While it may be a smaller classification, PIAA Class AA (2A) girls are already putting up some of the state's biggest performances to start out 2019.
In fact, AA girls are proving to be just as deep -- if not more -- than AAA.
Last year heading into the state meet, we (incorrectly) speculated that it may be more difficult to get inside the top ten in AA girls than AAA girls. While that didn't come true, this year, it very could. Up front, we know it it fast. Marlee Starliper went out and ran the fastest XC 5K in state history. Taryn Parks ran to another PTXC win. And Lauren Trapani dropped another sub-18 at Lock Haven.
In the first two weeks of the XC season, 7 girls have already dipped under 19 minutes in the 5K. In all of 2018, 9 AA girls went under 19 minutes for the whole season. So this year's girls are already pushing that number and the season is a mere two weeks old.
From last year's list of 9 girls that went sub-19, only one -- Christina DiFalco -- has graduated. This year, AA has added Jolena Quarzo, the younger sister of the talented Gionna Quarzo. The freshman Quarzo went 18:55 at last week's Red, White & Blue Classic. Cori McCormick (above) ran considerably faster at PTXC 11 last week, proving that she's in for an even better 2019 season. The talent pool keeps expanding.
Additionally, this year six girls are within 20 seconds of the 19 minute mark through the first couple weeks. With some fast races like Carlisle and Paul Short still on the horizon, that number of sub-19 girls could certainly grow exponentially.
Take a look at those girls who are closing in on the 19 minute barrier in 2019 below. Note that Gianna Labbiento (third at states in 2018) is a surefire bet to eventually eclipse that mark and Peyton Ellis went 19:15 as just a freshman on the rolling hills of Kutztown.
Now let's compare that with AAA, which, of course, is made up of individuals from larger schools. 7 girls, just like AA, have run sub-19 this season. Similarly, 6 girls are also within 20 seconds of the 19 minute barrier. Despite the differences in school sizes, AA girls is proving to be just as competitive up front as AAA.
This could just be a coincidence, or we could look no further than the girls at the top. Starliper and Parks emerged onto the XC and distance running scene as freshmen in AA. Since then, the pair have battled it out on the XC course and on the track.
It's certainly possible that the top girls in AA are aware of the fact that they must step up their running if they want a shot to compete. While there is talent in AAA, it can't quite match the feats of Starliper and Parks.
It remains to be seen if AA will be deeper up front compared to AAA. But after just two weeks in the season, it's clear that getting inside the top ten of PIAA Class AA this season on the girls side will be no easy task.