Boys - Teams
The top four teams from last year's PIAA Class AAA boys' championship return for another round at Hershey, including last year's top dog, West Chester Henderson. There certainly won't be any shortage of intrigue in 2013.
But at least on paper, and at least for now, the scales are favoring the Warriors, who return last year's state champion Tony Russell, a recent Penn State commit, and Reiny Barchet, a potential top 10 medalist.
However, Henderson shouldn't get too confident, especially with District 7 WPIAL winner North Allegheny on its heels. The Tigers were fourth a year ago, perhaps on the very fringe, but remain very capable in 2013 behind a superb group of experienced runners -- all upperclassmen, in fact. They have defined pack running for years, but their eight-second 1-4 and 25-second 1-5 spread off a 3-4-5 and 7 finish is formidable.
Henderson a 55-second spread 1-5 and and all seven were within 58 seconds… and that was off Russell's stellar 14:59!
And let's not forget Cardinal O'Hara, either, the District 12 champion and the runner-up the last two years on six-man tie-breakers, are focused, as always… Last year to Henderson and in 2011 to North Penn.
Talk about heartbreak.
Cardinal O'Hara is back again and led by Kevin James, who owns the PA#2 time of 15:12.50. Council Rock North is a sleeper who finished third a year ago and was third at the District 1 meet on Oct. 25.
And then you have District 3's Lower Dauphin, who, depending on who you talk to, could have pushed for a top 5 finish a year ago. They eventually slumped to 10th in the state. A year later, the Falcons were poised to improve greatly on last year, however a late-season injury to senior Jeff Groh has dimmed those chances. He did run the district race, but may not run states. Teammate Cole Nissley does headline a talented bunch.
In District 7, Fox Chapel Area and Mount Lebanon are players, too, as is Conestoga, who finished second to Henderson in District 1 with a mere 32-second spread.
Boys - Individuals
In the individual race, nine seniors from the top 15 graduated from 2012, so a bevy of new faces will ultimately reveal themselves on Saturday.
Aside from Russell, who likely will control the race early, enters as the projected leader and headliner after his remarkable time of 14:59 at the District 1 meet on Oct. 25.
How Russell plays this race could potentially determine what kind of times churn out by the finish. Fast times haven't particularly found their way to Hershey very often, but runners like Russell are special, so an interesting race could unfold here.
From the top down, it should get interesting, as James should factor into the pool of opportunists on this tough course.
A year ago, the junior slumped to 22nd place, a finish he likely regrets and will look to alter one year later.
Council Rock North's Ross Wilson and Fox Chapel Area twins Colin and Ethan Martin are three runners who finished in the top 16 in 2012, and are larger factors this time around as well. Wilson was with Russell for much of the District 1 race, and finished 2nd at District 1 in 15:15. The Martins - both Michigan commits - have been tearing up western PA all season.
Last year's runner up, Kiski Area's Brent Kennedy, is out for the season with an injury.
Brothers Chris and Matt Kazanjian from Penncrest have a rare connection that could potentially play a difference. Each have secured personal record times within the top 10 in the state this season.
Carlisle's Zach Brehm has been a little reserved over the last few weeks -- he was beaten at the Mid-Penn Conference meet, then at the District 3 meet -- so don't be surprised if The Herd harrier flies out to a catch-me-if-you-can first mile.
Other runners to keep an eye on include Pennsbury's Sam Webb, Dallastown's Patrick Reilly, Henderson's Reiny Barchet, Lower Dauphin's Cole Nissley, and Easton Colin Abert - who set a CR at his district race, becoming the first runner under 16 on the layout that has seen Matt Kacyon of Whitehall and Brendan Shearn of North Schuylkill as district champs..
I. 1 Tony Russell, Sr 14:59 4:50 West Chester Henderson
II. 1 Matt Kravitz, So 16:56 North Pocono
III. 1 Patrick Reilly, Sr 7:45 16:00 5:10 Dallastown Area
IV. Compete in District 2
V. NO AAA
VI. 1 2 Dominic Stroh Altoona Area 15:54.6
VII. 1 Colin Martin, Sr 5:13 10:10 16:04 5:11 Fox Chapel Area
VIII. 1 Zach Wierzchowski 11 Carrick 17:47.90
IX. Compete in District 10
X. 1 Bobby Danielson, Sr 2:29 5:09 10:49 16:48 5:25 Central Tech
XI. 1 Colin Abert, Jr 15:43 5:04 Easton Area
XII. 1 James, Kevin 11 Cardinal Ohara 16:28.12
1207 1 1 Tony Russell, Jr 4:50 10:07 15:45 5:05 W Chester Henderson (1)
1377 2 Brent Kennedy, Jr 4:49 10:06 15:52 5:07 Kiski Area (7)
1357 5 2 Ethan Martin, Jr 4:49 10:07 16:00 5:09 Fox Chapel Area (7)
1215 7 3 Ross Wilson, Jr 4:48 10:06 16:04 5:11 Council Rock North (1)
1421 12 Colin Abert, So 4:42 10:09 16:16 5:15 Easton (11)
1261 14 Sam Webb, So 4:50 10:11 16:17 5:15 Pennsbury (1)
1358 16 8 Colin Martin, Jr 4:49 10:12 16:22 5:17 Fox Chapel Area (7)
1208 19 11 Reiny Barchet, Jr 4:51 10:11 16:25 5:18 W Chester Henderson (1)
1257 20 Chris Kazanjian, Jr 4:59 10:22 16:26 5:18 Penncrest (1)
1433 22 13 Kevin James, So 4:49 10:07 16:28 5:19 Cardinal Ohara (12)