PIAA XC Championships Preview: Class AA Boys

Class AA Boys Individuals Preview - PIAA State Championships

Gary Martin was a relative unknown on the distance running scene in Pennsylvania this time last season. But his ascent to history got a big boost last year when he became a surprise winner in the AA boys race at the state meet. Martin, then an Archbishop Wood junior, didn't race much last fall with the PCL nearly canceling the XC season. But he made the most of his limited opportunities and won his first state title.

Since then, he's broken the all-time state records in the 1,600 and mile and won two more state titles on the track. Now a senior, Martin, a Virginia commit, has had a great fall so far, running a very quick 14:49 to win at Paul Short, winning the Varsity A race at Manhattan, and rolling to PCL and District 12 wins. He's the big favorite to repeat as AA state champion. Surely, he has hopes of running well at the national meets, but until then, Martin will chase another AA crown.

While a lot of eyes will justifiably be on Martin on Saturday, this is a very deep AA field on the boys' side. 11 other boys have broken the 16 minute barrier this season.

Lewisburg's Jacob Hess was second last year, and he's in the midst of a strong senior season. He's gone sub-16 four times, including most recently, a 15:39 to win the District 4 title for a third straight season. He always runs well at the state meet; he's placed seventh, fifth, and second at states during his career, and this year should be another good run for Hess. Greencastle-Antrim's Weber Long will be another factor up front. He's also run sub-16 four times. He ran a career-best 15:45 to win the District 3 title for the second straight season. He's big meet-tested this season and will look to improve upon his third placed finish from last year.

Ringgold's Ryan Pajak has accumulated an incredible seven wins in this, his sophomore season. After a ninth place state meet finish in 2020 as a freshman, Pajak continues to get better. He ran a PR of 15:23 to take third at Paul Short (ahead of Hess) and cruised to wins at TSTCAs and WPIALs. He's in a good spot to battle it out with Hess and Long for a top three finish.

District 3 has been loaded with talent this season. Long won a good battle for the district crown, but it's deep even after him. Colin Whitaker of Lampeter Strasburg has raced well all season long and came away with a sub-16 effort to take second to Long at the district meet. He was 12th at states last year as a freshman. Susquehannock's Matthew O'Brien has been great this season. The junior was third in D3. Schuylkill Valley's Luke Seymour ran to a fourth place finish at the district meet, and has some good speed that could bode well for him late in the race on Saturday. Kennard-Dale's Garrett Quinan is another top returner from last year. He was sixth in the state last year and the fifth place D3 finisher will shoot for another big end to his season this year.

Danville's Rory Lieberman has had a great season. He was third at Foundation earlier this season, and was a strong second to Hess in District 4. He took 14th in 2020. District 12 runner-up Anthony Gargani has been solid each step of the way this season. He went sub-16 at Paul Short, and will have a great shot to improve upon his 24th finish from last year. Grove City's Joshua Jones led a 1-2-3 finish for his Grove City team in District 10. Jones and his teammates MJ Pottinger and Caleb Hawke, along with D10 fourth place finisher Luke Brown of Cathedral Prep, should have a good crack at good runs at Hershey.

Holy Ghost Prep's James Corbett ran to the District 1 title last week. He ran 15:58 this year, and has put together a number of strong races that should give him some good momentum heading into states. District 6 champion Logan Strawser of Juniata has some good big meet experience this year and should perform well on Saturday. He ran a best of 16:17 this year. 

Others with a good shot at high medals include District 11 champion Samuel Bower of Northwestern Lehigh, District 2 champion Nick Hockenbury of Lake Lehman, WPIAL runner up Dominic Flitcraft of Hopewell, WPIAL third place finisher Matthew Otto of Quaker Valley, Dylan Cunningham of Kennard-Dale, and Hayden Parks of Greencastle-Antrim