No conference or league in Central PA will see the kind of top-20 turnover from 2018 to 2019 than the LL League. 14 of the leagues top-20 from the 2018 league championships have graduated. Let’s first quickly review those who have graduated, listed below in order of their league championship place:
1 – Nathan Grucelski, Conestoga Valley – Now at the US Naval Academy
2 – Evan Dorenkamp, Manheim Township – Now at Penn State University
3 – Andrew Foster, Ephrata – Now at Shippensburg University
4 – Ian Miller, Manheim Township – Now at High Point University
5 – Logan Horst, Lancaster Mennonite – Now at Messiah College
6 – Noah Martin, Warwick – Now at Bucknell University
7 – Conner Shields, Warwick – Now at the University of Notre Dame
11 – Evan Kreider, Cocalico – Now at Shippensburg University
13 – Max McCormack, Cocalico
14 – Justin Rittenhouse, Hempfield – Now at University of Miami
15 – Nathan Yoder, Lancaster Mennonite
16 – Cole Nelson, Elco
17 – Eric Juengling, JP McCaskey
20 – Jansen Miller, Lampeter-Strasburg – Now at Eastern Mennonite University
So, who’s back to compete for the individual title this season?
The top returnee from last year’s league meet is Northern Lebanon senior Gage Krall. Krall placed 8th a year ago and went on to place 17th at the PIAA AA Championships. He had a limited outdoor schedule this past spring which makes it difficult to gauge his current fitness, but with his XC performances from the fall you can count on him being one of the favorites this year.
The top returnee from the 2018 PIAA District III AAA (D3AAA) Championships is Penn Manor’s Graham Thomas (jr). He placed 10th at the LL League meet in 2018 and then went on to finish 8th in D3AAA. He would go on to finish 53rd at the PIAA AAA Championships. Thomas improved upon his 3200m and 1600m PRs this spring running 9:48 and 4:38 respectively.
Two Cedar Crest athletes should be considered as potential individual league championship contenders this year. Tommy Bildheiser (jr) placed 9th at the league meet in 2018 and went on to place 9th at D3AAA. He finished the state course with only one shoe and will look to get revenge on the Hershey course this season. Luke Hinegardner (so) is the top underclassman in the field. He placed 12th at leagues and improved to 10th at the D3AAA meet. He would place 72nd at the state championships. Hinegardner has the fastest returning 3200m time in the league from the spring with his 9:44. He also ran a 4:30 1600 which is the 2nd fastest returning time in the league behind Ephrata’s Tyler Shue.
Warwick’s Parker Keares (sr) and ELCO’s Mitchell Gray (sr) are the #5 and #6 league championship returners from last year. They round out the athletes returning who placed in the top 20 in 2018. Keares appears to have had a limited outdoor campaign in 2019 registering only a 4:56 1600m from the Black Knight Invitational. Gray lowered his outdoor 1600m PR to 4:37, which was a nice PR over his previous season’s best time.
With massive graduations hitting the LL League, let’s take some time to introduce some other athletes to keep an eye out for this fall. The following athletes had strong spring track and field campaigns and should have a larger impact this XC season:
– Tyler Shue (sr), Ephrata – Shue won the 2019 New Balance National Outdoor Champion in the 800m after posting a 1:50. He also lowered his 1600m PR to 4:15 and would have likely won the indoor mile state championship had he not tripped. Shue has previously played soccer in the fall, but don’t be surprised he makes a transition to XC this year. He is a national-level track and field recruit who could be looking to improve upon said recruitment by running XC. If he runs, one would have to consider him in the mix for the individual title. His running would also move Ephrata within the top-6 in our pre-season league rankings.
– Jack Mieszkalski (sr), Hempfield – was off to a strong start to his junior XC season before suffering a season ending injury. He bounced back though during track running a new 800m PR of 1:59. He was close behind Mitchell Gray at the 2017 league meet and figures to challenge for a top-5 to top-10 spot this year.
– Ray Truex (sr), Ephrata – finished 22nd at league XC last year and enters 2019 as the Mounts #1 returning performer. He lowered his outdoor 3200m PR to 10:05 this past spring. He also lowered his 1600m PR to 4:37.
– Jeremy Bell (sr), Warwick – Bell was 25th at the league XC meet in 2018. He saw significant time drops in the 1600m and 800m this spring running 4:32 and 2:00 respectively. He enters the 2019 season as Warwick’s new #1 runner.
– Alex Miller (jr), JP McCaskey – Miller was 28th last year and continues to improve season over season. His 2019 track season was his best yet. He qualified for the D3AAA championships in the 3200m after posting a 9:46 PR at the Hoka One Invite. He also ran 4:37 for 1600m.
– Ben McElroy (so), Cedar Crest – McElroy was the #2 freshman in the league last season behind teammate Luke Hinegardner. He ran 10:16 and 4:46 for 3200m and 1600m this past outdoor season. Look for continued growth out of the sophomore this fall as he competes for one of the state’s top teams. He was 30th a year ago at the league championships and earned a spot on our All-Freshman team.
– Ryan Scicchitano (sr), Cedar Crest – Scicchitano was a member of Cedar Crest’s state medal winning 4x800m relay team this past spring. He lowered his open 800m PR to 1:58 and also ran 4:40 for 1600m. He was 31st at league XC in 2018.
– Riley Horton (sr), Manheim Township – Horton saw significant growth between his sophomore and junior XC seasons and will look to carry that momentum forward in 2019. He lowered his outdoor 800m PR to 2:01 this spring. He placed 33rd a year ago.
– Stephen Schousen (jr), JP McCaskey – Schousen will join Alex Miller in forming one of the top 1-2 combos in the league this season. He was 34th a year ago, but should vastly improve upon that performance this year. He is coming off a 9:53 3200m PR this past spring which positions him 4th in league amongst 3200m returning runners.
– William Sheffield (sr), Cedar Crest – Sheffield finished 37th at leagues last year, but followed that performance up with an even better 27th place finish at the D3AAA championships. That 2018 D3AAA result places him as the #13 returner in the district. He lowered his outdoor 800m PR to 2:01.
– Tyler Stevens (so), Manheim Township – Stevens was a member of our 2018 All-Freshman team. He placed 48th at leagues a season ago. During the outdoor season he became one of only 14 freshman in the state to break the 10-min barrier over 3200m, running 9:59. He will have the 5th fastest returning 3200m time in the league entering the 2020 track season.
– Riley Klick (sr), Lebanon – Klick was 49th at league XC a year ago. He is the #2 800m returner in the league after posting a 2019 outdoor PR of 1:57. Lebanon is much improved as a team and that depth should help push them to new heights in 2019. Klick will look to leave his final mark on the program this fall.
– Dominique Smith-Rodriguez (sr), Cedar Crest – He may have been the Falcon’s #8 runner last fall, but don’t let that fool you. Smith-Rodriguez has top-20 potential in 2019. He went 10:16 and 4:45 in the 3200m and 1600m this past spring. He was 53rd at league XC in 2018.
– Daniel Stebbins (sr), Cedar Crest – Stebbins did not compete at leagues last XC season; however, he will enter the 2020 track season with the 9th fastest returning 3200m time (10:16).
– Dieter Geib (sr), Manheim Township – Geib was 67th a year ago. Like Stebbins, he too had a strong outdoor season and will enter the 2019/2020 year with the 11th fastest 3200m time in the league (10:18).
– Isaac Showers (jr), Lebanon – Showers placed 77th one year ago. He finished out his 2018/2019 year dropping a massive 4:36 1600m PR at the league meet and finished 13th overall.
(The individual rankings are based on 2018 LL League and District III XC championship meet returnee place finishes as well as 2019 Outdoor track and field performances. Additional weight was given to runners who set PRs during the outdoor campaign with greatest weight going to 3200m PRs.)
Here is a look at our pre-season top 35 for the LL League (excludes freshman):
Here is a look at some of the freshman and sophomores making their debuts this season that could make an impact on varsity. Inclusion was based on an athletes performance at PTXC10, Iron Bridge, and/or outdoor track and field. The Iron Bridge Invite was run in some of the worst conditions I have seen so times were omitted.
Best wishes on a great 2019 XC season!
Follow along all season on twitter @centralparunner, on Instagram – centralparunner, and on our website http://www.centralparunner.com