It was a wide open team race and Brady Bigger of State College emerged victorious, winning in surprise fashion with a time from the first heat that held up throughout the day. The boys race turned into a runaway for the North Allegheny boys, which won their second state title in three years with a huge team effort to take the win and complete the NA sweep (the NA girls also won).
Brady Bigger knew he had to post a quick time in the first AAA boys race of the day. The State College senior did just that, clocking a 16:07 to win the first heat. Bigger stood and watched as his time held up through the next three heats and Bigger took home the state title.
Bigger who was 20th last year, moved all the way up to the top spot, capping off a season that included big wins in the Mid Penn Conference, as well as the District 6 Championships.
Hatboro-Horsham's Devon Comber took second in 16:10, winning the third heat. Comber knew it would be close at the line and gave it all he had, as he dove to the line coming up just short of Bigger's time. Penn Manor's Graham Thomas wasn't far behind, taking second to Comber in the heat and third overall in 16:14.
Downingtown West's Aiden Barnhill, second to Bigger in the first heat, was fourth overall in 16:19. Williamsport's J. Henry Lyon was fifth in 16:24, and Butler's CJ Singleton -- winner of the fourth heat -- was sixth in 16:29.
It was expected to be a close team battle for the top spot, but the North Allegheny boys turned it into a bit of a runaway in AAA boys. The WPIAL champions used its signature pack to roll to the state title -- its second state crown in three years -- with 49 points. That was 27 points clear of second place.
The Tigers executed a perfect race plan that saw its pack move up in the field throughout the race. As they came to the finish, there was little doubt who the champion would be. Scott Nalepa, who emerged as a very solid No. 1 for NA throughout the season, was the first Tiger across in eighth (16:33). Jackson Hickel also got on the medal stand, taking 22nd in 16:52.
The rest of the NA boys placed inside the top 45. Gregory Kossuth was 28th, Graham Wolfe was 35th, Connor Foody was 42nd, Michael Gauntner was 43rd, and Andrew Kollitz was 45th. Of that top seven, only Foody and Kollitz graduate, so look for the Tigers to be a big title favorite for 2021.
LaSalle College earned its third straight second place team finish at the state meet. The Explorers -- the District 12 champions -- scored 76 points and won a tiebreaker over Downgintown West to grab silver. Drew Brill's 12th place finish paced LaSalle.
Downingtown West, led by a solid top two of Barnhill (fourth) and Declan Rymer (18th), took third, also scoring 76 points. That makes it three years in a row that the top three has consisted of North Allegheny, LaSalle, and D-West and this is the same order of finish from the top three that we saw in 2018.
Hempfield ran well to take fourth with 85 points. The Black Knights, which return five boys next year, were led by Aidan Hodge, who placed 21st. State College Area, which had the one-stick of Bigger, took a close fifth with 95 points.