Above: Full Race Replay of the 3k at Susquehanna
In a race with a 2A State XC Champion, O'Brien set out with a quest for redemption. Redemption for himself after missing expectations and lofty goals that he yearned for during the Cross Country campaign.
He struggled at the PIAA 3A State Championship after going out hard with Drew Griffith (Butler). That day, he was positioned in the Top-5 through two miles before fading to 19th at the race's conclusion.
Then, he spent weeks preparing for the Champs Sports Northeast Region Championship. And just when he was ready to go out and knock off a Top 10 finish, he fell to sickness the week of and missed the qualification for Nationals.
That must have indeed left a sour taste in O'Brien's mouth.
Lieberman's post-states training block was derailed by injury. His mileage was limited, and he increased his cross-training to maintain his fitness heading into the Indoor Track campaign.
It paid off. The two went head-to-head and opened with a quick first 800 of 2:14. They then marched through the first mile in 4:35 before clearing 2k in 5:45, on an 8:38 3K pace.
With an undeniably swift pace, you'd expect them to fall off, but O'Brien kept his foot on the gas. With 600m to go, he made a move on Lieberman. A small surge created space, which slowly grew into a gap. And while Lieberman tried to respond, O'Brien continued to press.
The result would be a US No. 8 - 8:37.18 3k. Lieberman crossed the line in a US No. 12 at 8:41.54. O'Brien's time is the fourth fastest Pennsylvania time in January All-Time.
O'Brien talks about his race with Lieberman and what his 2023 schedule looks like.
O'Brien and Lieberman weren't the only two to excel over this distance this weekend.
Matt Castronuovo (Upper Dublin) ran 8:44.99 this weekend at the TFCAofGP Meet 6. Drew Griffith (Butler) ran a 9:07 Two Mile at the VA Showcase. He split right around 8:32 through 3k.
Meanwhile - Brian DiCola (Hatboro Horsham) still holds the fastest time of the season, an 8:30 that he ran on the Lehigh University flat 200m track.
Overall, if all of these boys decide to run the 3k at states, we are in for an extraordinary race, as they are likely to duke it out on the 200m oval. It would be impossible to predict a winner at this juncture, especially with others still lurking in wait.
So who's next? Who is the next standout to emerge from the shadows and drop an ever-quickening PA Top 5? Or who will be the first boy to dip underneath the 8-minute barrier?
Questions are still waiting to be answered, which is exactly what you'd expect at this point in the season.