Class AA Boys Team Preview - PIAA State Championships
It's been a remarkably strong year for AA teams. Some of the top mid-classification squads can hang with some strong AAA squads across the state. And it will be a great battle for the state title, as one team looks to go for a three-peat, while a host of other teams will have a shot to dethrone the two-time defending state champions.
Let's start with the team looking to defend its title on Saturday, Lewisburg Area. The Green Dragons lost strong runners from last year's team, but have a good core back that's looking to make it a historic three state championships in a row. At the top is still Jacob Hess, a terrific No. 1 runner. The depth is still there, thanks in large part to freshman Jonathan Hess, who has steadily become a major contributor; he was the team's No. 4 runner at the District 4 Championships, which Lewisburg won handily, putting just 25 points up.
But the challengers are lining up!
The midseason Foundation Invitational on the Hershey didn't feature Lewisburg, but it did include many of the top AA squads that will be looking to knock off the champs. Northwestern Lehigh won that close battle. With some good depth, the Tigers outlasted that good field and got the early upperhand on the other AA teams on the state course. NW Lehigh rolled to the District 11 title this past week, putting five in the top six to score just 17 points for the victory. This is a team with state title aspirations, and the team looks to be in a good spot to chase it on Saturday.
Second place at Foundation was Grove City Area. The Eagles have been a perennial power in PA, but are still on the hunt for its first state title. This could be the year. Grove City was just five points off NW Lehigh at Foundation, and has been dominant in basically every other meet this season. GC has packed up and has a very strong top five. At the District 10 Championships, the Eagles took the top three spots and four of the top five spots to score just 23 points. If they put it all together on Saturday, this will be a very tough team to beat.
District 3 champions Lampeter Strasburg were a strong third at Foundation earlier this season. After its strong No. 1 runner Whitaker, the L-S has a great group of scoring runners that tend to pack up. This team is battle-tested and ready to make a run at a big finish on Saturday. Greencastle-Antrim has made some great strides this season. Long and Parks are a great 1-2, while the rest of the team is coming around nicely, which culminated in a second place finish, 14 points behind L-S. This will be a strong team in this race, too.
Another team that has been impressive throughout the season is Hampton. The District 7 (WPIAL) champs put down a 1-5 spread of just 35 seconds to capture the crown this past week. This is a young team that is on the rise. The experience they gain on Saturday will be crucial, but make not mistake -- this is a team that can run with the best of them on Saturday. Speaking of slim spreads, North Catholic had a 1-5 gap of just 29 seconds to take second to Hampton in D7. They'll be a team to look out for, as well.
District 1 champions Holy Ghost Preparatory took the district win at Lehigh last week. They are clicking at the right time to possibly make some noise at states. District 6 champions Central Cambria, District 2 champions Holy Redeemer, Danville Area, and Susquehannock are others teams that will have their sights set on high finishes in the team standings when the dust settles in the afternoon's first race.