Above: Video Tour of the Hershey Parkview 5K Course
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Despite rainy and windy conditions - the PIAA Foundation Invitational is slated to proceed. Despite the weather, some of PA's top teams and athletes will duel it out on the Hershey Parkview Course.
Seven State Ranked Teams are slated to compete in the Gold Race at PIAA Foundation: #5 North Allegheny, #6 Manheim Township, #7 North Penn, #8 State College, #12 Hershey, #15 Downingtown East and #16 Lower Merion.
Of them, the North Allegheny boys enter as the favorite. The No. 5 Ranked squad are the defending state champions and will likely receive a challenge from their 3A competition.
North Allegheny has Jack Bertram leading the way. He has already run 15:23 this year and boasts a slew of solid finishes. He was second at the Mingo Scrimmage, RWB Classic, and Boardman Spartan Invitational. He'll look to be the winner this time after having placed third at States in 2022. Behind Bertram, North Allegheny has a strong group of boys in the low to mid-16s, including James Behrend, Michael Gauntner, Anthony Miklos, and Connor Williams.
Manheim Township, North Penn, and State College will try to get the best of North Allegheny. Manheim has three studs at the front of their pack: Adam Kingston, Gunner Geib, and Cole Stevens. Realistically, they could all place inside the top 25 and score massive (low) points for their team.
On the other hand, North Penn and State College will rely on solid pack work from their respective squads. They'll try to nickel and dime the competition for every point. If they're successful, either team could pull off the upset.
Individually, it will take a lot of work to contend with Drew Griffith. He is on another level and already ran 15:25 at the notoriously difficult Roadman Park Course (Cal U). He could go for the course record if it weren't supposed to be muddy. But now he'll likely settle for the individual win.
#3 Grove City is the lone ranked team competing in the Boys Blue Race. As such, they should run away with the team score.
MJ Pottinger will compete for the individual win, while Grove City also has a slew of boys in the low 16s. Watch for Isaiah Stauff, Timothy Sabella, Wyatt Shepson, and Gage Probst to be amongst the team's leading scorers. Quinn McKnight and Colsen Frank could also factor back into the conversation for Grove City.
On the individual level - it's easy to point toward Ryan Pajak as the favorite. Pajak committed to the University of Notre Dame last week, and with that off his shoulders he could be ready to drop a quick time. Last year's PIAA 2A Runner-Up is poised to establish himself as THE favorite.
Colin Whitaker (Lampeter Strasburg) is not scheduled to race. He could be Pajak's main competition this year.
Truthfully, the team competition in the white race is up in the air.
Annville-Cleona is the favorite heading into the weekend. The squad won the Ben Bloser Invitational by boasting a 17:27 average and a 1:12 compression. Landon Hostetter led the team and scored the individual victory in 16:39.
Brookville and Rocky Grove could challenge. The squads finished first and second at the Commodore Perry Invitational this past weekend. Brookeville defeated Rocky Grove 73-84. They received most of those points from a more substantial 1-5 compression.
Individually, we'll likely see a battle between Tyler Rader (Huntingdon), Kevin Sherry (Coudersport), Landon Hostetter (Annville Cleona), and Creed Dewing (Northeast Bradford). At last year's state championship - they finished second, fourth, fifth, and sixth respectively.
Kevin Sherry has already run 15:39 this year, while Rader dropped 15:43. Can they separate themselves from Hotstetter and Dewing?