Ciaran Chambers (Photo Courtesy of MaeKellert)
The Cross Country season is finally upon us after a long season of waiting. Action gets underway tomorrow (Friday, Aug 26th) so we wanted to highlight and briefly preview what you can expect from this weekend.
The Rundown:The Boys:
Last year, eventual PIAA 1A Champion Thomas Smigo (Palisades) started his season with a win edging out Samuel Bower of Northwestern Lehigh to win in 16:19. Northwestern took home the team title, as Nazareth Area finished runner-up, and Holy Ghost Preparatory finished in third.
2A's Holy Ghost Prep, led by senior Ciaran Chambers, could jump from third to first at this year's meet. Chambers enters with a personal best nearly 40-seconds faster than the field. His 16:22 ranked 21st in PIAA 2A last year. He'll look to set an early mark.
We expect it to be a tight race with Abington Heights and Nazareth in the hunt for the team win as well. The sixth and seventh runners may dictate the race. Abington Heights and Nazareth should both have tighter packs than front-runner Holy Ghost Prep.
Olivia Haas (Blue Mountain) won the Lions Invitational in her eventual championship campaign as she would eventually win the PIAA 2A Championship in November. Abington Heights picked up the team title, followed by Northwestern Lehigh and Notre Dame Green Pond in second and third.
Abington Heights will attempt to defend their title this year, but Delaware Valley should give them a good run. Both teams reside in 3A this year, so we'll get a first look at the action on the 3A side.
Abington Heights has a scary amount of depth, making them hard to challenge. Maia Arcangelo and Reese Morgan are expected to lead the squad. Del Valley lacks Abington Heights's depth but has a few low sticks that make winning feasible. Kaya Meler returns with a 20:26 5k personal best and broke out on the track last season. She ran 5:14 over 1600m this spring.
Spring Ford will host a two-mile scrimmage, which will present an attractive opportunity to see where some notable teams stack up.
Spring Ford and Twin Valley will be 3A contenders this season, they'll stack up for the first time on Friday. On paper Twin Valley, led by Anthony Engle and the Meister brothers, is favored in this matchup. But that's on paper, and things may change on the cross course.
Downingtown East may also be in the hunt.
We'll be watching Anthony Engle (Twin Valley), Quintin Smith (Spring Ford), Ben Meister (Twin Valley), Ryan Christman (Downingtown East), Nate Meister (Twin Valley), and Nick Steinfeldt (Downingtown East). They are the six entering this race who broke 17-minutes last season.
Perkiomen Valley is the heavy favorite to walk away with the scrimmage win on the girl's side, especially considering the team's status as a 3A contender. We predict they'll place four runners in the top ten, if they run their top girls.
Downingtown East is poised to challenge Perkiomen Valley. They return a strong pack led by Madison Brown and Emily Steinberg. Madison Brown ran 18:39 at last year's Paul Short Run and ran 5:02 in the mile last track season.
Daniel Boone should also have a strong showing.
Friday's scrimmage will be the first opportunity for us to see Summer Watts (Perkiomen Valley) versus Madison Brown. Their bests are a scant three seconds apart. Watts finished top 50 at last year's 3A Cross Country championship, but we give the nod to Madison Brown. She didn't run the PIAA Championship race last year, but following her breakout track and field season, we expect her to have a strong season.
For the first time this year, we may get a look at the 2021 PIAA 3A State runner-up, Drew Griffith (Butler). From an individual perspective, his 5k personal best is a minute faster than the next (expected) runner in the field, so we may not see a swift performance.
Seneca Valley will display its pack for the first time this year. Notorious for depth, 3A's Seneca Valley should come away with the team win, but they'll rely on their tight spread. Butler and Freeport Area will likely be in a battle for second. On paper, Butler has an advantage based on their front runners, but Freeport has a tighter pack.
Freeport runs in the 2A classification and will likely be looking to establish itself early after the summer training season.
Seneca Valley may be dominant on the girl's side. Abby Kreber enters the weekend with the fastest 5k personal best with a 20:13. Her teammate Grace Graner has the next fastest with 20:20, and Samantha Moury will enter with the fourth fastest time of 20:50.
Where they'll stack up after a long summer training season remains to be seen, but we expect three Seneca Valley girls in the top eight.
Ava Brewster of Butler should be in the mix for the individual win. Her team will mix it up with SV. Although SV has the front running power, Butler has a crew of young ladies with the potential to insert themselves after the front few.