Above: Watch Race Highlights from the 2A Championship
Maybe they were thinking about it, or perhaps they weren't... but we sure were.
Sure, they were in different races, but it almost felt inevitable that one of the two would walk away from the day with a course record. After all, the 3.1-mile course was immaculate, and the racing conditions were near perfect.
As it turns out, it would be Ryan Pajak's day.
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He meticulously managed the field through the opening mile before building his gap in the hills. He hammered down after the 2-mile mark, running away from Colin Whitaker (Lampeter Strasburg).
It was Pajak versus the clock at the 4k mark. He had a 12-second lead but pressed on regardless. He would eventually finish in 15:21, breaking Brian DiCola's one-year-old course record of 15:24 in the process.
Further - Pajak's mark was rated as a 194 speed rating, which is one of the best ratings in the nation this year.
Colin Whitaker finished 16 seconds back from Pajak, crossing the line in 15:37. That was rated as a 189 speed rating by TullyRunners.
Patrick Burgos (Elizabeth Forward), who finished in third, had a masterful day on the course. A week earlier, he had a 102-degree fever. His focus at WPIALS was to qualify for the state championship. Feeling much better, he put together one of the best races of his career. He sat on the lead pack early, and when Pajak and Whitaker began to pull away from the field, he laid in chase. He was only four seconds back from Whitaker at two miles but had put nine seconds on the rest of the field. He perfectly managed the closing mile and crossed the line at 16:02.
For Hess, it was an awe-inspiring effort. He went out HARD, and spectators quickly pointed out that it may not work out for him. But he was fearless in his effort and ran an incredibly gritty race to get home in fifth.
Hampton Executes perfectly in Team Victory
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Hampton had a perfect day as a team on Saturday, executing a near-perfect game plan to usurp the defending state champs and win their first-ever State XC Title.
From the gun, the blue tops and yellow bottoms of the Hampton unis could be prominently seen towards the front of the pack, and at the 1-mile mark Hampton led Grove City 65-82. At that point, Dale Hall, Christopher Belch, Jacob Bonnar, and Layne Haught were all in the top 20 points-paying positions. They were only separated by 14 seconds.
With their positions established, they just needed to maintain their positions. At two miles, their lead had grown to 66-93, and they held on to win 66-89 over Grove City.
Hall finished fourth in 16:12, Belch crossed in 11th at 16:29, and Jacob Bonnar finished in 27th. Layne Haught and Nathan Gardner rounded out the top five for Hampton, finishing inside the Top 25 points-paying positions. They notched a 78-second spread and a 16:55 average.
Grove City did their best to stick with, and they placed four in the top 20 scoring positions, but they couldn't quite pull off the win. MJ Pottinger, Isaiah Stauff, Colsen Frank, and Timothy Sabella all finished in the top 40 overall. They averaged 17:07 with a 1:24 compression.
Top Five Teams (Full Results)
|1||Hampton||66||2+6+13+22+23 (33+78)||1:18 1-5 Split | 16:55 Avg|
|2||Grove City Area||89||7+10+12+19+41 (84+102)||1:24 1-5 Split | 17:07 Avg|
|3||Danville Area||125||4+24+25+28+44 (113+132)||1:42 1-5 Split | 17:28 Avg|
|4||Beaver Area||155||8+16+38+45+48 (105+109)||1:26 1-5 Split | 17:35 Avg|
|5||Lewisburg Area||162||3+15+31+56+57 (72+94)||2:10 1-5 Split | 17:35 Avg|