PIAA Preview: 2A Boys Championship

Welcome to the 2023 Preview of the 2A Boys PIAA XC Championship and best of luck to those competing in this year's meet.

2022 Recap:

"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."

Expert Predictions

PredictionsJohn DavernPhil GroveCoach NixonIan Sherlock
IndividualRyan PajakRyan PajakRyan PajakRyan Pajak
TeamGrove CityGrove CityHamptonHampton

Grove City vs Hampton for the Team Championship

Grove City won the Team Championship in 2022, while Hampton finished fourth. These two teams have been ranked amongst the best teams in the state this year as they've flexed their prowess on the Cross Country course.

The two squads have seen each other numerous times, with both teams coming out on top on different occasions.

Grove City has MJ Pottinger leading the way, with Colsen Frank, Isaiah Stauff, and Timothy Sabella all packed in behind him. Wyatt Shepson is their fifth, and Gage Probst is their sixth. The key to victory for Grove City is maintaining that front pack and getting their Top 3 in before Hampton's three. 

- - -

Hampton also benefits from a solid three in Dale Hall, Christopher Belch, and Jacob Bonnar. But behind them, they have freshman Josh Wukitch, Nathan Gardner, and Layne Haught. Interestingly, Wukitch and Gardner probably match up with Grove City's Shepson well. That means that Hampton will need to make up points on their front end. Belch and Bonnar could very well contend for Top 15 finishing positions. That would be huge for Hampton's outlook. 

Outside of those two teams, we must watch Beaver Area and Quaker Valley. They finished in second and third, respectively, at the District 7 Championship. Quaker Valley has Clark LaLomia up front, and he should provide a low stick for the team. Tyler Bell should also be near the top of the pack. 

Don't discount Lampeter Strasburg. Colin Whitaker leads the squad, but behind him, they have a trio of boys who can run together. Michael Colosi, Luke Smith, and Canaan Rohrer finished 12th, 13th, and 14th for LS at the District 3 Championship. That propelled the team to the District 3 title.

Other teams to watch include Holy Ghost Prep, Danville, Lewisburg, and Juniata.

Can anyone take down Ryan Pajak?

Ryan Pajak is the obvious early favorite. Ranked No. 8 in the country, Pajak (Ringgold) is searching for his first career state championship. Throughout the season, he has established himself as the best-of-the-best, and some argue that he could go toe-to-toe with Drew Griffith if they were in the same classification.

Pajak is undefeated on the season and has set numerous meet and course records. At the PIAA Foundation Invitational, he ran 15:48 to win by over 30 seconds and ran 14:40 at the Mingo Classic. 

If anyone can challenge him, it'll be Colin Whitaker (Lampeter Strasburg). Whitaker has run similarly fast times. He went 14:42.6 at the adidas XC Challenge to open the year and then finished runner-up to Pajak at Paul Short. He went on to win the Lancaster Lebanon League Championships and the District 3 Championship.

Grove City's MJ Pottinger may mix things up. He ran 15:21 on the challenging White Oak Park course to win the 2A race at Red, White, and Blue. He is coming off a District 10 Championship, and he will be eager to finish low for his team.

Above: We caught up with MJ Pottinger after his District 10 win.

- - -

Dale Hall (Hampton) may not be on the same level as Pajak and Whitaker, but he does offer a lethal kick. His leg speed is phenomenal, and he can close a race with the best of them. If he's in it at the end, he's a threat. Plus, his team will be in a dead heat with Grove City for the team victory.

Jonathan Hess (Lewisburg) is a fascinating contender. Like Hall, he also has impressive leg speed, and he just won the District 4 Championship. He was sneakily in the mix and finished 14th at Paul Short. 

Also keep an eye on Patrick Burgos (Elizabeth Forward), Julian Kletz (Montour), Dane Spahr (Danville), Steven Todd (Bishop  Shanahan),  Michael Braun (Freeport), Daniel Danilovitz (Riverside).