Class A Boys Individuals Preview - PIAA State Championships
Perhaps no Pennsylvania individual made a bigger statement during districts week than Penns Valley's Colton Sands. The junior dropped a very fast 15:14 to win the District 6 title, a dominant win that further solidifies his place as the favorite for the first boys race of the day on Saturday.
Sands won at Big Valley, took third at Penn State and then captured wins at Foundation before his D6 win. He went 9:24 to win the AA state title in the 3,200 on the track in the spring. Now he'll look to earn his first XC state title after taking 18th last season as a sophomore.
The best threats to Sands' spot atop the state will come from a Penns Valley teammate and also from the boy who was second in Class A last season. The teammate is Brendan Colwell, who was second to Sands at the D6 meet. He was second at Penn State, ahead of Sands, and then third at Foundation. He's run 15:29 this season and comes back to states after taking sixth last year.
Then there's District 2 champion Andrew Healey of Holy Cross, who may have the best shot at taking on Sands. He was a close second to Sands at Foundation. Sands outkicked him down the stretch there. Healey has had a strong season, including being the top PA finisher at PTXC 11 and then running a PR of 15:38 at Paul Short. He was second to now-graduated Jack Miller at states last year and has the experience and poise to make a run at the win. Healey's Holy Cross teammate Kevin Jumper has developed into a threat on the state level, too. He was second to Healey in District 2 and dropped a 15:56 at Paul Short. Look for him to be in the mix for a high finish.
There are plenty of other contenders here, who will surely throw their name into the hat to look to make this interesting.
Freedom Area's Adam Hessler was third at states last year. He's had another big season this fall. He went 16:49, faster than a year ago, to win the WPIAL in 1A. The senior knows how to run well at the right time. Riverview's Mason Ochs and Winchester Thurston's Scott Routledge are among the other WPIAL talents to watch out for. Ochs was second to Hessler in D7 and was 17th at states last season. Routledge was third in D7 and comes in as the No. 3 returner from last year's state meet after a fifth place run in 2018.
Wyalusing Valley's 1-2 punch of Alex Patton and Kemuel Laudermilch will be in the mix up front. Patton won the District 4 crown last week and Laudermilch came across second. Those two will be crucial lowsticks for WV's strong team. The pair were seventh and eighth at states last season. Similarly, Jenkintown's Luke Miller will be a vital piece for the Drakes. After his brother won the state title last year, Miller has assumed the reigns as Jenkintown's top runner. He was 22nd at states last year, but the District 1 champ has had a big junior season and should be a factor near the front.
Elk County Catholic's Ben Hoffman (12th last year), Northern Bedford's Ian Zimmerman (13th), Jenkintown's Carter Geer (16th) and Reynolds's Troy Hart (19th) are among the returners from the top 20 at states last year. Zimmerman won the District 5 crown, while Hart took home the District 10 win last week. Each should be in the top ten hunt this week.
Carter Kauffman of Saint Joseph's Catholic Academy, Jenkintown's Aiden Michell, and Winchester Thurston's Sean Heintzleman also medaled at states last season. Clarion's Nathaniel Lerch was 26th last season, but won the District 9 title last week and should be a factor. District 3 champion Mitchell Brett of Kutztown will compete for a high finish, too. The same goes from Noah Bernarding of Cochranton, who was a close second to Hart in D10.