Highlights from the 2A Boys Championship
Ryan Pajak (Ringgold) was determined to attack the Hershey Parkview course, the same way he attacked courses all year, by going hard from the gun. He flew out of a cannon at the start and forced Rory Lieberman (Danville), Logan Strawser (Juniata), and Colin Whitaker (Lampeter Strasburg) to give chase. They did just that, blistering through the first mile in 4:41.
They remained together through the next mile until the second when Whitaker began to fade. Strawser, Pajak, and Lieberman remained steady, coming through two miles in just under 10-flat. Strawser was a few meters back, but not an insurmountable distance.
But shortly after that, Lieberman took control of the race and dictated the pace from the front. Seemingly effortlessly, he gapped Pajak and Strawser, and by the time he re-emerged in front of the home crowd, his gap was 15-seconds. He crossed the line at 15:53.
After the race, Lieberman mentioned that he was worried early. Pajak's pace was challenging and had him questioning whether he could catch him. But when Strawser caught him at the halfway point, it reignited his race. They ran down Pajak, and Lieberman delivered his first state-winning performance.
Head-to-head, Lieberman has now won three straight over Pajak, who finished second in 16:10. The two have been locked in a 2A rivalry. But Pajak is only a junior and will be back for more next year.
Lieberman after winning his first state title.
For Lieberman, it is an excellent conclusion to a standout senior year. He has been dominant, only falling to Brian DiCola at Paul Short. Even then, he became the fifth fastest boy in Pennsylvania history, with a 14:47.8. He was eight-tenths of a second off of Paul Springer and Noah Affolder.
Strawser and Whitaker both maintained their spots in third and fourth, respectively. Whitaker closed hard on Strawser and nearly outkicked him down the stretch.
Strawser after his third place finish.
Grove City's MJ Pottinger threw down a stellar performance in his sophomore season. He responded to the challenge and finished fifth overall, earning a 4-stick for GC. He held off the District 9 Champ, Manny Diaz (Bradford).
Notably, Mason Stewart enjoyed a breakthrough championship. Last year, he was 58th at the State Championship.
Hear from the Grove City Championship Team.
It was the perfect day for Grove City Area to put forth an A+ performance. They did just that. Leading from the first mile to the finish, Grove City never wavered. Grove City jumped out from the get-go and took control of the race.
Coming into the day, if someone were going to beat them, they would need to have a perfect day. But GC wouldn't let that happen; they made it impossible for anyone to deliver an upset. They had six runners in the top 30 points-paying positions at the finish.
What a year for Grove City.
Grove City Area, Head Coach Sample
The District 4 rivals remained in lockstep till the end. Even then, they were tied. It came down to the tiebreaker, going to each team's sixth man. It was there that Adam Gallo delivered the triumphant blow for Danville. He helped the Danville boys earn the runner-up finish.
Hampton ended up in fourth, 11 points behind second and third. Lampeter Strasburg concluded a strong year in fifth.