PA Individuals & Teams On The Hunt For Portland: NXN Northeast Regional Preview

NXN Northeast Regional - Girls' Preview

A number of top Pennsylvania have opted to go to Wappinger's Falls over Foot Locker Northeast this weekend, while of pair of girls' teams, Fox Chapel Area and Saint Joseph's Catholic, have entered full squads for Saturday.

Teams Breakdown

The girls from Fox Chapel Area are coming off a strong AAA state title three weeks ago. The Foxes out-dueled solid Manheim Township and Oakland Catholic squads for the win in Hershey. Now FCA turns its attention to NXR, where it will look to earn one of the two automatic qualifying spots allotted to the Northeast. (There are wildcard bids available, too, but those typically aren't given to the Northeast region due to the strength of other regions around the country).

Fox Chapel earned wins at the Gateway Invitational and Red, White & Blue Classic, took second at the PIAA Foundation Invitational, and won at the Mack Cooper Invitational before taking second to Oakland at WPIALs and winning at states. It's been a breakthrough season for this squad and one that could end with a trip to Portland.

Photo by Abby Huber

Led by strong top five that has changed in order with practically every race this season, FCA will be a team to watch on Saturday. One of the keys in a deep field will be each of these girls having their best day on Saturday. It's a tall task, but PTFCA Coach of the Year Tom Moul has shown that he can get these girls ready to perform on the biggest of stages.

Sarena Seeger, a junior, led the way at states for FCA, but the lone senior Caelan Miller, junior Annika Urban, and sophomores Grace Sisson and Brooke Krally have been solid all season long.

New Jersey Meet of Champions winners North Hunterdon come in as one of the favorites led by the individual NJ champ Monica Hebner. Also from NJ, Kingsway and Colts Neck will be strong. Wellesley from Massachusetts (MA runners-up) should be in the mix, and so will New Hampshire's Pinkerton and Bishop Guertin. The field is crowded with contenders as always, but Fox Chapel is primed to contend. Keep in mind, too, that six of FCA's top seven are back next season, so the experience will be crucial for a squad that may be even better in 2018.

Look, as well, for Saint Joseph's Catholic Academy. The Wolves took second to Fairview at states in 1A by just three points after winning the previous two state titles, so this is a hungry group. Led by Sera Mazza and Julia Cusatis, SJCA could have some runners near the front.

Photo by Kyle Brazeil

Individuals Breakdown

A number of Pennsylvania's top individuals chose NXR over Foot Locker and many should be in the mix for a spot in Nike Cross Nationals. There are just five spots up for grabs for individuals on non-qualifying teams.

At the top, look for the AAA state champion Elizabeth Mancini of Cardinal O'Hara. 2017 has been a breakthrough season for Mancini, who capped off her senior season with a win at Hershey. The LaSalle signee was 15th at Bowdoin last season, but is a much different runner this time around. After running 10:43 at Henderson on the track, the fitness is there for Mancini.

The top PA returner from last year's race is Ariana Gardizy of North Penn (above). The senior and UPenn recruit was ninth last season, just missing a spot to nationals. She'll be looking to close out her terrific XC career on a high note. Abington Heights' Katie Dammer will be a factor as well. The Paul Short Run champion took fourth at states in AAA. She was 36th at FLNE last year, but she'll switch to Bowdoin Park this season. Dammer led the AAA state race through two miles before dropping to fourth, so look for the senior and Georgetown signee to try and reverse her fortune on Saturday.

Another girls switching for Foot Locker to NXR is Chambersburg's Abby Yourkavitch. The senior who is headed to East Carolina in the fall was 17th at FLNE last year. She took sixth in AAA at states a few weeks ago and is another one that will contend for a trip to Portland. Loyalsock's Isabel Sagar (ninth in AA at states) and Carlisle's Meg Lebo are among the other girls in this field worth watching for.