PA Preview by Jayson Jackson
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandmaster_Flash_and_the_Furious_Five) rapped, "New York, New York Big City of Dreams..." and that holds true for several PA teams as they head to the Bronx for the Manhattan Invitational (https://ny.milesplit.com/meets/55433). PA is taking their XC show on the road to the famed Van Cortlandt Park (http://www.armorytrack.com/XC/VCP/index.htm), "America's Cross Country Mecca," as described by Marc Bloom. Van Cortlandt will host 40 races on Saturday, yes 40, with the schedule beginning at 9:05 a.m. and ending after 4 p.m. The lettered races will set the stage for the marquee races of the day, the Eastern States Championships.
PA is sending a strong contingent of teams to the meet, 5 boys teams in the Eastern States Championship, and 3 girls teams and one team of boys in the lettered races. #4 Pennsbury (Race F) and #9 North Penn (Race C) lead the way in the lettered races with West Chester Henderson (Race E) girls also competing. Pennsbury is coming off of a 3rd place finish at the Paul Short Run. Their 1-2 punch of Sara Sargent and Ann Herman has led the way all season and will have to continue that trend on Saturday to contend for the win in Race F and have one of the top team averages on the day. With so many balanced races, the best way for teams to compare themselves across the board is by their team average. Pennsbury will gain valuable experience as a team aiding their push to Hershey.
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North Penn got back to their winning ways at the Salesianum Invitational as they held off West Springfield (VA) by four points. North Penn is flying under the radar right now as they appear to finally be at full strength. Keep in mind they were ranked #2 a few weeks ago (https://pa.milesplit.com/articles/26358#0917). They were able to battle through the adversity they faced and come out stronger as a team which bodes well for their chances at Manhattan. Look for them to build off last weekend's performance and contend for the win in Race C.
PA #1/ US #14 Germantown Friends, #2 West Chester Henderson, #3 La Salle, #10 North Penn, and Father Judge will take on a loaded field in the Boys Eastern States race. The field is lead by US #4 Haddonfield (NJ). This will be the third time Germantown Friends has faced Haddonfield, suffering narrow losses both times (2 & 3 points). Well I think the third time will be the charm as Germantown Friends has been marching through the season on a mission. They are no strangers to the big stage and I fully expect them to shine on Saturday. For as good as they are, they still seem to improve each meet. I think their continued improvement will lead to a great performance on Saturday.
West Chester Henderson will debut this weekend as well and everyone is wondering what exactly does coach Kevin Kelly have up his sleeve. Everyone knows they are good, but the big question is, "How good?" On Saturday we will find out. They have been ranked #1 or #2 in PA all season and the reason they dropped to number 2 was not because of something they did or didn't do, but it was more about how strong Germantown Friends has been running. West Chester Henderson has been one of the best teams of this decade and they will look to add to that legacy as they take on the best in the east on Saturday. It will be an epic battle with Germantown Friends for PA supremacy. Last year's state runner-up Will Kellar will be in the running for the individual title as well. I think both teams will take down Haddonfield as they battle for the title.
Not far behind Germantown Friends and West Chester Henderson is La Salle. The thing about La Salle is they are not flashy, but they get the job done week after week. They don't have a front runner, but they have a pack that is every coach's dream. I was very impressed when I saw them race at Carlisle because at one point I was wondering where the La Salle guys were in the field. Then all of a sudden I saw one guy and it and less than 30 seconds later I had seen all seven. When you can open and shut the door that quickly, you are very tough to beat which is why they are ranked #3 and finished 2nd at states last year. I think they will surprise some people and earn some regional recognition on Saturday as they keep their eyes on moving up one spot in Hershey.
To me, North Penn is the wildcard in the field. Brad Miles and Sam Bernitt have been great for them up front all season and should have big races on Saturday. Miles took off last weekend and Bernitt got the win in his abscence. North Penn is the two-time defending state champs so they know what to do in the big races. While they will not contend for the team title they will make their presecene felt. Jonathan Vitez (Haddonfield, NJ) is the pre-race favorite for the individual title as he is currently #12 in the MileSplit Sweet 16 Individual Rankings (https://www.milesplit.com/articles/28668). North Penn went after NXN last year and missed out, this year I think they will take a more individual focus, i.e. Foot Locker Nationals. Miles and Bernitt will take big steps in that direction on Saturday when they battle Vitez. Miles has been tough ever since he burst on the scene a few years ago. Look for him to contend for the win and "upset" Vitez with Bernitt not too far behind. Although to everyone in PA, it will not be an upset, because we know how good Miles is.
I highly recommend attending if you have the chance becuase there will be plenty of amazing running all day. MileSplit (https://ny.milesplit.com/meets/55433) has all the information you could possibly want about the race and if they are missing something the meet website (http://www.manhattanxcinvitational.com/) will have it. Many of PA's best are heading north to the Five Boroughs this weekend and we wish them well as they battle the best in east and represent PA proudly. Can you Dig it? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw9yEuwohkk)