Jerrica Bauer of The George School was far and away the top cross country runner in the Independent Schools division. The junior impressed each time she competed and comfortably won the Friends League and Independent State titles. The new year sees her as the clear favorite to defend her titles, and hopefully find some races against some of the best in the state, something that was missing from her calendar in 2013. Friday’s John Sharp Invitational could be her season debut.
Jamie Costarino of Springside Chestnut Hill is a top returner in the league this season. Senior year could be the year she becomes more consistent against all comers. In the league, she will be challenged by the Germantown Academy duo of Paige Kupsky and Inter-Ac champion Abbe Goldstein. The two had solid track seasons and will look to translate that success onto the cross country course. Kathering Hong of Episcopal Academy is another contender to do well in the league and at states.
State champion Marianne Abdalah of Vincentian Academy is back to defend her title after having as good of a freshman season we have seen. After upsetting the 2012 champion Kennedy Weisner, Abdalah won a silver medal in the AA 3200 meter run. Like Weisner before her, Abdalah will be a big favorite to repeat as state champion, which would make her the first Class A runner to defend her title, and would set her up for potentially going 4-for-4 in state cross country meets. She had an impressive record of 4 wins and 3 runner up finishes in 2013. Can she repeat that in 2014?
Weisner’s former teammate Victoria Dippold of Elk County Catholic had an excellent junior season, capped off with a 4th place state meet finish. We will find out how much the student learned from the teacher Weisner this season. Lauren Gronbeck of Eden Christian Academy and Arlee Simendinger of Penn Cambria had four top five finishes apiece in 2013, including top ten state finishes. Leigha Martin of Veritas Academy and Molly Kennedy of Riverview also made the top ten at states, but will be looking for more victories in 2014.
A lot of talents in the AA division have yet to earn big individuals honors in their careers. On top of that, many of the top returners have run similar 5000 meter times. With very little to separate these runners, the race for the individual gold medal should be fun to follow this season.
Karli Visconto of Nazareth Academy is one of the few to earn a big state honor, medaling in the AAA 800 meters last spring. As the new top runner for her team, can she carry that track form onto the course? The sister combination of Treicy and Yoangelys Cedeno of Shikellamy will be one year better and harder to beat. Treicy has won two district 4 titles. Dallas will have Lindsay Oremus and a much improved Ally Rome to challenge for the state title this season. They will also become one tough combination to crack. Kayla Connelly of Lansdale Catholic had an impressive debut season that included an 8th place state finish. Caroline Harmon of Lower Moreland had 3 top five finishes in 2013. Caroline Schemel of Greencastle-Antrim had five top ten finishes last season and is a top ten state returner. Someone will have to break through and win the title. Who will want it most when it counts?
The lineup of runners in the AAA division is the who’s who of Pennsylvania running. Champions, state medalists, regional medalists, national finalists, and All Americans are all over this list. Does anyone enter the 2014 season with an advantage? Will 2014 be a title race for the ages? Let’s take a look at the challengers.
Brianna Schwartz of Shaler Area hasn’t lost to any state competitor since the 2013 Foot Locker National Championship race in December. For the 2014 calendar year, the Foot Locker Finalist is unbeaten against PA. Madeleine Davison of North Allegheny has been the closest challenger and would expect to challenge Schwartz again. Kelsey Potts of Mount Lebanon had an excellent 2013 cross country season and will battle it out with those two. Potts and Davison have won big invitationals in their career, which will help their confidence this season.
Travelling east, Mady Clahane of Cumberland Valley is still looking for her first big state championship win. In two years, she has never finished worse than 5th in any PA invitational, and no worse than 15th in any regional competition. She has 7 career victories. Following those four stars is the depth and exceptional quality that District 1 boasts this season.
Marissa Sheva of Pennridge is a track state champion and cross country state medalist. Spring 2014 ended very well for the senior, but can she carry that form on a consistent basis in her final chance at state gold? Aislinn Devlin of Downingtown West was one of the freshmen of the year last season. Can she duplicate that form in 2014? Pressure should be limited for the sophomore. Olivia Young of Unionville will be leading the champions this season, and will have the big shoes of Courtney Smith to fill. Olivia Sargent and Hannah Molloy of Pennsbury will power each other to great seasons. Only Sheva and Sargent have won a big cross country race in their careers.
But can the experienced runners hold off the up and coming stars that are ready to steal all the headlines in 2014? The title chase should be fun!