Nike Cross Nationals
1. Bishop Hendricken (Hawks), RI
2. Germantown Friends, PA
3. Don Bosco Prep (Ironman) (NJ)
4. Plainsboro, NJ
5. Bishop Guertin (Nashua), NH

1. Bishop Feehan (Rocks),  MA
2. La Salle, RI
3. Hillsborough, NJ
4. Emmaus (Suamme), PA
5. Randolph, NJ

Teams in the Top Five by State
NJ -4/10
PA -2/10
RI -2/10
MA -1/10
NH -1/10

2. Legendary teams are made in November and December during states, regionals, and nationals. Remember the 2006 Coatesville squad? Everyone knew they were good — but then they scored 26 points at states, which was otherworldy. And then they put an exclamation point on the season by winning the 2006 Nike Cross Nationals. All of the athletes who have qualified for the national meets have etched their name in PA XC lore; what they do over the next two weeks will only add to their legacy.

3. The future is bright. Not only did four underclassmen (FL:Ryan Gil and Sara Sargent; NXN:Wade Endress and Leah Anne Wirfel) finish in the top 10 at their respective regional meets but several underclassman turned in solid performances over the weekend, including a top-20 finish by an eighth grader.

Top 25 In Championship Races

Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional
Leah Anne Wirfel, JR- 9th
Susan Learn, JR -18th
Janie Augustyn, SO - 19th

Wade Endress, JR -  9th
Reece Ayers, JR - 13th

Foot Locker Northeast Regional
Sara Sargent, FR - 8th
Margaret Lawrence, JR - 22nd

Ryan Gil, JR - 8th
Jacob Kildoo, JR - 12th

Top 10* in Open/Age Group
Nike Northeast/New York Open Race
Violet Learn, 8th - 20th (*Went a little deeper since she is in 8th grade)

Foot Locker Freshman Championship
Ryan Smathers - 2nd
Mac Emery - 8th
Brendan Shearn - 10th

Stephanie Radzinski - 1st
Catie Skinner - 2nd
Brianna Hetrick - 7th

Foot Locker Sophomore Championship
Angel Piccirillo - 1st
Victoria Gerlach - 4th
Jazmin Booker - 6th

Logan Steiner - 1st

Foot Locker Junior Championships
Caitlin Perry - 3rd

Nathan Noll - 7th

4. Pursue your dreams and always believe in yourself. Germantown Friends has been chasing a berth to Nike Cross Nationals since the regional format was instituted in 2007 and they have never wavered from the feeling they were good enough to make it to Portland and race against the nation's best. The third time was the charm and now they are setting their sights on a top-ten finish. For more on Germantown Friends ( Leah Anne Wirfel said she was disappointed with her race at states, she was a pre-race favorite and last year's runnerup, but she finished 24th. Even though states did not play out as she had planned, she still knew and believed she was one of the top runners in state and region. And she decided to use the NXN Northeast Regional to let everyone else know as well. Her ninth place finish (first PA runner) gave her some redemption from her off day in Herhsey and will set the stage for a strong outdoor season.

5. Good luck to all of the athletes and coaches headed west over the next two weeks. Travel safe and Run Smart. All of PA is rooting for you and we know you will make us proud.

Spiked Shoe Awards
National Qualifiers
Brad Miles
Rad Gunzenhauser
Ryan Gil
Sara Sargent

Germantown Friends
    Gus McKenzie
    Tom Waterman
    David Waterman
    Evan Caldwell
    Ross Wistar
    Sam Butler
    Cameron Mactavish

Fast Times
Boys (Sub 16:30)
Brad Miles - 15:52 (Foot Locker Northeast)
Rad Gunzenhauser - 16:05 (Foot Locker Northeast)
Ryan Gil - 16:10 (Foot Locker Northeast)
Wade Endress - 16:15 (NXN Northeast)
Jacob Kildoo -16:20 (Foot Locker Northeast)
Gus McKenzie - 16:20 (NXN Northeast)
Reece Ayers - 16:22 (NXN Northeast)

Girls (Sub 19:30)
Sara Sargent - 18:42 (Foot Locker Northeast)
Leah Anne Wirfel - 19:20 (NXN Northeast)
Lindsay Kerr - 19:30 (NXN Northeast)



The Long Haul - What I Learned from States

By Jayson Jackson

1. Emmaus and Central Cambria won their third consecutive championships and they did it in different ways. Emmaus used the whole season to find their top seven and consistently improved from race to race. They used each race as a building block and learning experience for states. And by having their sophomores step up, they proved they will be in the mix again next year. Central Cambria dominated AAA and AA foes alike all season. They had the third-fastest team average on the day. Since they will lose only two runners from their top seven, I expect to see them in contention for the title again next year.

2. West Chester Henderson showed the mark of a champion. After the race, Will Kellar remarked that each individual felt they had a bad race and they were a little shocked when they learned they'd won. When I saw the West Chester Henderson guys racing, the key thing I noticed was that they were fighting for every spot, regardless of how good or bad they felt. As Kevin Kelly has said before, "People who don't run cross country, don't get it obviously. How much of a team sport it is." It's just like a relay race where you don't want to let your teammates down so you have to push through to the other side.

3. York Suburban was under the radar but in an unique way. York Suburban competed against a lot of AAA teams throughout the year and held their own every time. The first big AA race was districts, where they were victorious. As I said in my preview, the fact they were so battled tested meant they would have a great shot at the podium. And they delivered by taking the top spot.

4. More PA teams deserve national recognition. It always seems that PA doesn't get enough respect on the national level. I think the competition within PA is so strong that many teams do not travel outside of the state to race, eliminating chances to face ranked teams. I don't think schools should start drastically changing their meet schedule for this point, with two exceptions: plan to do Foot Locker and Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional. The only way we can show the rest of the country what PA is? By beating the ranked teams on the biggest stage.

5. PA has to have some of the best XC fans in the country. The fans were seven rows deep lining the finish and were packed all over the course. So many people were running from spot to spot to cheer, which was very cool to see given the difficulty of the start/finish location in regards to the rest of the course. Congrats to all the coaches and athletes who competed at the PIAA championships. I thought everyone laid it on the line in their final regular season race. And thank you to the fans who were there every step of the way for their teams.

Spiked Shoe Awards
Course Records

Brad Miles (North Penn), Rad Gunzenhauser (Mount Lebanon), Ryan Gil (North Allegheny), and Charles Lockwood (Dallastown) broke Ben Furcht's (Lower Merion) record of 16:09

Sara Sargent (Pennsbury) and Katie Kinkhead (CB East) broke Sophia Ziemian's (Lewisburg) record of 18:46


AA Girls: Central Cambria & Lindsay Kerr, Northwestern Lehigh
AAA Girls: Emmaus & Sara Sargent, Pennsbury
AA Boys: York Suburban & Stephen Welsh, Kutztown
AAA: West Chester Henderson & Brad Miles, North Penn

Fast Times (* Denotes Course Record)

Boys (Sub 16:25)
Brad Miles, North Penn - 15:47* (PIAA AAA Championships)
Rad Gunzenhauser, Mount Lebanon - 15:49 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Ryan Gil, North Allegheny - 16:03 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Charles Lockwood, Dallastown - 16:04 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Joe Kush, North Hills - 16:10 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Will Kellar, West Chester Henderson - 16:18 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Chris Campbell, Council Rock North - 16:21 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Logan Mohn Governor Mifflin - 16:22 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Reece Ayers, Tunkhannock -  16:23 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Chris Fischer, Altoona - 16:24 (PIAA AAA Championships)

Girls (Sub 19:25)
Sara Sargent, Pennsbury - 18:35* (PIAA AAA Championships)
Katie Kinkhead, CB East - 18:44 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Leigha Anderson, Cumberland Valley - 18:56 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Lindsay Kerr, Northwestern Lehigh - 18:56 (PIAA AA Championships)
Jane Augustyn, West Chester Henderson - 18:58 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Margo Malone, North Hills - 19:01 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Elaina Balouris, Hampton - 19:04 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Amber Valimont, Hempfield Area - 19:08 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Meghan McGovern, North Penn - 19:10 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Kayleigh Perry, Eastern Lebanon County - 19:12 (PIAA AA Championships)
Jess Cygan, Liberty - 19:20 (PIAA AAA Championships)
Tess Meehan, Haverford Township - 19:21 (PIAA AAA Championships)




Review of Districts Week

By Jayson Jackson

5 Things I Learned
1. Emmaus and West Chester Henderson continue to improve which is a scary fact for their competition. Both teams dominated their district meet in their final preparation for Hershey. The number three is on both their minds as Emmaus tries to win their third consecutive title and West Chester Henderson goes after number three for the decade.

2. Academy of Notre Dame and Germantown Friends finished their regular season with impressive victories at the PA Independent Schools Championships. Both schools tallied 28 points on the day to bring home top honors. Gus Mckenzie (Germantown Friends) and Maria Seykora (Academy of Notre Dame) made sure all of the first place hardware went to their respective schools by winning individual titles.

3. District 6 AA Girls is loaded. Not only do they have the #1 team in the PIAA (AA), but they arguably have the two best runners in Leah Anne Wirfel and Angel Piccirillo. Wirfel has won all of her meets this year while Piccirillo has lost once (to Wirfel at Districts). Piccirillo is the only runner to finish within 20 seconds of Wirfel all season.

4. The boys from Quaker Valley are on a mission. Last week I said the AA State title would be between them and Fairview. Well they appeared to have turned it up a notch as they scored 41 at the WPIAL Championships. Last year's runnerup finish by 2 points is still fueling the fire that is burning brighter and brighter each week.

5. The season goes way too fast. I can hardly believe States are this weekend. It feels as if the season is just getting started. In a way I guess it is, as we move into the championships section of the year. Good Luck to all the teams and individuals who qualified to Hershey!

Spiked Shoe Awards

Double Champs (Boys and Girls)
Holy Redeemer - District 2
Quaker Valley - District 7
Elk County Catholic - District 9

Fast Times from Districts Week (Sub:16:10 and 19:10)

Girls (Sub 19:10)
Sara Sargent, Pennsbury - 17:39 (District 1 AAA)
Meghan McGovern, North Penn - 17:51 (District 1 AAA)
Katie Kinkhead, Central Bucks East - 18:24 (District 1 AAA)
Jenna Gigliotti, Norwin - 18:26 (District 7 AAA)
Janie Augustyn, West Chester Henderson - 18:29 (District 1 AAA)
Margo Malone, North Hills - 18:36 (District 7 AAA)
Elaina Balouris, Hampton - 18:37 (District 7 AAA)
Leah Anne Wirfel, Forest Hills - 18:42 (District 6 AA)
Elizabeth Simpson, Boyertown - 18:44 (District 1 AAA)
Amy Darlington, Liberty - 18:46 (District 11 AAA)
Angelica Peck, Blackhawk - 18:46 (District 7 AAA)
Shannon Malone, North Hills - 18:50 (District 7 AAA)
Kayla Lampe, Bishop Shanahan - 18:51 (District 1 AAA)
Jess Cygan, Liberty - 18:54 (District 11 AAA)
Marissa Polk, Oakland Catholic - 18:55 (District 7 AAA)
Anne Areias, William Tennent - 18:56 (District 1 AAA)
Hannah Fuller, Nazreth - 18:56 (District 11 AAA)
Angel Piccirillo, Homer-Center - 18:58 (District 6 AA)
Kayla Keddal, Peters Township - 18:59 (District 7 AAA)
Lindsay Kerr, Northwestern Lehigh - 19:02 (District 11 AA)
Audrey Malloy, Upper Perkiomen - 19:03 (District 1 AAA)
Rebecca Penneau, Blackhawk - 19:04 (District 7 AAA)
Markea Dickinson, West Chester Rustin - 19:08 (District 1 AAA)
Maddie Klebe, Conestoga - 19:08 (District 1 AAA)
Grace Chang, Penncrest - 19:08 (District 1 AAA)
Tori Perri, Mount Saint Joseph Academy - 19:09 (District 1 AAA)
Amber Valimont, Hempfield Area - 19:09 (District 7 AAA)
Brianna Faust, Emmaus - 19:10 (District 11 AAA)
Maria Stickley, Bishop Shanahan - 19:10 (District 1 AAA)

Boys (Sub 16:10)
Ryan Gil, North Allegheny - 15:30 (District 7 AAA)
Brad Miles, North Penn - 15:35 (District 1 AAA)
Rad Gunzenhauser, Mount Lebanon - 15:43 (District 7 AAA)
Sam Bernitt, North Penn - 15:46 (District 1 AAA)
Will Kellar, West Chester Henderson - 15:48 (District 1 AAA)
Joe Kush, North Hills  - 15:48 (District 7 AAA)
Vince Perozze, Perkiomen Valley - 15:55 (District 1 AAA)
Chris Campbell, Council Rock North - 15:59 (District 1 AAA)
Nick Scarpello, Central Bucks West - 16:00 (District 1 AAA)
Juris Silenieks, North Hills - 16:01 (District 7 AAA)
Zach Hebda, North Hills - 16:01 (District 7 AAA)
Tom Mallon, Central Bucks South - 16:03 (District 1 AAA)
Wade Endress, Altoona - 16:06 (District 6 AAA)
Quinn Devlin, Downingtown West - 16:08 (District 1 AAA)
Ed Donnelly, Haverford Township - 16:08 (District 1 AAA)




Review of Leagues and Conference Championship Week

By Jayson Jackson


5 Things I learned

1. Emmaus is still the team to beat in Girl's AAA. After seeing them at Carlisle, it only seemed as if it was a matter of time before they put everything together. Based on their performance at the Lehigh Valley Conference Championship, things are coming together very nicely as the season winds down.


2. After Unionville won the Foundation Meet, everyone knew they were good. But the question was how good will they be when Matt Fischer returns. We got a glimpse in Delaware and at the Ches-Mont Championships, and it is obivous they are going make things interesting over the next month.


3. When I was in high school, North Allegheny dominated the WPIAL. They wore hats to meets that read "dyNAsty" and backed it up on the course. After seeing them race twice this season (Carlise and Pittsburgh Central) and seeing their results from Tri-States, I know the "dyNAsty" is alive and well and the Boys WPIAL Title still runs through Wexford.


4. I have seen Central Cambria race a lot over the last few years and this team might be their best one yet. They are loaded from 1-7 (and beyond). Coach Randy Wilson continues to field top notch teams. Girl's AA is once again a deep field and Central Cambria will need to continue their dominating performances to keep the title in Ebensburg.


5. Fairview and Quaker Valley is going to be an epic battle for the boy's AA championship in two weeks. Both teams have been running strong all season and are evenly matched. He who weathers the storm on "The Hills" (Aloha and Poop out) will hoist the hardware in the end.


Spiked Shoe Awards



La Salle Boys Winning their 7th consecutive PCL Championship

Allderdice Boys winning their 15th straight District 8 Title

Allderdice Girls securing the District 8 title for the 11th time in a row

St Basil's Academy won their 6th consecutive AACA Championships

Malvern Boys win the 7th consecutive Inter-Ac Championship

Notre Dame girls win their 5th straight Inter-Ac Championship


Fast Times (Sub:16:10 and 19:10)

With two weeks left in the PIAA season and a month to Foot Lockers and the NXN Northeast Regional, the runners are sharpening up for the stretch run. All times are from the past ten days.


Boys (Sub 16:10) SINCE OCT 16

Brad Miles, North penn - 15:24 SOL Continental Conference

Vince Perozze, Perkiomen Valley - 15:31 Pioner Athletic Conference Championships

Sam Bernitt, North penn - 15:34 SOL Continental Conference

Ryan Gil, North Allegheny - 15:38 Tri States Coaches Association

Alex Beardsley, North East - 15:44 D10 Region 4 Championships

Nick Scarpello, CB West - 15:45 SOL Continental Conference

Charles Lockwood, Dallastown - 15:48 YAIAA Championships

Chris Campbell, Council Rock North - 15:50 SOL National Conference

Rad Gunzenhauser, Mount Lebanon - 15:50 Tri States Coaches Association

Scott Armstrong, Perkiomen Valley - 15:52 Pioner Athletic Conference Championships

Jon Shope, Phil-Mont Christian - 15:54 Bicentennial Athletic League

Tom Mallon, CB South - 15:58 SOL Continental Conference

Mike Mahoney, Council Rock North - 15:59 SOL National Conference

Gus Mckenzie, Germantown Firends - 15:59 Friends School League Championship

Brett Kelly, Boyertown - 16:01 Pioner Athletic Conference Championships

Joe Kush, North Hills - 16:02 Tri States Coaches Association

Matt Fischer, Unionville - 16:04 Joe O'Neill Invitational

Glen Burkhardt, Unionville - 16:04 Joe O'Neill Invitational

Will Kellar, Henderson - 16:06 Ches-Mont Championships

Achraf Khattabi, Henderson - 16:10 Ches-Mont Championships


Girls (Sub 19:10) SINCE OCT 16

Megahn McGovern, North Penn - 17:39 SOL Continental Conference

Sara Sargent, Pennsbury - 17:57 SOL National Conference

Elizabeth Simpson, Boyertown - 18:08 Pioner Athletic Conference Championships

Katie Kinkhead, CB East - 18:09 SOL Continental Conference

Leah Anne Wirfel, Forest Hills - 18:13 Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference

Chrissy Cohick, North penn-18:36 SOL Continental Conference

Tori Perri, Mount St. Joseph - 18:40 AACA Championships

Lindsay Rheiner, Council Rock North - 18:42 SOL National Conference

Anne Areias, William Tennent - 18:45 SOL National Conference

Jenny Guidera, CB East - 18:46 SOL Continental Conference

Elaina Balouris, Hampton - 18:47 Tri States Coaches Association

Janie Augustyn, Henderson - 18:48 Ches-Mont Championships

Amy Darlington, Liberty - 18:50 Lehigh Valley Conference

Audrey Malloy, Upper Perkiomen - 18:51 Pioner Athletic Conference Championships

Kayleigh Perry, Eastern Lebanon County - 18:52 Lebanon-Lancaster League

Brianna Faust, Emmaus - 18:54 Lehigh Valley Conference

Margo Malone, North Hills - 18:54 Tri States Coaches Association

Hannah Fuller, Nazareth - 18:55 Lehigh Valley Conference

Martina Drew, Neshaminy - 18:58 SOL National Conference

Morgan Perry, Pennsbury - 18:59 SOL National Conference

Kathleen Insetter, Unionville - 19:01 Joe O'Neill Invitational

Olivia Powell, Pottsgrove - 19:03 Pioner Athletic Conference Championships

Kayla Lampe, Bishop Shanahan - 19:05 Ches-Mont Championships

Emily Cameron, Warwick - 19:06 Lebanon-Lancaster League

Marissa Polk, Oakland Catholic - 19:08 Tri States Coaches Association

Megan Rhyner, Quakertown - 19:08 SOL Continental Conference

Allison Mannon, Warwick - 19:09 Lebanon-Lancaster League



Week Six - Preview of Manhattan Invitational | Review of Manhattan Invitational


Review of the Manhattan Invitational

By Jayson Jackson

The Manhattan Invitational lived up to its billing as the Beast of the East, and several PA teams and athletes took advantage of being on the big stage. North Penn's Brad Miles (12:27.5) was runner-up in the Boys Eastern States race, finishing behind US #12 Jonathan Vitez (12:25.6). Miles closed hard on Vitez down the stretch, but just didn't have enough real estate to get the win. As is usually the case, Sam Bernitt (12:33.3) was not far behind his teammate Miles, finishing with the 4th fastest time on the day. US #14/PA #1 Germantown Friends was the top PA team in 4th place, while PA #2 West Chester Henderson finished 5th. New US #3 Christian Brothers Academy (116) and US #5 Fayetteville-Manlius (125) were able to upset then-US #4 Haddonfield (137) in the team competition. Haddionfield dropped to #7 in the MileSplit Fab-15 rankings. North Penn was able to rally behind Miles and Bernitt to crack the top ten and finish ninth. One thing I noted about West Chester Henderson's performance was that this isn't the first time Coach Kevin Kelly opened up the season in a big way with the Manhattan Invitational. Two years ago Manhattan was Chris Aldrich's first major race of the season and their plan went smoothly from there, so expect West Chester Henderson to be ready to roll come November. Tyler Mueller from the Hill School won the boys Varsity G race for the only individual PA boys win on the day.

Pennsbury's Sara Sargent continues to have big race after big race. Her time of 14:41.9 was the sixth fastest time on the day as she ran unchallenged throughout the race to win by 25 seconds. Teammate Ann Herman finished 6th, helping Pennsbury to the title in the Varisty F race. Pennsbury has been impressive since the opening weekend of the season and is one of the few teams in the state with the runners upfront to match Liberty. Their Manhattan experience should aid them when they return to Hershey in less than a month. The girls from North Penn are not going to just hand the District 1 title to Pennsbury as they continue to improve each week. They finished 3rd in the Varsity C race behind Meghan McGovern's win in 14:50. North Penn's team average was 15:46 to Pennsbury's 15:52 setting the stage for the District Championship.



Preview of the Manhattan Invitational

By Jayson Jackson

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five rapped, "New York, New York Big City of Dreams..." and that holds true for several PA teams as they head to the Bronx for the Manhattan Invitational. PA is taking their XC show on the road to the famed Van Cortlandt Park, "America's Cross Country Mecca," as described by Marc Bloom. Van Cortlandt will host 40 races on Saturday, yes 40, with the schedule beginning at 9:05 a.m. and ending after 4 p.m. The lettered races will set the stage for the marquee races of the day, the Eastern States Championships.

PA is sending a strong contingent of teams to the meet, 5 boys teams in the Eastern States Championship, and 3 girls teams and one team of boys in the lettered races. #4 Pennsbury (Race F) and #9 North Penn (Race C) lead the way in the lettered races with West Chester Henderson (Race E) girls also competing. Pennsbury is coming off of a 3rd place finish at the Paul Short Run. Their 1-2 punch of Sara Sargent and Ann Herman has led the way all season and will have to continue that trend on Saturday to contend for the win in Race F and have one of the top team averages on the day. With so many balanced races, the best way for teams to compare themselves across the board is by their team average. Pennsbury will gain valuable experience as a team aiding their push to Hershey.
- Hide quoted text -

North Penn got back to their winning ways at the Salesianum Invitational as they held off West Springfield (VA) by four points. North Penn is flying under the radar right now as they appear to finally be at full strength. Keep in mind they were ranked #2 a few weeks ago. They were able to battle through the adversity they faced and come out stronger as a team which bodes well for their chances at Manhattan. Look for them to build off last weekend's performance and contend for the win in Race C.

PA #1/ US #14 Germantown Friends, #2 West Chester Henderson, #3 La Salle, #10 North Penn, and Father Judge will take on a loaded field in the Boys Eastern States race. The field is lead by US #4 Haddonfield (NJ). This will be the third time Germantown Friends has faced Haddonfield, suffering narrow losses both times (2 & 3 points). Well I think the third time will be the charm as Germantown Friends has been marching through the season on a mission. They are no strangers to the big stage and I fully expect them to shine on Saturday. For as good as they are, they still seem to improve each meet. I think their continued improvement will lead to a great performance on Saturday.

West Chester Henderson will debut this weekend as well and everyone is wondering what exactly does coach Kevin Kelly have up his sleeve. Everyone knows they are good, but the big question is, "How good?" On Saturday we will find out. They have been ranked #1 or #2 in PA all season and the reason they dropped to number 2 was not because of something they did or didn't do, but it was more about how strong Germantown Friends has been running. West Chester Henderson has been one of the best teams of this decade and they will look to add to that legacy as they take on the best in the east on Saturday. It will be an epic battle with Germantown Friends for PA supremacy. Last year's state runner-up Will Kellar will be in the running for the individual title as well. I think both teams will take down Haddonfield as they battle for the title.

Not far behind Germantown Friends and West Chester Henderson is La Salle. The thing about La Salle is they are not flashy, but they get the job done week after week. They don't have a front runner, but they have a pack that is every coach's dream. I was very impressed when I saw them race at Carlisle because at one point I was wondering where the La Salle guys were in the field. Then all of a sudden I saw one guy and it and less than 30 seconds later I had seen all seven.  When you can open and shut the door that quickly, you are very tough to beat which is why they are ranked #3 and finished 2nd at states last year. I think they will surprise some people and earn some regional recognition on Saturday as they keep their eyes on moving up one spot in Hershey.

To me, North Penn is the wildcard in the field. Brad Miles and Sam Bernitt have been great for them up front all season and should have big races on Saturday. Miles took off last weekend and Bernitt got the win in his abscence. North Penn is the two-time defending state champs so they know what to do in the big races. While they will not contend for the team title they will make their presecene felt. Jonathan Vitez (Haddonfield, NJ) is the pre-race favorite for the individual title as he is currently #12 in the MileSplit Sweet 16 Individual Rankings. North Penn went after NXN last year and missed out, this year I think they will take a more individual focus, i.e. Foot Locker Nationals. Miles and Bernitt will take big steps in that direction on Saturday when they battle Vitez. Miles has been tough ever since he burst on the scene a few years ago. Look for him to contend for the win and "upset" Vitez with Bernitt not too far behind. Although to everyone in PA, it will not be an upset, because we know how good Miles is.

I highly recommend attending if you have the chance becuase there will be plenty of amazing running all day. MileSplit has all the information you could possibly want about the race and if they are missing something the meet website will have it. Many of PA's best are heading north to the Five Boroughs this weekend and we wish them well as they battle the best in east and represent PA proudly. Can you Dig it?




Week Five - Welcome to the Pop-o-Matic


Welcome to the Pop-o-Matic

Does everyone remember the board game Trouble? It had the "Pop-o-Matic" dice container where the player rolls by pressing down on the bubble, which flexes the sheet and causes the dice to tumble on its rebound. Well right now, the PTXC Rankings seem to be entering the "Pop-o-Matic" each weekend.

Another weekend of shakeups kicked off on Thursday when the Norwin girls won big at the Westmoreland County Meet, scoring 32 points. But Norwin wasn't done for the weekend as they won the Sharpsville Blue Devil Invite as well, completing a very tough double considering the difficulty of the course at Kiski Prep, the site of the Westmoreland County Meet. The action continued on Friday and it is obvious that Coach Wessner and #5 Emmaus are getting very close to figuring out their top seven. They took another step in the right direction at the Paul Short Run where they finished in a very familar spot, atop the podium. The Faust Triplets did what they have been doing for the last 4 years and the 4th and 5th runners had great races enabling them to get the win over a loaded field. #10 Cumberland Valley, behind Leigha Anderson's 3rd place, made the biggest jump on the day as they finished second, ahead of #4 Pennsbury (3rd) and #3 Notre Dame (4th). After the girls from North Allegheny finished third at Carlisle, they vaulted to 6th in the rankings. They were able to build on their Carlisle performance to win the Pittsburgh Central Catholic Invitational over Bethel Park and North Hills. The #8-tie North Penn girls got back on track with a close win at the Salesianum Invitational, while their counterparts at #8, Downingtown East, finished 2nd at the Souderton Invitational. Liberty and Central Cambria had the weekend off. In AA, #5 AA Northeast finished second behind Norwin, but ahead of #3 AA West Middlesex who finished 4th.

Two of the same storylines carried over to the boys, where the rankings got mixed up and #8 Cumberland Valley delivered a big performance. At the Paul Short Run, Cumberland valley's boys won the race using a 33-second compression. Vince Perozze continued his winning ways at Paul Short as he broke the tape in 15:33, but his team, #9 Perkiomen Valley, finished 5th in the Brown Race. Several of the top boys teams, #1 Germantown Friends, #2 West Chester Henderson, and #3 La Salle, were off as they gear up for the Manhattan Invitational on October 10th where they will face the top teams from New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and Rhode Island in the Eastern States Championship. #10 North Penn who was 4th at Salesianum without Brad Miles and Father Judge are in the race as well. The big race was at the Pittsburgh Central Catholic Invitational between #6 North Allegheny, #4 Baldwin, and #2 AA Quaker Valley. North Allegheny was able to ride Ryan Gil's second-place finish to a win over Baldwin and Quaker Valley, setting the stage for another close race at the WPIAL Championship. Quaker Valley continues to impress as they not only want to get to the podium again this year, but improve their view by taking top honors after finishing second a year ago. #3 AA Fairview had another strong race at they won at the Sharpsville Invitational. They are rounding to great form as we enter the late stages of the season.

The shifting in the rankings is fun and keeps everything interesting. Plus it drives home how many great teams we have in PA where any team has a legitimate shot at winning. The downside of that is PA gets overlooked on the national level because of all the flip-flopping from week to week. That's why it's great when teams represent PA well when they compete out-of-state and make everyone take notice of just how strong the state's XC really is.


Week Four - A Closer Look at Saturday


A Closer Look at Saturday

The big meets in PA, 17th Carlisle Invitational and The Foundation XC meet, lived up to their billing and couple of top teams, Germantown Friends School and Baldwin, traveled out of state and showed just how strong PA XC is. Germantown Friends traveled to the Bowdoin XC Classic in Wappinger Falls, NY. They finished second behind US #4 Haddonfield Memorial (NJ). The squad from Germantown is earning some national recognition for their efforts, a #14 ranking in the next poll, plus they gained some valuable experience on the NXN Regional Northeast Regional course.

Germantown Friends is one of the top teams in the state and it always strengthens PA's XC image when teams travel out of state and perform so well. With the beginning of the NXN Regionals a few years ago, out-of-state competitions are not needed as much to impress voters, but it's not discouraged either because you might find yourself on the outside looking in and need an at-large bid. Germantown Friends is building a fine resume as they continue to prepare for NXN.

Baldwin's trip to Virginia was successful as well. They were in the Invitational section at Marymont and finished second to Blacksburg (VA) by 21 points. Baldwin is heading in the right direction as they continue to navigate their way through the juggernaut of the WPIAL. Currently, they are the top ranked team from the WPIAL in the PTXC Top Ten at #5, but #8-tie North Allegheny's strong showing at Carlisle made it clear they are up to the task of defending their title from a year ago. Last year, North Allegheny impressed everyone with a big victory over North Penn at Carlisle, this year they were a close 3rd to #2 La Salle and #3 Altoona as they beat #6 Cumberland Valley, #7 North Penn, and effectively broke the tie with #8 Hatboro-Horsham. Staying with Carlisle for a little bit, here are a few key facts to note:

-Brad Miles is on top of his game as he improved 42 seconds from last year to run 15:20 and get the win. To put that time in perspective, over the last 7 years it is the second fastest winning time only behind Coatesville's Kyle Dawson's 15:17 in 2006 and it is 2 seconds faster than Manheim Township's Craig Miller's winning run in 2005 of 15:22. That's pretty good company to be sandwiched between. Miles also lead 7 others under 16 minutes on the day, the most in the last 7 years.

-Cumberland Valley's Leigha Anderson winning time of 18:23 put her in some special company as well. Anderson's time ranks behind current NY star, Aisling Cuff (18:05) who ran 17:38 to win the Bowdoin XC Classic this weekend and former PA stars Big Spring's Lara Crofford (18:16), Boiling Springs' Kara Millhouse (18:18), and Northern York's Rachel Wong (18:18).

-La Salle used a 29-second compression to secure the victory. Their team pack is tough to beat and they are way ahead of where they were last year at this point, when they finished 9th and averaged 17:06, opposed to the 16:20 this year.

-Academy of Notre Dame beat Emmaus on the tiebreaker to earn another victory over top PIAA competition. Notre Dame is well on their way to another PA Independent Schools title. And I just have the feeling Emmaus' Dan Wessner is the lab trying to find the right mix for his top-7. He is getting close, so don't count them out just yet for a spot on the podium in Hershey.

The Foundation Meet was exciting as well. It would have been great if either Carlisle or Foundation was on Friday so I could have seen them both because both of the fields were loaded. The first thing I can say about the Foundation Meet is that Liberty's Jess Cygan was simply Jess Cygan. This was her fifth time racing on the Parkview course. What's her lowest finish in those 5 races? Second. Who is the only athlete to beat her there? Shippensburg's Neely Spence at the 2007 PIAA Championships. Pretty rarified company if you ask me. She is like the Ty Moore of PA XC.  (If you need to know who Ty Moore is ask any wrestler in your HS or a runner from North Allegheny, if they don't know then shame on them.) Her 19:14 puts her on par with where she was in year's past (19:31-2008; 19:17-2007), but this year her teammate, Amy Darlington, was not too far behind her as she finished second, helping Liberty hold off Pennsbury for the team title in the Girls' Gold Race, 94-98. Downingtown East was third with 156. Central Cambria dominated the Girls' Blue Race as they scored 92 to outdistance Northwestern Lehigh's 145. Central Cambria seems poised to keep the title in Ebensburg, since their team average of 20:40 was only topped by Liberty and Pennsbury in the Gold Race. Leah Anne Wirfel won the Blue Race individual title with a 19:06, the fastest time on the day. On the boy's side, Fariveiw continued their strong season by winning the Boys' Blue race. They seem to get stronger each week from when When I saw them race at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational. Unionville won the Boys' Gold Race, but the way they did it was what was so noteworthy. They had a 36-second compression and averaged 17:14 over the course. A 17:14 average would have been good enough for 5th place at last year's state meet. Oh, and did I mention they did this without their #1 runner? Once their full squad is intact they will be tough beat, considering that they are already tough to beat already without him. The season just keeps getting better and better.



Week Three - First Big Showdown Weekend


First Big Showdown Weekend

As fans we are very lucky to have so many great teams and individual runners in PA, it allows for there always to be a great weekend invite to go to. Each weekend the competition keeps get better as the athletes continue to get stronger and the nerves settle down. Team Rankings are in for week one and after two weekends of invites, things are becoming a little clearer. Or so we thought. Last Saturday was the first of many big showdown weekends.

The Altoona XC Invitational used a great atmosphere and fast racing to give all in attendance a real treat. The Altoona boys have dominated every race they have entered. They have been talking about the Carlisle Invite about being their first major test since the start of the season. It will be an excellent "mid-term" exam for a team who has aced all of its quizzes up to this point. The way they are racing right now reminds me of 2006 Nike Cross Nationals Champions, Coatesville, strong front running and tight pack with all 7 guys focused on a common goal. I am not saying they are as good as the National Champs, but they are implementing a well-proven seasoned plan. I knew Central Cambria was going to be good this year, but I was pleased to fine they are better than I thought. To be honest, it's not that far-fetched of an idea, they return 6 of 7 from their state championship team and have one of the best coaches in the state, Randy Wilson, leading them. Their #1 runner, Kelsey Seymour, took a nasty fall and they didn't miss a beat, Alyssa Brandis stepped up and got the win. Seymour's fall dropped her back into the 80s and she worked her way back to 12th place. And they beat the defending champs, George Mason, along with a several AAA teams too. I also was glad to hear that they are thinking about running Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional. Hopefully they will be one of the many strong teams PA sends to the meet.

Last year at the Briarwood Invitational, West Windsor Plainsboro (NJ) beat the eventual boys state champ, North Penn, 68-69, with La Salle scoring 106 for third. West Windsor Plainsboro went on to finish 5th at Nike Cross Nationals in 2008. Fast forward to this year and the team from New Jersey was at it again, but instead of North Penn, they beat PA #2 La Salle 63-69. Joe Rosa broke the course record he set last year with a 15:19. Rosa is currently 6th on the MileSplit Sweet 16 Individual Rankings. So what's to make of this? Everyone in PA knows La Salle is legit. They return a strong pack from their runnerup finish at states a year ago.  West Windsor Plainsboro is solid too. And truth be told these two teams are very evenly matched and it illustrates how good both programs are. Both will be in contention for state titles and national berths to Nike Cross Nationals. I think West Windsor Plainsboro is one of the the top 5 teams in the Northeast Region and La Salle is right there with them. Briarwood is tough course and La Salle and West Windsor Plainsboro  wll both benefit from their tight team battle as the season continues. Next up for La Salle is the Carlisle Invite where they will face Altoona and many other top teams from around the state. Briarwood also delivered the first major upset of the season. PA #9/AA #2 Academy of Notre Dame scored 78 points to finish 3rd behind Arlington, NY (50) and Tatnall, DE (53). Going into the meet Tatnall was ranked 10th in the MileSplit Fab 15 National Rankings,afterwards the rankings changed and Arlington was ranked 15th in the MileSplit rankings while Tatnall was dropped. Pretty impressive that Notre Dame, a AA school, was able to stay close with two of the top teams in the country and upend PA #2 North Penn in the process. Notre Dame's strong performance sets the stage for another great season where they will go after another PA Independent Schools state title. But before we get to that race, they are going to try to topple a few more teams from the PIAA. Notre Dame's top five finished 7-13-14-21-23 and they had a 50-second compression which is a tough combo to beat. It took two nationally ranked teams to keep them from the top of the podium. One more team to add to the pressure cooker next weekend, better known as the Carlisle Invite.

Kayleigh Perry and Vince Perozze keep turning in stellar performances as they, along with many others, have their eyes set on the individual crown at states. I wonder if Perozze can pull off the "Boyertown Double" and follow in the footsteps of his former teammate, Jimmy Tarsnane, and get the win. The state is loaded with many top individuals, so he will have his hands full but is off to great start this year as he has won both invites his team has entered. Perozze finished 9th last year and is one of 5 underclassmen who return from the top ten. Perry is looking to make a similar jump in the individual standings at states following last year's 3rd place finish. Perry was the only runner to crack 20 minutes at the Lebanon County Meet, adding another win to her belt in the process.  8 of the top 10 AA girls return this year, so Perry wll definitely have her work cut out for her. But she seems to be up to the task as she continues to run very strong.


Week Two - Friday Night Lights | 'What does XC mean to you' video | Wet, wild and surprisingly fast for some | "It's a Great Day for Cross Country!" Video


"It's a Great Day for Cross Country!"

In "Friday Night Lights", Rebecca, Artie, Luke, Katie, and Lori discussed what high school cross country meant to them. In the next installment, they share some of their fondest memories that helped make the sport so special. High school cross country creates many special bonds, ones that last a lifetime. It goes beyond the races and awards won, and it's more about the shared experiences, new friendships, and fun times with teammates.

Once again, a big thanks to Luke, Katie, Artie, Rebecca, and Lori for sharing their fondest memories about high school cross country. Feel free to add some of yours to the comment section below. "It's a Great Day for Cross Country!" VIDEO


What does cross country mean to you? Jayson Jackson talks with Rebecca Donaghue, Katie Kisenwether, Artie Gilkes, Lori Shontz and Luke Watson


Week Two Review - Wet, wild and surprisingly fast for some

There's an old Nike poster with a picture of Bob Kennedy stretching in the rain with the caption, "Somewhere there is a nice, sunny place with warm breezes and shady palms where all the second-place guys train." After the results this weekend, it was obvious anyone who laced up a pair of spikes across the state doesn't train there either. The rainy weather did not slow the runners down this weekend, providing fans with many solid performances across the state. Athletes brought their 'A' games as we entered second week of invites.

At the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, the State College girls looked to be at full strength as they scored 30 points to dominate the field. Chloe Schmidt notched the win as she lead the race wire-to-wire. State College put its top 6 within the first twelve finishers, while their 7th runner was 17th. And they added four more runners from places 20-30. On the boys side, the New Yorkers stole the show as Bayport-Blue Point scored a narrow victory over Fairview and State College. It was a tight battle the entire race, but in the end the front-running of Bayport-Blue Point was enough to earn the win. Also of note: The girls and boys teams from Fairview had very impressive days, running stride-for-stride with AAA competition and producing strong showings with the girls finishing 3rd and the boys 2nd.

Emmaus opened its season with a win at the Centaur Invitational, picking up right where they left off last season. As expected, the Faust triplets led the way with Brianna (2, 19:51) and Amanda (3, 19:52) challenging Northwestern Lehigh's Lindsay Kerr (19:47) for the win, while Christina ran a strong race (20:10) to finish 8th. Their title defense is underway and they look up to the task.

West Chester Henderson looked strong again as they dominated the 4 x XC Relay meet, but with 16 or 17 guys back from last year's team and Coach Kevin Kelly in your corner what did everyone expect? They earned the top two places at the meet. Yes they that's eight runners total. Their 'A' team was able to crack 45 minutes, while their 'B' was under 45:30. XC relays are a great way to open the season because they allows the athletes to get a race under their belts without much added pressure. I am looking forward to seeing them race over 3.1 miles in the upcoming weeks.

The West Middlesex girls notched a win at the Big Red Invitational. They are currently ranked #2 in AA and are looking to keep Central Cambria from threepeating at States. Their top three finished in the top and they will have to get their 4 and 5 runners a little tighter as Central Cambria returns a very strong squad that was on display at the Forest Hills Invitational. Leah Anne Wirfel impressed again, as she was the only girl to crack 19 minutes with an 18:35 effort. Central Cambria placed their top five in the top ten to score 27 points on the day. It is becoming quite clear that Randy Wilson doesn't rebuild, he just reloads.

North Penn was able to win both the boys and girls titles at the Central Bucks East Invitational. The defending AAA boys champs, North Penn, got some of the rust off with a solid victory as they scored 45 points. Meanwhile, their counterparts, the North Penn girls, who happen to be the preseason #1 team, were put to the test. Central Bucks East tried to pull off the first big upset of the year, but the North Penn girls were able to weather the storm of the 1-2 punch of Central Bucks East's Katie Kinkhead and Jenny Guidera to stay undefeated.

The boys from Altoona traveled west to Slippery Rock and delivered the same result, a dominating victory. They scored 36 points as Wade Endress delivered a stellar performance with a 16:08 clocking. Altoona packed their top seven in tight as they finished 1-3-4-10-18-21-26. The compression from their first to fifth runner was 1:07 which is very impressive since #1 is the front runner, Endress. Altoona's 2-4 ran 16 seconds apart (16:35-16:51) which is one of many reasons they will be very tough to beat this year. They look to be on track for their goal, which according to Coach Lee Baranik is a top-5 finish at States.

Baldwin boys and Norwin girls maintained their winning ways against the top teams in the WPIAL as they converged on Schenley Park. Norwin is another team that is looking to dethrone Emmaus from atop the medal stand, and Jenna Gigliotti is doing her part by starting the scoring off early and very low for the Knights. Rich Wright is getting Baldwin back to the form they had in 1999 when they won the WPIAL. Baldwin scored a close victory over North Allegheny, 69-81, setting the stage for a great team battle at the District 7 Championships. When I was in high school North Allegheny dominated the WPIAL, so much so that they wore hats to the meets that said "dyNAsty", so don't count them out just yet.

The Academy of Notre Dame girls scored a victory at the Abington Invitational and sent a message to the AAA teams that they are for real. They scored 44 points on the day by having their top five finish in the top 20. The front running of #5 Cumberland Valley's Leigha Anderson was not enough to thwart the 1:15 compression (19:41-20:56) the girls from Notre Dame produced on the day. Notre Dame looks poised to take home another Prep School State title, but there's plenty of running to do before then as I am sure they will be rubbing elbows with the top teams in the PIAA throughout the season.

Those are some of the weekend highlights. It was another great weekend of racing. A few more of the top teams opened up their seasons this weekend adding themselves to the mix. The athletes were ready to go regardless of the weather or the conditions of the course, providing great XC action.

Friday Night Lights

Penn State plays Syracuse this Saturday in football, renewing an old rivalry. Since the game is on Saturday, the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational is being held late Friday afternoon. It is about as close as the athletes will get to to playing under the "Friday Night Lights" in high school cross country. But it made me start to think about high school memories. Everyone knows the significance of "Friday Night Lights", but their is something special about high school country, too. So I asked a few of my friends what high school cross country means to them. All of them said that high school country holds a special place in their heart and helped shape their running careers, but I will let you listen to what they have to say so you can hear it in their own words.

A big thanks to Artie, Katie, Lori, Luke, and Rebecca for sharing their thoughts on high school country.



Week One Review - What a weekend of racing!

In the words of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, many teams began their quest for "Eternal Glory." And because of their efforts, we were treated with a fabulous opening weekend of racing. And if the opening weekend was any indication of how the season is going to go, we are in for a treat.  The summer training has paid off and we, the fans, are reaping the benefits of seeing some amazing performances. All of the top teams delivered on Friday and Saturday, while some newcomers started to etch their stories in the PA XC lore. The weather was perfect this weekend and none of the performances wilted in the heat; I am sure they will be able to stand the test of Pennsylvania weather as the season progresses.

I was lucky to attend the Big Valley Invitational where Leah Anne Wirfel and Altoona opened up their season in dominating fashion. Wirfel was the only girl to crack 19 minutes on the day and Altoona went 1-2-3 with Wade Endress, Chris Fischer, and Jordan Liberman leading the team to victory with a score of 25 points. State College, minus All-State runner Nora Adams, beat Lewisburg in the girls race 69-72 to reverse the finish from last year. When I got home after the meet, I started to check the rest of the results from around the state; what I quickly realized is that there were a lot of individuals and teams posting impressive results.

Sara Sargent (Left in photo by Don Rich), a freshman at Pennsbury, blazed through the course at the John Sharp Viking Invitational to break the course record by 28 seconds! Yes, 28 seconds. She sent a message that she will be battling for the top spot at states. Sargent's victory combined with Ann Herman's runner-up finish were enough to lead Pennsbury to victory over Central Bucks West.

The West Chester Henderson Boys opened up the season with a victory in their home invitational, Oakbourne Relays, with all four of their teams cracking 22 minutes. They looked ready to roll and, with 16 of 17 boys back from last year fighting to be in the top 7, Coach Kelly with have the healthy competition he needs to keep the winning tradition alive.

The boys from Baldwin showed they are ready for the big time as they scored 22 points on the day at the Gateway Invitational. They put all of their finishers in the top nine and Matt Cecala broke former Baldwin star David Adley's course record with a fine time of 17:08. Boyce Park is tough course - I remember it well from high school. Not to be outdone, the Norwin girls began their charge to Hershey by taking 3 of the top 4 places to notch 33 points on the day. Norwin is picking up where they left off as they are going after their first WPIAL crown and more.

At the Cliff Robbins Invitational, Jess Cygan started off the season strong as she looks to defend her title and lead her team to the top. Liberty kept the low-scoring theme of the day going strong and lived up to their #2 preseason ranking with 28 points as Cygan, and Amy Darlington provided a nice 1-2 punch as Liberty's top 4 finished in the first 6.

More great meets await us this weekend and some teams will open up their dual meet seasons this week, so let the rivalries ensue as we will have more great xc action to look forward to throughout the week and weekend.




Opening Weekend Preview

With the first few weeks of practice down the drain, the first invitationals are right around the corner. It's always nice to be able to get the first race under your belt. Lining up with your teammates on the starting line to test yourself and see all the summer work begin to pay off. I know the season is just beginning and the teams are still putting the hay in the barn, but the first meet always has some extra excitement because it has been 9 months since the runners have raced over hill and dale. And this weekend, there are plenty of good meets to choose from, just check the PennTrackXC Calendar.  It is a great weekend for XC action with HS and College meets on both Friday and Saturday.

Personally, I will be attending the Big Valley Invitational at Indian Valley Middle School. This will be my 5th year attending the meet and it has yet to disappoint. A few of the highlights have been the 2006 Boys' race, where Coatesville began their charge to their championship at Nike Cross Nationals (NXN Boys Race Video), the boys' from Altoona bursting on the scene in 2008, the Lewisburg girls dominating everyone in 2007 with a sub-20:00 average, and then holding off a young squad from State College in 2008. This year looks to provide more fireworks as the both races will be loaded. As the top returner from AA, Leah Anne Wirfel will look to move up one spot from last year and take the crown, while Lewisburg and State College battle it out for the team title. On the boys side, with Wade Endress leading the charge, Altoona should repeat as champs as they look to build on their 13th-place finish at the state meet. Endress will be in the running for the individual title, as well. The weather looks as if it will cooperate on Saturday, too, so Big Valley should be a great first meet for all the teams involved and a good indicator of where they stand.

The 7th Oakbourne Relays will be a great meet too. Many eyes will be on the West Chester Henderson boys teams as they open up their season. With their top 7, including runner-up Will Kellar, back from last year's 7th place team at states, they will be looking for a podium spot come November. Plus, Kevin Kelly always puts on a great meet.

All the meets will be exciting, because the athletes will be laying themselves on the line for their teammates and their coaches. So Good Luck to everyone competing this weekend.  For those of you who will be at Big Valley, I look forward to watching you race. And if you are at the Big Valley Invite, take some time to tell State College girls' coach, Rebecca Donaghue, good luck because she will take on the nation's best at the USA 20km Championships in New Haven, CT on Monday.

Weekend Meets
09/04    7th Oakbourne Relays
West Chester Henderson
West Chester, PA
09/04    Enos Yeager Invitational
Chambersburg, PA
09/04    Fifth Annual John Sharp Viking Invitational
Archbishop Wood
Southampton, PA
09/05    35th Cliff Robbins Invitational    Dallas, PA
09/05    36th McDowell Invitational
Erie, PA
09/05    38th California University of PA HS Invitational
California University of PA
Belle Vernon, PA
09/05    Bear Mountain River Run
Lock Haven University
Bear Mountain, NY
09/05    Big Valley Invitational
Indian Valley
Reedsville, PA
09/05    Hornet Harriet Invitational
Hermitage, PA
09/05    Maroon & Gold Classic
Kutztown University
Kutztown, PA



Week #1



Fall is almost here and that means two things to me: Football and Cross Country. Two-a-days are starting up again and it's a great to see teams hitting the road and trails, while their coaches push them to be the best they can be as individuals and as a team. A good friend of mine, James Carney, and I used to always say when August hits, the XC season is half over. If you don't put the work in during June and July, you face an uphill battle for the rest of the season. Plus, those hot summer days are when friendships and bonds are made between teammates. Attending the summer workouts brings confidence to one other and helps to make the team goals look a little brighter, stronger, and possible. The two-a-days are fun too, because you strengthen the bonds you made during the summer and the whole squad is now working toward a common goal. The coaches are right there with the athletes sweating out the hot August days in preparation to race well in November. It's hard to believe that this special time of the year is here again.  2009 has flown by - probably because of all of the fast running and record-setting that happened this spring. Each fall brings new things to get excited about and, of course, new questions. Here are a few of mine.



-Will Emmaus, North Penn, and Central Cambria all win a third consecutive title? I am not sure it has ever happened in PA where 3 champs repeated 3 times in the same 3 years. The Faust sisters (Emmaus) have never finished lower than 2nd as a team at states. What an amazing career already. It will be great to see them cap it off as seniors with another strong season.


- Who are the top challengers to the reigning champs and the teams battling for the AA Boys crown? Obviously everyone is gunning for the champs, but they keep finding ways to win. So it will be a battle, as always.


- Will any teams/individuals pursue NXN/Foot Locker national glory and follow in the successful footsteps of Ben Furcht, Lindsey Graybill and North Allegheny from 2008?


- Who are the newcomers that no one saw coming when the season began?


The first big weekend of invitationals is less than two weeks away, so there is no need to answer these questions now. They will all come to light over the next 12 (or 16/17 if you are chasing national glory) weeks as the teams build for states and beyond. And that, after all, is why we run the races.