2012 Class AAA Girls Preview:
By Lex Mercado
Since 2006 when Radnor won the girls AAA state championship, there have only been two different champions. Emmaus won the next three championships from 2007-2009. Pennsbury will be looking to complete their own three peat after winning the last two titles. Four of the top five girls from that team return this season, including 2009 gold medalist and five time state champion Sara Sargent. Sargent spent most of 2011 as the number 2 runner behind Ann Herman, but after a gold medal performance in last season's 1600 meter run, Sargent should be ready to regain her top form to lead her team. She will be joined by her talented frosh sister, Olivia.
The list of contenders in 2012 should sound familiar to many fans. 2011 silver medalist Unionville brings back a squad that was very young last season. The team featured only two juniors, three sophomores, and two freshmen at states last season. Courtney Smith had a big season in 2011, winning her league championship and placing 4th overall at states. Her front-running is supported by a 2-5 that can run within 30 seconds of one another. With everyone a year older, the experience should close the wide gap set by Pennsbury.
Downingtown East looked like a team that could contend in 2011, putting on some great pack running performances at big meets such as the Briarwood Invitational. They managed a 4th place finish last season, but with three of the top five returning, including two members of the 2012 4x800 meter relay winning team, they will be back in the mix. Katelyn Callaghan will be their top runner this season, finishing 19th at states a year ago.
North Hills will be the favorites in Western PA, despite graduating Margo Malone. Her sisters Shannon and Mary will lead a group of six returners that struggled to the finish line last season, finishing a surprising 5th after putting on a dominating performance at the District VII championships. Two frontrunners are better than one, but North Hills will hope that last year's experience and improvements from runners 3-6 will put them back in contention for gold.
West Chester Henderson may have graduated three of their top five from their 3rd place team, but still have top runner Stephanie Aldrich, a 9th place finisher in 2011. Mount Lebanon will be chasing North Hills for best in the west. They were 8th last year and bring their entire team back.
Individually, seven of the top eleven come back from last year's state meet. Courtney Smith was 4th last season and will be seeing some of the best competition all season not only in her district, but in the Ches-Mont league. Marissa Sheva and her older sister Caitlyn of Pennridge will be one of the toughest 1-2 duos in the state. Marissa finished 6th in last year's race. Greta Lindlsey of Penn Manor made the top ten for the first time last season, finishing 8th, and had a great spring, breaking 5 minutes for the 1600. Sara Sargent is a former champion and has never finished outside of the top ten in three years. Tessa Mundell of Governor Mifflin finished 10th a year ago. Rising Pottsville junior Paige Stoner was 11th in 2011, and is coming off a PR and 5th place in the 3200 in outdoor. Tess Meehan of Haverford has medaled twice at states and Katelyn Callaghan of Downingtown East has finished in the top twenty the past two seasons.
TOP 25 RETURNERS
2012 Class AAA Boys Preview:
By Lex Mercado
2011 ended as harshly as it could end for Cardinal O'Hara. The consensus number 1 team that was showing no signs of slowing down had it all fall before them, finishing 2nd due to the 6th runner tie breaker to North Penn. North Penn's journey to repeat will be difficult, as they graduate their top three runners from that team. O'Hara, however, brings back the five that came home as runner ups. The team will be led by 4th place overall finisher Dan Savage. Savage became the leader of this group during the big races last season, but their pack running behind him is what makes them tough to beat. On three different occasions, they finished with a 1-5 spread of 35 seconds or smaller. So which team will have the best chance to break the pack up?
League and district rival Lasalle could be their toughest challenge. For the past four years, these two teams have represented the district well at the state meet, each team finishing 2nd and 3rd once. But with the PIAA expansion to three classifications, the stakes will be higher for these two teams. Only the district winner will have a chance to go to states as a team. Lasalle has district champion and 8th place finisher Tom Coyle leading the way with teammate Andrew Stone forming a strong 1-2 punch. Whomever comes out of District XII will have a great opportunity of bringing the district their first-ever AAA team championship.
Outside of them, 2009 champion West Chester Henderson returns to the scene as a top contender after finishing 5th a year ago. Their top three come back and they are coming off of a spring season where they had a strong finish. History has shown that Henderson always find a way to get into the team title conversation, and this season should be no different.
Mount Lebanon was the best team in Western PA for the first eight weeks of last season, and spent the first half of the season as the states number 1 team. A rough patch at the end meant the team had to settle for 4th, but they should be in the mix again despite graduating their top three runners.
North Allegheny finished 3rd in their 2011 title defending season. The District VII champions had a strong final three weeks of the season to end on a very high note. Graduating four of the top five will make it tough, but for a program that has finished in the top three the past three seasons, they also will find a way to contend for team gold.
Great Valley had a strong team last season built on the senior leadership and the ability of Ned Willig and the youth of a very talented group of runners. With Ned graduating, the youth will now have their chance to shine. Cumberland Valley was the surprise of the track season winning the 4x800 meter relay and will use that momentum to produce a strong cross country season. Council Rock North and Pennsbury will be strong contenders out of District I, who both have strong frontrunners to lead the way.
Individually, the state champion is back to defend his gold. Conner Quinn of Hatboro Horsham surprised the huge crowd in Hershey with his gold medal winning performance. In 2012, he won't be able to surprise, but he will prove to be tough to beat. Dan Savage of Cardinal O'Hara will also be a top contender for individual gold leading his team at the front. Tom Coyle of Lasalle finished the spring season as the 1600 meter champion and has a 15:56 Belmont Plateau personal best from last year's PCL Championships. Connor Harriman of Pennsbury was one of the breakout distance runners in District I during track season and the pieces may all come together for him to put together a similar senior cross country year. Mac Emery of Council Rock North ran the 3rd fastest 5000 meter time in 2011, while Francis Ferruzzi of Upper Dublin has a 15:45 lifetime best to his credit. Brent Kennedy of Kiski Area broke into the top ten last season with a 7th place finish, the 2nd best finisher out of District VII.
TOP 25 RETURNERS