PA Goes To Van Cortlandt: Eastbay Northeast Regional Preview

After a year absence due to the pandemic, regionals is back and it's got a new title sponsor: Eastbay. What was formerly known as the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships (and Kinney before that) is now called the Eastbay Cross Country Championships.

Race Projections From MileSplit NY | Meet Schedule

It the same format to get to San Diego for the national meet, and it starts at Eastbay Northeast Regional Championships back at historic Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx in New York City. The top ten will get a free trip to San Diego for Eastbay Nationals, and a number of Pennsylvania's best will be vying for a spot on Saturday.

State champions Cochran and Haas go for the top 10

A pair of Pennsylvania girls' state champions will have a great shot to go after spots inside the top ten on Saturday.

Let's start with Mia Cochran, the AAA state champion senior from Moon Area. The Arkansas signee cruised to her third straight XC state title a few weeks ago, running the day's fastest time of 18:08 at Hershey. She also has plenty of other big meet experience this year, running well at both Desert Twilight in Arizona (7th) and Great American Festival in North Carolina (6th).

Cochran qualified for Foot Locker Nationals in 2019 with a tenth place regional finish, but didn't make the trip to San Diego due to injury. A healthy and prepared Cochran will be very motivated to crack back into the top ten and finally get her long-awaited chance to race at Balboa Park.

Olivia Haas, meanwhile, has been undefeated during her senior season. The Blue Mountain senior has rolled to victories all season long. She won the Paul Short Run in a PR of 17:34, and then out-dueled Jolena Quarzo for the AA state title -- a repeat victory -- on the Hershey hills. The NC State recruit is battled-tested this season, and running very well late into the year as she heads into the post-postseason.

Look for both Cochran and Haas to be right in the lead pack, battling it out with the region's best.

Mulhern ready for the spotlight

Another girl you can expect right near the front and gunning for the win is Jenna Mulhern. The senior Furman recruit has been competing unattached during her senior season, and she's posted a pair of impressive performances along the way. She clocked a 5K track PR of 16:25 in early October, and then a week later placed second in the open race at the Florida State Invitational against a college field, running 20:49 for 6K.

There's certainly a bit of an unknown factor for Mulhern since she didn't race a normal schedule this season, but those performances indicate she is in some of best shape of her career. She was an NXN qualifier in her freshman and sophomore seasons, and now without a traditional NXN this year, she will chase some national glory at Eastbay. She's an experienced and talented runner that should find herself right among the leaders.

New Jersey's Angelina Perez ran the fastest time ever on Holmdel Park for a New Jersey girl, going 17:07 to win the Group title a few weeks back. She's likely the favorite heading into the weekend, along with Ellie Shea of Massachusetts, but look for the PA contingent to keep it close up front. Five of the last seven Northeast Regional champions have hailed from Pennsylvania, and the likes of Cochran, Haas, and Mulhern have a shot to make it six of eight for PA. 

Butler boys look for more on Saturday

It was a terrific state meet for the boys from Butler, and the Golden Tornado will look to keep it rolling into this weekend in New York. CJ Singleton, a senior headed to Notre Dame next year, won the AAA state crown a few weeks ago and will be right in the hunt to book a trip to San Diego. Singleton went 15:52 at Hershey for the state win to close out a season that saw him run a best of 15:16 at Slippery Rock.

His teammate Drew Griffith is also entered for Saturday. It's been a great sophomore campaign for Griffith, who placed second to Singleton at the state meet in AAA, running 15:58 on the challenging Hershey course. He's blossomed into a terrific runner over the last few months and will shoot for another big race on Saturday. Another Butler runner -- Sage Vavro -- is also entered.

Gary Martin, the AA XC state champ and a 4:03 miler, has opted to compete only at RunningLane next week in Alabama. PA perhaps doesn't have a regional frontrunner, like it did two years ago with Patrick Anderson (who went on to place third at Foot Locker Nationals), but these Butler boys should certainly challenge for a spot in the national meet.

Plenty of other contenders will be in the mix

Expect to see a number of other top Pennsylvania runners in the hunt for spots in the top ten. We break down some others names to know ahead of Saturday.

Girls - Caroline Adams (Mount Lebanon); Molly DeMarzo (Crestwood); Lillian DiCola (Hatboro Horsham); Sam Hennen (Shaler Area); Camryn Kiser (Chambersburg); Hope McKenney (Mechanicsburg Area); Claire Paci (Greencastle Antrim); Marissa Pritchett (Northeastern); Logan St. John Kletter (Mount Lebanon); Lauren Shaffer (Portage Area); Lydia Tolerico (Dallastown); Bella Treglia (Northeastern); Claire Zubey (Owen J. Roberts)

St. John Kletter was second at the state meet in AAA, while Zubey was close behind in third. Both ahve had great seasons and should put themselves ight in the mix to battle for a top ten spot with a good day. St. John Kletter has enjoyed a breakthrough season, while Zubey, now a junior, has gotten progressively better over her career.

Paci has also improved quite a bit this season. She was seventh at the state meet. Tolerico, who was 13th at states, ran a 17:58 5K on the track last week, and looks to be in a good spot headed into the weekend.

Boys - Thomas Damiani (Owen J. Roberts); Brian DiCola (Hatboro Horsham); Brendan Flynn (Downingtown East); Brett Kroboth (Peters Township); Caiden Leen (Downingtown East); Weber Long (Greencastle-Antrim); Andrew McGonigle (Owen J. Roberts); Scott Nalepa (North Allegheny); Matthew O'Brien (Susquehannock); Ryan Pajak (Ringgold); Cole Perry (Northeastern); Garrett Quinan (Kennard Dale); Timothy Roden (Central Dauphin); Thomas Smigo (Palisades); Ryan Tarapchak (Neshaminy); Colin Whitaker (Lampeter-Strasburg)

Long will be a contender near the front. Never afraid to go out aggressively, he'll be a factor in this field. He was second at the state meet to Martin in AA, going sub-16 at Hershey. He's running very well at the right time. Meanwhile, Whitaker and O'Brien are coming off strong efforts at the Warrior Classic 5K on the track. Whitaker, sixth at states in AA, ran 15:10, and O'Brien, fourth at states in AA, went 15:25.

Four other AAA top ten state finishers are also entered. Kroboth, in the midst of a nice breakthrough season, was fifth. Leen was sixth, Nalepa was eighth, and DiCola was ninth.  All four have a chance to make it interesting around the top ten of the region.