27th Foot Locker
cross country championships

the national individual championship
for US high school cross country runners.

Northeast region
Nov 26, 2005 Van Cortlandt Park, New York City

Pennsylvania preview

Even minus the sidelined Craig Miller, PA is sending strong group
to FL NE – several should qualify.

by Don Rich
Northeast regional editor
publisher of PennTrackXC, a Milesplit site

The good news is, virtually every 2005 Pennsylvania champion in cross country -- AA, AAA, Independent Schools, and Philadelphia Catholic League -- wanted to be on the line in the Seeded races at the Northeast Foot Locker Championships on Saturday, November 26. You already know the bad news... and that is that three-time State AAA champion, 2004 Foot Locker Finalist, 4:06 miler, Craig Miller will not be able to race because of a collapsed lung suffered two Saturdays ago. (more on Miller).

While the loss of Craig Miller is a major blow to the state's chances to have the first US champion in the meet's history, the field in San Diego could, and should have some significant representation by other Pennsylvania athletes.

First, the numbers indicate our chances are good. 36% of the 2005 PIAA state medalists will race on Saturday, plus a few others who had off days, but should be in the mix. Almost half of the top 15 boys and girls from the PA Independent League will race. And while four of the individuals are the same, six of the top eight PCL boys and the PCL girls champ will race, as well. That is significant, and bodes well for PA.


In the Girls race, the field is crowded with talent. Two of the top girls from the already selected Nike Team Nationals (NTN) teams are registered to race: Amanda Griggs from Hilton, and 2004 Foot Locker finalist from Saratoga Springs, Lindsey Ferguson. (Sophomore Hannah Davidson of Saratoga Springs is not registered.) Two former Saratoga Springs runners, and 2004 finalists Nicole Blood and Caitlin Lane, will race. But they're just the beginning, because New York and New Jersey have some of the deepest individual fields in years. Not to worry, though, because so does PA.

Our top returner is homeschooled Neely Spence, who was 14th in 2004, and has been aiming for this race all season. She was just behind Blood and Lane at the 12/13 NY Roadrunners race at Van Cortlandt Park, and will vie for one of the slots, which has expanded to from eight to ten for the first time this year. (The two additional spots are the result of an agreement between NTN and Foot Locker over how to deal with the same day conflict between the NTN race and the West Region Foot Locker race.)

Racing in her first Foot Locker regional will be AAA state champ Liz Costello of Conestoga. Costello set a course record 18:18 at Hershey on November 5th, and two weeks later finished a strong 3rd against a stellar field in the Mid-East Regional in Ohio. It was 2003 Foot Locker finalist's France Koons' record she broke at Hershey, so the time is a good indicator of fitness for Van Cortlandt Park.

Joining Costello will be the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishers from States, juniors Lara Crofford of Big Spring and Sarah Morrison of Chambersburg (63rd 2004), plus freshman star Natalie Bower of AAA state champs and NE#7 Latrobe. Both Crofford and Morrison are members of the Cumberland Valley Athletic Club (CVAC) formed by Spence to provide a training environment pre- and post-season for several central PA runners. Morrison was a close 4th to Spence at the 12/13 race.

Five of the top seven AA medalists will be racing, with all having the potential to be near the front pack with a good race. Leading this group is sophomore Carly Seymour of Central Cambria. Also racing will be Lancaster Mennonite junior Lindsey Shertzer; Christopher Dock sophomore Beth Lambright; Mercer sophomore Melissa Smith; and Boiling Springs sophomore Kara Millhouse, who is a member of the CVAC (108th 2004).

The other AAA medalists racing include sophomore Katie Meck of Northern; senior Lindsey Scheller of Shikellamy; junior Alycia Woodruff of West Chester East (33rd 2004); junior Allison Sikora of Council Rock North; senior Marcie Sobrinski of Allentown Central Catholic; sophomore Kate Ross of Central Bucks East; junior Kassie Meholick of Cedar Cliff (a CVAC member just behind Morrison at the 12/13 NY race); senior Kelley O'Brien of North Allegheny; and senior Lindsay Petri of General McLane (62nd 2004). Costello's Conestoga teammate, Hanna Kligman, a junior, who was 28th at states, plus Spiked Shoe, Steel City champion Katherine Ward, a State College junior, should also be in the top group. 2004 state medalist Marie Lamberter, a Carlisle junior and member of CVAC, will be racing as well. Other AA medalists racing include junior Lavaughn Jones of Engineering & Science, and junior Alexa Griffiths of Tamaqua. Philadelphia Catholic League champ Colleen Boland, a Archbishop Prendergast junior, will be racing.

PA medalists who broke 19 minutes at states and who are not making the trip include Harbor Creek freshman Lauren Zarger; Radnor junior Shannon Holme; Radnor freshman Katie Lally; Marple Newtown junior Natalie Finnerty; Shaler sophomore Jessica Zozos; and Cumberland Valley junior Paige Anderson.


While having the experienced Manheim Township senior Craig Miller to key off of would have been beneficial to the other PA athletes, there is plenty of experience and talent to make up for the loss. Miller said that he was literally pushed in two races this year. One of those athletes, Vince McNally of Conestoga Valley, a sophomore, is playing basketball. The other, Council Rock senior Keith Capecci, ran a come-from-behind strategy at the state meet, and by the time the second mile started at Hershey, Craig knew he had company. On a warm day, Miller broke his own course record by a second, a record he had set a week earlier in the District 3 meet under much better conditions. Capecci finished just four seconds back in 15:34. After three seasons of delaying the start of his summer training until the season, Capecci took a different approach this year. And it's showing. His summer of work enabled him to come out of the gate strong. He ran 16:21 at Belmont Plateau in September. And he toasted the Lehigh course at the District 1 meet with a 15:07. He may not want to be too far back entering the woods, but letting a few others go crazy through the mile isn't a bad strategy either. Capecci was 2nd overall at the 12/13 NY Roadrunners race, going 16:11 in a quick workout to familiarize himself with the course.

There are a few others with a great shot for a top ten finish... PCL champion Greg Thomas (51st 2004), a Cardinal O'Hara senior; Brad Miller, (Craig's twin, for those of you who have been doing something else for the past four years.); Jake Walker (22nd 2004), senior of Ellwood City; and 2005 outdoor 3200 meter champ, senior Curtis Bixler of Cumberland Valley (59th 2004).

Capecci, Thomas, Walker and the Millers all declined invitations to the Mid-East Regionals last Saturday in Ohio. All have been aiming for this day. Thomas has experience in big races. He had an off day in 2004, and will be ready to have his best race of the season. Miller did not race in 2004 at the regional. But he did go to the 12/13 race this year, and in flats, ran 16:36. If he races to his potential, which he has on occasion this season, he will definitely be near the front. Walker, who had an unexpected meeting with a virtual wall while leading the AA race on 11/5, should be back on form in the one race that counts. In 2004, he ran to his 22nd place finish after a poor start and a fall in the woods. Thanks to his western PA training roots, Walker says he is "ready for any hill." Bixler has shown he is ready and willing to hang with anyone in PA, including Craig Miller. His best race could put him in the thick of things over the final 600 meters.

Other contenders from PA include, from AAA: Kennard Dale senior Jon Grey (who was 2nd to Craig Miller at the District 3 meet); Hatboro-Horsham senior Josh Hibbs; North Allegheny senior Max Brown; Pittsburgh Central Catholic junior Scott Van Kooten; and from AA: state champ, junior Isaac Dunkelberger of Tamaqua; senior Trevon Rainford of Engineering & Science; Kutztown senior Josh Neyhart; Greencastle Antrim junior Tim Wertner; Youngsville senior Kyle Jones(57th 2004); and Bishop O'Hara junior Mike May.

LaSalle is sending two top runners in PA Independent Schools champion Pat Jeffers and PCL runner-up Bob McCullough. Others from the PA Independent League include Max Kaulbach and Jake McKenzie from Germantown Friends, and Paul WInterhalter and Brian Duffy from Malvern Prep. Monsignor Bonner senior Dan McDevitt will also be in the mix.

PA medalists who broke 16 minutes at states and who are not making the trip in addition to McNally, are Avonworth junior Lucas Zarzeczny; Boyertown junior Jason Weller; West Chester East senior Duriel Hardy; and Coatesville junior Kyle Dawson.

Race well. Have fun. With apologies to no one, GO PA!



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