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

Photo by Bill Shearn

NXN Northeast Regional - Boys' Preview

Team Breakdown

The state's top two AAA teams from the state meet---LaSalle College and Council Rock North---decided against entering full squads for Saturday's regional. LaSalle edged out CR North (the 2016 state champs and 2016 NXN-NE third place finishers) three weeks ago at the state meet. No Explorers are in the field, while North's top four are entered, which we'll get to later.

The top Pennsylvania team in the field is Downingtown West. The Whippets took third in AAA for a second straight year, but you may remember that this team won the PA state title in 2015 and then went on to roll to the NXN-NE win. No one from that top seven is around anymore, but D-West has developed quite the winning tradition. West beat out CR North for the PIAA District 1 win before its bronze performance in Hershey.

Junior Payton Sewell (above) leads the Whippets into Saturday. He took 19th at states. Seniors Tyler Rollins and Evan Kaiser, along with juniors Isaac Valderrabano, Kevin Wagner, and Joseph Chamoun and sophomore Ben Datte also make up this squad.

West is a long-shot for the top two, which would automatically qualify the team for Nike Cross Nationals in Portland. A strong contingent of New Jersey squads---led by MOC winners Christian Brothers Academy and second place Kingsway---will be the favorites. Staples (CT) and St. John's (MA) will also be tough to be in this field. But Downingtown West brings back five of seven next year, so it could be even better in 2018.

Among the other teams entered are West Chester Henderson, Bishop Shanahan, Avon Grove, Carlisle, and Indiana Area. Shanahan will be without its top two, the Hoey brothers, who will be at Van Cortlandt. Carlisle is also without its No. 1 in Jack Wisner. West Chester Henderson, which missed the state meet for the first time since 2007 this fall, will look for a bounce-back performance Saturday.

Individuals Breakdown

The Keystone State will look to have a few representatives in Portland, and a good number of boys should mix it up for one of the five individual qualifying spots to Nike Cross Nationals in Portland.

The top Pennsylvanian in the field is Jersey Shore Area's Isaac Davis. The Penn State recruit is in the midst of a dominant senior season. He hasn't been challenged in practically every race he's run in this season during his undefeated campaign. His closest competition came at the District 4 Championships---a 17 second win. The Class AA state champ will be one to watch on Saturday as he looks to earn a nationals spot in his first career regionals appearance.

The top returning PA boys from the meet last year is Tristan Forsythe of Winchester Thurston. The senior and Georgetown signee was 13th last year, running a great race. He, too, will have Portland on his mind. Forsythe has also had a dominant fall. He won all four races on PA soil (and a tenth place finish at the Legends Meet in Ohio), including a runaway win for the Class A state crown. Look for him to contend, as that experience from last year could pay off well.

Photo by Abby Huber

A pair of District 1 counterparts---West Chester Henderson's Spencer Smucker and Owen J. Roberts' Liam Conway---will look for big endings to their respective high school careers. Smucker earned his fourth state medal in four years, placing ninth at states three weeks ago. Conway was eighth at states and ran a best of 15:08 at Paul Short earlier this fall. In a 3200 meter tune-up at Henderson on the track, Conway won in 9:13, while Smucker was second in 9:24. Both should figure into the race for individual bids to nationals.

The aforementioned CR North quartet will toe the line, as well. Though there's no team aspirations this time around, we could see some strong individual performances. Ryan Campbell, who was 17th at NXN-NE last year, took tenth at states and should be a factor near the front on Saturday. Ethan Koza, Sam Earley, and Kevin Ehrgott complete that strong North contingent.

Other individuals to watch for include Sewell, Rollins, Loyalsock's Quinn Serfass, and OJR's Andrew Malmstrom.