||Altoona XC Invitatonal
The Altoona XC Invitational had a road race type of atmosphere - very lively and welcoming. Coach Lee Baranik described it best when he said it was more like a "festival" than just an xc meet. The meet is one of the best kept secrets in PA because they involve the whole community in putting on the event keeping the focus on the athletes and the fans. A deejay was playing music to keep the fans entertained while they waited for the next race to start and all the kids receive tickets in the race packets for food after the meet. The community volunteered their time at the meet, doing such tasks as working the concession stand, riding the lead bike for the race, or serving as a parking attendant to name a few of the jobs they performed. Combining the mid-60 degree day with the energetic atmosphere helped to produce very fast times for the morning.
PA #8/#1 AA Central Cambria was in the field after a year hiatus and was looking to continue their winning ways from a week ago. Oakland Catholic's Marissa Polk got the race off to a fast start as she opened up with a 2:36 half-mile which created a 15 meter gap back to Central Cambria's Kelsey Seymour, who had 10 meters on a chase pack of four girls which included Hannah Miller from Laurel Valley, Oakland Catholic's Charlotte Lampenfeld, and Central Cambria's Kendall Seymour and Alyssa Brandis. The pack of four girls had a 15 meter lead on the rest of the field which was being lead by Samantha Thompson of Dubois.
Polk was still in control of the individual race as she hit the mile marker in 5:25, while Central Cambria was beginning to assert themselves in the team competition. (Kelsey) Seymour crossed at 5:29, and was followed closely by her teammates as Brandis strode through in 5:30 and (Kendall) Seymour in 5:36 with Lampenfeld. Miller and Estrada were the next two to reach a mile in 5:39 and 5:47, respectively. Thompson crossed at 5:49, followed by Mercersburg Academy's Mackenzie Riford and Central Cambria's Ashley Stump in 5:52 and 5:53, respectively, to complete the top 10. Central Cambria was starting to take control of the team race, but George Mason and Oakland Catholic were definitely not going to go away easily.
At 2 miles there were two big changes. Brandis was the new overall leader and for Central Cambria. Brandis was in control of the race and had opened up a 10m gap back to Polk, as they completed 2 miles in 12:10 and 12:14, respectively. Lampenfeld and Estrada (12:28) used strong second miles to create a large gap back to Miller (12:44) in 5th place and (Kendall) Seymour (12:48) in 6th. Riford , Adair Gennocro (St. Marys), Thompson, Maria Synder (Northern Bedford), Sophia Weaver (Wellsboro), Abby Colby (Mercersburg Academy), Mollie Breen (George Mason), and Kara Funk (Dover) rounded out the top fifteen, respectively. The big question at this point was, "Where is Kelsey Seymour?"
Brandis increased her lead over the final 1.1 to win in 18:47 as she was the only girl to crack 19 minutes on the day. Polk finished 2nd in 19:07, a 6-second improvement from last year. Lampenfeld (19:14) held off Estrada down the stretch as they both had huge improvements from last year, 25 and 65 seconds, respectively. The gap to fifth place increased over the last part of the race as (Kendall) Seymour (19:45) was Central Cambria's #2. Gennocro (19:52) moved up two spots to finish 6th. Riford (19:57) finished 7th to be the last girl to break 20 minutes. Snyder (20:01) grabbed the 8th spot, while Miller (20:03) and Thompson (20:04) had a close finish to round out the top ten. Colby (20:06) was 11th, (Kelsey) Seymour (20:07), whose fall on the course between 1 and 2 miles dropped her back in the eighties, worked her to up to 12th, Weaver (20:16) finished 13th, Breen (20:18.1) in 14th, and Funk (20:18.9) completed the top 15. Even with the Seymour's fall, Central Cambria claimed the team title with 51 points as their team averaged sub-20 minutes with a 19:57. Last year's champion, George Mason was second with 78, and Oakland Catholic finished third with 114.
I bumped into Altoona head coach Lee Baranik before the race, he said they were ready to go and they were hoping to get Wade Endress under 16 today. I am not sure if anyone was prepared for the dominance the PA #3 Altoona boys team were about to display in their last major tune-up before next week's Carlisle Invitational. Chris Fischer and Endress lead the race through a half-mile in 2:22. Not only were they trying to crack 16, but it appeared they were going after former Bishop McCort star Jim Spisak's course record of 15:32 which was set last year. Altoona continued doing what they have being doing all year and that is taking control of the race from the start. Also in the pack at 800 with Fischer and Endress, was their teammate Mike Harf, Fred Thompson from Woodland Hills and Alex Monroe of Indian Valley. They had a 5 meter gap on the next pack of runners which was led by last year's runnerup, Nebiyu Osman from Mercersburg Academy and Marion Center's Alex Woodrow and included Altoona's #4, Tyler Lidwell.
Fishcer, Thompson, Endress, and Monroe continued their fast pace up front as they went through the mile in 4:45. They were followed closely by Woodrow and Osman in 4:46 and Harf in 4:47. Westmont Hilltop's Jason Dean (4:48), Mike Salguero from Central Cambria (4:49), Altoona's Tyler Lidwell (4:49) , Chad King from Bishop McCort (4:49), Ellis Mays of Mercersburg Academy (4:53) and Altoona's Kory Replogle, Patrick Reade and Tyler Hileman (4:56-57) rounded out the top 15 as all of Altoona's runners went through the mile under 5 minutes. Shortly after they passed a mile, the runners go up a hill and make right around a tree, at this point Endress asserted himself and opened up a 5m gap that would continue to grow over the rest of the race.
Endress had a 25m lead as he crossed 2 miles in 10:06. Fischer and Osman were neck and neck at 10:15 with Monroe a step behind in 10:16 as all three continued to battle for second place. Harf was comfortably in 5th place as he completed 2 miles in 10:22. Woodrow was in no man's land as he went through in 10:29 creating an 8-second gap to the next pack of runners, Salguero, Lidwell, and Mays (10:37). Cody Foster of St. Mary's was moving through the race very well as he was now in 10th with Replogle as they hit the marker in 10:39. Dean (10:43) was 12th, King (10:46) 13th, the 14th runner to pass by was Justin Huey (10:47) from St. Mary's, while Hileman (10:50) and Reade (10:51) completed the top 16.
With 1.1 miles to go, the race was now between Endress and the clock to see if he could break the record. He ended up falling short of the record but still turned in a great time on the day as he ran 15:40 for the win. Endress lead a group of four guys to break 16 minutes as Osman (15:51), Fischer (15:52) and Monroe (15:58) all dipped under the mark. Harf (16:16) finished 5th, Woodrow (16:22) grabbed 6th place, and Foster (16:25.4) beat Lidwell (16:25.7) in a tight finish to snag 7th. The next three finishers were Mays (16:29), Salguero (16:30), and Replogle (16:33), whose 11th place-finish closed out the scoring for Altoona. Dean (16:42), Geesey (16:45), Huey (16:48.4), and Reade (16:48.7) rounded out the top 15. Altoona used a 43-second compression and 16:09 average to score 23 points on the day as they went 1-2-4-7-9-13-15 (adjusted for team scores). Indian valley was second with 145 points and George Mason held off Central Cambria 177-181 to get third.
Flash Report by Jayson Jackson
It was a beautiful, sunny day to run at the Altoona XC Invite with temperatures in the 60s and a slight breeze. #8/#1 AA Central Cambia's Alyssa Brandis won the race in 18:47 as she lead her team to victory over George Mason (VA) 51-78. Oakland Catholic was 3rd with 114. The top five in the race were Brandis, Marissa Polk, Oakland Catholic (19:07), Charlotte Lampenfeld, Oakland Catholic (19:14), Eva Estrada, George Mason (19:15), and Kendall Seymour, Central Cambria (19:45). Central Cambria's top five finished 1-5-12-21-26 (not adjusted for team scoring). #3 Altoona's Wade Endress was victorious with a time of 15:40. Endress and his teammates scored 23 points on the day to win the team title. Indian Valley finished second with 145 points. Endress, Nebyiu Osman, Mercersburg Academy (15:51), Chris Fischer, Altoona (15:52), Alex Monroe, Indian Valley (15:58), and Mike Harf, Altoona (16:16) were the first five finishers, respectively. 1-3-5-8-11-15-17 were the finishing places of Altoona's varsity team.
Preview by Jayson Jackson
I will be heading to the Altoona XC Invitational this Saturday as the excitment for the season continues to build. The meet should be a great one as the field has teams from all over the state, plus a school from Virginia. The mild temperatures and fast course will combine to make it a great day of racing as the Altoona boys and the girls from George Mason (VA) look to defend their respective titles.
The Altoona boys will look to keep their winning streak alive at their home invitational as they continue their march toward Hershey. Last year they won by 101 points as they scored 47. On Saturday, they will try to get their point total under 30 by having Wade Endress lead the charge up front, followed by their tight team pack of runners 2-5. The whole Altoona squad has been on fire this season turning in stellar results at Big Valley (25 points) and Slippery Rock (36 points). Saturday's race will be their final tune-up before next week's loaded Carlisle Invitational where many of the top teams in the state will be there to shoot it out. Endress will be looking to win on his home course Saurday, but will face a stiff challenge from Mercersburg Academy's Nebyiu Osman (16:14), last year's runner-up. Endress has gone under 16:10 winning both invitationals this season. With both runners pushing each other, it will be interesting to see if they can get close to last year's winning time of 15:32, when former Bishop McCort star Jim Spisak blew the race open from the gun as he won by 42 seconds.... Worth noting: Spisak ran 16:13 as junior when he won the title, so a 40-second drop in time is not out of the question for Osman and Endress. It will be an exciting meet as both Endress and his squad look to stay undefeated on the season as they defend their home course.
Defending champ George Mason from Virginia returns their top 7 and look to take the trophy back to Virginia for a 2nd consecutive year. They will face a tough challenge from the host school, Altoona, as well as from Oakland Catholic and Shady Side Academy. Altoona (2nd) and Oakland Catholic (3rd) battled George Mason tough last year, but came up a little short as the three teams were separated by 15 points (85-91-100). Shady Side, which is looking to build on last year's WPIAL title and 13th-place finish at states, will also be in the hunt for the team title, since they return their top 7 from a year ago, including defending individual champion Katrina Jeung. The individual race was tight last year, too, as Jeung (19:04) was able to hold off George Mason's #1 Natalie Young (19:07) to notch the victory. Both runners, along with third-placer Marissa Polk of Oakland Catholic (19:13), and Laurel Valley's Hannah Miller (4th, 19:14), will look to break 19 minutes on Saturday. The race for the individual champion will be tight, as the top 7 finishers from a year ago all return and the top four from last year were separated by a mere seven seconds. We have some great XC action in store for Saturday, as the girls individual and team races should come down to the wire in an evenly matched field.
Video interview with Altoona coach Lee Baranik after top five PR
Interveiw with Central Cambria coach Randy Wilson
Varsity Girls Race Video
Varsity Boys Race Video