|By Aaron Rich
AAA boys - Northeast #3 Cedar Cliff & Craig Miller are favorites.
AA Boys -
The team race is wide open with Jed Christiansen the early individual favorite.
AAA girls - Hatboro-Horsham is Northeast #3. Marissa Umbel and Katie Theader lead returning individuals.
AA girls - Northeast #4 Gwynedd-Mercy leads team race, Liz Kearins is individual favorite after transfer from AAA Central Bucks West
This year Cedar Cliff is the team to beat. They will be nationally ranked in the pre-season polls and are aiming for not only a state title, but a trip to Portland to race in the inaugural Nike Team Nationals in early December. A real quick glance at 2003 shows Cedar Cliff ran a :39 second spread from 16:23 to 17:02 on the state course the week before States in 2003. Their top soph was DNF at States. They were all off that day, but if he finished where he was with 200m to go in the state race, they would have won easily. All five of those guys return, now four seniors and one junior. Justin Keller, now a junior, will join seniors Pat Caufield, Tim Johnson and Mike Fulton as the core of the talented squad. Senior Bill Frailey should challenge Fulton for the 4th spot. Rounding out the varsity seven-eight are freshmen Aaron Caulfield and junior Cory Creek. The other possible # 7 is Tyler Longenecher, senior, who ran 17:47 on the state course at Districts. Frailey ran 9:55 3200 outdoor and "is not a track guy". He has improved a lot over the past year, and should be mid-16’s. Frosh Caufield and Creek are well ahead of last year’s 6-7. Creek ran a 1:56 split in 4x800 in the spring. Barring injury, this is PA’s best boys’ team in years.
The top 3 teams from last year are going to have to rely on young talent as most runners from their state squads last year were seniors. West Chester Henderson loses 3 state medalists and will look to fill that void, with state experience coming from sophomore Chris Ferry and Junior Tom Espedal. They pick up an important addition in Amin Garnett. The senior finished 16th in the state in XC running for Coatesville in 2003, and now lives in the Henderson district. North Hills loses some depth from last year’s team but still has the experience and talent of seniors Josh Eddy and Mike Haley, and junior Brennan O’Hare. Hatboro-Horsham loses depth as well, and will look to the experience of junior Josh Hibbs, who is the Hatters top returner. Other teams to watch are Council Rock North, who return 4 runners, and Coatesville, who returns three. Central Bucks East and West have spun off Central Bucks South. Even though the school is not complete, they’ll compete as three distinct schools. Competing athletes may share the same classes this fall. That could be fun.
For the individual title the favorite has to be junior Craig Miller from Manheim Township. He came within a nose of adding the US sophomore Mile record to his Freshman 1600 national record at AOC in June. No one in the state has his mile speed. Craig won with style last year and has set his sights on winning this year and in 2005, to make it three. His challengers look to be seniors Jeff Weiss, from McGuffey,; Ken King, from Connellsville, and Josh Eddy, from North Hills. The three were 4th, 5th, and 7th respectively last year. Another pack of seniors looking to lead their teams to the top are John Mahoney from Council Rock North, Tim Johnson from Cedar Cliff, and Amin Garnett, now of Henderson. But Miller says there is another guy to watch. Twin brother Brad, who ran 4:18 last spring, is the athlete that most concerns Craig in PA. Coach Terry Lee agrees, but notes, "somebody new is always coming along."
Boys AA Cross Country Preview 2004
The team race looks wide open as last years top teams lose talent, but that doesn’t stop a good program from producing. Eisenhower, the 2003 champion, loses their top three, but they return 4 runners with experience. The three seniors are Josh Hogan, Dylan Rulander, and Michael Elmer. Also returning is sophomore Jacob Tutmaher. Lewisburg loses Chris Spooner, which is huge, but they have 3 returning, including senior Kevin Schoenefelder, who was 45th last year. Quaker Valley loses their top three, and will look to fill that gap in order to compete well at states this year.
Two teams with the capability of moving up in the state standings are Wyomissing, who was 4th last year, and Greensburg, who was 6th. Wyomissing has 4 returning, including their top two runners, seniors Zach Schaeffer, and Tony Skiles. Greensburg has all 7 members of their state team returning including senior Adam Smith, who was 32nd in 2003.
The favorite for the individual title has to be Jed Christiansen, a senior from Greenville. Jed was third last year behind David Mock and Chris Spooner. His challengers appear to be Frank Eanes, a senior from Westmont Hilltop, who should step to the front with teammate Mock running at William & Mary; Lane King, a junior from Fairview, junior Jake Walker and senior Sam Weiser, both from Ellwood City. Weiser was 6th in the 1600 at PIAA States in May in 4:21.27, with Walker just behind in 8th in 4:21.80. But earlier that day, Walker had finished a strong 3rd in the 3200, going 9:16.41.
Girls AAA Cross Country Preview 2004
For the team title the picture might very well look quite similar to last year. The top 2 teams return solid squads for 2004. Hatboro-Horsham, ranked #3 in the Northeast in the Harrier/NTN pre-season poll, returns 5 of their top 6 runners, including sophomores Kerry Swayne (12th) and Brittany Sullivan (23rd ), juniors Theresa Gould (34th), and Jen O’Neill, plus senior Caitlin Klaas. The spread on 1-6 last year was 1:21, which includes all five returners. Chambersburg is a program that keeps on with its traditon of excellence. They return 6 of their runners from last years team. The loss of Kylee Shuler was a key one, but sophomore Sarah Morrison was 7th last year, and she leads a team that can feed off of their success. Their spread on returners is over two minutes, so they’ll have to close that up quite a lot to catch Hatboro.
Also in the hunt is Parkland, who returns 5 runners from last year, and has the experience of racing well at state. A sleeper no more is Unionville, who return 6 runners from last year, including senior Katie Thaeder, who was 5th last year. And word out of the west is that Mount Lebanon is ready to show something statewide.
For the individual title, the race appears to be open to a host of talented runners. Senior Marrisa Umbel from Indiana was 2nd last year. She closed on champ Frances Koons over the final straight. Unionville senior Katie Thaeder looked great in the spring, posting a 2nd place 10:38.51 3200. Senior Erin Zellers from Red Lion was 6th last year and is out of the shadow of Kate Papenberg, who is now at the Air Force Academy. Chambersburg leader and sophomore Sarah Morrison was 7th last year in her first trip to the big dance. ,Senior Julie Karaszkiewicz from Garnet Valley was 8th last year, senior Kate Vaughan from Bethel Park was 9th last year, and Freedom senior Lavretta Dezubay was 10th. Dezubay posted a 5:01.12 5th place 1600 and 10:34.13 1st place 3200 this past spring. Also watch for Upper Perkiomen junior Kristin Reed, who was a disappointing 46th last fall, but finished the year with a 4:57.15 2nd place 1600 outdoors. And Big Spring sophomroe Lara Crofford, who ran an 11:01.05 3200 at States, reportedly had a great XC camp and could be ready to move up.
Girls AA Cross Country Preview 2004
For the team title it seems as though Gwynedd Mercy has the guns to win a state championship. They return 4 finishers from their 4th place team last year, senior Kahki Mealey, junior Caitlin McEldrew, sophomore Jessica Drewicz, and senior Chrissy Zataveski. Also returning is senior Kate Vernon, a very talented runner who was overcome with dehydration and did not finish in 2003. But that’s not all. A surprise for this team is that sophomore Liz Kearins, from Central Bucks West, 3rd in the AAA race in 2003 as a freshman and a 2:12 two-lap AAA champ at states in the spring, has enrolled at Gwynedd Mercy. That addition, plus all the other returning talent, was enough to move them to #4 in the Northeast US in the pre-season Harrier/NTN poll just behind #3 Hatboro-Horsham. Also looking to make the team is freshmen Kelly McEldrew, who has 8th grade pr’s of 2:18 for 800, and 5:10 for the mile. This is one deep squad. (Who said Meet of Champs in PA!?)
Last year’s champion Dallas looks to be good again as they return 5 runners, including junior Lisa Giacometti, who was 6th as their top runner. They do lose their # 2 and 3 runners. Wellsboro, 2nd last year, looks like the depth chart will help them out as they have 6 of their top 7 returning. Wyomissing, 3rd in 2003, has 5 returning as they look for another good showing at states. But both Wellsboro and Wyo lose their #1 runners.
The individual title race looks quite a bit different this year with the addition of Kearins (2:12.62 semi, 2:12.98 finals for 1st AAA 800). She was 37 seconds better that day than the top returning AA runner, Jessica Squier of Elk Lake, who reportedly has had a fantastic summer of training and is aiming for another breakout year. Another favorite has to be Kate Vernon, a senior from Gwynedd Mercy, (2:15.01 / 5:00.98, both 1st AA) whose hopes were dashed last year by dehydration, plus teammate Kahki Mealey (5:02.11 2nd). Other challengers look to be senior Nichole Smith from Mercer, who was 5th, junior Lisa Giacometti from Dallas, who was 6th, junior Lindsay Petri from General McLane, who was 7th, senior Lynn Morelli and sophomore Christine Morelli from St. Basil, who were 8th and 9th respectively, and senior Tricia Learn from Mansfield, who was 10th in 2003.
Many things can happen during a cross country season, and these summaries are just one of many outcomes that are left to be determined by the rigors of a 2 month trek over hills and through mud under a myriad of conditions. Best of luck to everyone who steps foot on a cross country course this fall. And remember that we make our own destiny through the quality of our training and the tenacity of our racing.