Class AA Boys Individual Preview - PIAA State Championships
Things should get interesting in the race for the top spot in Class AA on Saturday on the boys side. Last year saw a final mile duel in the final back loop, and it could very well come down to that again. So who are the contenders?
The top returner from last year and the AA boy with the fastest 5K time this season is Juniata's Garrett Baublitz. In the spring, he went 4:11 to win the 1,600 meter state title on the track. He was second at XC states last year, closing out his fall on a high note. It's hard to argue with Baublitz' speed. He ran a 1:53 800 after winning the 1,600 at states. Baublitz ran 15:21 for third at Paul Short and most recently won his fourth straight D6 title. He's quick and strong; he'll be tough to beat.
Lewisburg's Jacob Hess took seventh at states last year, a huge freshman year. Now a sophomore, Hess is even better. He went sub-16 twice, including his best of 15:48 at PHACs. The District 4 champ is a strong runner, who went out hard and hung on at his district meet. He could win the whole thing.
General McLane's Dylan Throop is another strong runner in this field. He started his season running a quick 15:30 to win at Lock Haven and has won three races after that, including a District 10 title last week. He was eighth last season and will likely be right there in that lead pack.
Grove City's Tobias Jones was under the weather at D10 and took 11th, but he should be considered among the top names in this field. He's won four times this fall and dropped a 15:46 to win his home invite. Meadville Area's Patrick Stevens took 15th at states last year and has consistently been running well all season long this fall. He was second to Throop in D10 and another big states race could be coming his way Saturday.
Then there's Ben Kuhn of Wyomissing, the ninth place finisher from a year ago. The senior has won all three of his races this season and went 15:43 at Paul Short. He showed off some closing speed to win the District 3 crown last week for a second straight season. Look for him to be among the leaders, trying to fight his way to the top. There's a strong District 3 contingent of contenders after Kuhn. Greencastle-Antrim's Weber Long dropped a big PR of 15:49 to take second in D3 and is hitting his stride at the right time. Cole Adams is York Suburban's top runner and was third in D3. The YAIAA champ be a factor in this race. Northern Lebanon's Gage Krall, the LL League champ, took fourth in D3 and has the talent and three wins to his name this fall. Krall was 17th at states last year.
While Baublitz won in D6, there was a strong group of followers after him. Bedford's Van May went sub-16 with a 15:58 to take second, a statement race that makes him a contender for states. Westmont Hilltop's Nick Fetzer was third in D6 and dropped two sub-16 performances this season. The 4:21 miler, who was 25th at XC states last year, is also one to watch out for in this field.
Loyalsock's Alejandro Quintana is another returning state medalist. He was 14th in 2018. Quintana took second to Hess in District 4, but hung wth him well and should once again be battling it out for a high states finish. Lewisburg's Peter Lantz was third in D4. He was 19th at Hershey last season and should figure into medal contention once again.
WPIAL champ Will Lamb of Beaver Area has enjoyed a breakthrough season. He was second to Baublitz at Foundation and his D7 title was his second win of the season. He has terrific potential going into the meet. New Castle's Anthony Litrenta, Ringgold's Lucas Pajak, and Indiana's Kendall Branan are among the other WPIAL talents in this AA field. Litrenta, who was second to Lamb in D7, was 22nd at states last season. Quaker Valley's Daniel Ford is another returning state medalist. He was 20th in AA last season.
Palisades freshman Thomas Smigo won the Colonial League and then the District 11 title. He is among the state's top ninth graders and is riding some good momentum into his state meet debut.
After the Aloha Hills, we could get a big pack of contenders still in tact, like 2018. But like last year, it will come down to who has the most in the final kilometer or so. Last year, Jonah Powell had it in the end. He's graduated, so it's time for a new top boys in AA.