Abert is running away from the field
In a six week period, Colin Abert has gone from a talented senior runner who was 2nd at states last year, to an elite competitor who is running away from the rest of the state. Abert had already put together the performance of the first half of the season with his 15:21 at PTXC 6. But sometimes the follow up performance can be more crucial than the initial breakthrough. Abert’s goal was to put up a sub 15 minute time on the board at Paul Short on Saturday. The weather, course conditions, training, fitness, and competition were all lined up for that to happen, and wow did it ever!
Abert charged to the front of the race once he realized that no one else was going to take charge and set up a sub 15 minute pace. At one mile, he was well ahead of the pack. Perhaps the rest of the field was taking their time making a move, since Lehigh’s course tends to cause runners to go out faster than they are used to. Even if the pack wanted to catch up, Abert made sure that wasn’t going to happen. Abert’s powerful stride and determination to push himself to run two-thirds of the race on his own was incredible to watch.
The performance itself will be one for the ages. It’s the 3rd fastest time for a high school athlete on the Lehigh 5000 meter course and the fastest 5000 meter performance in 8 years in PA. Now the question that will be asked is whether or not anyone can catch the Easton senior? What impact will his big victories have on the rest of the AAA field come the state meet? Everyone knows that there are no guarantees in cross country, but Abert looks as unstoppable as one can look at this stage of the season. The rest of the state has their hands full trying to catch the favorite to win state gold.
Cardinal O’Hara girls have officially entered the AAA title race
Saturday’s Paul Short Run was the 5000 meter debut of the Pennsbury Lady Falcons. After a couple 2 mile relay invites, Pennsbury were ready to put themselves out there for the state to see. Waiting for them at the line has been Cardinal O’Hara, a team who was unbeaten against PA competition. Saturday’s race against Pennsbury was going to be a test of the young Lady Lions’ title credentials.
While Pennsbury’s Olivia Sargent was battling tooth and nail with Marissa Sheva and Mady Clahane for the individual gold medal, the rest of her team and O’Hara were going head to head for vital points. The two squads were alternating places through the first four runners. O’Hara’s 5th was 11 points head of Pennsbury’s 5th. In the end, O’Hara’s 35 second spread could not overcome Pennsbury’s combined 22 points from their first three runners, four runners under 19 minutes, and seven under 19:30, earning the Faclons a 97-105 victory.
Despite defeat, O’Hara gave Pennsbury a very good race and ultimately eliminated any gap that did exist between themselves and Pennsbury. A 35 second spread with all seven runners under 20 minutes without a clear number 1 front runner made it O’Hara’s best performance of the season. They now have shown that they can match up with one of the two preseason favorites in AAA in a big meet. Unionville has yet to put their strongest seven on the line at a big meet, but O’Hara can now start to believe that a push for the state championship is a realistic possibility.
Classic girls brown race a sign of things to come?
If you had the opportunity to watch the Paul Short Run on Flo Pro or in person, you witnessed an instant classic in the girls Brown race. Marissa Sheva of Pennridge, Mady Clahane of Cumberland Valley, and Olivia Sargent of Pennsbury were battling each other neck and neck through half of the race. After Sheva and Clahane decided to grind up the pace an extra gear to break Sargent, the two would then try to do everything possible to break each other. Sheva pulled away from Clahane late on, only for Clahane to surge all the way back to where Sheva would do everything in her power in the final 150 meters to not lose. In the end, Sheva would do just enough to win the race, but not after the two of them gave a performance many will never forget.
The battle between those two in the final stages of the race could be a sign of how tight the AAA state title race might be in less than 4 weeks. Throw those two stars with Sargent, the undefeated Madeleine Davison of North Allegheny, Kelsey Potts of Mount Lebanon and the yet to debut Brianna Schwartz of Shaler Area, and you have an epic race on your hands.
There’s not much to separate these stars. With the exception of Schwartz (who will debut this upcoming Saturday at Slippery Rock), they’ve all broken 18:04 this season. Four of the runners have at least one big invitational victory this season. All of these runners have performed well at the state meet, either track or cross country. Three have at least one state gold medal hanging in their trophy case.
So basically, the race for the AAA individual state title is a pick ‘em. Fans of PA cross country, whomever you think will win the title, it won’t be a bad choice.
So what can Brooke Hutton and Casey Comber do in the big races?
Runners like Colin Abert and Marissa Sheva continue to steal the headlines with their big performances. But while everyone follows their progress, two more runners have not stopped winning.
Senior Casey Comber of Hatboro Horsham has been having an excellent senior season. Comber has competed in five invitational races and has won all five of them, with his latest victory coming on Saturday at Salesianum. Before Saturday, Comber had improved on his time with each victory. His best this season is 15:44.
On the girls side, freshman Brooke Hutton of Coatesville has also competed in five races, and she has won in each of her last four appearances. Her latest victory came Saturday at the Gettysburg Invitational, where she ran 19:09 to capture the victory.
While both runners continue to keep winning, neither runner has gone head to head against some of the state’s best competition this season in some of the state’s biggest meets. But does not seeing that competition on a regular basis help or hurt a competitor? What about the runner’s ability to keep winning against the competition that’s put in front of them. Does that bring confidence to a competitor that they can feel they can take on all comers on any given day as they keep winning races?
Hutton is still in her first season, so the expectation for her to run well against talented veterans may not be high. Her performances will give fans and her coaches an idea of what she may be capable of in future seasons. As for Comber, he is an experienced runner who has come on strong since the fall of 2013. Winning has certainly helped his confidence entering the business end of the season, and since this will be his last chance to perform well in these championship meets, he’ll want to make these next few weeks count.
How will these two handle the bigger stages of the season? With all the winning they’ve been doing, they will certainly feel confident they can do well.