The BCIAA will see a changing of the guard in 2020. 18 of the top 35 finishers at the BCIAA meet have graduated, including all-state performer and 2019 County Champion, Ben Kuhn (now at Columbia University). 4 of the top 5 finishers from a year ago won state medals in their respective classes.
2019 State Medalists:
Ben Kuhn, Wyomissing – 2nd place, class AA
Jonathan Thrush, Muhlenberg – 14th place, class AAA
Thomas Foster, Wyomissing – 24th, class AA
Mitchell Brett, Kutztown – 13th place, class A
3 athletes return from last season’s top 10. Noah Taylor (sr) of Twin Valley is the #1 returning runner. He will lead another strong Twin Valley team. Twin Valley has developed one of the top distance programs in the area over the past several years. They’ve won the last 2 BCIAA championships and will likely make it 3 in a row in 2020. Also returning from the top 10 are Kutztown’s Mitchell Brett (sr) and Schuylkill Valley’s Luke Seymour (jr). You can follow along with Brett’s senior season in our Senior Journal series here. Brett is the #7 returner in the state (class A). Seymour will be looking for his first state XC medal this season. A wildcard this season is Exeter Township’s Alex Holbrook (jr). He has recovered after getting hit by a car and having surgical intervention during 2019 XC training. You can read Brian Rippey’s article from the Reading Eagle about Alex’s recovery here. Don’t be surprised to see him mixing it up with the top 5 this season. Wilson’s Nate Diaz (jr) is another athlete to watch out for in 2020. He ran the 4th fastest time amongst returning BCIAA athletes at the 2019 District III Championships.
From a team perspective, this seems to be another strong year for Twin Valley. They have graduated a ton of talent over the past several years, but keep developing new runners. Their middle school program does a good job readying runners for high school competition. Look for them to take home their 3rd title in a row this season.
Here is a team by team preview along with their BCIAA pre-season ranks:
1. Twin Valley (AAA) – Twin Valley is loaded again this season. They could place as many as 4 in the top 10 and 5 in the top 20 at the county meet. They will be led by Noah and Iain Taylor, both seniors. Noah is the #1 returning runner in the BCIAA. He had a great indoor season, setting PRs from 800m-3000m. Iain and sophomores Anthony Engle and Ben Meister all have top 10 potential. Nolan Meincke (sr) could be in position for a top 20 spot and brings additional post-season experience to the table. Nate Meister may be the county’s top freshman and could make an immediate impact in 2020. He won the 2019 Berks County Junior High Championship Meet.
2. Exeter Township (AAA) – Exeter loses their top 3 from a 2019 squad that finished 2nd in the county. Even with those losses, they should rebound quickly in 2020. Getting a healthy Alex Holbrook (jr) back is huge. He could immediately provide a low-stick runner for the Eagles. He tested his fitness in a trail 5k late May and hit 16:30. He’s ready to go. Denis Fantilli (jr) returns as BCIAA’s #11 returner. Jack Sahaida (so) and Nathan Wentling (so) had solid freshman season’s last fall. While Cody Schabener (jr) had an off day at the county meet, he bounced back at Districts. He ran the 11th fastest district time amongst BCIAA returnees in 2019. Exeter is set-up to be the team to beat in 2021.
3. Oley Valley (AA)- Oley Valley is the highest ranked “small” school in the BCIAA. They should challenge for a top 3 position in District III class AA. In a typical year, the top 3 teams at districts would qualify for states. The Lynx have a tight spread #1-5. At the district meet a year ago, only 15 seconds separated their returning runners. Parker Sarge (sr), Wesley Martin (sr), Leif Freed (sr), Daniel Lefko (sr), and Aaron Grim (jr) give the Lynx the experience and depth needed to compete against the best in AA. This could be a special year for Oley Valley. They’ll push Exeter for county runner-up.
4. Governor Mifflin (AAA) – The Mustangs were led by freshman Will Troy in 2019. Troy ended up being one of the area’s top freshman. He returns in 2020 as the #7 runner from last year’s BCIAA Championships. Brian Wentling (sr) will be looking for a top 15 finish this season. Close behind are Justin Kaufman (sr), Grant Kellenberger (so), and Clayton Hickey (so). Mifflin’s #2-5 runners are nearly interchangeable. Averaging out their 5ks from BCIAA and Districts, only 22 seconds separate the 5 of them. Caleb Hivner (jr) and Zach Zerbe (fr) provide more depth.
5. Kutztown (A) – Kutztown advanced to states last season in class A and finished 14th overall. They return 4 of their top 5, including state medalist Mitchell Brett. Brett ran well indoors over the mile distance and looks to be in position for a big senior year. Expect a close battle between Kutztown, Fairfield, and York Catholic for the two team state qualifying berths. Ryan Morstatt (sr) will battle for a top 10 finish in the county this year. Jack Kornfeind (jr) could challenge for a top 20 position based on last season’s results. A small school finishing in the top 5 of the BCIAA will be an accomplishment, and this team is primed to do so.
6. Wyomissing (AA) – The Spartans will need to recover from the graduation of Ben Kuhn and Thomas Foster, both now competing in the Ivy League for Columbia and Cornell, respectively. Owen Doyle (sr) returns and looks to lead Wyomissing in 2020. Due to transfer rules, he had to sit out of districts a year ago. Dylan Forrester (sr) has put in the work this past spring and summer. He ran a 1600m PR outdoors during “COVID” time trial. Look for him to make a big move forward this fall. Ethan Guss (jr) and Paul Monsour (so) provide quality depth. Both ran much better at the district meet than the county meet last year.
7. Conrad Weiser (AA) – Return 4 of their top 7, including conference medalist Jay Thompson (sr). Thompson was 13th a year ago and is the #5 returnee this season. Outside of Thompson, this is a young team. Bodhi Auchenbach (so) is the #2 returner for the Scouts. Holden Rice (so) also ran well for Weiser last fall. Both Auchenbach and Rice had good freshmen campaigns and will look to make big leaps forward this season. Two freshmen looking to contribute right away are Bradley Harris and Owen Auchenbach. The future looks bright for Conrad Weiser.
8. Wilson (AAA) – Nate Diaz (jr) is set-up for a big junior season. He posted the county’s 4th fastest time at the district meet in 2019, running 16:48. He continued his strong running indoors this winter, setting numerous PRs. The Bulldogs will need the remaining 4 returnees to close the gap if they are to compete with the top 3rd of the BCIAA.
9. Tulpehocken (A) – The Trojans will continue to be one of the youngest teams in the county in 2020. I was high on them a year ago in class A and they will look to move up in the rankings again this season. Theo Headley (sr) and a strong sophomore class will lead the way. Look for David Bednarczyk (so) and Jayden Manbeck (so) to make a big jump this fall. Freshman Allen Ebersole was 5th at the Berks Junior High Championships last year and could contribute immediately. This team seems primed to make a run at states in the years ahead.
10. Berks Catholic (AA) – The Saints finished 12th at BCIAAs a year ago. I have them slotted at 10 here, but could see them outperforming this preseason rank. Paul Impellizzeri (jr) and Cade McLaughlin (sr) return to lead Berks Catholic in 2020. McLaughlin lowered his 1600m PR in a time trial this past spring. He also ran a 17:26 road 5k back in March. Impellizzeri went sub-18 for the first time at districts last fall. Look for both to improve upon their 2019 BCIAA meet returnee rankings this season.
11. Schuylkill Valley (AA) – Luke Seymour (jr) leads the Panthers heading into 2020. He may end the year as the top runner in the BCIAA. He’s a state medalist on the track from his freshman season and will be primed to win his first XC state medal this year. Aidan Gensure (sr) provides Schuylkill Valley with a solid #2.
12. Daniel Boone (AAA) – Boone graduated 3 of their 2019 top 5. Cory Miller (jr), Luke Gehringer (jr), and Harrison Leister (sr) look to lead the Blazers this fall. Miller saved his best race in 2019 for last when he ran a nice PR at the district meet. If he carries that momentum forward he is the likely team #1. The team needs to add depth beyond these three to move up the BCIAA ranks.
13. Hamburg (AA) – Hamburg may have had the biggest improvement between the county and district meet last season. Their 5 returning runners dropped a combined 5 minutes and 32 seconds between those meets! Leading the way in 2020 will be Shane Conrad (sr) and Lucas Blatt (jr).
14. Fleetwood (AA) – Jacob Fortna (jr) is the #20 returning performer from last season’s BCIAA Championships. He showed really nice growth between his freshman and sophomore seasons. The Tigers lost 4 of their 2019 top 5 to graduation and will be looking at a rebuilding year.
NR. Muhlenberg (AAA) – Muhlenberg graduated state medalist Jonathan Thrush (now at Cal U (PA)). 3 of their 4 2019 runners return. Kyle Hernandez (jr) will look to lead the squads this fall.
NR. Reading (AAA) – Reading has opted out of the 2020 fall season in all sports. Gabriel Relgado-Moya (jr) would’ve been the #12 returner from the 2019 county championships.