BOYS RACE PREVIEW:
Chase Ebeling (Bellefonte) finished 4th in his opener at the Big Valley XC Invitational last week. He ran a personal best 16:48 and is seemingly on the verge of a breakout after running 4:41(1600m) and 10:12 (3200m) on the track this spring.
He is expected to make his season debut this week, returning with the third fastest time from 1A last year. He finished fourth at the 2021 1A State Championships. This spring, he ran 4:24 (1600m) and 9:35 (3200m).
Altoona and Bellefonte will duel it out for the team title. They finished third and fourth at the Big Valley XC Invitational two weeks ago. Altoona's incredible 23-second 1-5 compression helped Altoona get the edge in that instance, but Bellefonte has more front running ability. Bellefonte put two ahead of Altoona's first.
We expect the field to favor Altoona and their pack dynamic on Saturday.
Saint Mary's Area could be a challenge. They scored a fourth-place finish at the Bear Mountain River Run and a sixth-place finish at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational. On average, their compression was just over one minute.
Cranberry may also factor in before all is said and done.
GIRLS RACE PREVIEW:
We expect a couple of girls to sneak under 19 on Saturday.
The first has to be Delaney Dumm (Forest Hills). The senior opened her season with a meager 19:40, but on the track, she ran 5:01 over 1600m and 10:46 over 3200m to claim two second-place finishes at the PIAA 2A State Championships.
It was indeed a breakout season for the vet, and we suspect she may have just been knocking off some rust two weeks ago at Big Valley.
Gabby Pistner will lead a stout Saint Mary's contingent and may also contend for the individual win. Pistner ran an impressive 19:16 at the Bear Mountain River Run to claim second place honors two weeks ago. That was a big 35+ second personal best for the sophomore. She ran 2:18 over 800m and 5:17 over 1600m last spring.
As we alluded, Saint Mary's Area will be a tough team to beat this week. They opened their season with a dominating win at Bear Mountain, scoring 47 points less than the second-place team. They averaged 20:57 and placed four girls in the top 10 points-paying places.
The home team, Altoona, should be in the conversation alongside Forest Hills.
Forest Hills finished third at Big Valley, while Altoona fell to third. However, the two teams were separated by just 3-points. Forest Hills' disadvantage came from their nearly 5-minute 1-5 split, but they put three ahead of Altoona's No. 2 and thus outscored Altoona by that fine margin.
Forest Hills finished with an average of 21:49, while Altoona repped a 22:12 average.