Preseason Glance: PIAA Class A Preview

Boys PIAA Class A - 2019 Preview

Key Storylines To Follow This Season

  • After dominant 2018, Jenkintown looks to keep the momentum going despite some key graduations
  • Is Winchester Thurston as good as some top AA and AAA teams?
  • 6 of the top 8 individuals at the state meet are back this season
  • Healey is the top returner, but he'll face competition

Individuals Overview

After a second place finish in the state last season, Andrew Healey of Holy Cross will look to grab his first career state title this fall. Healey ran a strong states race in 2018, sticking with Jenkintown's Jack Miller for about the first two miles before Miller opened up a gap and ran to the win.

Healey was fourth as a sophomore and second as a junior. He's the early-season favorite. But he will surely face some good competition in the ever-competitive 1A classification. Six of the top eight finishers from a year ago are back, meaning experience running well on the big stage returns. Freedom Area's Adam Hessler was third and Winchester Thurston's Scott Routledge was fifth in 2018. That WPIAL pair will be battle-tested and ready to compete for the win.

Penns Valley's Brendan Colwell and the Wyalusing Valley duo of Alex Patton and Kemuel Laudermilch are among those other top eight returnees that will have a shot at the title.

Seniors have won each of the last three state titles in Class A, which bodes well for the likes of Healey, Hessler, and Routledge. Winning a state title takes a certain balance of strength and poise. It will be an interesting race for the 1A crown here.

Team Overview

Jenkintown was even more dominant than expected at the PIAA State Championships. The pre-race favorites put its full scoring five on the podium to put down a very low score of just 49 points to win by 51 points. So how will 2018's top 1A team look this season?

Gone is Jenkintown's individual state champ in Jack Miller, as well as one other state medalist -- Pat Wagner (14th at states) -- but four varsity runners return from last year's team.

The team lurking, trying to win its first state title since 2016 is Winchester Thurston. The Bears bring back their top five from last season, a team which was second to Jenkintown. Routledge will make a run at the individual state title, while they have four other medal threats back. This team has the potential to do what Jenkintown did last season if it all comes together.

Winchester Thurston has the chance -- similarly to Jenkintown last season -- to compete against teams in any classification. Using a MileSplit Virtual Meet, we can see that using last year's state results and taking out graduated seniors puts the Bears among the likes of some of AAA's best teams. It's why they are ranked No. 7 in the PennTrackXC Preseason Rankings regardless of class.

Meanwhile, Penns Valley Area, the 2017 state champs will be strong again. They have a powerful top two with Colwell and Sands, and it loses just one boy from last year's team that followed up the state win with a solid fourth place finish. Adding some backend varsity depth will be a key factor for PV. Wyalusing Valley Area also has a solid top two back with Patton and Laudermilch. Depth will also be a big factor for WV, which does return five from last year's third place squad.

Riverview has six varsity returners and should be a top five threat after an eighth place finish last year. Cranberry and Elk County Catholic -- a pair of District 9 schools -- should also get in the conversation here.

As it tends to be the case in Class A, depth is the name of the game. It's more difficult for 1A teams to overcome injuries or an off day from a top runner. How these teams respond to adversity could be the difference maker this season.