PTXC 6 Feature: Abert tops the state, Comber wins season opener


Colin Abert wasn’t in the market for real estate Saturday at Kutztown University. He simply was looking for the place to be to succeed at PTXC 6. And, boy, did the Easton senior succeed.

The Class AAA runner-up a year ago at Hershey, Abert made the boys’ Gold race his own, cruising away from the field to a convincing victory in a meet record of 15 minutes, 21.37 seconds.

“I just wanted to be around the top,” Abert said of his ideal placement in the race’s early stages. “Anything around the top, if you can stick with that pack, you’re there. Something I learned last year in track is that if you’re with that pack, and if you let them go, you can’t catch up.

“It’s too late. You already set in your mind that you don’t want to win. So if you can just stick with them, they are basically just as tired as you are. They may not look it, but they are basically as tired as you are. You just have to stick with them.”

Abert did more than just stick with the competition – he dominated it. After 2,000 meters, he owned a 20-meter lead over Dominic Hockenbury of Lake-Lehman. The eventual winner reached the 2-mile mark in under 10 minutes and had about 18 seconds on Hockenbury.

“I actually went into this meet with a plan that I didn’t want to do what I have been doing the past few years of just taking it out to the limit the first mile,” the winner said. “That’s usually why the last mile is so bad and you’re hurting. I just wanted to make sure I could stay with them. The beginning of the race went out fast, and my legs kind of did feel a little weird.

“From that point, I just wanted to try to break them mentally because that’s one of the best things to do in this hot, humid weather. I just took it out from there and tried to hold my pace.”

Hockenbury led the pack of pursuers, working through the hot and humid conditions in an effort to cut the gap. For his work, Hockenbury got the silver medal in 15:58.19.

“He put a surge on at the first turn, and it really separated me from the other guy and him,” Hockenbury said of Abert’s decisive move. “It broke up right there. He gradually pulled away as the race went along.

“Today wasn’t one of my better days. We all have those days, but he ran a hell of a race.”

Abert’s effort erased the meet record of 15:26 by Altoona Area’s Wade Endress in 2010 when PTXC 2 was at Franklin & Marshall College and the 15:43 run last year on the Farm Course by Dominic Deluca of Dallas.

“Since this is the fastest time I’ve ever hit by like 20 seconds, it helps me with my confidence because I know the state course is just as hilly,” Abert said. “If I’m that much farther ahead of where I was last year at this point, maybe when the state meet comes, I will be a lot faster than that, too.”

Maryland champions impress

Meanwhile, two-time defending Class 4A Maryland state champion Severna Park made the trip from outside Annapolis well worth it. The Falcons had a pair of tightly packed trios as they moved up from last year’s runner-up finish in Kutztown with 81 points and the Gold title.

“This is our first meet of the season so we want to get away from the competition down there in Maryland,” Severna Park coach Josh Alcombright said of the reason for the interstate road trip. “Come to a nice course here at Kutztown, a very well-run meet and get them accustomed to traveling and stuff like that. They go to a camp with a lot of these guys at Shippensburg, and so it was good for them to see their buddies and compete against them.”

Senior Clay Whitney led the winners in sixth at 16:36.45, while classmate Kevin Hines was ninth in 16:45.90 and junior Andrew Forsyth claimed 12th in 16:48.07. As tight as Severna Park’s top trio was, the winners only had 3 seconds separating a second group as the Falcons’ 1-6 split was under 47 seconds.

“It’s a good gauge for us to see where we’re at,” Alcombright said. “Like all the other top teams, I’m sure we came in a little tired because we are working toward the end of the season, and that’s our main goal but it fit in well.”

The Falcons will head north again in two weeks for the PIAA Foundation meet as their coach gives them a look at some different cross country scenery.

“I would describe this as a classic cross country course,” he said of Saturday’s layout. “We don’t have many of those down in Maryland so we like to get away. (The PIAA Foundation) should be another good test for us. I like these rolling hills because our state meet is really, really hilly so we want to get them accustomed to doing that up and down.”

Easton Area was second with 116 points, and Cumberland Valley finished third with 128.


Blue Race: Comber solid in season debut

Goal setting was easy Saturday for Hatboro Horsham’s Casey Comber. The senior simply wanted a set of PTXC titles after claiming victory a year ago on The Farm Course.

“The goal was just to win,” Comber said after claiming the top spot again in the varsity Blue race in 16 minutes, 29.35 seconds. “I wasn’t too worried about time. My coach was telling me to do what I had to do. I just went out there and executed.”

Central Cambria’s Bryce Descavish and Blake Ettien of Coatesville shadowed Comber in the early stages of the 5K. And the winner was appreciative of their efforts in sharing the workload.

“It went out a little harder than I expected it to go,” said Comber, who lowered his time by almost 20 seconds from 2013. “That kid did a good job in the beginning. It went out 5 flat. I was a little nervous that I had to worka little harder, but it worked out in the end.

“The game plan was always to do what I had to do. It was never to go out and just run as hard as I could. The plan for this year is do what you have to do early in the season and then start to bring (the time) down later in the season.”

Comber expressed confidence that his summer workouts will prove beneficial when the action and pace picks up in October and November.

“I’ve been training hard, running more miles than we ever had,” he said. “(We’re) getting into some speed work now. It should be a good season.”

Descavish also benefited from the early pace, moving up from 16th a year ago as the 2014 runner-up and the only other sub-17 finisher in 16:58.70. Ettien,who was 11th in 2013, claimed third in 17:16.63.

In the battle for the team trophies, Comber and his Hatter teammates claimed the Blue title with 92 points to 97 for Coatesville. Senior Brandon Timm was eighth in 17:43.62, while junior Connor Irwin was 10th in 17:45.27 to help lift the Hatters clear of the 27-team field. Dallas was third with 120.