PIAA State Championships
Saturday - November 5
Hersheypark, Hershey, PA


AABoys - AAGirls - AAABoys - AAAGirls

PIAA States Preview:

Special talent says goodbye. New talent takes stage.
by Don Rich - [email protected]

This year there are, as always, some reasonably sure things... and, as always, there are some toss-ups. It has also been a year where individuals have seemingly come out of nowhere to take positions at the front of the pack, while other athletes have simply confirmed the talent we have already known was there.

Two of these individuals are the Miller twins, Craig and Brad. When these two powerful aerobic wonders burst onto the scene in 2002 at the Gettysburg Invitational, they were facing one of that year's top runners, Ryan Blood of East Pennsboro. The look on Ryan's face at the mile and two mile pretty much reflected the looks on a lot of faces that day -- including mine -- asking those around us, who are those guys? Well, since then, many of you know what has happened. Craig has won two consecutive state AAA cross country titles, qualified for Foot Lockers on his first try, and captured two consecutive AAA 1600 meter titles in track. Brad, while injured during the early part of his sophomore year, has battled back to assume a place among the state elite, posting times that would be the best in the state many other years. This year, they're not even the best in his home. He has the same problem everyone else has in the state - they're running during the reign of Craig. But this year, for the first time in their tenure at Manheim Township -- where they have been shepherded by the steady, sure approach of Terry Lee -- these two have a team that will contend for the state title.

So Saturday, if you're fortunate enough to be at the race -- or if you see it on PCN or buy the PCN DVD through PennTrackXC (hint-hint) -- then take a few moments to enjoy what you're seeing. It'll be Craig and Brad's last prep race on PA soil... and it's sure to be a special one. Runners like this don't come along every year. And we've had four.

Now... without further meanderings, here are a few musings about the possible outcomes this Saturday. It's an active topic on the forum, and will be that way until the gun goes off at 9, 10, 11 and high noon. Enjoy.

AA Boys and Girls were posted Wednesday, with AAA Boys and Girls on Thursday. Best of luck to all the athletes. Congratulations on making it to this great meet.


325 Runners will toe the line in the Boys AA race at the PIAA State Championships at Hersheypark. This will be one of those races where, barring disaster, the outcome really is under the control of one of the top teams of the past half decade in AA, and one of the top runners in the state this season -- Scranton Prep and Jacob Walker of Ellwood City.

On the mud of the Scranton Municipal Golf course a week ago Wednesday, the Prep held their poise and hammered the competition with a 48-second spread, leading to a 99-point margin of victory. This team only lost one scorer from their 2004 title team, and had five return from the top seven. It was a return to the top after a seemingly uncharacteristic off year in 2003 when they finished 9th. That bump in the road followed three consecutive state titles from 2000-2002.

Should they falter, there is plenty of talent to pick up the 1st place hardware. In no specific order, these teams include ones which have challenged at this level before. From District 1, it's Devon Prep. They won their race, but were challenged this year by an improved Jenkintown. In District 3, there are three strong representatives racing, district champ York Suburban, Lancaster Mennonite, and Delone Catholic. York Suburban was 6th last year, but has been as high as 2nd. That was in 2000. From District 7, it's Walker's team from Ellwood City, and the usually strong Quaker Valley squad. And from District 11, it'll be Tamaqua, led by junior Isaac Dunkelberger.

In the individual race, Jake Walker is focused this year. And winning the AA title is just one of his goals. He is also a contender for a spot at Foot Lockers. He is having that good a year. On the new course at Cooper's Lake near Slippery Rock which hosted three of the biggest meets in western PA this fall (Slippery Rock, Tri-State Coaches, WPIAL's District 7), he has established the course record at 15:34. That's right, course record. AA or AAA. Beaten once early in the year while a bit under the weather, he has come back strong to run the table. That will continue Saturday with the AA title. Contending for spots on the stage with Jake will be Matlack Gillin of Springfield-Montco, the D1 champ; Lucas Zarzeczny, an Avonworth junior who is the only one to beat Walker this year - going 15:44 at Slippery Rock Inv and behind Walker's CR at Tri-States; Josh Neyhart of Kutztown, the D3 champ; the D6 champ, Travis Dean of Westmont-Hilltop and a junior; Ben Hahn of Smethport in D9; Dunkelberger from D11; and Trevon Rainford of Engineering & Science, who set the Philly Public League course record for Belmont Plateau last week at 16:23. If you know Belmont, 16:23 is flying.

Watch the center of the start. Scranton Prep is in 29 and Elwood City in 27.


This race is up for grabs, from both a team, and individual view. While there a few teams that could pull the upset, the winner will most likely come from District 1, 2, 3 or 6. Gwynedd-Mercy lost their 2004 District 1 race to eventual state champ Saint Basil Academy. This year, they returned the favor, taking the district by just seven points. Gwynedd has motivation. They were 3rd in 2001, 2nd in 2002, and in 2003, with their best team on the line, they finished a surprising 4th. After last year's miss, don't be surprised if this team is more focused than ever. They'll be challenged by Dallas, the 2003 state champs, and a team that finished 4th last year. They had been coming together in the past few week, but were without their #4 runner at the District 2 meet. They still won by 32, but their 2:29 compression was out of character for this year's squad. Lisa Giacometti gives Dalles a low scorer. Two other teams with the talent to take up the slack if it's offered are District 3 champ Lancaster Mennonite and District 6 champ Central Cambria. Lancaster Mennonite's 1st two runners were 2nd and 4th at their district meet, and those low scores will help any team effort. Central Cambria is the most likely of the four teams to start the scoring with the lowest score for their 1st runner, as sophomore Carly Seymour heads this team. Their 3:31 spread at Districts could work if Seymour is that much better than any scoring team's #1. Because of the intangibles, Gwynedd-Mercy should make up for the past close calls and disappointments with a team title.

Individually, this race is wide open... not necessarily based on times, but consistency of performance through this season. On paper, Neshannock sophomore Kacey Gibson is the class of not only AA, but any-A. She's gone under 18 this year for 5K. She also ran 18:04 at the Slippery Rock Invitational on the new Cooper's Lake course. She defeated defending AA state champ Rachel Erny of Brentwood on the same course at the District 7 championship... but her time was 19:12. Hopefully just taking care of business and getting to states with the least amount of effort. Joining these talents at the front will be Boiling Springs sophomore Kara Millhouse, who ran a controlled race in winning her second consecutive District 3 AA race, going 19:05. Central Cambria's Seymour posted a 18:04 at the District 6 race, 54 seconds better than one of the AAA favorites. Others to watch include Christopher Dock sophomore Beth Lambright, who went 18:26 at District 1; Giacometti, the District 2 champ from Dallas; Lindsey Shertzer, the Lancaster Mennonite #1 runner who was just five seconds back of Millhouse; Lauren Zarger, the District 10 champ who is a Harbor Creek freshman; Tamaqua junior Alexa Griffiths, the District 11 champ; and Engineering & Science's Lavaughn Jones, the District 12 champ, who ran a very quick 19:10 last week in the Public League Championships at Philly's Belmont Plateau.

Gwynedd-Mercy and Dallas will have a good look at each other at the start, as they are in the middle of the field with only four starting blocks separation. Central Cambria, with Carly Seymour is in #14, Neshannock's Casey Gibson is in #31, with Boiling Spring's Kara Millhouse right next door in 32.


Anyone who says this hasn't been fun watching and waiting for the showdown between Coatesville and Manheim Township hasn't been watching. Last year, everyone knew that Cedar Cliff was a great team. But they ran out of gas after making a name for themselves with their win at Great American in September. But Coateville was aiming for states, and nearly pulled off the upset, losing by just five points. This year, you could see this one coming from miles away. The two teams even have a regular scrimmage in late August because of the quality of the programs and the proximity of the schools. Do you really care who won that day? Saturday is what matters!

And the individual race will be a crowning of sorts. It'll be a third consecutive championship for one Craig Miller. That's rare with boys. Sophomores just don't possess the physical power of guys a year or two older. Well, this one did, and does.

But first the team race.

No matter how you look at it, it's tough to predict. Don't worry, I won't whimp out on a choice... but you can make a solid argument both ways. It'll probably come down to something weird, like a lost shoe (not Brad this year). Or a momentary wrong turn. A loss of focus by the 5th man, or 6th, or, 7th. Or... another team will race out of their minds and pull off the upset.

First, the pedigrees, and a little history.

Also in this race with Coatesville and Manheim Township (alpha order), is West Chester Henderson. They finished 2nd to Coatesville at District 1. Between these two Ches-Mont League rivals, and Manheim Township, they have won or been the runner-up eight times since 1999, and have four of the past six titles, only broken by Cedar Cliff's wins in 2001 and 2004. Come on guys... share a little ; > )

For your amazement:
Henderson 2nd 1997 and 2001, 1st 1996, 1999, 2002, 2003
Manheim 2nd 1999, 4th by 38 in 2004
Coatesville 1st 2000, 6th 2001 & 2003, 4th 2002, 2nd by 5 in 2004

First of all, we wouldn't be having this discussion if the Dawsons hadn't moved from Downingtown (West) to Coatesville after last year's cross country season. Kyle was a medalist last year, and has clearly stepped it up another notch this season, establishing himself as the #1 early. Plug him in last year's Coatesville score and they have 80 points. Done and won. During the latter part of the season, Owen Dawson has firmed his place in the scoring pack. And all four juniors from the state team a year ago, Jason Leonard, Sean Ward, Tom Pannulla, and Chad Gordon, have stepped it up as well. They have been under a minute in compression all season, even getting into the low 40's. I think this Saturday, you'll see something in that range, and maybe even better.

Now, the topic that has been lighting up the forum this week. With a great compression, just how far up can Kyle Dawson get to offset the scoring of Craig and Brad Miller. And how close can Manheim Township's #3, 4 and 5 get to Brad? How many of the Coatesville guys can Stan Berkow, Michael Mousetis and John Fisher beat?

I have included the 2004 and 2005 district times for these two teams below, from both 2004 and 2005, along with their 2004 state results. Figuring a differential of 45 seconds between Lehigh and Hersheypark, a look at the numbers goes, Manheim, Manheim, Coatesville... and arrrgghhhh... they're all mixed up. The white-shirted Manheim Township guys will be seeing the black singlets with the big red C the whole way around. And visa versa. If Kyle beats Brad, it may be that close. Could this one go to the sixth man? Whoops, that's close too. See what I mean?

In the end, though, I think that the one and two from Craig and Brad will be way too much for Coatesville to overcome. It would take monster races from their 2-5 to offset three points. Yes, I said three points. This is their last race people. Bottom line is, Manheim's 3-4-5 are right with Coatesville's 2-3-4-5. And Coateville's Carlisle win aside, this is Manheim's chance for a school championship in something other than Rifle Team (1972). A wildcard is the up-front depth of a team like Henderson. Their top three ran with the Coatesville #2 at districts. Could those three points be the difference for Coatesville if they each are ahead of the Manhiem 3-4-5?

Waiting to pick up the pieces if these two teams lose any of their parts in their war, will be North Allegheny or Pittsburgh Central Catholic from District 7, Henderson or West Chester East, also from the Ches-Mont League, both from District 1, or Twin Valley or Cumberland Valley of District 3. So race well fellas. Wish I could watch the race instead of photographing it... I'll see in on TV.

It'll be easy to see the race develop early, because Coatesville and Manheim Township are right beside each other in the middle of the starting blocks - #'s 24 and 25.

(Individuals below)

Coatesville, 54 second spread, 102 points over Henderson, 15:48 average off 15:16 by Dawson vs. 15:49 average in 2004, 32-second spread
1. Coatesville
4 Kyle Dawson, Jr 15:16 4:55
10 Jason Leonard, Jr 15:43 5:04
12 Sean Ward, Jr 15:51 5:07
16 Owen Dawson, Jr 15:59 5:09
30 Tom Pannulla, Jr 16:09 5:13
77 Chad Gordon, Jr 16:38 5:22
177 Michael Collins, Sr 17:29 5:38
Time = 1:18:57 Places = 72

Would have been 61 in 2004 29-sec D1 instead of 73 with 31
1 John Mahoney, Sr 15:14 4:55 Council Rock North
6 Amin Garnett, Sr 15:29 4:59 Coatesville
7 Duriel Hardy, Jr 15:33 5:01 West Chester East Hs
9 Ellis Wilson, Sr 15:47 5:05 Coatesville
11 Kyle Dawson, So 15:49 5:06 Downingtown West
16 Jason Leonard, So 15:53 5:07 Coatesville
19 Sean Ward, So 15:58 5:09 Coatesville
23 Tom Pannulla, So 16:00 5:10 Coatesville
65 Owen Dawson, So 16:30 5:19 Downingtown West

2004 would have been 80 points with Dawson and 38-second spread.
2. Coatesville (1)
2 Amin Garnett, Sr 16:12 5:13
17 Kyle Dawson, So 16:41 5:23 Downingtown West (1)
18 Ellis Wilson, Sr 16:42 5:23
20 Tom Pannulla, So 16:44 5:24
23 Sean Ward, So 16:50 5:26
37 Jason Leonard, So 17:08 5:31
112 Josh Beldner, Sr 18:09 5:51
122 Chad Gordon, So 18:22 5:55
Time = 1:23:34 Places = 100


Manheim Township
2 Manheim Township 123 1 2 25 45 50 51 57
Total Time: 1:24:52.94
Average: 16:58.59
1 #258 Miller, Craig 11 Manheim Township 15:58.89 1
2 #257 Miller, Brad 11 Manheim Township 16:14.41 2
26 #249 Berkow, Stan 10 Manheim Township 17:11.61 25
46 #254 Gellrich, Kevin 11 Manheim Township 17:41.07 45
51 #253 Fisher, John 11 Manheim Township 17:46.96 50
53 #252 Dixon, Harry 12 Manheim Township 17:49.06 51
59 #256 Kantner, Matt 11 Manheim Township 17:56.92 57

1 Manheim Township 58 1 3 14 19 21 41 47
Total Time: 1:21:33.68
Average: 16:18.74
1 Miller, Craig 12 Manheim Township 15:30.57 1
3 Miller, Brad 12 Manheim Township 15:43.78 3
15 Berkow, Stan 11 Manheim Township 16:35.56 14
20 Mousetis, Michael 10 Manheim Township 16:48.20 19
22 Fisher, John 12 Manheim Township 16:55.57 21
42 Helder, Cory 11 Manheim Township 17:13.56 41
48 Kantner, Matt 12 Manheim Township 17:21.14 47

4. Manheim Township (3)
1 Craig Miller, Jr 15:54 5:08
8 Brad Miller, Jr 16:23 5:17
31 Harry Dixon, Sr 17:00 5:29
41 Stan Berkow, So 17:11 5:32
52 Matt Kantner, Jr 17:29 5:38
58 John Fisher, Jr 17:32 5:39
86 Kevin Gellrich, Jr 17:48 5:44
Time = 1:23:56 Places = 133

In the individual race, your guess is as good as mine. Craig Miller will three-peat. The only question is, has he really been pushed to his max this season? At Gettysburg, he was chased by super soph Vince McNally of Conestoga Valley. Craig goes 14:56, with Vince at 15:02. Fast for September. At Carlisle, only Brad was with him. Then, at districts, there is only Kennard-Dale senior Jon Grey with Craig at 1.25 miles, and then still, at 2.5 miles. Craig's 15:31 set a new standard for the course. But Craig has designs on the Northeast Foot Locker title and then trying to become the first Pennsylvanian to win Foot Locker nationals. So what does a smart, well-coached runner do? Race to the level required. We'll see a great race from Craig, but no more than absolutely necessary to win.

Brad Miller is improved this season, by a fair measure. He was beaten three times this season in major meets by someone other than Craig -- twice by McNally -- at the Gettysburg Invitational and at the Lebanon-Lancaster League meet, and once at Districts by Grey. It's just not happening this time. McNally counts in the points, so Brad won't let him go. And Grey ran extremely hard at Districts. This course is not forgiving.

Also joining the Millers, McNally and Grey on the awards stand in the top of the race should be fellow District 3-er Curtis Bixler of Cumberland Valley; a very deep group from District 1, Keith Capecci, Council Rock North; Jason Weller, Boyertown; Paul Springer, Unionville; Dawson; Josh Hibbs, Hatboro-Horsham; and Duriel Hardy, West Chester East. District 7 has two top contenders, Pittsburgh Central Catholic junior Scott Van Kooten, and North Allegheny senior Max Brown. The Parkland one-two of Ryan Ritter and Tim Stepp, along with East Stroudsburg South senior Brian Cullin are the best from District 11.


Just as with the AAA Boys team chase, the girls' teams have a history of repeating themselves near the top. But this year, there are five teams with chances at the title that will make the old guard looking over their shoulders a bit. In the end, though, one of the youngest teams will prevail, in large part, because their team leader will start the scoring with just a point, or two, or three. In that individual race, the title will go to the one who wants it most. And trust me, this harrier wants it most.

The teams with a history of success at the state level include Chambersburg and Governor Mifflin from District 3, and Allentown Central Catholic from District 11. The teams challenging this season - squads that have been building in recent years toward this kind of success - include Cumberland Valley from District 3, Radnor and Upper Dublin from District 1, and Latrobe from District 7.

It'll all come down to the pack. How close can the #5 get to the #1... and how far up front is the #1? In the case of Chambersburg, it'll be enough to win the AAA title after finishing 3rd in 1999, 6th in 2001, 2nd in 2003 and 6th in 2004. They have a young team, but it's possible that junior Sarah Morrison could run away with a single point. After that, it's just 1:49 until their #5... and just 16 seconds later is their #6 to pick things up if there is a problem. On the state course at their District meet, they averaged 19:50.74, just a second a person off the 2004 state championship team from Unionville - one of the top 25 in the US last year.

So who has the best chance at beating this quality squad? Actually, it's two of the newest newcomers, and one of the old guard - Latrobe, Radnor, and of course, Allentown Central Catholic. Latrobe has a front-runner of their own. She's a fearless frosh who has been tearing through western Pennsylvania this year. Natalie Bower will keep the scoring start in the low single digits. And she has her 2-3-4 teammates within 49 seconds. That's an incredible compression. But that time can nearly double after that, making it 1:30. So between these two teams, it depend what happens after #1's. The gaps are about the same. Actually, it depends on which #5 shows up for Latrobe. They've been changing during the season. The District 7 one was as close as they've been, and would certainly make it interesting if they can duplicate the effort at Hershey.

Radnor is quite similar to Latrobe, with a super freshman who knows no fear. Katie Lally merely ran an 18:21 to place 3rd in her first district race, leading her team to a 17 point win over Upper Dublin. The 1-4 gap was 1:05, but then over another minute to #5. The front will give them a high team place, but may not be enough to take either Chambersburg or Latrobe.

Allentown Central Catholic is no stranger to this territory. They won the title in 2001, and took 3rd in 2000, 4th in 2004 and 6th in 2003. They beat Chambersburg in the first meeting of the season at Gettysburg, a week after losing to Easton. But since then, they have been getting steadily stronger, and with a 57-second compression at districts, they will provide a pack that will score a bit later than the front-runners, but very quickly. If they limit their damages between runners, they will challenge for the stage.

Other challengers include Governor Mifflin, 2nd in 2002; and Cumberland Valley, a young team that was just a point behind them at District 3; along with District 1's Upper Dublin.

At the starting line, Radnor is smack in the middle of the starting line, and smack in between Latrobe, which is three to their right in 24, and Chambersburg, which is three to their left in 30. Allentown Central Catholic is in 6, Cumberland Valley in 16, Governor Mifflin in 38, and Upper Dublin in 47.

Chambersburg and Latrobe could be as close as Coatesville and Manheim Township is for the boys. Who wants it more? My guess, Chambersburg.

Individually, this will be a great battle up front as a veteran runner and sub-five miler, a newcomer who is leading a top team, a runner who races 13 miles up a mountain for fun, and an ex-soccer player who switched to the sport to build a base for her 800 (2:12), go head-to-head-to-head-to-head. Oh, there are others who will share the duties at the front after a mile, but in the end, coming down the path toward the final mile, don't be surprised to see Chambersburg junior Sarah Morrison, Latrobe freshman Natalie Bower, State College junior Katherine Ward, and Conestoga senior Liz Costello side-by-side-by-side-by-side. No drafting here.

The battle for medals will include the next five finishers from District 1, who all had great campaigns, junior Natalie Finnerty of Marple Newtown, frosh Katie Lally, the Radnor #1, Council Rock North junior Allison Sikora, Pennridge sophomore Sarah Simonetti, and Central Bucks South sophomore Kate Ross. From District 3, Big Spring junior Lara Crofford wasn't with the front group at a mile, but to see her ripping down the final staightaway in 2nd to run 18:57, you know she'll be there on Saturday. Shikellamy's Lindsey Scheller is one of the best in the state, hailing from District 4. In addition to Bower, representing District 7 are Diana Filtz, a Penn-Trafford junior, and North Allegheny senior Kelley O'Brien. Look for sophomore Sarah Lonzi of Bradford (District 9). From District 10, General McLane senior Lindsay Petri has been having a great season. And if it does come down to an 800 and sophomore Chanelle Price of Easton is stilll there, well, she's gone under 2:09 for the half.

In the end though, it'll be the mettle and focus of Costello bringing home the title for District 1. As she said after her District 1 win, "this is personal. I don't want anybody getting to that finish line before I do."

Race well. You've earned it.

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