2012 Class AA Girls Preview:
By Lex Mercado
The new classifications for the 2012 season have made the AA girls season one many fans should really keep an eye on. Not only do you still have the defending champions St. Basil Academy returning, you also have three of the other top five teams from the 2012 state finals. To add more spice to the division, two top ten teams from the AAA race now enter the conversation for a gold medal.
But of course, to be the champions, you have to beat the champions. St. Basil's has won the title three times, none more dramatic than their 72-75 win over now class A Elk Lake (now Class A) last season. St. Basil's brings back their unanimous number 1 runner Megan McGarrity to lead a team that graduated four of the seven from the title squad. St. Basil's has been in the top five in six of the past seven seasons, and will once again be in the hunt for their 4th team title.
Holy Redeemer brings back a duo that were one of the best in the state in 2011. Rachel Sowinski and Marissa Durako finished in the top eight last season and had several 1-2 finishes throughout the year. The 2011 fourth place finishers bring back five of their top seven. The other two top five AA teams in 2011, Quaker Valley and Mercyhurst Prep, graduated three runners from their respective teams. Mercyhurst kept their top two led by senior Sarah Kupniewksi, while Quaker Valley will look to find a new top two.
As for the new teams entering AA, Dallas and Palmyra both finished in the top ten, with District II AAA champions Dallas; (who is really re-entering AA after being kicked up to AAA in 2008); earning 7th place and top District 3 state finisher Palmyra finishing 10th. Palmyra brings back three girls with personal bests under 20 minutes and seven under 21. Dallas brings five back under 21 and only two under 20. But Dallas also brings the new individual favorite with them to start 2012. Dallas was AA state champ in 2003 and 2005.
Regan Rome will be entering her junior season at Dallas as the favorite. The AAA 5th place finisher in cross country and the 3200 meter bronze medalist improved in the 2nd half of the track season, running a new personal best of 10:44.30 in the state finals. Four of the top ten in the AA race come back in 2012. 3200 meter AA state champion Adair Gennocro, Saint Mary's Area, was 3rd in AA last season and her first state championship last season should help her contend once again. Rachel Sowinski of Holy Redeemer finished 5th in last year's AA race. Megan McGarrity finished right behind her in 6th and Sowinski's teammate Marissa Durako was 8th in the state finals. Summer Hill of Honesdale drops to AA after finishing 30th in AAA last season and ended the track year with a 5:01 1600 meter personal best.
TOP 25 RETURNERS
2012 Class AA Boys Preview:
By Lex Mercado
With the new classifications coming into effect this season, the AA division will see a major shakeup. Gone are three of the top five teams in the 2011 championship race, and in come 10th place AAA finishers Holy Ghost Prep, 12th place finishers Dallas, and 19th place finishers Grove City Area. But one team that did stay are the defending champions Quaker Valley.
After many close calls the past few seasons, everything fell into place for the team that was far and away the best team in AA last season. Despite graduating three of their top five runners from the championship team, 2012 could be one of their more challenging years to date. Holy Redeemer is the other top five team returning in AA (3rd). Four of the seven runners are gone, but the top three remain. Staying in contention is likely if they can develop a strong 4-5 like they had in 2011. These teams will also have to face the challenge of the new teams who have come down from AAA.
Holy Ghost Prep finished in the top ten in AAA last season and bring back three juniors who were guided by the experience of four seniors. Christian Kardish started to come into his own during track season and will be a good frontrunner for this very experienced and competitive squad. Dallas starts AA with a similar squad situation, with Dominic Deluca finishing as the top runner for the AAA 12th place team. Grove City Area rounds out the 2011 AAA state qualifiers who have entered the division. Their team's chances are sparked by the return of one of 2011's best runners, Dan Jaskowak. They also return five runners from last year, two who were freshmen. Other new teams like Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Wood will be looking to earn their first-ever state qualifying team birth. Pottsgrove enters 2012 with potentially the best pack in the division. Their returning seven all have personal bests under 17:30.
Like AAA, the state champion will be returning in 2012. Brendan Shearn of North Schuylkill comes back after a season where he was in total control from start to finish. The defending PTXC champion also earned a 7th place finish in the indoor 5000 meter run at the New Balance Indoor National meet and he capped off his year with a 3200 meter state gold medal. The heat, however, will be turned up by AAA runner up Dan Jaskowak of Grove City. Jaskowak was one of the biggest stories of 2011 with many big victories, including the early September Red, White and Blue Invitational. Jaskowak was also the silver medalist in the AAA 3200 meter run last year. Shearn and Jaskowak are the only two runners with sub 16 minute 5000 meter personal bests.
A lot of talent will be looking to chase them down. Aaron Valerosa of Towanda is the only other top ten AA performer coming into 2012 with his 7th place finish. Dominic Deluca of Dallas had the 4th fastest time in the division in 2011, and the drop to AA can help his chances of earning his first medal. Christian Kardish of Holy Ghost Prep has competed in many big races and 2012 could be his breakout season.
TOP 25 RETURNERS