Race Recap: PIAA Boys AAA

The North Allegheny boys moved up well throughout the race, and captured the program's second straight team title, which is also their third title in four years. Individually, it was all Butler up front, as the Golden Tornado took the top two spots led by state champion CJ Singleton and runner-up Drew Griffith.


CJ Singleton has waited a while for his state title and on Saturday it became a reality. The Butler senior outlasted a deep field to claim his first state win in 15:52. He led a Butler 1-2 finish, as sophomore Drew Griffith, was right behind Singleton to take second in 15:58 -- the only two sub-16 times in the AAA race. Griffith's breakthrough season continued with a terrific run at Hershey.

North Pocono's Caleb Kenyon was the last to hang with the Butler duo, and the senior finished a strong third in 16:03. The race separated into a lead pack of four around the mile with Singleton, Griffith, Kenyon, and Hatboro Horsham's Brian DiCola (who finished ninth). Singleton opened it up on his challengers approaching the 2 mile mark and held on from there to take the win.

Haverford's Ethan Fingerhut moved up nicely throughout the race to finish fourth in 16:13. Peter Township's Brett Kroboth hung well to take fifth in 16:15, edging out Downingtown East's Caiden Leen, who finished sixth in 16:16. Cumnberland Valley's Jordan Tiday finished strong to take seventh in 16:22.

North Allegheny's strategy for much of the season has been to get out conservatively and move up throughout the race. On the big stage like the state meet, it can be a risky approach, but it paid off for the Tigers, who methodically moved its pack up in the field during the race and came away with another state title -- the team's second straight AAA team win and third in four years.

NA found itself in 12th place at the mile mark in the team standings, a staggering 144 points off the lead. By the midpoint of the race, NA moved all the way up to second, but still over 50 points off the leaders, LaSalle College. But the movement up in the field was far from over. The gap narrowed to just 11 at the two mile mark, and then the Tigers ran a terrific last mile to pull away with a commanding victory, putting just 63 points on the board to win by 62 over second place.

Scott Nalepa, who sat out big races at TSTCAs and WPIALs over the last two weeks, returned in a big way to lead the way for NA, taking eighth to match his 2020 state meet finish. Then it was the freshman, Jack Bertram, who came across next for NA, taking 13th in 16:30. He was the fastest ninth grader of the meet and just one of two freshmen boys in the whole meet to get on the medal podium. Nalepa moved from 80th at the mile to eighth at the finish, while Bertram was 96th at the mile before moving up to 13th.

Senior Ryan Podnar was 19th to also earn an individual medal. Graham Wolfe, also a senior, was 27th and Michael Gauntner was 31st. The Tigers' 1-5 spread was just 28 seconds. It was another dominant victory for the North Allegheny boys.

LaSalle College placed second, with 125 points, the team's fourth straight runner-up team finish in AAA. Led by 26th place Will Rau, the Explorers also had a slim 1-5 spread of just 30 seconds. That makes five straight podium appearances for LaSalle, dating back to its state title win in 2017.

Downingtown East ran well to place third with 184 points, rounding out a strong season for the District 1 runners-up. Butler, behind its impressive lowsticks in Singleton and Griffith, took fourth with 202 points. Haverford Township was fifth, Lower Merion sixth, and State College Area was seventh.