PA Boys: Springer survives minor injury for 9th. McNally, Weller fall... (pix)

Paul Springer survives early week hamstring tweak to advance. McNally falls, but looks forward to next year. Weller falls too. All make all-Northeast teams.

It was a rough day for three of PA's top runners. And it wasn't just the competition.

Paul Springer is in the top pack at Freshman Hill. And better still, in #10 with just over 1000 meters to go
(see the "U" in the back of the shot), before moving up to 9th at the finish. (finish photo by John Nepolitan)

State AAA runner-up, senior Paul Springer of Unionville survived his brush with a school-assigned, ill-timed lifting session this past Monday to finish 9th in 15:31.9 and earn one of the coveted spots at Foot Locker Nationals in two weeks.

Vince McNally, the Conestoga Valley junior, overcame a fall early in the race, and a brush with a Foot Locker announcer going by the finish line just after the start, to take 13th in 15:41.9.

And Boyertown senior Jason Weller, the AAA State Champ, took a spill in the woods, and never really had his legs under him. He would finish 23rd in 15:52.9.

Springer was out well in the top group that hit the mile in a surprisingly moderate 4:50 (considering the assembled talent and weather). He was worried about only two things: how his sore left hamstring would react to the hills, and finishing in the top ten.

The prior Monday, a substitute teacher had assigned lifting. During the week, his leg tightened up. Throw in a brisk pace and rolling ups and downs, and you have the potential for problems. Springer was comfortably in the top ten at the bridge and carefully monitored his position during the back hills. He saw eventual winner Craig Forys of Colts Neck NJ take off at the top of the hill at two miles. At about 4000 meters, Springer was back in 10th, but took care of business before the finish... "I picked off one toward the finish for 9th."

He took it easier than he would have if fully healthy. "The hamstring felt OK, except on the downhills. As far as I'm concerned, 9th is the same as first."

Springer is looking forward to Balboa Park, a course he believes favors his running style. And with two weeks to work out the kinks in his hamstring, he is confident he can contribute to a Northeast team win. Springer had trained through PA States with Foot Lockers in mind.

Before Friday's walk-through, Conestoga Valley junior Vince McNally had never seen the course at Van Cortlandt Park. By the time he finished in 13th place in his first race ever at the storied course. he was sure he could improve in a year.

His first 600 meters turned out to be his roughest. Just after the start he went down and hit the dirt on both knees. No problem, just jump back up and get into it again. But passing the finish line on the way to the first turn, he got pushed toward the announcer giving the runners instructions and actually had to leap between the announcer and the amplifier to keep from tripping over the wire.

He survived, and says he doesn't think the early incidents had any effect on his race.

McNally entered the woods in about 20th, coming through in 4:56. "It was slower than I anticipated. That was good after the start I had."

He worked the hills in the woods and was in 11th when exiting with 700 meters to go. "I went for it. That was my only option. I tried to get turnover, but I wasn't making up any ground. Then two guys went by me. They were racing for the spirt of it, I guess."

"It's a good experience. These are tough guys up hear. You almost have to be on your A game the whole year to be in it." As for 2006... "I did beat some guys that had beaten me."

This winter it's no basketball and no swimming. He'll rest and then go to work on his base, maybe running one or two indoor meets near his home.

There was no hamstring injury or rough start for Boyertown senior Jason Weller. Talking with PennTrackXC's Hannah Granger, Weller said he didn't feel like his legs were completely under him by the hills, but went for a top place after crossing the bridge. Unfortunately, he was tripped up and fell.

While acknowledging the high level of competition at the race, Weller said the scheduling of the PA state meet three weeks earlier than Foot Lockers "makes it hard to race well after peaking to win States."

But walking away with a medal in such an elite race, he acknowledged, was "quite an accomplishment."

PA Boys take five of the top 29 places.

Springer and Weller earned 2nd Team all-Northeast honors, while Weller earned 3rd Team. Rounding out the scoring for the 5th place PA team were Max Kaulbach, Germantown Friends junior, 25th in 15:54.5, who missed all-Northeast 3rd Team by one place and less than a second; and Pittsburgh Central Catholic senior Scott Van Kooten, 29th in 15:58.5. Two PA runners took up 30th and 31st, as Luke Zarzeczny of Avonworth, the AA State Champ, and Josh Izewski, the Central Bucks East junior, ran 16:00.8 and 16:01.9, respectively. PA placed five in the top 29, and seven in the top 31.

PA athletes achieving top 50 finishes in the Class Races (top 24 received all Northeast designation for their race:

Freshman Boys
9 McKenzie, Gus 9 Philadelphia PA 17:34.2
14 Steinberg, Phillip 9 COLVER PA 17:45.1
15 Espinoza, Joel 9 WILKES BARRE PA 17:52.2
19 Manley, Patrick 9 LANDENBERG PA 17:56.8
28 Mahoney, Michael 9 Richboro PA 18:22.7
32 Foster, Cody 9 St. Marys PA 18:28.1
39 Antonio, Chris 9 DUBOIS PA 18:40.0
43 Waterman, Tom 9 Huntingdon Valley PA 18:45.5
45 Butler, Samuel 9 Wyndmoor PA 18:52.0
47 McCollester, Brad 9 WESTCHESTER PA 18:53.2

Sophomore Boys
16 Bogert, Jonathan 10 BETHLEHEM PA 17:16.0
17 Luff, Thomas 10 EMMAUS PA 17:16.8
21 Gillette, Matthew 10 OREFIELD PA 17:21.2
22 Ciarolla, David 10 TRAFFORD PA 17:22.3
32 Lucarini, Andrew 10 MCDONALD PA 17:36.1
41 MacRi, Alex 10 OREFIELD PA 17:44.7
49 Brazinski, Alex 10 RIDGWAY PA 17:50.8

Junior Boys
15 Cutilli, Benjamin 11 MAPLE GLEN PA 17:05.6
19 Koren, Matthew 11 WHITEHALL PA 17:07.5
21 Prokop, Tyler 11 SAINTS MARYS PA 17:08.6
30 Ortiz, Isaac 11 Merion Station PA 17:22.3
34 McDonnell, Christopher 11 BRONALL PA 17:24.5
47 McCollester, Scott 11 WESTCHESTER PA 17:34.2
48 Gibson, Kyle 11 Canonsburg PA 17:35.4
50 Moyer, David 11 Boyertown PA 17:37.4

Senior Boys
10 Lambert, Jarryd 12 Pittsburg PA 17:07.3
39 Sneff Nanni, Jasper 12 PHILADELPHIA PA 17:48.5
47 Miller, Zachary 12 COLUMBIA PA 17:54.3