2014 Boys Track Distance Review: PA's best excel on all stages!

3000/3200 meters

The longest distance event on offer in PA was filled with a who’s who of top distance talent in the state. With the event having one of the toughest state qualifying standards, runners had to be on their game to be considered one of the best at the distance

Indoors: Martin is King

Overall, the indoor 3000 meter run had 19 sub 9 minute performers in 2014. Out of those 19, 12 ran their best mark at states, 8 broke the 8:50 mark, two were from AA programs (Griffin Molino and Will Loevner), and only one broke 8:40 (state champion Colin Martin of Fox Chapel). Martin had great competition from Dominic Deluca of Dallas, the AA cross country champion. Deluca had run 8:44 in January all by himself and was considered a top contender for the title along with Martin, Kevin James of Cardinal O’Hara, and Jake Brophy of Central Bucks East. In the state final itself, it was Deluca who took the pace from the start, only for Martin to overtake him with 4 laps to go to earn his first state gold medal and state best time of 8:30.82!

Outdoors: 3 stars create special moment

The 3200 meter run was even deeper and stronger than the 3000 meter run, with 32 runners breaking the 9:30 mark, 20 under 9:20, 8 under 9:10 and 3 under 9 minutes. PA’s top three made the final national top 50 list for 2014!

The showdown between Ross Wilson of Council Rock North, Tony Russell of West Chester Henderson, and Colin Martin of Fox Chapel was one for the ages. Wilson and Russell came off successful performances in a loaded district 1 meet (8 runners broke 9:25), while Martin was looking to do the 3000/3200 double. Sub 9 hadn’t been seen in PA in 7 years, and the conditions at the state final were perfect for such an special performance. After a blistering first 6 laps, Russell took over the lead. Russell was an unstoppable for nearly the entire year, so many viewers believed that his move would be enough to seal the deal. However, Wilson garnered all the strength he could find in his final high school race to not only defeat the runner of the year, but set a new state meet record in the process (8:56.29). The trio all broke 9 minutes and 9:12 was required to to make the medal stand in one of the deepest 3200 meter races in PA history!

In AA, Dominic Hockenbury of Lake Lehman became a star with his 3200 meter performance at the state meet, dominating with a big mid race surge to blow the competition away. But top honors in the small school division belonged to Malvern Prep’s Jaxson Hoey. The sophomore ran a 9:09.01 full 2 mile in early May, which put his 3200 meter time in the top seven for PA in 2014. Nick Dahl of Germantown Friends won the 2 mile freshmen championship at the New Balance National Championship meet with a 9:19.07!

The top five AA/Independent school performances in the 3200 meter run were all run by underclassmen, and underclassmen made up half of the state top 20!


The boys 1600 meter run was dominated by one runner who not only controlled the event in PA, but earned some key victories in the Northeast region.

Indoor: Russell leads and never looks back

Tony Russell was PA’s top 1600/mile runner from the middle of January through the end of the outdoor season. Russell also won big races in other parts of the Northeast during that run. In January, Russell edged out a victory at the Yale Invitational mile in 4:16. Two weeks later in Boston, Russell won the big New Balance Grand Prix mile with a lifetime best 4:11.56, good for US#1 at the time (it finished US#5). Russell comfortably won the mile at states to solidify his claim as the best miler in PA.

In 2014, 8 runners broke 4:20, with two underclassmen cracking the top four (Jaxson Hoey and Sam Ritz, both underclassmen). An additional 32 runners broke 4:30. Five PA runners made the final national top 50 list!

Outdoor: Deepest 1600 race highlight early season; Brehm shows range

As the weather changed, the leader of the pack stayed the same. Russell was still the man to beat. But he would be put to the test on his home track against some top PA distance runners at the Warrior Invitational on April 11. Not only did Russell win the race in a lifetime best 4:09.53, but the top eleven all broke the 4:20 mark, making it one of the deepest 1600 meter races in state history.

Russell’s run at the top was stopped short due to injury, opening the door for 2012 800 meter champion Zach Brehm of Carlisle to take a 2nd gold medal in as many years. Brehm finished the year with a converted 1600 meter time of 4:08.82 to top the state for 2014.

Sam Ritz, Griffin Molino, Kevin James, Jeff Van Kooten, and Jaxson Hoey were underclassmen who made the state top ten list in the 1600, with each runner dipping under 4:15.

800 Meter Run

Perhaps the deepest event in PA at both state and national levels, the quality of athletes competing in the event raised the standard of excellence in 2014.

Indoor: All Star Foursome

The indoor season saw PA at the peak of its powers in the 800. The event featured a fantastic four that impressed on the big stage with races fans will never forget. Joey Logue of Pennridge, Will Cather of State College, Jeff Wiseman of Council Rock South, and Kyle Francis of Bensalem all spent part of the season in the national top 10, while spending most of the season in the PA top four. After Wiseman edged out a 1:57 win in December, Logue defeated Cather at the Penn State Invite in January with a 1:53 performance. Once Francis dipped under 1:55 before states, the anticipation for this race was off the charts.

In the state final, Francis led from the off and powered his way through a very deep field on his way to the nation’s best time and PA’s all time state record! Francis ran 1:50.55 to break Ned Willig’s 1:51.25 record from 2012. Wiseman finished 2nd in 1:51.35 and finished US#2. Logue’s 1:52.02 finished US#5 for 2014!

Outdoor: The sequel betters indoor magic

New season, same story. The four guys who electrified the indoor season did the same thing once again outdoors. Jeff Wiseman charged to the front in the middle of April and never let it go until the very end. Logue nearly broke 1:51 in early May, while Cather and Francis tried to balance their 800 responsibilities with their 4x800 meter relay teams. When they all met again in Shippensburg, Wiseman looked to take charge, only for Francis to take the lead in lap two and muscle his way to the indoor/outdoor double. His time of 1:49.57 was US#2 at the time and would finish the year at US#8. Wiseman ran 1:50.37 to earn more silver.

Other stars emerged in the 800 behind that talented group. Dominic Peretta of Beaver Falls broke out at the end of the season to the tune of 1:52.72, the fastest sophomore time in PA and US#3 for the Class of 2016. Ritz and Hoey both ran 1:54 dueling against each other in league and private school state competition on more than one occasion. A dozen runners broke 1:54 in 2014, with eight of them being seniors.

4x800 meter relay

The 4x800 meter relay is one of PA’s most exciting relays on a yearly basis and 2014 was no different.

Indoor: State College depth conquers all

It took some time for the top guns of the 4x800 meter relay to take their place at the top of the rankings. Cardinal O’Hara had the honor of stepping to the top of the leaderboard with a big US#2 performance of 7:50.98 at the New Balance Collegiate Invite in February. Penncrest also broke the 8 minute mark while chasing their county rivals. Once the bar was set, State College went in to try and take the state lead for themselves the next week.

At the popular Millrose Games, State College took the top spot with a 7:47.75. The depth of that relay was put on display, as the team boasted a 1:54 star in Will Cather ,who was accompanied by three legs with 1:57 personal bests. Some were thinking state record at the state meet, but in the end, State College came away with the gold medal and no record. They gave it one more try at nationals, but just missed with a season best 7:46.81, good for All American honors!

In the end, six teams cracked the 8 minute mark. But once spring came along, the number of sub 8 minute teams nearly quadrupled!

Outdoor: Double completed

State College were now the hunted after their indoor championship victory. For an encore, Cather and friends took the journey to the Penn Relays to take on the best around. A 7:45.12 performance in the Championship of America kept them in the driver’s seat as the favorites come Memorial Day weekend.

Meanwhile, a strong chase pack was being formed behind them. Central Bucks East, West Chester Henderson, Pennridge, and North Penn were ready to challenge State College for the top spot, with Pennridge holding that position for part of the spring. Could State College stay unbeaten for the entire 2014 season? An emphatic Will Cather anchor leg in the state final was the resounding 'YES' needed from the district 6 powerhouse to end the year with the best time in the state (7:41.99) and the indoor/outdoor double!

Overall, five teams broke 7:50 and 23 teams broke 8 minutes! One of those 23 teams were AA champions Washington, the lone AA squad to break 8 minutes in 2014.

Distance Medley Relay

The top two teams in cross country were also the top two teams in the distance medley relay. Although they only went head to head one time, both Cardinal O’Hara and West Chester Henderson made big marks in the event.

Indoor: O’Hara makes big move late to run US#2 All Time

Early on, it looked like an event West Chester Henderson would have a hard time losing. On two occasions, Henderson ran under 10:30 without the services of Tony Russell. Once they put him in, they ran 10:15.3 at the NJ Varsity Classic and cruised to the state title in 10:24.16.

Meanwhile, Cardinal O’Hars gave the distance medley a shot at the TFCAofGP Meet of Champions and ran an impressive 10:22.00. Although they contested the 4x8 at states, the Lions decided to run the DMR at the New Balance Indoor Nationals meet against West Chester Henderson. Just who had the best team?

After a big 1:53 split from Nick Smart and a 4:11 split from Jim Belfatto, O’Hara ran the 2nd fastest distance medley relay time of all time with their 10:00.75 performance! Henderson were led by a big 4:07 split from Tony Russell to finish in the bronze medal position with a time of 10:04.45! Henderson were state champs, O’Hara were national champs, but both teams represented PA with a US#1 and US#3 performance for 2014!

Outdoor: Henderson get their time in the spotlight

The DMR is not a hotly contested event during the outdoor season, making the Championship of America race at the Penn Relays its main event of the spring. The meet marked the rematch between O’Hara and Henderson. Would Henderson get a chance to taste victory or would O’Hara earn another victory? In the end, big time running from Henderson got them the championship wheel in a US#3 10:03.77! O’Hara had to settle for 2nd after another gutsy performance. They would finish the year at US#10.

In both seasons combined, only North Penn and Altoona joined Henderson and O’Hara as sub 10:30 teams in 2014. Germantown Friends, Lasalle, Lower Dauphin and Quakertown spent parts of the year in the state top five.